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05.24.19

Links 24/5/2019: PostgreSQL 12 Beta 1 and Rust 1.35 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 11:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • Is bare Kubernetes still too messy for enterprises?

      Kubernetes is touted as a computing cure-all, fixing up multicloud networking to data mobility. The open-source platform for orchestrating containers (a virtualized method for running distributed applications) may or may not be the panacea it’s hyped up to be. What is certain is that user-ready Kubernetes isn’t as easy as it sounds, so customers should shop carefully for a provider.

      Enterprise users of Kubernetes and containers may not guess just how many moving parts are under the covers. There are a ton of tiny pieces that have to line up just so in order for them to work, according to Mark Shuttleworth (pictured), founder and chief executive officer of Canonical Ltd. He likens these technologies to carefully constructed “fictions.”

    • Data as a microservice: Distributed data-focused integration

      Microservices is the architecture design favored in new software projects; however, getting the most from this type of approach requires overcoming several previous requirements. As the evolution from a monolithic to a distributed system takes place not only in the application space but also at the data store, managing your data becomes one of the hardest challenges. This article examines some of the considerations for implementing data as a service.

    • Container Adoption Shoots Up Among Enterprises In 2019: Survey

      Majority of IT professionals now run container technologies, with 90 percent of those running in production and 7 in 10 running at least 40 percent of their application portfolio in containers — an impressive increase from two years ago, when just 67 percent of teams were running container technologies in production. According to the joint 2019 Annual Container Adoption Survey released by Portworx and Aqua Security, enterprises have started making bigger investments in containers.

      In 2019, nearly one in five organizations is found to be spending over $1 million annually on containers (17%) as compared to just four percent in 2016.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Zombieload, Nextcloud, Peppermint 10, KDE Plasma, IPFire, ArcoLinux, LuneOS | This Week in Linux 67

      On this episode of This Week in Linux, we’ll check out some Distro News from Peppermint OS, ArcoLinux, LuneOS & IPFire. We got a couple apps to talking about like Nextclou0…d and a new Wallpaper tool that has quite a bit of potential. We’ll take a look at what is to come with the next version of KDE Plasma. Intel users have gotten some more bad news regarding a new security vulnerability. Later in the show, we’ll cover some interesting information regarding a couple governments saving money by switching to Linux. Then finally we’ll check out some Linux Gaming News. All that and much more on your Weekly Source for Linux GNews!

    • Ubuntu Podcast: S12E07 – R-Type

      This week we’ve been installing Lineage on a OnePlus One and not migrating Mastodon accounts to ubuntu.social. We round up the Ubuntu community news from Kubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, Peppermint OS and we discuss some tech news.

      It’s Season 12 Episode 07 of the Ubuntu Podcast! Alan Pope, Mark Johnson and Martin Wimpress are connected and speaking to your brain.

  • Kernel Space

    • ZFS On Linux 0.8 Released With Native Encryption, TRIM, Device Removal

      The feature-packed and long-desired ZFS On Linux 0.8 release has finally taken place! ZoL 0.8 is out there!

      ZFS On Linux 0.8 has debuted today as the newest feature release for this ZFS file-system port for Linux systems. ZFS On Linux 0.8 supports up through the latest Linux 5.1 stable series while still working going back to the Linux 2.6.32 kernel days, but the SIMD support isn’t available on stock 5.0+ kernels leading to big performance penalties.

    • Graphics Stack

      • OpenGL 4.6 / SPIR-V Support Might Be Inching Closer For Mesa Drivers

        We’re quickly approaching the two year anniversary of the OpenGL 4.6 release and it’s looking like the Intel/RadeonSI drivers might be inching towards the finish line for that latest major revision of the graphics API.

        As we’ve covered many times, the Mesa drivers have been held up on OpenGL 4.6 support due to their SPIR-V ingestion support mandated by this July 2017 version of the OpenGL specification. While there are the Intel and Radeon RADV Vulkan drivers already with the SPIR-V support that is central to Vulkan, it’s taken a long time re-fitting the OpenGL drivers for the likes of ARB_gl_spriv. Then again, there aren’t many (actually, any?) major OpenGL games requiring version 4.6 of the specification even with its interoperability benefits thanks to SPIR-V.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GParted 1.0 Release Approaching For Linux Partition Editor – Live 1.0 Beta Released

        The GParted graphical partition editor for Linux systems has been around for 14 years and finally it’s looking like the version 1.0 release is on the horizon.

        GParted 1.0 could be the release succeeding last December’s GParted 0.33 release, including for the GParted Live operating system that is a live Linux distribution designed for an easy workflow of managing the partitions/disks on your system.

        GParted Live 1.0 Beta appeared today with the latest GParted bits. This Linux distribution also pulls in the latest packages against Debian Sid experimental, updates to using the Linux 4.19.37 kernel, updates the boot menu options, and is based on the upstream GParted 1.0 beta code.

      • GNOME 3.34′s Mutter Gets Important Fix To Avoid Stuttering / Frame Skips

        In addition to GNOME’s Mutter compositor / window manager seeing an important fix recently lowering the output lag under X11 so it matches GNOME’s Wayland performance, another important Mutter fix also landed.

        The Mutter/Clutter change to avoid skipping over the next frame to render has landed. This is yet another big deal contribution by Canonical’s Daniel van Vugt as part of their GNOME desktop enhancements.

  • Distributions

    • Draco Desktop

      There is a new desktop available for Sparkers: Draco

    • Reviews

      • Linux Mint Turns Cinnamon Experience Bittersweet

        Linux Mint no longer may be an ideal choice for above-par performance out of the box, but it still can serve diehard users well with the right amount of post-installation tinkering.

        The Linux Mint distro clearly is the gold standard for measuring Cinnamon desktop integration. Linux Mint’s developers turned the GNOME desktop alternative into one of the best Linux desktop choices. Linux Mint Cinnamon, however, may have lost some of its fresh minty flavor.

        The gold standard for version 19.1 Tessa seems to be a bit tarnished when compared to some other distros offering a Cinnamon environment. Given that the current Linux Mint version was released at the end of last December, it may be a bit odd for me to focus on a review some five months later.

        Linux Mint is my primary driver, though, so at long last I am getting around to sharing my lukewarm experiences. I have run Linux Mint Cinnamon on three primary work and testing computers since parting company with Ubuntu Linux Unity and several other Ubuntu flavors many years ago. I have recommended Linux Mint enthusiastically to associates and readers in my personal and professional roles.

    • New Releases

      • Kali Linux Rolls Out Second Update of 2019

        Earlier today, May 22nd 2019, the popular Ethical Hacking Linux distro known as Kali Linux rolled out their 2nd update of 2019, following their last release in February 2019. Perhaps headlining today’s release is a new integration with NetHunter, allowing for a more seamless running of Kali Linux OS on Android mobile devices. The updates also features new integrations with ARM, cleaning up some of the file size problems and speeding up its operation.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Leap 15.1 just dropped with multiple new features and improvements

        he development team of the famous Linux-based operating system, namely the openSUSE community, has announced the release of Leap 15.1. According to the release notes, the new Leap will provide updated support for modern hardware.

        In addition to that, a member of the Leap community states that the new version is focused on stability and continuity. This gives us a brief idea of what this update offers.

      • openSUSE Leap 15.1 Released, which is Based on SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 SP1

        The openSUSE Community announced yesterday (May 22nd 2019) the release of the openSUSE Leap 15.1 Version.

        It’s first minor point release of the openSUSE Leap 15 series and it’s based on SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 SP1.

        openSUSE Leap 15.1 Supports More Hardware, Drivers, Enhances Installation and improves YaST functionality.

      • openSUSE Leap 15.1 Is Here: Offers Full Linux Experience On Raspberry Pi

        The open source company SUSE is known for its commercial SUSE Linux Enterprise offerings for desktop and server users. The company also sponsors a free and open source community distribution known as openSUSE, which is widely popular among open source enthusiasts across the world.

        openSUSE further offers two releases: Leap follows the fixed release model and Tumbleweed follows the rolling release model. In this article, I’m going to tell you about the latest openSUSE Leap 15.1 stable release that’s based on SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 Service Pack 1.

      • SUSE Rolls Out Enterprise Storage 6

        SUSE has announced the latest version of its software-defined storage solution powered by Ceph technology. With SUSE Enterprise Storage 6, IT organizations can adapt to changing business demands. They may also reduce IT operational expense with new features focused on containerized and cloud workload support, improved integration with public cloud, and enhanced data protection capabilities, SUSE said.

    • Fedora

      • Archiving 26 500 community Q&As from Ask Fedora

        Ask Fedora is the Fedora Linux community’s questions-and-answers portal, and it recently transitioned from a forum software called Askbot to Discourse. Changing the underlying forum software doesn’t have to be destructive but Ask Fedora decided to go with a nuke-and-pave migration strategy: They decided to start from scratch instead of copying user accounts and the user-contributed content to the new software.

        The first time I learned of the migration was a few days after it had happen. I’d run into an issue with my Fedora installation and went online looking for solutions. Every useful search result was from the old Ask Fedora site and every link returned an HTTP 404 Not Found error message as those answers hadn’t been migrated to the new Ask Fedora website.

      • Attention epel6 and epel7 ppc64 users

        If you are a epel6 or epel7 user on the ppc64 platform, I have some sad news for you. If you aren’t feel free to read on for a tale of eol architectures.

        ppc64 (the big endian version of power) was shipped with RHEL6 and RHEL7 and Fedora until Fedora 28. It’s been replaced by the ppc64le (little endian) version in Fedora and RHEL8.

    • Debian Family

      • Optional dependencies don’t work

        In the i3 projects, we have always tried hard to avoid optional dependencies. There are a number of reasons behind it, and as I have recently encountered some of the downsides of optional dependencies firsthand, I summarized my thoughts in this article.

        [...]

        Software is usually not built by end users, but by packagers, at least when we are talking about Open Source.

        Hence, end users don’t see the knob for the optional dependency, they are just presented with the fait accompli: their version of the software behaves differently than other versions of the same software.

        Depending on the kind of software, this situation can be made obvious to the user: for example, if the optional dependency is needed to print documents, the program can produce an appropriate error message when the user tries to print a document.

        Sometimes, this isn’t possible: when i3 introduced an optional dependency on cairo and pangocairo, the behavior itself (rendering window titles) worked in all configurations, but non-ASCII characters might break depending on whether i3 was compiled with cairo.

        For users, it is frustrating to only discover in conversation that a program has a feature that the user is interested in, but it’s not available on their computer. For support, this situation can be hard to detect, and even harder to resolve to the user’s satisfaction.

      • Derivatives

        • Tails 3.14 Anonymous Linux OS Adds Mitigations for the Intel MDS Vulnerabilities

          Tails 3.14 is here two months after the release of Tails 3.13 mainly to address the recently discovered MDS (Microarchitectural Data Sampling) security vulnerabilities in Intel microprocessors. To fully mitigate these flaws and protect you against Fallout, RIDL, and ZombieLoad attacks, the SMT function must be disabled.

          Furthermore, Tails 3.14 ships with long-term supported Linux 4.19.37 kernel and the all the latest firmware packages to provide you with up-to-date hardware support and compatibility with newer graphics and Wi-Fi devices, as well as other components, and utilizes the recently released TOR Browser 8.5 anonymous web browser.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu’s MDS Mitigations Now Available for Intel Cherry Trail and Bay Trail CPUs

            On May 14th, 2019, Intel published details about four new security vulnerabilities discovered by various security researchers, which are affecting several of its Intel microprocessor families. Intel released updated microcode firmware to mitigate them, and they landed on the same day for all supported Ubuntu Linux operating system series.

            Now, Canonical has released an updated intel-microcode firmware that addresses these new security vulnerabilities on systems running Intel Cherry Trail and Intel Bay Trail processors. The updated intel-microcode packages are now available in the official software repositories of Ubuntu 19.04, Ubuntu 18.10, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and Ubuntu 14.04 ESM.

          • Ubuntu 19.10 To Bundle NVIDIA’s Proprietary Driver Packages As Part Of Its ISO

            For Ubuntu 19.10 the developers are adding the NVIDIA driver packages onto the ISO. The NVIDIA binary drivers won’t be activated by default, but will be present on the install media to make it easier to enable post-install.

            The open-source NVIDIA “Nouveau” drivers will remain the default for NVIDIA graphics on new Ubuntu installations, but this change is positioning the mainline and legacy NVIDIA proprietary drivers onto the Ubuntu ISO so that they can be easily obtained locally post-install. The main driver here is allowing users to enable the NVIDIA proprietary graphics on Ubuntu even if you don’t have an Internet connection. NVIDIA has already okay’ed the distribution of their driver packages with the Ubuntu ISO.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Peppermint 10 Operating System Officially Released, Based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

              As Peppermint 10 is based on the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS repositories as of May 14th, 2019, it means it’s in fact based on Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, which ships with updated kernel and graphics stacks from the Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish) operating system. As such, Peppermint 10 is powered by Linux kernel 4.18.0-18.

              Highlights of the Peppermint 10 release include support for automatically install the Nvidia proprietary graphics drivers, including support for Nvidia Optimus setups, Ice 6.0.2 with support for isolated profiles for Chromium, Google Chrome, and Vivaldi web browsers, and a new utility for setting font DPIs.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Google-Huawei case highlights the importance of free software

    [...] The current case demonstrates that even tech giants like Huawei face similar dependencies and vendor lock-in effects as any individual users if they rely on proprietary software.

    The following lessons can be drawn from this case: [...]

  • Red Hat completes open sourcing of 3scale code

    At Red Hat we have always been proud of our open source heritage and commitment. We are delighted that more of the industry now shares our viewpoint, and more companies are looking to promote their open source bona fides of late.

    Open source software energizes developers and teams of committed developers working in parallel can outproduce the large development hierarchies of the last generation. We believe working upstream with open source communities is an important innovation strategy.

    Occasionally, however, innovation does originate in traditional commercial organizations under a proprietary development model. Three years ago, Red Hat discovered just such a company that was doing exciting things in the API economy.

  • Enbies and women in FOSS Wikipedia edit-a-thon

    To be brief, I’ll be hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on enbies and women in free and open source software, on June 2nd, from 16:00 – 19:00 EDT. I’d love remote participants, but if you’re in the Boston area you are more than welcome over to my place for pancakes and collaboration times.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox 68 Performance Is Looking Good With WebRender On Linux

        With Firefox 67 having released this week, Firefox 68 is in beta and its performance from our tests thus far on Ubuntu Linux are looking real good. In particular, if enabling the WebRender option that remains off by default on Linux, there are some nice performance gains especially.

        Curious how the Firefox performance is looking following the optimization work in Firefox 67 and the maturing state of WebRender, I ran some benchmarks. On an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX + AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 workstation running Ubuntu 19.04 with the Linux 5.1 kernel, I ran various benchmarks using the generic Firefox Linux x86_64 binaries. Tests were done on Firefox 66.0.5, Firefox 67.0, and Firefox 68.0b3. With both Firefox 67 and Firefox 68 Beta, secondary runs were also done when forcing WebRender usage.

      • Firefox brings you smooth video playback with the world’s fastest AV1 decoder

        Tuesday’s release of Firefox 67 brought a number of performance enhancing features that make this our fastest browser ever. Among these is the high performance, royalty free AV1 video decoder dav1d, now enabled by default on all desktop platforms (Windows, OSX and Linux) for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems.

        With files more than 30% smaller than today’s most popular web codec VP9 [1], and nearly 50% smaller than its widely deployed predecessor H.264 [2], AV1 allows high-quality video experiences with a lot less network usage, and has the potential to transform how and where we watch video on the Internet. However, because AV1 is brand new and more sophisticated, some experts had predicted that market adoption would wait until 2020 when high-performance hardware decoders are expected. Dav1d in the browser upends these predictions.

  • Databases

    • PostgreSQL 12 Beta 1 Released!

      The PostgreSQL Global Development Group announces that the first beta release of PostgreSQL 12 is now available for download. This release contains previews of all features that will be available in the final release of PostgreSQL 12, though some details of the release could change before then.

      In the spirit of the open source PostgreSQL community, we strongly encourage you to test the new features of PostgreSQL 12 in your database systems to help us eliminate any bugs or other issues that may exist. While we do not advise you to run PostgreSQL 12 Beta 1 in your production environments, we encourage you to find ways to run your typical application workloads against this beta release.

    • PostgreSQL 12 Beta Released With Performance Improvements

      Out today is the first beta of the upcoming PostgreSQL 12.0 database server.

      The PostgreSQL 12.0 beta features performance improvements on many different fronts, including for standard B-tree indexes. PostgreSQL 12.0 also enhances the performance by allowing to rebuild indexes concurrently, extended various indexing mechanisms, lower overhead for the write-ahead log, better performance when processing tables with thousands of partitions, and various other optimizations.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice Conference 2020, it could be in your city

      LibreOffice Conference 2020 will be an event to remember, for a couple of reasons: it will be the 10th of a series of successful conferences, and it will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the LibreOffice project and the 20th of the FOSS office suite. In 2020, The Document Foundation will be on stage at many FOSS events around the world, and the LibreOffice Conference will be the most important of the year. Organizing this conference is a unique opportunity for FOSS communities, because the event will make the history of free open source software.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • DataStax and the Modern Commercial Open Source Business

      One month ago, Google announced a set of partnerships with seven commercial open source providers. Among those announced was DataStax, which held its annual conference this year and, for the first time, an analyst day. While DataStax and the open source project it is based on, Cassandra, are differentiated on a technical basis, the company also represents an interesting contrast with its peers directionally both among the newly minted Google partners and more broadly.

      Of the seven commercial open source partners Google announced, for example, DataStax is one of two along with InfluxData that has not introduced a non-open source, hybrid license as a means of protecting itself from competition from the cloud providers. This is not, notably, because the company doesn’t seem them as a threat; asked about who the competition was in the analyst sessions, the CEO of DataStax candidly acknowledged that the company’s primary competitive focus was not on premise competition such as Oracle, but cloud-based managed services offerings.

    • IGEL Developing Linux Distro For Windows Virtual Desktop Users [Ed: IGEL used to support #GNU/Linux and now it's just helping Microsoft enslave GNU/Linux insider Windows with NSA back doors.]
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GNU Guile 2.9.2 (beta) released

      We are delighted to announce GNU Guile 2.9.2, the second beta release in preparation for the upcoming 3.0 stable series. See the release announcement for full details and a download link.

      This release extends just-in-time (JIT) native code generation support to the ia32, ARMv7, and AArch64 architectures. Under the hood, we swapped out GNU Lightning for a related fork called Lightening, which was better adapted to Guile’s needs.

    • GNU Binutils Begins Landing eBPF Support

      The GNU Binutils is finally getting wired up around the Extended BPF (eBPF) as the modern, in-kernel virtual machine that stretches the Berkeley Packet Filter beyond the networking subsystem.

      Compiling for eBPF has most commonly been done by the LLVM eBPF back-end to allow compiling C into the eBPF bytecode but it looks like the GNU toolchain developers are looking to increase their support around the increasingly common eBPF use-cases for this in-kernel VM.

  • Programming/Development

    • Rust 1.35 Released With Support For Empty Debug Macro, ~4x Faster ASCII Case Conversions

      Version 1.35 of the Rust programming language implementation was released today with a variety of different usability and convenience improvements.

      Among the changes to find with Rust 1.35 is you can now call the dbg!() debug macro without any arguments to easily print the file / line number when called, new methods to copy the sign of a floating point number onto a number, new APIs for seeing of a Range contains a particular value, up to four times faster performance for methods doing ASCII case conversions, and a variety of other library and API improvements.

    • Announcing Rust 1.35.0

      The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.35.0. Rust is a programming language that is empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software.

    • AMD GCN GPU Target Continuing To Improve For The GCC 10 Compiler

      With the recent release of the GCC 9 stable compiler there is the initial “AMD GCN” GPU target/back-end merged. However, for this GNU Compiler Collection release the AMD GCN target isn’t all that useful but continued work on it gives us hope of seeing it in good shape for next year’s GCC 10 release.

      With the GCC 9.1 release, the AMD GCN back-end can only handle running basic single-threaded programs… Not exactly useful for graphics cards. The GCC 9 code supports targeting the Fiji and Vega 10 GCN instruction set architecture.

    • IBM Begins Plumbing “Future” Processor Into GCC Compiler – POWER10?

      IBM engineers have landed initial support for “-mcpu=future” into the GCC compiler… As they say in the commit message, “a future architecture level, as yet unnamed.”

      This IBM “future” processor is being added to the POWER architecture code succeeding POWER9. More than likely, its the early enablement work for POWER10.

    • Little Trouble in Big Data – Part 1

      A few months ago, we received a phone call from a bioinformatics group at a European university. The problem they were having appeared very simple. They wanted to know how to usemmap() to be able to load a large data set into RAM at once. OK I thought, no problem, I can handle that one. Turns out this has grown into a complex and interesting exercise in profiling and threading.

      The background is that they are performing Markov-Chain Monte Carlo simulations by sampling at random from data sets containing SNP (pronounced “snips”) genetic markers for a selection of people. It boils down to a large 2D matrix of floats where each column corresponds to an SNP and each row to a person. They provided some small and medium sized data sets for me to test with, but their full data set consists of 500,000 people with 38 million SNP genetic markers!

    • Why precompiled headers do (not) improve C++ compile times

      Would you like your C++ code to compile twice as fast (or more)?

      Yeah, so would I. Who wouldn’t. C++ is notorious for taking its sweet time to get compiled. I never really cared about PCHs when I worked on KDE, I think I might have tried them once for something and it didn’t seem to do a thing. In 2012, while working on LibreOffice, I noticed its build system used to have PCH support, but it had been nuked, with the usual poor OOo/LO style of a commit message stating the obvious (what) without bothering to state the useful (why). For whatever reason, that caught my attention, reportedly PCHs saved a lot of build time with MSVC, so I tried it and it did. And me having brought the PCH support back from the graveyard means that e.g. the Calc module does not take 5:30m to build on a (very) powerful machine, but only 1:45m. That’s only one third of the time.

      In line with my previous experience, on Linux that did nothing. I made the build system support also PCH with GCC and Clang, because it was there and it was simple to support it too, but there was no point. I don’t think anybody has ever used that for real.

      Then, about a year ago, I happened to be working on a relatively small C++ project that used some kind of an obscure build system called Premake I had never heard of before. While fixing something in it I noticed it also had PCH support, so guess what, I of course enabled it for the project. It again made the project build faster on Windows. And, on Linux, it did too. Color me surprised.

    • KDAB at CppCon 2019

      CppCon is the annual, week-long face-to-face gathering for the entire C++ community – the biggest C++ event in the world. This year, for the first time, CppCon takes place in the stunning Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado, very near Denver International Airport.

    • Clear Linux Discovers Another AVX2/AVX512 Fix/Optimization To Yield Better Performance

      For those running a system with AVX-512 support, Clear Linux builds as of this week should be yielding even better performance on top of their existing AVX2 and AVX-512 optimizations.

      The Intel developers working on Clear Linux uncovered an issue how the new GCC 9 compiler has been building the important libm math library poorly in AVX2/AVX-512 mode. This poor code compilation yielded slowdowns in various math functions since the switch to the GCC 9 compiler.

    • Building Machine Learning Data Pipeline using Apache Spark
    • It is easier to gather package meta-data from PyPI package ecosystem, once know the right way
    • Python 2.7 vs Python 3.4 ─ What should Python Beginners choose?
    • Be Quick or Eat Potatoes: A Newbie’s Guide to PyCon
    • Remote Development with Wing Pro

      In this issue of Wing Tips we take a quick look at Wing Pro’s remote development capabilities.

    • Data School: Data science best practices with pandas (video tutorial)
    • PHP extensions status with upcoming PHP 7.4
    • EuroPython 2019: Financial Aid Program starts today

Leftovers

  • How a planned merger between Russia’s two oldest theaters turned into a region-wide political scandal

    In late March, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky announced that two of Russia’s oldest and most respected theaters would merge. What had previously been the Volkov Theater in Yaroslavl and the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg would become a single national institution. The Culture Ministry noted that the initiative for the merger came from the artistic directors of the theaters themselves — Yevgeny Marchelli and Valery Fokin, respectively. Nonetheless, the idea did not sit well with the Union of Theater Workers or with local residents and politicians in Yaroslavl. Even Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev came out against the merger and ultimately suspended it.

  • Yekaterinburg mayor rejects governor’s proposal to rule out controversial construction site for new cathedral

    The mayor of Yekaterinburg has rejected a proposal by the region’s governor to cancel the construction of a cathedral at a downtown public park. Alexander Vysokinsky says he’s not yet ready to remove October Square from the list of possible sites for St. Catherine’s Cathedral, and still wants to make it an option in an upcoming citywide poll that’s intended to resolve the controversy once and for all.

  • Science

    • How software sterilized rock music

      It’s not just pitch correction: with modern music-making software, it’s as easy to snap analog recordings of instruments to a time signature as it is to program EDM. When everything is quantized, says Rick Beato, it loses its humanity—and becomes boring.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Abortion Bans and the Beast the GOP Would Feed Us To

      From last year’s protests against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the ongoing fight against abortion bans in southern states, the image of the red-clad “Handmaid” — an allusion to Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale — has been a constant.

      As women across the country express their fears and panic about the fate of abortion access in the United States, many have likened what’s happening to Atwood’s classic, which tells the story of women being forced to bear children for powerful men amid a global decline in fertility.

      Donning white hats and red cloaks widely associated with Atwood’s book and its television adaptation, activists dressed as Handmaids have appeared at congressional hearings and marches, and have held vigil outside the offices of elected officials. The spectacles they have created have undoubtedly struck a chord with many. Theatrical protest can be quite valuable, but while Atwood’s story has a thematic resonance in these times, the real-world nature of criminalization in the U.S. offers a clearer picture of what Republicans have in store for us.

      The classing that people criminalized by abortion bans could ultimately face is already at work in our society. That classing already restricts the movement, reproductive choices, suffrage, life spans, health and overall human rights of imprisoned people in the United States.

    • An Outright Reversal of Roe V. Wade Isn’t All We Should Fear

      I’m worried about the future of Roe v. Wade — deeply worried. But I’m worried about more than that. I’m worried that the courts will gut the right to abortion and that there won’t be an outcry because the headlines won’t scream, “Supreme Court strikes down right to abortion.”

      Don’t get me wrong. That’s not to take away from outrage over the bans. I’m also agitated about the wave of states — Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi, and Missouri — that have passed abortion bans and states, like Louisiana, rushing to add their names to the list. Those of us who care about people’s right to access abortion are right to decry and protest this wave of bans and the contempt for women they flaunt.

      The bans tell us that opponents of abortion rights are emboldened. They know they have a friend in the White House, and they think the Supreme Court may be theirs as well. Trump, after all, promised to appoint justices who would overrule the right.

    • Abortion Bans Are Backfiring Spectacularly Across the U.S.

      In Texas, if state Rep. Tony Tinderholt had his way, women who have an abortion could get the death penalty. Fortunately, his bill didn’t make it out of committee. But in Alabama, a bill that sentences doctors who perform abortions to life in prison did pass and was signed into law by the governor. If it stands, it goes into effect in six months.

      Dr. Yashica Robinson, the medical director of the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives, responded to the draconian law on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, saying, “I will have to choose between my freedom and staying out of jail and doing what is best for my patients … as a women’s health provider, I understand how important abortion access is.” The only exception in the ban is when the life of the mother is at stake. This, Dr. Robinson says, “puts us in a Catch-22 … we could be forced to let patients get near death, get very sick or ill, and potentially be harmed before we could proceed comfortably with doing what’s best for women.”

      A rash of extreme anti-abortion bills like these are being pushed through state legislatures across the country, banning abortions or making them almost impossible to obtain. Abortion is a legal procedure in the United States, and state governments aren’t allowed to ban it. But anti-choice crusaders in states with Republican-controlled governments, like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri, are passing the laws anyway. Proponents of the laws are anticipating court challenges, hoping that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will provide their long-sought swing vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

    • Police Stifled Dissent During Near-Total Abortion Ban Debate in Georgia

      Heavy police presence defined the legislative battle at the state capitol around Georgia’s near-total abortion ban, with pro-choice legislators calling the police presence and tactics “intimidating,” charging that Republican legislative leadership used law enforcement to squelch pushback against the extreme measure.

      It was the word “shame,” rising above the usual din of the Georgia state capitol, that brought journalists, legal observers, state troopers, and curious onlookers to the third floor of the massive stone building, just outside the house chamber in late March. HB 481, the GOP’s near-total abortion ban recently signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and set to take effect in 2020, had just received final passage in the house during the last furious days of the 2019 legislative session. After limited debate time on the house floor, the measure squeaked through, passing by one more vote than is constitutionally required.

      Speaking as much to journalists — pressing in with cameras, recorders, phones, and notepads — as to each other and advocates who had gathered to meet them, state representatives leading the fight against the near-total abortion ban burned with anger, disgust, betrayal, and sadness.

    • Politicizing a Woman’s Body

      That’s the uber-message quietly emerging from the new anti-abortion laws recently passed in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri, no matter that the public remains predominantly supportive of safe, legal abortions.

      That doesn’t matter, see. The fact that the Republican Party controls the legislatures in so many states where it lacks majority status, not to mention is able to put presidents in office who fail to win the popular vote, indicates that we live in a rather limited-definition democracy: rule by the most determined cheaters. Or as some would put it, rule by divine decree.

      As Ari Berman pointed out recently in Mother Jones, this divine decree is achieved primarily by voter suppression and gerrymandering, as exemplified last year in Georgia’s gubernatorial race.

      “As secretary of state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp essentially oversaw his own election and instituted a series of policies that hurt his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams,” Berman writes. “On Kemp’s watch, Georgia purged 1.4 million people from the voter rolls from 2012 to 2016; put the registrations of 53,000 people, 80 percent of whom were voters of color, on hold before the election; and closed 214 polling places in six years. On Election Day, there were four-hour lines in heavily black precincts.”

      In both Alabama and Georgia, Berman points out, “extreme partisan gerrymandering” has also shaped the states’ legislative districts. For instance: “After winning control of the redistricting process following the 2010 election, Georgia Republicans concentrated black voters into as few districts as possible in order to maximize the number of heavily white Republican seats. In 2018, Kemp narrowly won with 50.2 percent of the vote, but Republicans held nearly 60 percent of state’s legislative seats.”

      And so on. In Alabama, it was just as lopsided, with the result being legislative control by the most full-of-itself minority, whose implicit promise to its supporters, as Leonard Pitts put it, is: “Vote for us and we will repeal the 20th century.”

  • Security

    • Lack of Secure Coding Called a National Security Threat

      The “call to action” report, “Software Security Is National Security: Why the U.S. Must Replace Irresponsible Practices with a Culture of Institutionalized Security,” discusses systemic issues with the software development landscape and what needs to be done to rectify the problem of negligent coding. But solving the problem won’t be easy, given the problems of speed-to-market pressures and the sheer number of IoT devices being produced, the report notes.

    • [Attackers] have been holding the city of Baltimore’s computers hostage for 2 weeks [Ed: Windows]

      Here’s what’s happening: On May 7, [attackers] digitally seized about 10,000 Baltimore government computers and demanded around $100,000 worth in bitcoins to free them back up. It’s a so-called “ransomware” attack, where hackers deploy malicious software to block access to or take over a computer system until the owner of that system pays a ransom.

      Baltimore, like several other cities that have been hit by such attacks over the past two years, is refusing to pay up. As a result, for two weeks, city employees have been locked out of their email accounts and citizens have been unable to access essential services, including websites where they pay their water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets. This is Baltimore’s second ransomware attack in about 15 months: Last year, a separate attack shut down the city’s 911 system for about a day. Baltimore has come under scrutiny for its handling of both attacks.

    • [Windows] Ransomware Cyberattacks Knock Baltimore’s City Services Offline

      With no key, Rubin said the city will have to rebuild its servers from the ground up. That will likely take months, he said, and will involve implementing new hardware and software and restoring any data the city may have backed up.

    • After 2 Years, WannaCry Remains a Threat

      And while the immediate dangers associated with WannaCry have faded, the ransomware still lurks, and many systems have not been patched to prevent exploits by EternalBlue and EternalRomance.

    • ARM latest firm to suspend business with Huawei; Intel mum

      Chip designer ARM says it has to suspend business with Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies, a report claims.

    • The case against Huawei, explained

      This morning, ARM announced that it was cutting ties with Huawei, in the interest of “complying with all of the latest regulations set forth by the U.S. government.” It’s a catastrophe for Huawei’s device business, halting its access to current and future chip designs and coming on the heels of similar breaks from Google and Microsoft. Huawei is in deep, deep trouble, and we still don’t have a clear picture of why.

      Security experts have been warning about Huawei for more than a year, but it’s only in the last week that those warnings have escalated into an all-out trade blockade on the company’s US partners. There’s never been a full accounting of why the US government believes Huawei is such a threat, in large part because of national security interests, which means much of the evidence remains secret. But it’s worth tracing out exactly where the concerns are coming from and where they could go from here.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • ZombieLoad Mitigation Costs For Intel Haswell Xeon, Plus Overall Mitigation Impact

      With tests over the past week following the disclosure of the Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) vulnerabilities also known as “Zombieload”, we’ve looked at the MDS mitigation costs (and now the overall Spectre/Meltdown/L1TF/MDS impact) for desktop CPUs, servers, and some laptop hardware. I’ve also begun doing some tests on older hardware, such as some Phoronix readers curious how well aging Intel Haswell CPUs are affected.

    • How to enhance FTP server security [Ed: It just needs to be abandoned]
    • Hack.lu 2019 Call for Papers, Presentations and Workshops

      The purpose of the hack.lu convention is to give an open and free playground where people can discuss the implication of new technologies in society. hack.lu is a balanced mix convention where technical and non-technical people can meet each others and share freely all kind of information. The convention will be held in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg in October (22-24.10.2019). The most significant new discoveries about computer network attacks and defenses, commercial security solutions, and pragmatic real world security experience will be presented in a three days series of informative tutorials. We would like to announce the opportunity to submit papers, and/or lightning talk proposals for selection by the hack.lu technical review committee. This year we will be doing workshops on the first day PM and talks of 1 hour or 30 minutes in the main track for the three days.

    • Hacking SETI
    • Legal Threats Make Powerful Phishing Lures

      On or around May 12, at least two antivirus firms began detecting booby-trapped Microsoft Word files that were sent along with some various of the following message: [...]

    • US officials say foreign election [cracking] is inevitable

      “Systems that are connected to the Internet, if they’re targeted by a determined adversary with enough time and resources, they will be breached,” Hickey said. “So, we need to be focusing on resilience.”

    • Why a Windows flaw patched nine days ago is still spooking the Internet

      The vulnerability resides in Microsoft’s proprietary Remote Desktop Protocol, which provides a graphical interface for connecting to another computer over the Internet. Exploiting the vulnerability—which is present in older versions of Windows but not the much better secured Windows 8 and 10—requires only that an attacker send specific packets to a vulnerable RDP-enabled computer. In a testament to the severity, Microsoft took the highly unusual step of issuing patches for Windows 2003, XP, and Vista, which haven’t been supported in four, five, and seven years, respectively.

    • Serial publisher of Windows 0-days drops exploits for 2 more unfixed flaws

      In Tuesday’s disclosure, SandboxEscaper wrote that the Task Scheduler vulnerability works by exploiting a flaw in the way the Task Scheduler processes changes to discretionary access control list permissions for an individual file. An advisory published Wednesday by US Cert confirmed that the exploit worked against both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Ethiopian crash could have been prevented if Boeing took pilots’ concerns seriously, union says

      Tajer pointed instead to Boeing’s software, about which he said American Airlines’ pilots had expressed concerns in a November 2017 meeting with the company. The meeting was a few weeks after the Lion Air crash, but months before the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

      It would be fair to conclude, Tajer said, that if Boeing had taken the suggestions of the pilots, the Ethiopian Airlines crash might have been prevented.

    • The U.S. Stands to Lose Much More Than a War With Iran

      After much back-and-forth posturing by the Trump administration, book-ended by national security adviser John Bolton accelerating the planned deployments of an aircraft carrier battle group and a B-52 bomber task force to the Middle East, and President Trump commenting, “I hope not” when asked whether there would be a war, the American commander in chief threatened to destroy Iran on Sunday. “If Iran wants to fight,” Trump tweeted, “that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

      Trying to pinpoint what prompted Trump to communicate what amounts to a genocidal threat is like reading tea leaves—more art than science. But after seeing his effort to isolate Iran diplomatically rejected by a united Europe, and learning from military leaders that a war with Iran would be far costlier and much more problematic than he originally thought, the president reverted to character, lashing out with apocalyptic fury against a nation that has frustrated his administration from its inception.

      Trump has backed himself into a corner. The self-imagined dealmaker sincerely believed that by applying economic pressure on Iran, backed up with the threat of force, the Iranian government would come to the negotiation table and agree to a nuclear deal that denied it everything it had achieved through diplomacy with the Obama administration. Trump believed he could bully America’s allies in Europe to go along with him. And, in the end, when he asked his military leaders to provide him with options to forcefully compel Iran to bend to his will, Trump was told that nothing short of an all-out war, involving more than 500,000 troops, could provide the outcome he sought, and even then only at great cost. Trump had run on a platform that promised an end to costly wars of choice in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. If he pulled the trigger on Iran, his chances of reelection in 2020 would be all but eliminated.

    • Joe Biden Is Not the Pragmatic Choice for 2020

      An insidious idea pervading media analysis and public discourse around the 2020 presidential election is that voters looking to defeat President Donald Trump are locked into an ideological battle between pragmatism and idealism. Voters backing former Vice President Joe Biden find him to be “electable” rather than being a candidate whose values they support. But is Biden really the pragmatic choice?

      Before Biden announced he was running, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared to be the front-runner, boosting hopes among those who supported him in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. But a new poll found Biden garnering the highest “favorability rating” among the many Democratic contenders. As the 2016 race underscored, polling numbers ought to be taken with a giant grain of salt. But still, Sanders’ lead seems to have evaporated once the more “electable” Democrat announced his bid.

      [...]

      Biden believes he is the only one who can take on Trump, reportedly saying, “If you can persuade me there is somebody better who can win, I’m happy not to do it.” He thinks he is the only one who can save the nation from another four years of Trump, just as Clinton felt she was easily poised to beat Trump. Yet on issue after issue, Biden is out of step with those Democrats who have successfully pushed their party to the left since 2016. For example, Biden, who has come under fire for supporting the 1994 crime bill, proudly asserted, “I’m the only guy ever nationally to beat the NRA because when we did the crime bill—everybody talks about the bad things. Let me tell you about the good thing in the crime bill.” In response, acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay fired back, “Wait til you get in front of a crowd that actually knows what you’re doing. Knows the bill. Knows the generational damage. Wait. I hope I’m in the crowd.”

      [...]

      Those who paint Biden’s detractors as being driven by idealistic motivations we cannot afford to espouse are ignoring the fact that Americans are at a breaking point. We do not have the luxury to wait another four or eight years to pick someone who will truly be a climate justice warrior—the planet’s atmosphere is at a breaking point. We do not have the luxury to wait four or eight years for a better candidate to usher in Medicare-for-all at a more practical time far off into the future—Americans are dying today in our broken health care system. We do not have the luxury of allowing millions of Americans to languish in prison cells, or allowing immigrant children to die in Border Patrol custody, or hampering the futures of college graduates burdened by debt. We do not have the luxury to allow our endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen to continue as whole families are obliterated or turned into refugees. And we certainly cannot afford a new war on Iran. Choosing a president who promises a radical departure from the status quo is actually an act of pragmatism.

    • An Attack on Iran Would Violate US and International Law

      As President Donald Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rattle their sabers, there is no evidence that Iran poses a threat to the United States. It was Trump who threatened genocide, tweeting, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” The Pentagon is now considering sending 10,000 additional troops to the Gulf region for “defensive” purposes and not in response to a new threat by Iran. Threats to use military force — like the use of force itself — violate U.S. and international law.

      Last week, Pompeo said U.S. intelligence had determined that Iranian-sponsored attacks on U.S. forces “were imminent.” The Trump administration asserted, “without evidence,” according to The New York Times, that new intelligence revealed Iran was sponsoring proxy groups to attack U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

      The Pentagon announced its intention to deploy a Patriot antimissile battery to the Middle East. Three days later, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the United States would send up to 120,000 troops to the region if Iran attacks U.S. forces or speeds up work on nuclear weapons.

    • Allan Nairn: Deadly Protests Erupt in Indonesia as U.S.-Trained Generals Wage a War on Democracy

      In Indonesia, at least six people have died and hundreds have been injured after supporters of former military commander Prabowo Subianto took to the streets to protest his election defeat. The protests began after authorities announced President Joko Widodo—who is known as Jokowi—had won re-election after receiving 55% of the vote. Prabowo has refused to concede and is preparing to challenge the results. We speak to journalist Allan Nairn, who recently returned from Indonesia.

    • So Many Wars: Remembering Friends in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Kurdistan and Turkey

      It’s been so long since I have written, that I don’t know where to begin. I pick up a binder and begin scanning through past “Dear Friends” letters. As I read, memories of trips to Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Kurdistan and Turkey begin to flood my consciousness. So many beautiful faces and stories. So many years of war.

      There is one Iraqi family in particular about whom we have written over the years, always changing the names so as not to put them at greater risk. You might recall that the father and oldest son fled Baghdad in 2015 due to death threats and assassination attempts. Together with thousands of others fleeing violence, they made the torturous trip from Baghdad to Kurdistan and then on to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Germany, etc. until they landed in Finland. Some months later they were denied asylum. Devastated at the decision, our trusted friend, former driver and translator lamented bitterly, “They don’t want us here.” We pled with them to appeal, which they did. But months passed with no decision.

      The oldest son turned 18 while in Finland and, no longer considered a minor, chose to return “voluntarily” to Iraq against the wishes of his parents. He felt unwanted and isolated in Finland, with no friends, and unable to go to school or work. Two weeks after his return to Baghdad he was kidnapped, together with his second oldest brother. The mother went crazy with grief and the father quickly left Finland to also return “voluntarily” to Iraq.

      I had lived with the family in 2013, and they have a special place in my heart. In the summer of 2017, I spent the day with them in Baghdad. We took photos that day, and the two oldest boys were painfully absent in the pictures. After lunch when my driver was resting in another room, I had a chance to speak alone with the parents. “Talk to me,” I said. Then came a deluge of stories of kidnappings that friends, family and neighbors had experienced-kidnappings of beloved family members, children and spouses. None had “turned out well,” they told me. There were no words. I just held the wife as she wept and wept.

    • Facing Growing Backlash CIA Veteran Stephanie Smith Steps Down As Chair of Kent State 50th May 4 Commemoration Advisory Committee

      “Out of respect for the profound concerns held by some members of Kent State’s May 4 community about my former work in national security, I am stepping down as university chair of the 50th commemoration,” Smith wrote on her Facebook page. “I will continue to encourage my students to join me in active inquiry about how the events of May 4, 1970, are relevant today and especially to ponder the dangers of polarization and the power of reconciliation. Long live the spirit of Kent and Jackson State.”

      Laurel Krause is the sister of Allison Krause, one of the four student protesters killed in the May 4, 1970 Kent State massacre. In 2010 Laurel Krause co-founded the Kent State Truth Tribunal, seeking accountability and reconciliation at Kent State.

      She helped organize a public campaign over the last week to get Kent State President Beverly Warren to reverse her decision to appoint Smith.

      “This is a people’s victory for all fighting for peace and justice in America,” Krause said.

      “We see Ms. Smith’s appointment and career background as a travesty and an insult to all those that seek peace and social justice.”

      Smith’s Kent State faculty page shares that she “co-founded the Department’s Counter Terrorism Communications Center to strengthen and integrate all United States Government counter-terrorism messaging,” pictures Smith in her CIA photo and highlights her abilities in public relations.

    • Hope Will Never Be Silent

      A belated heartfelt happy birthday to Harvey Milk, killed in 1978 for daring to come out of the closet, be who he was and insist on his rights, who would have turned 89 on Wednesday. To commemorate this year’s Harvey Milk Day, established in 2010 by his nephew Stuart Milk and the Harvey Milk Foundation, the California Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring “his critical role in creating the modern LGBT movement” and a legacy that “left an indelible mark on the history of our nation.” Born May 22, 1930, Milk was a middle-class Jewish kid from New York who played football, joined the Navy, worked on Wall Street and for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign before finding himself anew. In 1977, he became the first openly gay elected official in California – and one of the first in the country – when he won a spot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. At the time, Anita Bryant was vowing to “Save Our Children” and John Briggs was pushing a ballot to ban gay and lesbian teachers, a measure Milk helped defeat because he believed, above all, “you stand up and fight.” “If I turned around every time I was called a faggot,” he once said, “I’d be walking backwards, and I don’t want to go backwards.”

    • Russian newspaper publishes recording of purported call from poisoned former spy Sergey Skripal to his niece

      Russian newspaper publishes recording of purported call from poisoned former spy Sergey Skripal to his niece
      13:42, 23 may 2019Source: Moskovsky Komsomolets
      Moskovsky Komsomolets published an audio recording of a voice message that it described as a call from former GRU agent Sergey Skripal, who was poisoned in England in 2018, to his niece Viktoria. Viktoria Skripal said she received the message on May 9, 2019.

      In the recording, a man wishes the recipients of the message a happy week of May holidays and says “everything is OK” with him and “Yulechka.” Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, was poisoned along with him.

    • To ‘Nurture Human Lives Rather Than Take Them Away,’ 2020 Democrats Urged to Support Slashing Annual Pentagon Budget By $200 Billion

      Over the next decade, the “People Over Pentagon” agenda would make at least $2 trillion in spending available for essential domestic needs and ambitious programs like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, said the coalition, which includes Win Without War, Public Citizen, 350.org, and other grassroots organizations.

      “I’ve always found it remarkable that when it comes to war, fighter jets, and bombs, most politicians never ask how we’ll pay for it, but when it comes to progressive policies like Medicare for All, some members of Congress pretend we can’t afford to foot the bill,” Heidi Hess, co-director of CREDO Action, said in a statement.

      The current Pentagon budget—which was approved on a bipartisan basis last June—is $716 billion. As Common Dreams reported in March, the Democratic leadership is attempting to cut a deal with Trump to hike military spending to $733 billion—slightly less than the $750 billion President Donald Trump demanded in his 2020 budget request.

      “Democrats, for good reason, vehemently oppose almost everything Trump proposes, but when he asks for a huge increase in military spending, there are almost no voices in dissent,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential candidate who voted against the 2019 Pentagon budget, wrote for In These Times earlier this year.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Austria’s Strache Scandal Shows Why Media Freedom Matters

      Strache’s and FPÖ’s fall in Austria are directly linked to the ability of independent media to work freely in Austria and elsewhere despite undergoing attempts to curb it. The media was able to report the story, prompting Austrians to take to the streets in protest, calling for new elections.

      The type of independent media that brought Strache down hardly exists in Hungary, as most of the media landscape, especially broadcast, is in the hands of Orban and his cronies. The few existing independent and investigative outlets do good work but have limited reach.

    • Julian Assange is facing 17 new criminal charges

      “For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information. This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment,” wrote the ACLU in a statement today. “It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it is equally dangerous for US journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the US can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there’s nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same.”

    • New Assange indictment adds 17 espionage charges

      Today, the Department of Justice filed a new indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia—adding 17 more charges atop the original hacking charge used to file for Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom. The new charges are all espionage-focused: conspiracy to receive, obtaining, and disclosure of “national defense information. Each of the 17 counts carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years.

    • WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange indicted on 17 new charges under Espionage Act

      In a superseding indictment, a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, has accused Assange of breaking the law by inducing Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning to send him classified documents — and then publishing material that included the names of confidential sources who provided information to American diplomats.

      The 17 counts were tacked on to a single count accusing Assange of conspiring with Manning to crack a Department of Defense password. Assange, who was taken out of the Equadorian embassy in London in April, is being held in a London jail for jumping bail on a sex charge and awaiting extradition to the United States.

      The government says Manning provided Assange and WikiLeaks with databases containing about 90,000 Afghanistan War-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq War-related reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.

      The material, which began to be published in 2010, made headlines across the world and shed light on U.S. government activities.

    • ACLU Comment on Julian Assange Indictment
    • US hits Assange with 17 charges under Espionage Act

      WikiLeaks publisher and founder Julian Assange has been hit with 17 new charges under the US Espionage Act over his alleged role in leaking documents from former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010, according to the US Department of Justice.

    • U.S. Charges WikiLeaks’ Assange With Publishing Classified Info

      In a case with significant First Amendment implications, the U.S. filed new charges Thursday against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that accuse him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing thousands of secret and classified documents, including the identities of confidential sources for American armed forces and diplomats.

      The Justice Department’s 18-count superseding indictment alleges that Assange directed former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history. It says the WikiLeaks founder damaged national security by publishing documents that harmed the U.S. and its allies and aided its adversaries.

    • ‘This Is About Attacking Journalism,’ Warn Press Freedom Defenders as Trump DOJ Hits Assange With New Espionage Charges

      “This is about attacking journalism and the public’s right to information about war crimes done in their name with their dollars,” The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill said in a series of tweets. “This is about retaliation for publishing evidence of U.S. war crimes and other crimes by the most powerful nation on Earth. It’s a threat to press freedom. That’s why you should care.”

      Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, explained in a statement what sets these charges apart from past U.S. government legal actions targeting journalists and publishers.

      “For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information,” Wizner said. “This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

    • Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment Issues

      Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

      The new charges were part of an expanded indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly raised the stakes of the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.

      The case has nothing to do with Russia’s 2016 election interference, when Mr. Assange’s organization published Democratic emails stolen by Russia to help elect President Trump, the case has nothing to do with the election interference. Instead, it focuses on Mr. Assange’s role in the leak, by the former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables and diplomatic files.

      Justice Department officials did not explain why they decided to charge Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act — a step also debated within the Obama administration but ultimately not taken. Although the indictment established a precedent that deems criminal actions related to obtaining, and in some cases publishing, state secrets, the officials sought to minimize the implications for press freedoms.

    • U.S. charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with espionage

      The U.S. Justice Department unveiled 17 new criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, saying he unlawfully published the names of classified sources and conspired with and assisted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining access to classified information.

    • WikiLeaks founder indicted on Espionage Act charges, raising issue of press freedoms
    • The Trump admin’s new charges against Julian Assange are a fundamental threat to press freedom in the 21st century

      In a truly shocking development, Trump’s Justice Department has indicted WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange for publishing secret government documents under the Espionage Act of 1917.

      The Espionage Act, originally intended for use against spies, has been wielded against as sources of journalists and whistleblowers in recent decades, but never a publisher. No matter your personal feelings about Assange, these new charges against him are unprecedented, terrifying, and strike at the heart of fundamental press freedom rights.

    • Statement from Chelsea Manning and Her Lawyer Regarding Today’s Superseding Indictment

      The continued detention of Chelsea Manning is purely punitive. Today’s events underscore what Chelsea has previously said, “[a]ll of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013.”

      “I continue to accept full and sole responsibility for those disclosures in 2010,” said Chelsea Manning this evening. “It’s telling that the government appears to have already obtained this indictment before my contempt hearing last week. This administration describes the press as the opposition party and an enemy of the people. Today, they use the law as a sword, and have shown their willingness to bring the full power of the state against the very institution intended to shield us from such excesses.”

      Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Manning’s attorney stated, “up until now the Department Of Justice has been reticent to actually indict publishers for work implicating matters of national security, because the first amendment rights of the press and public are so constitutionally valuable. This signals a real shift, and sets a new precedent for the federal government’s desire to chill and even punish the vigorous exercise of the free press.”

    • In Charging Assange With 17 Espionage Act Offenses, Prosecutors Claim Power To Decide Who Is And Is Not A Journalist

      In a superseding indictment, the Justice Department charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act.

      The Justice Department has relied upon the Espionage Act to target whistleblowers for unauthorized disclosures of information. It has treated journalists as if they were co-conspirators when prosecuting cases. But up until now, the United States government refrained from charging journalists with any crimes for publishing classified information.

      “For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information. This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment,” declared Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

      Wizner added, “It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it is equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the U.S. can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there’s nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same.”

      Indeed, the indictment invokes an executive order that applies to the classification of information. It states, “At no point was Assange a citizen of the United States nor did he hold a United States security clearance or otherwise have authorization to receive, possess, or communicate classified information.”

    • New Assange Indictment Makes Insane, Unprecedented Use Of Espionage Act On Things Journalists Do All The Time

      As we noted when Julian Assange was arrested in the UK last month, it was notable how… lacking the charges were. The whole thing revolved around an apparently failed attempt to help Chelsea Manning crack a CIA password. We still had significant concerns about the way the CFAA was being used, and the fact that the description of the “conspiracy” involved actions that tons of journalists do every day — but the original indictment didn’t have what was most feared: use of the Espionage Act against the actions of a news organization. At the time, some knowledgeable observers pointed out that it was likely a superseding indictment would come, and it wouldn’t surprise them if it had Espionage Act charges. And they were right.

      On Thursday the DOJ unsealed the new indictment against Assange and it should absolutely terrify anyone who believes in a free press and the 1st Amendment. It takes a whole variety of things that journalists at major publications do every single day — finding and cultivating sources, getting information and publishing that information — as evidence of Espionage Act violations. We’ve always had issues with the Espionage Act, which we believe is almost certainly unconstitutional. In the past, we’ve highlighted how it’s been used in ridiculous ways against many whistleblowers, and it doesn’t even allow for a defendant to give a reason for why they leaked documents (i.e., they can’t say they did it to blow the whistle on government malfeasance — it’s just automatically treated as espionage, which is nonsensical).

      However, this indictment goes much further. It’s not going after an actual leaker, it’s going after a publisher. It’s so bad that even Obama-era officials (who used the Espionage Act against leakers more times than any other President in history combined) seem horrified.

    • Techdirt Sues ICE After It Insists It Has No Records Of The 1 Million Domains It Claims To Have Seized

      It seemed quite clear to me that seizing an entire website, based merely on accusations of copyright infringement, presented the same problem.

      And here, the situation was even worse. Because it wasn’t being done based on a real investigation by the government, but entirely on the say so of industry — and, in particular, an industry that has a long history of over exaggerating and misrepresenting the “threats” of the internet. As we noted at the time, if the FTC/DOJ announced plans to bring antitrust charges against Google, and did so from Microsoft’s headquarters… people would freak out. And yet, announcing website seizures from Disney’s headquarters was no problem?

      ICE continued seizing websites under this program, which it called “Operation In Our Sites.” Later in 2010 we found a bunch of seizures especially problematic, because among the seizures were two blogs, an open discussion forum and a search engine. Seizing a blog was clearly prior restraint. Indeed, over a year later, ICE quietly handed back one of the blogs, and later admitted that it didn’t have any evidence at all that the site was engaged in copyright infringement. Later documents (only unsealed due to a court challenge by EFF) revealed that ICE had seized that blog, Dajaz1, based entirely on false claims by an RIAA exec, and took over a year to hand back the domain (including getting the court to grant “secret” extensions that it wouldn’t even tell Dajaz’s lawyer about) because it kept waiting for the RIAA to provide the evidence it insisted it had… but never seemed to be able to give to ICE.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

      The U.S. Geological Survey researcher had collected rain samples from eight sites along Colorado’s Front Range. The sites are part of a national network for monitoring changes in the chemical composition of rain. Six of the sites are in the urban Boulder-to-Denver corridor. The other two are located in the mountains at higher elevation.

      The monitoring network was designed to track nitrogen trends, and Wetherbee, a chemist, wanted to trace the path of airborne nitrogen that is deposited in the national park. The presence of metals or organic materials like coal particles could point to rural or urban sources of nitrogen.

      He filtered the samples and then, in an inspired moment, placed the filters under a microscope, to look more closely at what else had accumulated. It was much more than he initially thought.

      “It was a serendipitous result,” Wetherbee told Circle of Blue. “An opportune observation and finding.”

    • Prada Bans Fur in Victory for Animal Rights

      In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it’s ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.

      This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada’s catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA’s behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.

    • South Africa’s Fallen Pride: How Law and Government Fail to Protect Lions

      A few weeks ago, inspectors made a gruesome discovery at a farm in the northwest corner of South Africa. More than 100 lions and other big cats were found suffering from neglect, parasites, mange and other health problems. Two lion cubs were too sick to walk; a third had to be euthanized.

      Despite their illnesses, all of the lions on the farm were intended for use in “canned hunts” or to be slaughtered and sold for their bones.

      In the wake of the investigation, the National Council for the Societies of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charged the farm owner with animal cruelty. The criminal charge is unusual in South Africa, although the situation that produced it is not.

      Indeed, humanity’s hot pursuit of the commercialization of nature is rarely more evident than in South Africa’s intensive breeding of lions. Despite years of local and international outcry, it’s still legal to use these former kings of the jungle in a range of lucrative commercial activities, including trophy hunting and exporting their bones.

    • Former U.S. Nuclear Safety Chief: ‘New Nuclear Is off the Table’

      From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.

    • First, Climate Change, Now the Global Extinction Crisis: Industry-Paid Hacks Deny Science to Congress

      In this week’s Congressional hearing on the recent (and dire) UN Global Assessment of Biodiversity, conservation scientist Dr. Jacob Malcom did not mince words as he explained the report’s startling findings that one million species are at risk of extinction.

      “We are, as you have heard, losing species faster than ever in human history, tens to hundreds of times faster than the background rate of extinction,” the Defenders of Wildlife scientist told the Congressional House Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee. “We are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction, where the last time this happened it was because an asteroid hit the planet. Today we are that asteroid.”

      Such a massive loss of plants, animals, and other species would also, quite naturally, affect human life on earth. But just as they have with hearings on the climate crisis, Congressional Republicans and their witnesses used this opportunity to attack the well-documented scientific evidence of a far-reaching global threat to life. And they even used some of the same climate science deniers and tired arguments to do it.

    • Drastically Shorter Workweeks Needed to Fight Climate Crisis, Study Finds

      If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.

      That’s the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

    • Company Safety Data Sheets on New Chemicals Frequently Lack the Worker Protections EPA Claims They Include

      Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA’s approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere “expectation” that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer’s non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).

    • Botswana Lifts 5-Year Ban on Hunting Elephants

      Botswana, home to one third of Africa’s elephants, announced Wednesday that it was lifting its ban on the hunting of the large mammals.

      “The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” the government announced in a press release shared on social media.

    • Botswana lifts ban on elephant hunting

      It’s one of the world’s last sanctuaries for African elephants. But now, Botswana says, its population of the animals will be fair game for hunters.

      The southern African nation, which is home to 130,000 elephants — more than anywhere else on the continent — imposed the ban in 2014 to help declining numbers recover from poaching and shrinking habitats.

    • Beef Industry Takes the Biggest Bite Out of Earth’s Natural Resources

      One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

      This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.

    • Jeff Bezos blew off Amazon employees’ proposal at the shareholder’s meeting and they were miffed: ‘This is not the kind of leadership we need’

      Nearly 8,000 Amazon employees publicly signed a letter asking their company to drastically limit its impact on the environment. They hoped to present their plea directly to their boss, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.

    • 8,000 Amazon employees asked the company to do more on climate change. Shareholders just said no.

      Amazon shareholders just voted down a proposal backed by more than 7,500 Amazon employees asking Jeff Bezos to create a comprehensive climate-change plan for the company. But just because the proposal didn’t get through this time doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

    • World’s Richest Man Jeff Bezos Hides Backstage as Amazon Workers Demand ‘Bold, Rapid’ Climate Action

      Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), with the support of over 7,000 Amazon workers, proposed a resolution demanding a “company-wide climate plan” to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

      Shareholders ultimately voted down the resolution, which was opposed by Amazon’s board of directors.

      “Jeff remained off-stage, ignored the employees, and would not speak to them,” AECJ said in a statement following the shareholder meeting. “Jeff’s inaction and lack of meaningful response underscore his dismissal of the climate crisis and spoke volumes about how Amazon’s board continues to de-prioritize addressing Amazon’s role in the climate emergency.”

      Emily Cunningham, an Amazon employee and AECJ member, called on Bezos to come on stage and listen to his employees’ call for an ambitious climate plan after the resolution failed, but he did not do so.

      David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel, told Cunningham, “Mr. Bezos will be out later, thank you.”

    • Amazon Votes Down Employee-Backed Climate Resolution

      The employee-filed resolution asked the company to develop a public plan for responding to extreme weather events and weaning itself off of fossil fuels. It was publicly backed by more than 7,600 employees, who signed their names to an open letter, a novel tactic for tech employee activism, The New York Times said.

      Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group that grew out of the resolution, said in a press release they will file another if the company’s board doesn’t increase its climate commitments.

      “The enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Amazon employee Rebecca Sheppard, who works in air cargo operations, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll be back.”

    • Amazon shareholders vote down facial recognition, climate change proposals

      Amazon.com Inc. shareholders rejected a large slate of proposals at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, including one that would have restricted the use of controversial facial recognition technology.

      Proposals calling for Amazon to end the sale of its Rekognition technology to governments and study its potential risks were defeated by a majority of voters, Amazon said. The software is being used by a sheriff’s office in Oregon to identify suspects, but civil liberties groups have been critical of such technology, citing the possibility it could be abused.

      Shareholders also voted down a proposal submitted by employees, and supported by more than 7,600 of them in an open letter, that called on the company to detail its strategy for coping with climate change and reducing its use of fossil fuels blamed for contributing to a warming Earth.

    • Amazon Investors Reject Proposals on Climate Change and Facial Recognition

      Amazon said on Wednesday that its shareholders had voted down proposals that would have pushed the company to reconsider its societal impact in two key areas: facial recognition and climate change.

      The proposals asked Amazon to develop a more comprehensive approach to reducing its carbon footprint and put the brakes on how the company sells surveillance technologies to governments.

      The company’s board had opposed the changes. But the initiatives received support from the two most prominent shareholder advisory firms, which help large, long-term investors decide how to vote.

      Amazon did not disclose the vote total on Wednesday, but said it would by the end of the week.

    • Amazon’s shareholder meeting turns testy as investors demand action on climate crisis and diversity

      Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday turned hostile as shareholders demanded change on a number of issues, ranging from renewable energy use to equal pay.

      Dozens of shareholders, including current employees, joined the meeting in Seattle, presenting their case in over 12 different proposals. They included demands that the company take action on climate change through energy use, as well as improving diversity and pay equality in its workforce. Two of the resolutions asked for Amazon to stop the sale of its facial recognition software to government agencies, which the backers say raises concerns of racial bias and discrimination.

    • A New Volkisch Mythos

      There is a clear problem with most environmental discussions or debates. The problem is, in short form, a lack of class analysis.

      This is most evident in the manufacturing of the overpopulation argument. But it is prevalent in nearly all discussions about global warming or rising sea levels or most anything relating to planetary ecology, really.

      What is bothersome here is that the voices I am hearing warning of mankind’s immanent demise are mostly ruling class voices.

      Leakey says..“I am increasingly convinced that in the tropics, and particularly in the poorer nations, protecting nature everywhere is an effort with diminishing returns. I believe that protected areas (that is areas of land set aside by governments and governed by national statutes) such as national parks and national forests are the best targets if nature is to be protected. “

      So give up on the poor, can’t save them. And Leakey goes on …“Whilst state-owned wildlife land, designated as national parks, is vital, in some countries private land may also be secured by state laws that allow for private ownership of title. Thus an individual can use such land for wildlife and nature protection for the duration of the term of the title and this can be equally as secure as a national park.”

      Ok, so create spaces for the rich to be safe from the restive natives.

    • ‘What Could Be More Important?’: World Leaders, Media Ignore Biodiversity Report Detailing Mass Extinction Event Now Underway

      Scientists at the United Nations’ intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species—but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

      Deutsche Welle reported Thursday that partially because the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released its report on what it called nature’s “unprecedented” decline on the same day that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had their first child, news reports on the study’s grave implications were few and far between.

      While some international and progressive outlets—including Common Dreams—published high-profile stories on the report when it was released, just two of Britain’s national newspapers included any reporting about biodiversity on their front pages on May 7, the day after the royal baby was born to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

    • Climate Change Is a Top Concern in 2020 Election

      The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

      Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate’s position on climate change is “very important” when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

    • Empowering Communities to Save the Ocean

      Conservation icon David Attenborough’s familiar, soothing narration has accompanied nature documentaries for decades, but he brings a new and urgent tone to his latest project, Netflix’s new series Our Planet.

      While Attenborough’s previous projects, Planet Earth and Blue Planet, were windows into the wonders of nature, Our Planet is an alarm bell. If we don’t change our ways, human-driven problems like climate change will leave behind bleached coral and barren oceans.

      Our Planet carries a particularly urgent warning about the threats facing our coastal seas and the possible consequences for people and nature. An episode of the series focusing on coastal seas illuminates a challenge not often talked about: overfishing.

      Driven in part by a growing global demand for seafood, overfishing harms marine ecosystems and the communities they support. The constant barrage of discarded fishing nets, plastic and other debris, and chemical pollutants wreak havoc on these critical habitats. Meanwhile, destructive fishing practices like dynamite fishing destroy some of our most effective nature-based tools for fighting climate change. Just this month, the United Nations’ global assessment on biodiversity cited overfishing as one of the main ways people are reducing biodiversity.

    • Senate Approves $19.1 Billion in Disaster Funding After Years of Climate-Fueled Disasters

      President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

      “The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!” the president tweeted Thursday.

    • Deal struck to pass $19 billion disaster relief package without border funds

      Republicans senators say President Donald Trump has agreed to a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill, providing relief to a country beset by devastating floods, wildfires and hurricanes without funding for the border that the President had sought.

      Late Thursday, the President tweeted his approval of the measure: “The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!”
      The Senate passed the measure Thursday afternoon by a vote of 85 to 8.
      The House is expected to pass it Friday and key Republican lawmakers say Trump has agreed to sign it. Congress will be out for recess next week.
      It took months for Congress and the White House to strike a deal, as negotiations between Republicans and Democrats stalled over funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border and how to rebuild Puerto Rico two years after Hurricane Maria hit the US territory.

    • No more climate change: it’s now a crisis

      Talk about climate change, and there’s a good chance that people will know what you’re referring to, even if they don’t share your concerns about it.

      But for one UK-based newspaper, The Guardian, “climate change” is now frowned upon, though it’s not formally banned. The paper’s house style guide recommends that its journalists should instead use such terms as “climate crisis” and “global heating”.

      The Guardian has updated the style guide to introduce terms that it thinks more accurately describe the environmental crises confronting the world. So out goes “climate change”, to be replaced by the preferred terms, “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”. “Global heating” replaces “global warming”.

      “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” says the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

    • 3 Dead in Missouri Tornadoes, ‘Extensive Damage’ to State Capital

      Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing “extensive damage” to the state’s capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

      “There was a lot of devastation throughout the state,” Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. “We were very fortunate last night that we didn’t have more injuries than what we had, and we didn’t have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many.”

    • Photos of Missouri Tornado: Jefferson City Damage ‘Extensive’

      A violent tornado tore through the Missouri capital overnight on Wednesday, and as morning dawned, the extent of the damage was becoming clear: homes with roofs shorn off, wrecked stores, downed power poles and reports of people trapped in the rubble.

      The Missouri Department of Public Safety said the damage in part of Jefferson City, the capital, was “extensive.” As shelters opened for residents, state troopers and local emergency officials went door-to-door searching for survivors.

    • Three Killed As Violent Tornadoes Cause ‘Devastation’ In Missouri

      Thousands were without power and multiple people were hurt as a series of storms spawned multiple tornadoes in Missouri late Wednesday and into Thursday.

  • Finance

    • A Political Economist on How China Sees Trump’s Trade War

      Earlier this month, after trade talks with China collapsed, President Trump ramped up his trade war, raising tariffs from ten to twenty-five per cent on a third of Chinese imports, about two hundred and fifty billion dollars’ worth of goods. In response, U.S. markets have become jumpy, and economists have grown more concerned about prospects for economic growth. But less attention has been paid in the United States to what this trade war means for China’s economy and the political fortunes of its President, Xi Jinping. I recently spoke by phone with Victor Shih, a professor of political economy at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, who studies Chinese economic policy. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the biggest dangers to the Chinese economy, what the Communist Party thinks of President Trump, and whether China has entered a new era of repression.

    • The Apple boycott in China is getting worse

      BuzzFeed News had detailed the growing Apple boycott movement earlier this month, and matters are only getting worse. A South China Morning Post report this morning is offering more perspective on the anti-Apple sentiment. Chinese consumers are feeling that they should support domestic brands instead of buying products from foreign companies.

    • Chinese Company Tells Employees to Boycott US Products, as Trade War Propaganda Heats Up

      In an internal announcement issued May 16 by the Jinggang Motor Vehicle Inspection Station located in Donghai County, Jiangsu Province, the company echoed the propaganda, explaining that China’s developments in military, science, and technology have frightened and worried the United States.

      As a result, the United States started the trade war with China. “To help our country win this war, company authorities have decided that all employees must immediately stop purchasing and using American products,” the notice read. The refrain that the United States is impeding China’s rise on the global stage has been repeated in much of Chinese state media lately.

      The notice included a list of more detailed requirements: [...]

    • Social Issues Raised by Amazon Investors Aren’t Going Away

      Amazon fought hard against the resolutions. A company lawyer reportedly tried persuading employees to withdraw their climate change proposal, without success. And Amazon tried asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to keep the two facial recognition resolutions from coming to a vote. A company spokesperson declined to comment about why Amazon didn’t similarly fight the climate change proposal with the SEC. Amazon’s board recommended shareholders vote against all three resolutions in its proxy statement last month.

      It will be several days before the resolutions’ supporters know exactly by how much they lost. Even if the margin is large, these issues aren’t going away anytime soon. “These proposals, to be effective and to attract the attention of a company, they don’t need to be a 50 percent vote,” says Michael Connor, the executive director of Open MIC, a nonprofit that works with tech investors and helped write the facial recognition proposals. “It takes a long time to educate people about these issues and to bring major shareholders on.”

    • Ocasio-Cortez and Warren Have Some Tough Questions for Mnuchin About the Collapse of Sears

      Two high-profile Democrats have questions for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin about his role in the downfall of Sears as a former member of the retailer’s board of directors, and his possible role in government decisions about the company.

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who is also a 2020 presidential candidate, released a video Thursday in which they outline the details of a letter (pdf) they sent to Mnuchin seeking answers about his involvement with Sears…

    • Intent on Leading a ‘Political Revolution,’ Not Just a Campaign, Sanders Rallies Support for McDonald’s Strike

      In a demonstration of what the Bernie Sanders campaign says makes its operation unique—”not just a campaign, but a movement”—its email list, social media team, and volunteer network was mobilized to galvanize support for a series of strikes by fast food workers taking place nationwide on Thursday.

      As McDonald’s held its annual shareholders meeting, workers went on strike in cities across the country, demanding a $15 minimum wage, the right to form a union, and protection from sexual harassment and violence in the workplace.

      Sanders rallied his supporters ahead of the strike, using his campaign’s email list to call on progressives to show solidarity with McDonald’s workers in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.

    • Beware Billionaires Bearing Gifts

      There’s a new Koch organization in town. Instead of trying to buy politicians to do the bidding of billionaires, as Charles and David Koch have historically done, this foundation will support community groups trying to cure the miseries of eons—everything from poverty to addiction.

      And they’ve got some street cred, having successfully worked with renowned liberal Van Jones to secure legislation to reduce mass incarceration. Billionaire Charles Koch says the mission is this: “We must stand together to help every person rise.”

      That is some good stuff, right there. It’s what labor unions have always preached—workers must stand together to gain the collective power essential to pull every one of them up. It works, too. In the middle of the last century, collective bargaining created the great American middle class.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Danish parties stepping up social media funding

      With the general election looming on June 5, Danish parties are starting to really shell out the big bucks on social media in an effort to garner as many votes as possible.

    • Fake videos edited to make Pelosi appear drunk spread on social media

      Deceptively edited videos altered to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appear to be drunkenly slurring her words are spreading across social media despite attempts by platforms to halt their dissemination, according to The Washington Post.

      The videos alter the audio of Pelosi’s speech at a Center for American Progress event Wednesday in which she accuses President Trump of a “cover-up,” editing the clip to make it appear as though she is slurring her words.

    • Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation accuses Russian culture minister’s family of owning 200 million-ruble Moscow penthouse

      The Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), led by opposition politician Alexey Navalny, argued in a new video that Marina Medinskaya, who is married to Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, acquired a 300-square-meter penthouse in Moscow in 2018.

    • Landslide Win for ‘Ruthless and Vindictive’ Prime Minister Stokes Fears of Further Division in India

      Right-wing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed a decisive re-election victory on Thursday, raising fears that his government’s assault on minorities in the world’s largest democracy is just beginning.

      Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is headed to a clear majority of seats in the Indian Parliament, tweeted that “India wins again!” as results came in Thursday. At press time, the BJP had strong leads in 299 parliamentary districts; 272 seats are needed for a majority in the parliament.

      In an analysis, The New York Times said that the BJP has built a “cult of personality” around Modi, who refers to himself in the third person in speeches, like one noted by the Times in a recent rally where the prime minister exhorted the crowd by bringing up an airstrike on neighboring Pakistan in February.

    • “India Loses Again, and the World Loses with It”: Siddhartha Deb on Modi’s Landslide Re-election

      Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears set to enter a second term in a landslide victory. Election results show Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party leading in 325 of the 543 seats in Parliament. At this rate, these numbers will give him an even greater majority than in 2014, when his party claimed the first outright majority in decades. Most analysts had predicted Modi’s BJP party would lose seats in this election. Modi’s government has been criticized for a crackdown on civil society, targeting political opponents, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and writers. Human rights groups have also raised the alarm on attacks against vulnerable populations, especially Dalits and Muslims. We speak to award-winning Indian author and journalist Siddhartha Deb.

    • Why YouTube Is Changing the Way It Reports Subscriber Counts

      YouTube’s official explanation is that it wants to “create more consistency everywhere that we publicly display subscriber counts,” according to a blog post Tuesday announcing the change. Currently, all channels with more than 1,000 subscribers have their subscriber counts displayed differently in different places across YouTube desktop and mobile apps.

      But YouTube likely has another motive: to discourage obsessive comparisons of certain creators’ subscriber counts — something that has become a spectator sport of late in the YouTube world.

    • Twitter co-founder Ev Williams says Fox News is “much, much more powerful and much more destructive than Twitter”
    • Twitter co-founder calls President Trump ‘master of the platform’

      The president regularly uses his Twitter account to go after his political opponents and has made false and misleading statements on the platform. But Williams argued the potential negative effects of the president’s tweets on the country’s political discourse are “trivial compared to the effect of the broader media.”

      “The vast majority of the electorate is not on Twitter reading Trump’s tweets and being convinced by that,” said Williams. “What they’re convinced much more by is the destructive power of Fox News, which is much, much more powerful and much more destructive than Twitter.”

    • Theresa May’s final days are crashing us into a whole new world of Brexit madness

      So successful has she been, that having been 20 points ahead in the polls in 2017, her party now looks likely to win a quarter of the votes of a party boasting they’ll make us poorer until 2050

    • Rep. Thompson Works to Secure Our Elections

      Foreign adversaries and domestic dirty tricksters can secretly hack our nation’s electronic voting systems. That’s why information security experts agree we must go back to basics: paper ballots. We also need “risk-limiting audits,” meaning mandatory post-election review of a sample of the paper ballots, to ensure the election-night “official” results are correct. EFF has long sought these reforms.

      A new federal bill is a step in the right direction: H.R. 2660, the Election Security Act. It was introduced on May 10 by Rep. Bennie Thompson, Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Administration Committee; and Rep. John Sarbanes, Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force.

    • Ajit Pai May Have Lied To Congress About FCC’s Failure To Address Wireless Location Data Scandals

      So we’ve talked a bit about how the FCC has done absolutely nothing to seriously address the rise of wireless industry location data scandals. That’s despite story after story showing how wireless carriers were selling this data to an endless line of companies and organizations. Those organizations, in turn, failed utterly to protect this data from being misused by everybody from law enforcement to bail bondsman and even random stalkers posing as law enforcement. Despite this being on scale with the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, the silence from the Pai FCC has been deafening.

      Last week during a Congressional FCC oversight hearing, several lawmakers criticized Pai for failing to hold carriers accountable or even publicly mentioning the scandal. And while the FCC has supposedly been conducting an investigation for the better part of the last year, Pai’s fellow commissioners say they’ve been stonewalled when they’ve asked about the progress of the inquiry.

      [...]

      Again, Pai’s decision to be a rubber stamp for the telecom industry’s biggest companies isn’t much in dispute at this point, though Pai and his staffers like to insist (and may even actually believe) this is all just unfair partisan posturing. Pai has repeatedly stated that the industry can self-regulate, but when it comes to privacy they’ve shown themselves to be incapable of the task. So while carriers say they’ve ceased the collection and sale of your location data to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the internet, with their history of falsehoods on the privacy front, the only way to actually confirm this is a transparent, third party inquiry.

    • Why Reactionaries Won in Australia

      Overall however, three things explain Scomo’s narrow win of 77 seats – which means that he has a one man (mostly men) majority. Scomo’s three winning factors are: a) the Murdoch press, b) Labor’s big mistake and c) Scomo’s political marketing ability. First to the Murdoch press. Australia is where Murdoch came from. It is here where he sharpened his teeth. As a consequence of Murdoch’s dominance over the Australian media landscape, journalist John Pilger called Australia a Murdochracy – a democracy run by Murdoch’s media empire.

      There are vast geographical areas in this vast continent in which the only paper read is a Murdoch paper. But Murdoch’s ideological arm also reaches deep into cities. In Sydney for example, traditional working class areas such as the western suburbs are almost completely covered by Murdoch’s tabloid press. Unsurprisingly, most of those seats are held by Scomo’s people. Aiding that are conservative commercial TV stations such as channel Seven, Nine and Ten. Scomo also receives generous help from right-wing radio hosts. In other words, Labor faces not only Scomo but a media landscape run by Murdoch, etc.

      But there are a few exceptions to that as well. Some geographical areas – like Sydney’s Inner West – are populated by the pro-democracy, environmental conscious, and enlightened citoyens who tend to read Australia’s liberal newspaper (“liberal” in the American understanding), the only not staunchly pro-neoliberalism newspaper in Sydney, called Sydney Morning Herald. People in the Inner West are also more likely to watch Australia’s public broadcasters such as ABC and SBS. Unlike their commercial counterparts of Seven, Nine, and Ten, the two public broadcasters of ABC and SBS show a more balanced picture of Australian politics – to the great annoyance of Scomo and his entourage.

      While Murdoch’s VOX covers the Midwest of the USA, Murdoch’s Australian outfit covers rural Australia to such a degree that there has been talk of Quexit, the exiting of redneck Queensland from Australia. In general, Murdochracy – whether it is Murdoch’s flagship tabloid the Daily Telegraph or News.Com – means a daily barrage of anti-Labor messaging while simultaneously being highly favourable to Scomo’s conservatives.

      Just one example explains this. The Murdoch press made sure that nobody forgot the 2010 leadership issue between two Labor leaders, Gillard and Rudd whilst the fact that Scomo stabbed a much liked sitting prime minister in the back in a ruthless coup d’état in 2018 was hardly ever mentioned during the recent election campaign. Murdoch’s press made sure that during the election nobody thought about Scomo’s cold-bloodedness. As they say, the media cannot tell people what to think but it can tell people what to think about. Murdoch is a master of this. But his media dominance is by no means all there is to the downfall of Labor.

    • Round-the-Clock Disinformation

      In these unsettled times, you often hear people say that they can’t bear to read or watch one more news report on what the Trump administration is doing.

      The round-the-clock disinformation emanating from the White House creates the chaos that Trump thrives on–obscuring the damage he does to the environment, to the most vulnerable, to democracy itself.

      Rather than cutting through the chaos, corporate media capitalize on it—riding a wave of division and anxiety all the way to the bank.

    • It’s Time For The Democratic Party To Stand Up

      Trump ordering former White House lawyer Don McGahn not to appear before Congress, and McGahn not showing up, is just the latest example of House Democrats appearing to beg Big Daddy Trump for candy, just so he can slap their hands and say, “No Children! Go to your rooms.”

      Trump’s staged walkout from a meeting with Democratic lawmakers on infrastructure, followed by a Rose Garden temper tantrum, only accentuates this dynamic. Trump wants to be strong, and make Democrats appear weak, vacillating, and without clear principles.

      Indeed, House Democrats’ strategy of stepping back while Trump stonewalls is starting to look more like an unprincipled shirking of their duty to stand up for the Constitution, and commence impeachment hearings before Trump turns America into a Presidential dictatorship.

      That’s why it’s time for a Democratic Party that stands up for the rule of law and the Constitution, instead of constantly holding its fingers to the wind and following meekly.

    • Another Wild Day in DC, and Impeachment Is Still Off the Table

      When historians write the book on this irredeemably depraved administration, May 22 is going to require its own chapter.

      It began with the Democratic Speaker of the House accusing Donald Trump of covering up crimes before declaring her intention to do nothing about it. It was stuffed through the middle with a presidential Rose Garden performance that will loom large in the annals of televised gibberish until the sun burns out. It ended when a federal judge dropped a metaphorical bag of bricks directly on Trump’s head for the second time in two days by again refusing to quash a subpoena for financial documents.

      Act I opened with a morning meeting of the House Democratic caucus, a follow-up to the tense Monday meeting when several members pressured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to authorize the official opening of an impeachment inquiry against Trump. Reasons for doing so are manifest, having been meticulously detailed in the Mueller report. For Congress, impeachment is also nothing less than an act of self-preservation; Trump is actively working to strip the legislative branch of appropriations, oversight and war powers — efforts that, if successful, would render the institution essentially moot.

      “Would you believe that it’s important to follow the facts?” asked Speaker Pelosi after the meeting. “We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up. In a cover-up.”

      Like Jimmy Two Times in “Goodfellas,” she said “cover-up” twice, so it must be important, right?

    • Under Fire From Progressives, DCCC Chair Backs Out of Fundraiser for Anti-Choice Democrat Dan Lipinski

      After facing intense backlash from progressives for planning to star at a fundraiser for an anti-choice Democrat amid a wave of Republican attacks on abortion rights, DCCC chair Cheri Bustos announced late Wednesday that she has decided to back out of the high-dollar event.

      “I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” Bustos, a congresswoman from Illinois, said in a statement announcing her withdrawal from the fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), who is facing a progressive primary challenge from Marie Newman.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Indonesia restricts access to Facebook and WhatsApp to stop the spread of fake news after riots erupted that killed 6 people and injured 200

      Tito told a press conference that several protesters were arrested with envelopes totalling 6 million rupiah (US$410) and admitted to being “paid” to demonstrate.

    • More Data on Content Moderation Won’t Silence Facebook’s Critics

      The researchers found lots to be desired in the way Facebook measures and reports its progress. For instance, Facebook relies on a global team of moderators to review content flagged by users, but it doesn’t release accuracy rates for those reviewers. Facebook also releases data on the “prevalence” of prohibited content on the platform, which is to say, how many people might have viewed one of these posts. Facebook does this by randomly sampling all content views across Facebook, then manually reviewing how many of them violate Facebook’s policies. That’s a valuable number, the researchers argue, but it leaves out another crucial figure: Not just what percentage of views on the platform are of prohibited content, but how much prohibited content there was to begin with.

    • Republican Senator Says Facebook and Instagram Need to ‘Disappear’

      “Social media’s innovations do our country more harm than good. Maybe social media is best understood as a parasite on productive investment, on meaningful relationships, on a healthy society,” he wrote. “Maybe we’d be better off if Facebook disappeared.”

    • Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are parasites. Maybe they should disappear: Senator

      Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — they devote massive amounts of money and the best years of some of the nation’s brightest minds to developing new schemes to hijack their users’ neural circuitry. That’s because social media only works — to make money, anyway — if it consumes users’ time and attention, day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we enjoyed and did perfectly well before social media existed.

      Social media users understand this intuitively. You don’t go on Facebook to connect with a friend when you can just as easily call him or send her a text on your phone.

      You don’t log on to find an article you’ve been meaning to read when you could just as easily find it yourself with a different service designed for that purpose, like online search.

      No, you log on to Facebook to be on Facebook. Just for a minute. Or maybe a few. Or maybe an hour.

      Let’s be clear. This is a digital drug. And the addiction is the point. Addiction is what Mark Zuckerberg is selling.

    • Indonesia restricts WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram usage following deadly riots

      The restrictions come as Indonesia grapples with political tension following the release of the results of its presidential election on Tuesday. Defeated candidate Prabowo Subianto said he will challenge the result in the constitutional court.

      Riots broke out in capital state Jakarta last night, killing at least six people and leaving more than 200 people injured. Following this, it is alleged that misleading information and hoaxes about the nature of riots and people who participated in them began to spread on social media services, according to local media reports.

      For Facebook, seeing its services forcefully cut off in a region is no longer a rare incident. The company, which is grappling with the spread of false information in many markets, faced a similar restriction in Sri Lanka in April, when the service was completely banned for days amid terrorist strikes in the nation. India, which just this week concluded its general election, has expressed concerns over Facebook’s inability to contain the spread of false information on WhatsApp, which is its largest chat app with over 200 million monthly users.

    • Portland Trailblazers Streisand Stupid Local Article Into National Spotlight For No Reason At All

      While stories about the Streisand Effect here are legion, the most frustrating aspect of them for me is typically how pointless and petty the victims of it are. There are so many of life’s problems that can be best taken on by being completely ignored and the simple fact is that many famous folk and large companies have a much larger capacity and ability to ignore petty shit than the average person. I mean, come on people, you have lawyers and PR teams.

      The Portland Trailblazers certainly do. And, yet, they appear to have decided to Streisand a mildly trafficked big dumb stupid local publication into the national spotlight just by failing to ignore it. The setup here is a playoffs game 3 loss and Tim Brown, an editor of the Oregonian, doing the laziest of “articles.”

    • Forget ‘Breaking Up’ Internet Companies, Senator Josh Hawley Says They Should All Die Because They’re Too Popular

      We’ve had our issues with politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren whose plans to “break up” big internet companies don’t seem to make much sense, but it appears that Senator Josh Hawley has decided to take things to another level of insanity altogether. In an op-ed for USA Today, Hawley makes the argument that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter should all die. And while there are plenty of people who appear to support a dead Facebook in response to that company’s long history of sketchy practices, that’s not really the reason Hawley wants them dead.

      He wants them dead because they’re too popular. Hawley cherry picks some evidence to suggest that using social media is bad for our health.

    • Report: ORG policy responses to Online Harms White Paper

      Open Rights Group (ORG) is a UK-based digital campaigning organisation working to protect fundamental rights to privacy and free speech online. With over 3,000 active supporters, we are a grassroots organisation with local groups across the UK.

      ORG has actively engaged with the government’s proposals for online regulation since the Internet Safety Strategy in 2017. The following policy positions have been developed through a long period of reflection and engagement with different stakeholder groups. We hope that they assist others intending to respond to the white paper consultation.

      For the avoidance of doubt, this paper does not comprise our full consultation response. We will publish that in due course.

    • Russia’s Communications Ministry lists threat categories that could trigger RuNet isolation

      Russia’s Communications Ministry has prepared a set of executive regulations that describe how and under what conditions control over the Russian segment of the Internet might be centralized. That process could entail isolating Russian traffic from the World Wide Web under a new law passed by the State Duma in April.

    • [Older] Richard Stallman: The Christchurch Terrorist’s Manifesto Is a Hideous Document, But Banning Possession of It Is Not the Solution
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Captured states – e-Privacy Regulation victim of a “lobby onslaught”

      Compared to non-governmental organisations and trade unions, private corporations are far better equipped to influence European level decision-making. A report “Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests” by Corporate Europe Observatory’s (CEO) describes the various ways corporations approach the Member States of the European Union to maximise their impact.

      When adopting EU’s laws and policies, Member States are key actors, along with the European Parliament and the Commission. Thus, lobbyists representing private corporations consider Member States as primary targets to influence the decisions at the European level in favour of their interests. The CEO report exemplifies how national governments become channels for corporate interests by relating numerous lobbying successes, including the e-Privacy Regulation (pdf).

    • Ocasio-Cortez Ties Concerns Over Unregulated Facial Recognition Technology to ‘Global Rise in Authoritarianism and Fascism’

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday tied “the political reality that there is a global rise in authoritarianism and fascism” to concerns about the threats that facial recognition technology poses to Americans’ civil rights and liberties.

      “I don’t want to see an authoritarian surveillance state,” the New York Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill, “whether it’s run by a government or whether it’s run by five corporations.”

      BuzzFeed’s Davey Alba, who captured the congresswoman’s comments on video, reported that she was referencing U.S. tech giants Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

    • Snapchat Employees Abused Data Access to Spy on Users

      Several departments inside social media giant Snap have dedicated tools for accessing user data, and multiple employees have abused their privileged access to spy on Snapchat users, Motherboard has learned.

      Two former employees said multiple Snap employees abused their access to Snapchat user data several years ago. Those sources, as well as an additional two former employees, a current employee, and a cache of internal company emails obtained by Motherboard, described internal tools that allowed Snap employees at the time to access user data, including in some cases location information, their own saved Snaps and personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses. Snaps are photos or videos that, if not saved, typically disappear after being received (or after 24 hours if posted to a user’s Story).

      Motherboard granted multiple sources in this story anonymity to speak candidly about internal Snap processes.

      Although Snap has introduced strict access controls to user data and takes abuse and user privacy very seriously according to several sources, the news highlights something that many users may forget: behind the products we use everyday there are people with access to highly sensitive customer data, who need it to perform essential work on the service. But, without proper protections in place, those same people may abuse it to spy on users’ private information or profiles.

    • Snapchat’s Internal Tool ‘SnapLion’ Is Abused By Employees To Spy On You

      The latest report from Motherboard is an important but unsurprising revelation. According to the report, Snapchat’s internal tool ‘SnapLion’ is often abused by employees to access users’ snaps without their permission. Snaps are photos that disappear after some time, however, Snapchat employees have access to these photos and regularly violate users’ privacy, the report added.

    • Digital Advertising, Consumer Privacy and More

      Digital ads—and control of the user data that makes them so profitable—are the heart of the consumer privacy debate. Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Understanding the Digital Advertising Ecosystem and the Impact of Data Privacy and Competition Policy” to grapple with these complicated and often conflicting ideas.

      Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham opened the hearing by asking the panelists if Congress should pass a federal privacy law at all, and if they thought we should have “one national standard”—a potentially dangerous idea, as it could preempt stronger existing state laws. The panelists more or less supported a single national law, though we were glad to see Dr. Johnny Ryan argue that a federal law should preempt state law only to the extent that it provides greater protections. Dr. Fiona M. Scott Morton further clarified that even with a strong federal standard, states were still going to want to regulate on top of the law.

      Troublingly, when discussing whether or not states should be able to create their own protections for consumers, Chairman Graham said, “It’s my job to make sure we have a viable [digital advertising] industry when this is all done.” But enacting a law that would protect the advertising industry at the expense of his constituents and their privacy is antithetical to the Chairman’s job. Previous hearings on data privacy have featured witness panels stacked with industry advocates, and corporate interests threatening to hollow out existing data privacy laws. Consumers are relying on Congress to resist this pressure, not bow to it.

      The rest of the hearing turned to discussions of the role competition plays in a healthy innovation landscape, how to engineer meaningful consent, and who actually owns users’ data.

    • Data Mining vs Machine Learning: Top 20 Things You Must Know

      We all aware of the beauty of Artificial Intelligence, which reigns the current technology-driven world. This board area relates to the two essential disciplines that are Data Mining and Machine Learning. Both data mining and machine learning originate from the same root that is data science, and also they intersect each other. Moreover, both are data-driven disciplines. Both disciplines help developers to develop an efficient system. However, still, there is a question “Is there a difference between data mining vs. machine learning?” To provide a clear understanding of this question, we outline 20 distinctions between them, which guide you to pick the right discipline to solve your programming problem.

    • Americans believe that they should own the mountains of data produced by their cars, but they don’t

      This is the home version of what John Deere has done to farmers: using terms of service and copyright licensing to deprive you of the benefit of your own property, to their own benefit. Farmers can’t access the telemetry about soil condition they generate by driving their own tractors around their own fields (they can only get it piecemeal as part of an app that comes with Monsanto seed), while Deere can aggregate that data to predict crop yields and sell intelligence to the futures market. Car owners can’t access the telemetry from their own vehicles, but automakers can use that data to make real-estate bets, plan products, even place ads on your mobile devices.

      Farmers can’t fix their own tractors or take them to independent service centers; car owners can’t bypass the locks that control their car diagnostic information nor can independent mechanics access the unlock codes that cause cars to recognize new parts after installation.

      And neither farmers nor drivers can benefit from independent security audits of the massive, deadly robots they entrust their lives to, because bypassing the system’s locks to conduct such an audit gives rise to serious criminal and civil liability.

    • Your Car Knows When You Gain Weight

      Cars not only know how much we weigh but also track how much weight we gain. They know how fast we drive, where we live, how many children we have — even financial information. Connect a phone to a car, and it knows who we call and who we text.

      But who owns and, ultimately, controls that data? And what are carmakers doing with it?

      The issue of ownership is murky. Drivers usually sign away their rights to data in a small-print clause buried in the ownership or lease agreement. It’s not unlike buying a smartphone. The difference is that most consumers have no idea vehicles collect data.

    • In less than one second, a malicious web-page can uniquely fingerprint an Iphone, Pixel 2 or Pixel 3 without any explicit user interaction

      In a new paper for IEEE Security, a trio of researchers (two from Cambridge, one from private industry) identify a de-anonymizing attack on Iphones that exploits minute differences in sensor calibration: an Iphone user who visits a webpage running the attack code can have their phone uniquely identified in less than a second, through queries to the sensors made through automated background processes running on the page.

    • Online identification is getting more and more intrusive

      Most online fraud involves identity theft, which is why businesses that operate on the web have a keen interest in distinguishing impersonators from genuine customers. Passwords help. But many can be guessed or are jotted down imprudently. Newer phones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers often have beefed-up security with fingerprint and facial recognition. But these can be spoofed. To overcome these shortcomings the next level of security is likely to identify people using things which are harder to copy, such as the way they walk.

      Many online security services already use a system called device fingerprinting. This employs software to note things like the model type of a gadget employed by a particular user; its hardware configuration; its operating system; the apps which have been downloaded onto it; and other features, including sometimes the Wi-Fi networks it regularly connects through and devices like headsets it plugs into.

    • Like It or Not, We’re Already Cyborgs

      Have you ever felt uneasy about how Big Tech follows you around? For some, this is just a function of modern digital life. But for others, like privacy activists Aral Balkan and Laura Kalbag, it’s an erosion of civil liberties.

      To them, we don’t need brain implants to become cyborgs. We’re already jacked in thanks to GPS-enabled smartphones, fitness trackers, social networks, and more. It’s why Balkan and Kalbag created Ind.ie, a nonprofit social justice design company—best known for building the Better web blocker—and crafted the Universal Declaration of Cyborg Rights.

      We spoke with Balkan and Kalbag from their home in Ireland. Here are edited and condensed excerpts from our conversation.

    • Toronto plastic surgeon told to remove security cameras from consult rooms

      Last year, while reporting undercover for a story on breast implants, Marketplace producers spotted security cameras in a closed-door consultation room at Jugenburg’s clinic as well as in the waiting area. The small black devices were attached to the ceiling in the corner of the rooms.

      The consultation rooms are where patients are regularly asked to remove their clothing during pre- and post-operative appointments.

      The CBC producers, one posing as a potential patient and the other as her supportive friend, were not told about the security cameras. Several past patients of Jugenburg’s clinic say they were not told either, nor did they see any signs mentioning the cameras before staff asked them to undress for a consultation.

    • There’s a problem with WhatsApp, but it isn’t end-to-end encryption

      You can argue about degrees, but WhatsApp is unquestionably a product of the surveillance capitalist ecosystem. Eventually it will evolve to monetise the digital exhaust of our interactions, or in terms Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff puts it: using private human experience as raw materials in a behavioural data rendering process which is designed to herd and tune us towards profitable outcomes.

      The suppliers of widely-adopted secure communications should not also be the controllers of this behavioural modification market. Any application claiming to offer privacy must be entirely disentangled from the interests of these parties. Apple has had a crack with iMessage, but sadly its products remain out of reach to most of the world. iPhones are bloody expensive, and not everyone can afford to pay a ridiculous premium on a shiny phone so their personal communications don’t wind up as a part of a data set flagged for monetisation.

    • Amazon shareholders reject banning sale of facial recognition software to law enforcement

      During the e-commerce giant’s annual meeting Wednesday, shareholders rejected all proposals including two related to Rekognition, Amazon confirmed to USA TODAY.

      One proposed banning the sales of the technology and the other called for the company to conduct an independent study and issue a report on the risks of governments using the technology.

      Amazon did not release shareholder vote totals Wednesday but said information would be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission later in the week.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Al-Aqsa Mosque Address: ‘An Islamic state would have strategy to soften infidels

      Sheikh Amira said that the first step would be to “soften” the infidels by calling them to Islam through the Internet, television, propaganda, and media and to show them how to implement Islam until they are “convinced.”

    • New Proposal Would Let Companies Further Screw You Over With Terms of Service

      Specifically, they noted that the updated draft language proclaims that consumers would not need to read a contract to be bound by its terms. The draft states as long as consumers received “reasonable notice” and had “reasonable opportunity to review” it, the contract would be legally binding.

      Under this model, consumers wouldn’t need to even understand the contract to be bound by it, a problem given data suggests such agreements are often incomprehensible to the average user. The language was problematic enough to result in a letter this week by 23 state attorneys general, criticizing the ALI’s proposal as a major threat to consumer rights.

    • Trump Is Considering Deputizing the Military as a Civilian Police Force. That Is Terrifying.

      The Donald Trump presidency, marked by cruelty, corruption, and disdain for the rule of law, has been disastrous for our democracy. If there is one silver lining, it is this: Trump’s abuses have exposed weaknesses in our laws and institutions that were previously hidden and which we can now begin to try to fix. We learned about one such weakness in February, when Trump relied on the National Emergencies Act to commandeer funding Congress had specifically denied for the construction of a border wall. The latest such legal loophole is another emergency power that could enable the president to turn the military into his own immigration police force.

      According to a report in the Daily Caller last week, the Trump administration is considering invoking the Insurrection Act to give federal troops the power to detain and remove undocumented immigrants in the United States, acting essentially as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The White House, when asked about the option last week, refused to rule it out.

    • SFPD Earning Universal Condemnation For Raiding A Journalist’s Home During Its Internal Leak Investigation

      When the San Francisco Police Department decided to externalize its internal investigation of a leaked document, things got unlawful and unconstitutional in a hurry. Deciding the best way to sniff out the leaker of a police report detailing the death of prominent public defender Jeff Adachi was through the front door of a local journalist, the SFPD now has a lot of explaining to do.

      The SFPD raided journalist Bryan Carmody’s home supposedly to find information that would lead them to one of its own officers. Carmody is a stringer and had shopped around a copy of the police report someone inside the SFPD leaked to him. None of this is criminal. Nothing about Carmody’s information-gathering fell outside of the law. If anyone broke the law, it was the officer or PD employee who gave him the report.

      That fact notwithstanding, officers showed up at Carmody’s house and — after waging a losing battle with an impressive front gate — handcuffed him for six hours while confiscating $10,000-worth of electronic devices and computers. It’s safe to assume these items contained plenty of information Carmody had gathered from other sources, as well as information about those sources. Again, this search and seizure violated the state’s journalist shield law, if not the US Constitution itself.

    • What’s Behind Lobbyist Attempts to Block Casinos on Indigenous Land?

      President Donald Trump threw his weight against a bipartisan House bill last week that would affirm the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s right to 321 acres of land in Massachusetts.

      The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, or H.R. 312, was introduced by Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.) and co-sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. Supporters of the act said entitling the 2,600-member tribe to promised, federally recognized land upheld tribal sovereignty and protected the tribe’s economy by enabling the tribe to build a casino on the land.

      The House voted in favor of the bill, moving the tribe one step closer to building a $1 billion proposed casino on the land. But the president’s opposition warrants a look into his past links to casino magnates and the gambling industry. The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.

    • Honduran Labor Fight Reveals Exploitation Behind the Migrant Crisis

      Thousands of migrants sit in cages along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      U.S. policy makers and media debate their proper treatment as if they have appeared out of nowhere — fleeing hardships that are, to us, unknowable and unavoidable.

      Two thousand miles away, one labor struggle reveals how false this narrative is.

      In a microcosm of the conditions that have forced millions around the world to leave their homes in search of a better life in the global North, farmworkers in Honduras are fighting for their rights against the violent exploitation of a powerful multinational corporation and a global economic system designed to marginalize them.

      Fyffes plc is the fourth-largest banana distributor in the world and the top importer of winter-season melons to the United States. Despite an annual $1 billion in revenue, the Japanese-owned and Irish-headquartered corporation remains a virtual unknown compared to its competitors: Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte. But in Honduras, Fyffes is infamous.

    • Migrant Child’s Death in Custody Raises Cover-Up Questions

      CBS News reported Wednesday that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in a facility run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in September. She was the first of six migrant children to die in U.S. custody, in a hospital, or shortly after being released, in the last eight months, but the government didn’t acknowledge her death until Wednesday. Her name has not been released.

      Mark Weber, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees ORR, told CBS News that the girl was “medically fragile” due to a congenital heart condition she had prior to entering U.S. custody in Texas. “She passed due to fever and respiratory distress” after being treated in multiple facilities, including a San Antonio hospital, a nursing facility in Phoenix and a children’s hospital in Omaha, Neb., Weber said,

    • Joe Biden’s Racist Dog Whistles Will Haunt Him

      In a party that officially condemns dog-whistle appeals to racism, Joe Biden is running on Orwellian eggshells. Whether he can win the Democratic presidential nomination may largely depend on the extent of “doublethink” that George Orwell described in 1984 as the willingness “to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.”

      It is an inconvenient fact that Biden has a political history of blowing into dog whistles for racism. More than ever, the Democratic electorate is repelled by that kind of pitch. If his dog-whistling past becomes a major issue, the former vice president and his defenders will face the challenge of twisting themselves into rhetorical pretzels to deny what is apparent from the video record of Biden oratory on the Senate floor that spanned into the last decade of the 20th century.

      Biden is eager to deflect any prospective attention from his own history of trafficking in white malice and racial division. When he tweeted this week that “our politics today has become so mean and petty — it traffics in division and our president is the divider in chief,” Biden was executing a high jump over the despicably low standards set by Donald Trump.

      A key question remains: Does it matter that Biden was a shrill purveyor of tropes, racist stereotypes and legislation aimed at African Americans? During pivotal moments in the history of race relations in this country, from the 1970s to the 1990s, Biden’s hot air manifested as pitches to white racism. From the outset of his career on Capitol Hill, he even stooped to reaching out to some of the worst segregationist senators from the South to advance his legislative agenda against busing.

      As Adolph Reed and Cornel West noted this month in the Guardian, Biden began his racially laced approach to lawmaking soon after arrival in the Senate, when he “earned sharp criticism from both the NAACP and ACLU in the 1970s for his aggressive opposition to school busing as a tool for achieving school desegregation.”

    • ‘Vague, Overly Broad, and Sweeping in Scope’: Lawsuits Take Aim at Efforts to Criminalize Anti-Pipeline Protests

      Reporting from The Intercept, details how three states—Texas, Louisiana, and South Dakota—are facing or, in the case of Texas, will face, lawsuits challenging the anti-protest laws.

      Civil rights activists argue that the effect of the laws is to tamp down protest, an unconstitutional attack on free speech. In Texas, as Common Dreams reported earlier this month, both the state House and Senate passed versions of a bill that would make interfering with public infrastructure like pipelines a third degree felony—on par with attempted murder and indecent exposure to a child.

      “It’s hard to convince or even ask people with children to organize against pipelines if a mother will risk a felony,” Jennifer Falcon, spokesperson for Texas-based organization Society of Native Nations, told The Intercept.

      The laws all make it a felony to trespass on property defined as “critical infrastructure,” an amorphous term that can be used broadly to imprison people fighting against planet-killing pipeline projects.

      Texans will have to wait for the state’s law to be used to charge someone before challenging the rule, lawyers told the Society of Native Nations. But other states are already seeing the effects of harsh, anti-protester legislation.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The real cost of cutting the cord: What streaming companies don’t want you to know

      But like most great things in life, cutting the cord is complicated. There are so many streaming options that it’s hard to settle on only one or two. Do it wrong, and cord-cutters might end up paying more than traditional cable, which is exactly what streaming companies don’t want you to realize.

    • Streaming Services Far Exceed Traditional Cable in Customer Satisfaction

      There’s just something about terrible customer service, high prices, and sketchy quality product that consumers oddly don’t like. American consumers’ dislike of traditional cable TV providers was once again made clear this week in a study by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which, as its name implies, tracks US consumer approval of companies on a 100 point scale. As has long been the case, the full report shows most traditional cable TV, satellite, or IPTV providers languishing somewhere in the mid 60s — scores that are bested by a long line of industries and government agencies (including the IRS).

      Not too surprisingly, the report shows that American consumers far prefer streaming video alternatives, which provide them with lower costs and greater package flexibility.

  • DRM

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Qualcomm stock falls on antitrust ruling — and analysts ‘don’t know what will happen next’

      Shares of Qualcomm plunged 10.9% Wednesday, a day after a judge ruled the company broke the law by suppressing competition in the cellphone chip market.

      The plunge shaved more than $10 billion from the company’s market cap, bringing it to $84.3 billion.

      U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh sided with the Federal Trade Commission. She granted an injunction that orders Qualcomm to renegotiate license terms with customers “free from the threat of lack of access to or discriminatory provision of modem chip supply or associated technical support or access to software,” among other provisions. The company must also report to the FTC annually for seven years to ensure compliance with the injunction, according to the ruling in the Northern District of California.

      In a statement, Qualcomm said it will seek a stay of Koh’s judgment as it pursues an “expedited appeal.”

    • Judge Koh: Qualcomm’s Licensing Practices Destroyed Competition, Harmed Consumers

      Last year, Judge Koh issued a summary judgment ruling that signaled her skepticism of Qualcomm’s licensing practices. In that ruling, Judge Koh found that Qualcomm was obligated to license its competitors to Qualcomm’s standard-essential patents (SEPs).

      Yesterday’s ruling made that finding explicit. In a section of the ruling that extensively describes Qualcomm’s history of refusing to license, Judge Koh found that Qualcomm’s refusal to license “has promoted rivals’ exit from the market, prevented rivals’ entry, and delayed or hampered the entry and success of other rivals.” That history included refusing actual competitors like MediaTek and Intel as well as potential competitors like Samsung. And even when they occasionally did provide licenses, such as to VIA, the licenses contained onerous terms like only allowing VIA to sell to customers who also had licenses from Qualcomm and requiring VIA to provide Qualcomm with detailed information on their chipset sales—information that is normally considered sensitive information that no company willingly shares with its competitors.

      That refusal to license has had real harms. As Judge Koh summarized, “Qualcomm’s refusal to license has prevented rivals’ entry, impeded rivals’ ability to sell modem chips externally or at all, promoted rivals’ exit, and delayed rivals’ entry.” And as she notes elsewhere, those harms have spread, with the result that “other SEP licensors like Nokia and Ericsson have concluded that licensing only OEMs is more lucrative, and structured their practices accordingly.”

    • Carucel Investments’ Patent Challenged as Likely Invalid

      On May 17, 2019, Unified, represented by Haynes and Boone, filed an IPR against U.S. Patent No. 7,979,023, owned by Carucel Investments. The ‘023 patent is related to in-vehicle cellular systems and has been asserted against numerous automobile companies such as Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz.

    • Synkloud Technologies patent added to PATROLL

      On May 20, 2019, Unified added a $3,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for U.S. Patent No. 9,219,780 which has been asserted by SynKloud Technologies, LLC, an NPE. The ’780 patent, generally related to a wireless device accessing a remote storage space allocated to a user of the wireless device, has been asserted in one district court case to date.

    • Scentsational Technologies LLC v. PepsiCo, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Parties often push experts to testify outside their area of expertise and leave it up to the expert to push back when uncomfortable. If the expert fails to do so, a party’s aggressiveness may come back to haunt it before the Court. That is why the Scentsational case, although nonprecedential, serves as a cautionary tale for intellectual property litigators.

      Scentsational’s interactions with Pepsi began in 2001, when it first shared trade secrets relating to the development and commercialization of scented packaging for beverages. Over the next nine years, the two companies executed four confidentiality agreements and a funded development agreement. Scentsational’s founder also made technical presentations about the technology to Pepsi scientists and engineers, including in January 2008 and March 2010, and provided product samples to Pepsi. Soon after the March 2010 presentation, however, the project lost steam and Pepsi decided to terminate the relationship with Scentsational.

      Upon Pepsi’s shelving of the project, Scentsational immediately went to talk to Coca-Cola about how its technology could benefit Coke’s products. In August 2010, Scentsational and Coke executed an agreement to begin the project and completed the initial phase (Phase I). However, before they started Phase II — or executed the Phase II agreement — Coke discovered a number of Pepsi patent applications that had been filed between 2008 and 2011 and, unbeknownst to Scentsational, allegedly incorporated the same Scentsational trade secrets that were now being exploited on Coke’s behalf. Coke therefore terminated the relationship.

      [...]

      While the merits of the Scentsational case provide little guidance to other parties, other than the need to aggressively police nondisclosure agreements, the grounds for resolution provide a clear warning. The Federal Circuit will have little sympathy for a party that has stretched an expert’s testimony beyond the bounds of her expertise, and will uphold a district court’s decision disqualifying an expert who falls prey to that trap.

    • Trademarks

      • The X Factor v The Pets Factor, Trade Mark Opposition

        The X Factor is a reality TV singing contest programme and franchise created by producer Simon Cowell, as I am sure readers are aware since the TV Format now airs in over 50 countries. You might be surprised to learn that a talent show for animals called The Pets Factor, is not in fact a spin-off programme from The X Factor… hence this trade mark opposition.

    • Copyrights

      • Poland to take copyright reform to EU court
      • Court Rules Redditor Can Stay Anonymous in Significant Copyright Case

        What do Reddit, free speech, and the Jehovah’s Witness religion have in common? A lawsuit regarding the right to remain anonymous online. Last week, a federal court ruled that a Redditor does not have to reveal his identity in a copyright case.

        In the case, a Reddit was subpoenaed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the supervising body and publisher for Jehovah’s Witness organizations, for the identity of a user named Darkspilver. A lifelong Jehovah’s Witness, Darkspilver had shared an advertisement from a Watchtower magazine asking for donations and a chart detailing the personal data the organization stores. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society didn’t take that kindly and filed a suit claiming Darkspilver’s posts infringed Watch Tower’s copyrights. Meanwhile, Darkspilver claimed his post fell under fair use as it was meant to spark discussion and he didn’t claim to own the advertisement in any way.

      • How the copyright directive changed my view of the EU

        About 10 years ago, in early 2009, I was installing a GNU/Linux distribution (Ubuntu) on my computer for the first time. Back then I was 18 years old, but using Linux I quickly realized the value of open source and freedom in computing. Soon, I started advocating for digital rights: privacy, freedom of expression, open knowledge. Fast-forward 10 years, I’m now doing a PhD in Computational Privacy at Imperial College London.

        In the meantime, I’ve always been a convinced Europeanist. For a few months now, an EU flag has been hanging on the wall in my room in London. Simply put, to me being a Europeanist means believing that only a united Europe can face the challenges of a globalized world, ensuring good living standards and freedom for European citizens. However, most Europeanists are not completely happy with the way the EU currently works. They know that the EU is not perfect and needs to change in some areas.

        That said, for the sake of intellectual honesty I have to admit that most Europeanist criticisms of EU institutions, representatives, and political agenda are typically not very forceful. Their objections to the status quo are often quite shy and submissive, as if they were afraid of challenging the EU’s aura of inscrutable benevolence — that rooted idea that EU institutions know what’s better for the people, and therefore their decisions can’t really be questioned. On the contrary, criticism from the Eurosceptic front is quickly dismissed as exaggerated, subversive and often based on fake news or even conspiracy theories. In a nutshell: unfounded.

      • Award-Winning John Lennon Photographer Sues Universal Music For $150,000

        Award-winning photographer Allan Tennanbaum has filed a copyright infringement complaint against Universal Music in New York. Known for his iconic images of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the photographer says that Universal used his work without permission on one of its websites. He is demanding up to $150,000 in damages.

EPO Strikes Further Diminish Chances of UPC Ever Materialising (in Any Shape or Form)

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 9:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another EPO strike
Credit: MSServices Global

Summary: The EPO crumbles under the weight of its own corruption while an increasingly-insane Team UPC pretends all remains normal and a patent trolls-friendly system is ready to take off

IT IS becoming a busy week (and maybe weekend) down in Munich. SUEPO has had the final straw. We expect more to be said, maybe in light of the Kötter Group as well. Is the EPO about to become infested with thugs and goons from a firm founded inside the Third Reich? And apparently participated in the occupation and exploitation of the Netherlands?

“What we’re seeing here is a gradual shift; the public does not view the EPO as an ally or a regional protector; rather, it’s an exploitative foe that extracts money from the European public and gifts rogue entities, both contractors of the EPO (connected to EPO chiefs) and patent trolls.”Earlier today we took note of the upcoming strike (assuming staff votes for it and it’s approved), adding the above banner. As it turns out, it was made by a Dutch firm. “Sorry to bother you with this,” one reader told us, “but it seems that you used the wrong source for the published picture (“Credit: Anonymous Twitter account“); however credits go to “MSServices Global” (a Dutch registered business). I’ve heard from a reliable source (from within the Union) that this company supports the union. Many thanks in advance for correcting it.” (We’ve just corrected it)

What we’re seeing here is a gradual shift; the public does not view the EPO as an ally or a regional protector; rather, it’s an exploitative foe that extracts money from the European public and gifts rogue entities, both contractors of the EPO (connected to EPO chiefs) and patent trolls. The public is only going to suffer and Europe’s reputation too is being harmed.

Earlier today we saw this press release in PRNewswire about “Formal Requirements of the European Patent System”; which system? The one foreseen and set up by the EPC or the sordid mess we have today, operating outside the rule of law and even defying the EPC itself?

“The EPO basically violates the law; the EPC, the courts, the European Parliament…”On May 16th this long blog post was published in Spanish (Spain opposes the UPC and is no friend of the EPO in general). Benjamin Henrion had a go at translations with [1, 2]: “Where the European Parliament did have a starring role was in the rejection of the Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions in 2005. [...] However, the EPO has continued to do what it has wished in this area [...] EPO has continued to do what it has wished in this area, so the rejection of the European Parliament did not result in the elimination of “software patents” and certainly leads to the EU’s inhibition in patents, leaving initiative to the EPO…”

The EPO basically violates the law; the EPC, the courts, the European Parliament…

“Putting aside illegal software patents, how about patents on life and nature?”No sane judge would ever entrust or assign anything legally-sensitive to the EPO, which also violates the privacy of stakeholders (underreported issue that corporate media did not bother covering, as usual).

Putting aside illegal software patents, how about patents on life and nature? CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP’s Robert Stephen has just published this article about Broad Institute’s CRISPR patent loss. Will the EPO’s examiners manage to defy management and patent maximalists who infest the management level? Then deny patents on life itself? (Patents in violation of EPC)

To quote Robert Stephen:

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard owns several key patents related to the CRISPR technology. One such patent is EP2771468 (“EP ‘468”), which relates to a fundamental aspect of the CRISPR technology in eukaryotic cells. EP’468 was granted in February 2015 and opposed by nine opponents. Following an oral hearing in January 2018 the Opposition Division of the EPO revoked the patent due to lack of novelty over two pieces of intervening art, i.e. documents published after the earliest priority date. These two documents became part of the state of the art after it was decided that the application was not entitled to its earliest two priority dates.

The Broad Institute has appealed the Opposition Division’s decision. Their grounds of appeal rely on attacking the EPO’s current approach to determination of priority entitlement.

The EPO applies an “all applicants” test for priority. The right to claim priority belongs simultaneously and jointly to applicants when there is more than one. The right to claim priority to the two earliest applications belonged simultaneously and jointly to Mr Zhang, Mr Cong, Ms Habib, and Mr Marraffini, yet neither Mr Marraffini nor his successor in title (Rockefeller University) were named as applicants on the PCT, and neither had assigned his right to claim priority to any of the named applicants. The PCT could not, therefore, validly claim priority to the two earliest applications, and thus EP ‘468 was deemed to have a priority date of 30 January 2013.

At the moment, with referrals and appeals impending, all sorts of European Patents are just ‘hanging in the air’ (great uncertainty over their fate). The FCC in Germany is certainly aware that EPO judges lack independence (the judges themselves say so), so we very much doubt the UPC can get off the ground. To make matters worse, there’s an imminent meltdown at the Office because staff will revolt.

“They’re dressing up corpses or embalming dead bodies.”What do the bullies/litigators think of the UPC? Well, they live in another universe. Team UPC’s Vanessa Rieu (who describes herself as “experienced litigator specialised in all areas of intellectual property” [sic]) makes it pretty obvious that Bristows were the ones writing this latest UPC propaganda in Kluwer Patent Blog (albeit anonymously). Just compare the texts. One says: “The latest development shows preparations are going on despite the uncertainty about the future of the UP system due to the German constitutional complaint which was filed against the UPCA in 2017.”

That’s similar to their obsession over/with robes. They’re dressing up corpses or embalming dead bodies. In their official blog they said: “The building that will, at least initially, host the UPC is located on the Quai de la Mégisserie, overlooking the Ile de la Cité, and it is reported that a few years after the Court opens (and there are more cases) the Court may move to the Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité.”

“Bristows continues to discredit itself each time it tries to reattach these clipped wings to their ‘fallen angel’.”Haha, they said something similar about venues in the UK up until Brexit. “The Paris offices of the future Unified Patent Court have been disclosed,” writes the anonymous person in Kluwer. Guess who…

Bristows continues to discredit itself each time it tries to reattach these clipped wings to their ‘fallen angel’. They must be in a lot of pain. Battistelli is meanwhile ‘hiding’ in CEIPI, presumably praying for a UPC (which he’s hoping to head while António Campinos brings him back to the Office as a judge!).

Bristows EPO

EPO Allegedly Becoming Insolvent (Pretext for Cuts), So Staff Gets Punished While Management Takes the Jackpot

Posted in Europe, Finance, Patents at 8:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Can it ask for bailout like a private bank?

@schestowitz You‘re gonna love this: the EPO has a WiFi network here that is named EPO-CORPORATE. See screenshot. More in this morning’s tweet (with replies)

EPO corporate WiFi

Summary: The corporate ‘logic’ at the EPO follows the “shareholders’ value” propaganda line as if the EPO is a private company looking to maximise revenue rather than serve the public

READERS are (mostly) aware that António Campinos is a former banker — a scandalous, notorious bank we might add (we did a series about it a couple of years ago). What is his plan for the European Patent Office (EPO)? Granting loads of rubbish patents like software patents in violation of the EPC? Is that actually a legitimate plan? What else can be done in the name of so-called ‘efficiency’? Recall his last act as chief of the EUIPO. It’s just incredible.

Will Campinos lie to his own staff like his predecessor? Well, he already did. Manufacturing or faking a crisis for nefarious purposes and toxic agenda? Surely a possibility.

It’s not like the EPO will be bankrupt/insolvent because it’s not a private company, or is it?

Battistelli’s gambling with EPO money has already cost 100 million Euros in just one year, but don’t expect the person whom he gave the presidency to ever hold him accountable. Brimelow warned about it, seeing or claiming there were financial difficulties over the horizon. Does this justify breaking the law, attacking judges, refusing to obey court orders and so on? Of course not. Moreover, it is self-discrediting and merely serves to devalue European Patents as a whole.

For some time now we’ve been hearing about the EPO’s internal report regarding finances. This morning an anonymous person (Märpel) blogged about it, citing a document from the Central Staff Committee (CSC). As it turns out, based on the blogger, the CSC “has just published a document titled “The Financial Study: Yet another hoax”.” (with Donald Trump proximity, via Mercer, so one can expect sheer dishonesty)

Can someone send us the full document (from CSC and the report they allude to)? Here’s a portion from the blogger:

Dear colleagues,

In the EPO, financial studies tend to be a prelude to cuts in staff benefits. The latest study is no exception. The present publication explains one of the tricks used to make the Office look poor. More publications will follow.

The recently published financial study (CA/46/19) by Mercer and Oliver Wyman seems to indicate that more bad news is to come.

The studies’ conclusions …

The key message of the financial study (p 34) is:

“The EPO faces a structural operational gap, with costs increasing faster than revenues, leading in the future to significantly decreasing cash flows.

The EPO has greater control of cost levers than revenue levers which presents an opportunity to better meet its future obligations through careful cost management.”

In other words: the Office must be reducing costs – staff costs.

… and how they came about

The EPO’s main income is from fees. The Financial Study includes this 4% fee increase for 2020 but assumes that there will be no further fee increases from then on till 2038. On the other hand Staff salaries and pensions follow the normal increase. For any organisation – as rich as it may be – such an approach will lead in the end to budgetary gaps. According to our first calculations the alleged gaps could be offset by merely continuing the biennial 5% fee adjustments in place.

Märpel added that he or she “is no accountant but checked the study and it seems that the Central Staff Committee is indeed right and that the document was drafted on unreasonable assumptions chosen to make the financial situation appear catastrophic. In contrast, the proven historical records show that the EPO has a yearly surplus of over 350 millions Euros. It seems that President Campinos has decided to prepare for a new conflict. What other reasons could there be to publish such a blatant lie? A staff strike is planned for the next meeting of the Council.” A lot of things are happening quite fast this week, but the media is in general unresponsive; it’s writing nothing but puff pieces about a ‘study’ sponsored/commissioned by EPO/EUIPO and that stupid EIA (we’re going to just ignore these pieces as they’re little beyond PR).

EPO President Still Not Obeying Courts’ Rulings

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Federation of International Civil Service Associations (FICSA) sent a message to António Campinos yesterday (the same day SUEPO publicly made a call for strike)

FICSA has just sent a letter to the EPO‘s President, António Campinos, this one in English [PDF] even though he can also speak French (France is his country of birth and where he studied). “On 23 May 2019, the Federation of International Civil Service Associations (FICSA) wrote a letter to Campinos expressing concern about the continuing irregularities in the treatment of EPO staff,” SUEPO summarised and we’ve decided to make an image of it. If someone out there can run better OCR through it, we’ll add an HTML version as well.

“Is the tone escalating ahead of the strike?”FICSA is no stranger to this conflict and we wrote about FICSA many times before. Is the tone escalating ahead of the strike?

FICSA letter to Campinos

Can someone at SUEPO do us a quick translation of this, e.g. for German and French? It wouldn’t be unthinkable/surprising if they already assigned some people to work on that.

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