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05.25.19

Links 25/5/2019: Wine 4.9 Released, FreeBSD 11.3 Beta, Telegram Launches Fift

Posted in News Roundup at 11:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Intel 19.20.13008 Open-Source Compute Stack Restores Broadwell To Production Quality

    Just days after the previous Intel open-source OpenCL compute runtime stack update, another tagged version is now available and it’s good news for Broadwell owners.

    This new Intel 19.20.13008 Compute Runtime doesn’t list any prominent changes compared to the update just days ago, but in the support matrix is does now denote Broadwell hardware as being production quality. Earlier Intel compute run-time releases had been demoted to “beta” quality due to regressions with Intel’s certification tests. But now with this new v19.20.13008 release, those regressions appear to be addressed and thus restoring the production certification.

  • Events

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • Project Trident version 19.05 is now available!

      This is a minor update to synchronize packages and move Project Trident to the 19.05 version of TrueOS (v20190516). This brings in all of the FreeBSD security fixes for the Intel vulnerabilities that were announced last week.

    • FreeBSD 11.3 BETA

      24 May: The first BETA build for the FreeBSD 11.3 release cycle is now available. ISO images for the amd64, armv6, arm64, i386, powerpc, powerpc64, and sparc64 architectures are available on most of our FreeBSD mirror sites.

    • FreeBSD 11.3-BETA1 Now Available

      The first BETA build of the 11.3-RELEASE release cycle is now available.

      Installation images are available for:

      o 11.3-BETA1 amd64 GENERIC
      o 11.3-BETA1 i386 GENERIC
      o 11.3-BETA1 powerpc GENERIC
      o 11.3-BETA1 powerpc64 GENERIC64
      o 11.3-BETA1 sparc64 GENERIC
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 BANANAPI
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 BEAGLEBONE
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 CUBIEBOARD
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 CUBIEBOARD2
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 CUBOX-HUMMINGBOARD
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 RPI-B
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 RPI2
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 PANDABOARD
      o 11.3-BETA1 armv6 WANDBOARD
      o 11.3-BETA1 aarch64 GENERIC

      Note regarding arm SD card images: For convenience for those without
      console access to the system, a freebsd user with a password of
      freebsd is available by default for ssh(1) access. Additionally,
      the root user password is set to root. It is strongly recommended
      to change the password for both users after gaining access to the
      system.

    • FreeBSD 11.3 Enters Beta Ahead Of July Release

      While FreeBSD 12 is the latest and greatest stable series since the end of last year, for those still on FreeBSD 11 there is the 11.3 update due out for release in July while this weekend the first beta was issued.

      FreeBSD 11.3 offers up the latest security updates and other stable bug fixes over FreeBSD 11.2 that was released nearly one year ago. But for those craving all the latest features and functionality, FreeBSD 12 is in release form or there is also FreeBSD 13-CURRENT.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • 2018 Open Source Initiative Annual Report

      Welcome to the Open Source Initiative’s 2018 annual report. In this year’s report you’ll learn about the organization’s activities from the past year, which captures the hard work of employees, contractors, volunteers, and those passionate about open source. I hope this will give you some context on why this work happened and what makes it so important. The Open Source Initiative was started in 1998 by a group of people interested in seeing ethics applied to the creation and distribution of software. This approach was built on a foundation of ideals – a specific philosophy on the rights and responsibilities of software users and creators. More than twenty years later, I am writing as a director of the OSI, which has grown into a robust organization with record numbers of individual and affiliate members, a dedicated all volunteer board, and the incredible support of volunteers and open source enthusiasts around the world.

      2018 brought amazing successes for the OSI. We celebrated our 20th anniversary, which took us around the world where we were able to look back on thousands of victories for open source. Every line of code or translation; every piece of documentation and version controlled repository; every successful business, happy user, and committed contributor, continues to shape a movement that has changed the face of technology, business, and community. It was also a year in which Microsoft acquired GitHub, one of the largest distributors of open source licensed code, and IBM purchased open source business giant Red Hat, showing that the companies that built their success around proprietary software see the need for an open source future.

    • OSI License Discuss and Review: Evolution and Improvement

      The directors of the board of the Open Source Initiative recognize the process for discussion and review of new licenses proposed for approval by the organization can use improvement and would benefit from evolution. In particular, it does not appear as though all points of view on open source licensing are represented in the discussion here. To address this situation we have created a Board Committee for license approval to evaluate responses on-list, appointed more moderators, and will devise a new moderation strategy.

      [...]

      Changes to the Website
      We have also made a minor change to the language describing the license review process on https://opensource.org/approval. The page formerly said “Approve, if (a) there is sufficient consensus emerging from community discussion that approval is justified, and (b) the OSI determines that the license conforms to the Open Source Definition and guarantees software freedom.” The page now says “Approve if, after taking into consideration community discussion, the OSI determines that the license conforms to the Open Source Definition and guarantees software freedom.”

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • 3D Printering: The Past and Future of Prusa’s Slicer

        If you own a desktop 3D printer, you’re almost certainly familiar with Slic3r. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, there’s an excellent chance that a program you’ve used to convert STLs into the G-code your printer can understand was using Slic3r behind the scenes in some capacity. While there have been the occasional challengers, Slic3r has remained one of the most widely used open source slicers for the better part of a decade. While some might argue that proprietary slicers have pulled ahead in some respects, it’s hard to beat free.

        [...]

        Ostensibly the fork enabled Prusa to fine tune print parameters for their particular machines and implement support for products such as their Multi-Material Upgrade, but it didn’t take long for Prusa’s developers to start fixing and improving core Slic3r functionality. As both projects were released under the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0, any and all of these improvements could be backported to the original Slic3r; but doing so would take considerable time and effort, something that’s always in short supply with community developed projects.

  • Programming/Development

    • Arm SVE2 Support Aligning For GCC 10, LLVM Clang 9.0

      Given the significant performance benefits to Arm’s Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2), they are working on ensuring the open-source Linux compiler toolchains support these new CPU instructions ahead of SoCs shipping that support this big addition.

      Arm announced Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2) recently as their latest advancement around SIMD programming and increasing data-level parallelism in programs. SVE2 is designed to ultimately deliver better SIMD performance than their long-available Neon extensions and to scale the performance with vector length increases as well as enabling auto-vectorization techniques. More details in this post on SVE2.

    • Intake: Discovering and Exploring Data in a Graphical Interface

      Do you have data that you’d like people to be able to explore on their own? Are you always passing around snippets of code to load specific data files? These are problems that people encounter all the time when working in groups and using the same datasources or when trying to distribute data to the public. Some users are comfortable interacting with data entirely programatically, but often it is helpful to use a GUI (Graphical User Interface) instead. With that in mind we have reimplemented the Intake GUI so that in addition to working in a jupyter notebook, it can be served as a web application next to your data, or at any endpoint.

    • lightening run-time code generation

      The upcoming Guile 3 release will have just-in-time native code generation. Finally, amirite? There’s lots that I’d like to share about that and I need to start somewhere, so this article is about one piece of it: Lightening, a library to generate machine code.

    • Python Language Creator: “Male Attitude” Is Hurting The Programming Space

      Guido van Rossum is a famous name in the programming world. He is the creator of the Python programming language which was developed back in 1989. It is only since the last few years when this general-purpose programming language started gaining popularity.

      The number of Python users has increased significantly and it was not only named as the best programming language by IEEE but also the most asked-about language on Stack Overflow, overthrowing JavaScript — the all-time winner for decades.

    • Avant-IDLE: an experiment
    • Top 10 Python NLP Libraries For 2019

      With the help of Natural Language Processing, an organisation can gain valuable insights, patterns, and solutions. Python is one of the widely used languages and it is implemented in almost all fields and domains. In this article, we list down 10 important Python Natural Language Processing Language libraries.

    • DevNation Federal brings open source to the Beltway

      On June 27th, Red Hat will not only be hosting one of the best technical gatherings of 2019, but it will be doing so in Washington D.C. — not San Francisco, Seattle, or … DevNation Federal conference will bring together industry experts and key maintainers of popular open source projects in a one-day immersive conference for federal developers.

    • Telegram Launches Fift: New Programming Language For TON Blockchain Network

      Telegram is a popular privacy-focused encrypted instant messaging service. Recently, the messenger platform announced the launch of a new programming language ‘Fift’, created for its Telegram Open Network (TON).

      According to a post published on the project’s Telegram channel, the Fift language has been specifically designed for developing and managing TON blockchain smart contracts. The new language will also be used to interact with the TON Virtual Machine (TVM).

    • Pylint workshop with Django Bulgaria user group

      On Tuesday I hosted my pylint workshop during the regular Django Bulgaria meetup. This edition was the first which was practice based.

    • Using kdesrc-build with a custom Qt
    • Why Python class syntax should be different

Leftovers

  • Happy Towel Day 2019

    You are also well aware that, for some reason, if non-hitchhikers discover you have your towel with you, they also assume you carry your own toothbrush, soap, space suit, etc; that they will happily lend you anything you need and might – accidentally – have lost. Above all, they will think that anyone who travels along the galaxy and still knows where their towel is, is clearly a nice, careful, reasonable person. And so, you’re very likely carrying a towel with you today.

    The team at Purism wishes you a nice #towelday, and a really amazingly together weekend. We know our readers are cool froods who always know where their towels are.

  • Hardware

    • Huawei Cannot Use microSD Cards In Its Future Devices

      A host of companies have severed ties with Huawei after the US government’s order. Without companies like Google, ARM, and Panasonic, it is difficult for Huawei to sustain in the smartphone business.

      Adding more to the list, Huawei has now been banned from using microSD cards in its future devices. The SD Association, a trade group that decides standardized specs for microSD and SD cards, has blacklisted Huawei.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Hundreds of Sunscreens Don’t Work or Have Unsafe Ingredients, Annual Review Finds

      The nonprofit Environmental Working Group released its 13th annual Guide to Sunscreens this month, which rated the safety and effectiveness of more than 1,300 sun protection products on the market. It found that two-thirds of those products either contained chemicals the Food and Drug Administration says could be potentially harmful or provide inferior protection from the sun.

      EWG experts found that only 40 percent of the products it examined — including sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms — have active ingredients that meet draft safety regulations developed by the FDA in February.

      According to the FDA, just two of the 16 common active ingredients in most sunscreens, zinc and titanium oxides, have been tested enough to show they are safe and effective. Another two ingredients, PABA and trolamine salicylate, were found to be unsafe according to the proposed standards, while the remaining 12 did not have enough data for the FDA to indicate whether or not they worked and could be considered safe.

    • Michelle Pfeiffer lobbies Congress for cosmetics-safety laws

      The actress popped up on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

    • ‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics

      The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire’s cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

    • Alabama Is Trying to Ban Abortion. Today We Filed Suit to Stop Them.

      Abortion is a right and this attack on abortion rights won’t succeed.

      Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation banning nearly all abortions. The law, which threatens doctors with up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions, is the anti-abortion opposition’s true agenda on display: ban abortion, jail doctors, and push this essential health care out of reach.

      These are undoubtedly dark times in the fight for reproductive freedom as Alabama and states across the South and Midwest aggressively push to place such onerous restrictions on abortion so that the procedure is all but rendered inaccessible. And this seemingly relentless attack on our freedom and dignity has had a disproportionate impact on the lives of Black people and other people of color, young people, and people with low-incomes. But make no mistake we have been and will continue to fight back: Abortion remains — and will remain — safe and legal in Alabama and in all 50 states.

      Today, the ACLU, the ACLU of Alabama, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of Alabama filed a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers in the state that will challenge this extremist law. Indeed, as even the sponsors and supporters of the law — even Governor Ivey herself — admit, the ban is blatantly unconstitutional. For more than 45 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly — and unequivocally — held that the freedom to decide whether and when to have a child is one of the most intimate and personal decisions a person can make in their lifetime, and is central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

      While Alabama’s abortion ban may be its most extreme attack on this fundamental right, it certainly isn’t the first. For nearly a decade, the Alabama legislature has been pushing medically unnecessary and politically-motivated laws — a ban on the safest and most common second-trimester abortion procedure, and absurd licensing requirements that could have forced multiple clinics in the state to close. But the ACLU has never lost a legal challenge to an abortion restriction in Alabama yet, and this one will fare no better.

      When all is said and done, Alabama will have wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money in a fight it won’t win. But people need to keep making sure their voices are heard. Emboldened by President Trump’s anti-abortion agenda, state lawmakers are trying to pass laws intended to politicize the Supreme Court and strip Americans of their constitutional rights.

    • As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students

      Imagine you are an undergraduate attending an Ivy League university. You go to a routine department seminar. In the middle of his presentation the professor picks up a container from the lectern. He says it contains a pesticide. As he opens it, a faint cloud of brown powder rises from the tub. It is, says he, “very safe”. Then he digs his finger into the container and tastes some of the contents. He offers it to a man in the front row, who twice refuses it. Walking back to the centre of the room, the professor looks towards you and pushes the container in your direction.

      Apparently he wants you to join him in eating pesticide. What should you do?

    • ‘Hocus-Pocus Process’: Pelosi Drug Pricing Bill Criticized for Going Too Easy on Big Pharma

      Divisions in the Democratic House caucus over healthcare continued to deepen this week when the party’s leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, informed members that drug pricing legislation will be designed to go easy on big pharma.

      The new proposal, which Pelosi worked out with President Donald Trump, appears aimed at incremental change to the drug pricing system rather than the kind of relief health activists have been clamoring for over the past year.

      “It creates this hocus-pocus process that isn’t going to lower prescription drug prices,” John Hassell, the national director of advocacy for advocacy group the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told HuffPost. “It’s going to nickel and dime it on the sides.”

      A Thursday evening in-depth HuffPost report on the bill lays out the legislation’s scope—such as it is. The plan calls for allowing the secretary of health and human services to negotiate with drug companies for lower drug prices. Should the companies and secretary fail to reach an agreement, the Government Accountability Office is empowered to take over and set a price that aligns with how much the drugs go for overseas.

    • Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest

      Alabama — led by utterly clueless male legislators — just passed the most restrictive ban on abortion in the country, with Georgia and Missouri piling on. Other states dominated by right-wing Republican politicians are jockeying to join in.

      Their aim is to get the courts, newly packed with right-wing judges appointed by Trump, to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark precedent that established a woman’s right to choose in the early months of pregnancy.

      The new laws generally deem abortion murder after six or eight weeks, no exceptions. This is often before women are even aware that they are pregnant. Some of the laws would imprison doctors; others lock up mothers. This is what the anti-abortion movement has demanded. It has been spurred on by cynical politicians like Donald Trump, who devoted part of his State of the Union address to a blood-curdling description of infanticide that came completely from his own ugly imagination.

      Now anti-abortion activists are on the verge of getting what they want — the ability to prosecute doctors and/or pregnant women for murder if they choose to abort a fetus early in their pregnancies. Even if the life of the mother is at risk, doctors would be loath to risk imprisonment by taking the necessary step to save her.

      Suddenly, right-wing politicians and moral hypocrites are expressing dismay at their victory. Donald Trump, who not many years ago was entirely pro-choice, tweeted that he didn’t support the Alabama laws, that he believed in exceptions for rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. Apparently murder isn’t always murder for the president — or for televangelist Pat Robertson, or for House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who said the law “goes further than I believe,” because he would allow “exceptions” as a matter of “personal belief.”

    • Alabama Doesn’t Value Its Own Residents’ “Sanctity of Life”
    • Senators Call for Disclosure of Perks and Fees Paid to Health Benefits Brokers

      Health benefits brokers would have to reveal the fees and other enticements they’ve received from the insurance industry under bipartisan legislation proposed Thursday in the U.S. Senate.

      The brokers are supposed to independently help employers select benefits for their workers. But a ProPublica investigation in February found that the insurance industry often uses undisclosed money and gifts to influence which plans the brokers favor. The payments and perks include healthy commissions, six-figure bonuses and exotic island vacations. Critics call the compensation a “classic conflict of interest” that drives up costs.

      ProPublica’s findings prompted Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking minority member, to include new requirements for brokers in a sweeping health care legislation proposal. The draft bill, known as the Lower Health Care Costs Act, also takes on surprise medical bills, high drug prices and public health problems among other issues.

      The section on brokers proposes revising the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, better known as ERISA, which sets minimum standards for most private health and retirement plans. Brokers would have to disclose compensation from insurers and other vendors, in writing, at the time an employer signs up for benefits. The recommendation is similar to regulations for retirement benefit advisers.

      “The goal of this provision is to provide employers with information about their brokers’ incentives,” said Taylor Haulsee, spokesman for the committee.

    • New Data Reveals ‘Alarming Escalation’ of Threats Towards Abortion Facilities

      As reproductive rights face continued attacks on the state and federal levels, just-released data reveals an “alarming escalation” in violence and harassment aimed at abortion providers and those seeking their services.

      The statistics (pdf), reflecting incidents in 2018, were released Friday by the National Abortion Federation (NAF).

      “Anti-choice individuals and groups have been emboldened by the rhetoric of President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other elected officials and we are seeing this play out in more instances of activities meant to intimidate abortion providers and disrupt patient services,” said The Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, interim president and CEO of NAF.

      Among the findings are that incidents in which people tried to obstruct access to clinics skyrocketed. There were 3,038 such incidents in 2018, compared to 1,704 in 2017. That marks a 78 percent increase.

    • The Social Burden of Depression in Japan

      Depression is widespread, largely undiagnosed, and rarely treated in Japan. Until the late 1990s, depression was largely ignored outside the psychiatric profession. Depression has been described as “kokoro no kaze” (a cold of the soul) and only recently it is being accepted in Japan as a medical condition that shouldn’t provoke shame in those suffering from it. In Japan, it is estimated that one in five people will experience some form of depression during their lifetime.

      Depression is a state of low mood which can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings, and sense of well-being. Its symptoms include sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, and altered appetite and sleep. Many depressed people have feelings of dejection and hopelessness that may drive them to suicide.

      Depression can manifest at any age. It can begin during childhood or the teenage years. As happens also among adults, girls are more likely to experience depression than boys. Among women, one in seven experiences post-partum depression; about half of them start experiencing symptoms during pregnancy.

      Clinical depression among the elderly is also common, affecting 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. Among the elderly, depression is frequently confused with the effects of other illnesses. Studies in nursing homes of elderly patients with physical illnesses show that depression substantially increases the risk of dying from those illnesses.

      In most cases, depression can be treated. The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recent approval of the drug esketamine will be a significant advance in the treatment of depression. Esketamine is particularly effective for those who have been resistant to conventional treatment, or who are at imminent risk of suicide.

    • The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws

      In the past few weeks, my Facebook feed has exploded with posts about abortion. If you use Facebook, probably yours has too.

      There’s a lot to say about abortion, especially now that Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Ohio have passed extremely restrictive laws banning abortions in cases where they previously would be legal. But I think there’s a bigger picture to look at too.

      The bigger picture is women’s sexuality. Straight men’s sexuality is treated as more legit than women’s. The differences start at a young age.

      How many families teach boys the correct names for their genitals, but do not do the same for little girls? Some families simply do not talk about female genitalia, or they call it something euphemistic (I’ve heard “privates,” “bottom,” and even “front butt”).

      Consider the movie Pitch Perfect 2, in which a fictional a cappella group gets in trouble after Rebel Wilson accidentally flashes President Obama. In the film, the incident is reported on the news, but the very name of the body part is portrayed as so taboo that the news bleeps it out.

    • Sen. Alexander Releases Bipartisan Plan To Lower Health Costs, End Surprise Bills

      In a year already marked by a wide variety of congressional health care legislation, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chair and ranking Democrat of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Thursday released the details of a plan they hope can help bring down health costs and eliminate surprise medical bills for patients.

      “These are common sense steps we can take, and every single one of them has the objective of reducing the health care costs that you pay for out of your own pocket,” Alexander said in a statement. “We hope to move it through the health committee in June, put it on the Senate floor in July and make it law.”

      It would be a mammoth piece of legislation, targeting nearly every area of the health care industry for reform, including surprise medical bills, prescription drugs, transparency, public health and health information. Alexander said at a White House event earlier this month that he hopes to get the package to the Senate floor by the end of July.

      “When you have a chairman and a ranking member that have worked together on a bipartisan package in the committee of jurisdiction, it always gives more weight to the product,” said Dean Rosen a former Republican senior health adviser and a partner at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Episode 19: Democratizing Cybersecurity

      Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Alex Gounares of Polyverse Linux about Cybersecurity for everyone.

    • Introducing the Librem Tunnel

      You probably know by now that the Librem Tunnel is part of Librem One, a suite of privacy-protecting, no-tracking apps and services created by our team at Purism, which also includes Librem Mail, Librem Chat and Librem Social.

      Librem Tunnel offers an encrypted, no-logging, virtual private network tunnel, making sure all your network traffic is secure and your privacy fully protected. This means you can safely and conveniently use any public hotspot and not have to worry about how private your connection really is, using standards-based OpenVPN with any compatible client. You are not the product in Librem Tunnel: you will not be tracked, we do not sell your data, and we don’t advertise.

    • Trump Explains Why He Banned Huawei, And It’s Not Convincing

      The world’s two biggest economies are indulged in a trade war and the toll is being paid by the Chinese company Huawei, which is being erased from existence in the US.

      The US government has already blacklisted Huawei, causing a big blow to its growing smartphone business across the globe. After the temporary license ends in August, it won’t be able to do any business with US-based companies unless the ban is lifted.

    • Snort Alerts

      It was previously explained on LinuxHint how to install Snort Intrusion Detection System and how to create Snort rules. Snort is an Intrusion Detection System designed to detect and alert on irregular activities within a network. Snort is integrated by sensors delivering information to the server according to rules instructions.
      In this tutorial Snort alert modes will be explained to instruct Snort to report over incidents in 5 different ways (ignoring the “no alert” mode), fast, full, console, cmg and unsock.

      If you didn’t read the articles mentioned above and you don’t have previous experience with snort please get started with the tutorial on Snort installation and usage and continue with the article on rules before continuing this lecture. This tutorial assumes you have Snort already running.

    • Real Estate Title Firm’s Lapse Exposes 885 Million Files

      A security lapse at a major real estate title company exposed the bank account numbers and other sensitive information contained in 885 million files.

      First American Financial confirmed the problem Friday after it was reported by the blog Krebs On Security . A flaw in an internet application allowed anyone with a web browser to see the confidential data until First American blocked all outside access Friday. It’s unclear if any of the exposed information was scooped up by outsiders with criminal intentions.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • “The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged

      From his locked room, he could hear the trains rattling up the tracks, one every half hour. They reminded of him of home, back on Dockery Plantation, when he played on the porches of old shacks with Charley Patton, blowing his harmonica to the rhythm of those big wheels rolling along the rails. Those northbound trains were the sound of freedom then.

      Now he was in the mad house, where grown men, their minds broken by the carnage of war, wailed and screamed all night long. Most of them were white. Some were strapped to their beds. Others ambled with vacant eyes, lost in the big room. Chester just stood in the corner and watched. He didn’t say much. He didn’t know what to say. Sometimes he looked out the barred window across the misty fields toward the river and the big mountains far beyond, white pyramids rising above the green forests.

      The doctors came every day, men in white jackets with clipboards. They showed him drawings. They asked about his family and his dreams. They asked if he’d ever killed anyone—he had but he didn’t want to talk about that. They asked him to read a big block of words to them. But Chester couldn’t read. He’d never been allowed to go to school.

      The doctors asked all the white men the same questions. Poked and prodded them the same way. Let them sleep and eat together. Left them to comfort each other in the long nights in the Oregon fog.

      Chester would play checkers with the orderlies and sing blues songs, keeping the beat by slapping his huge feet on the cold and gleaming white floor. Men would gather round him, even the boys who seemed really far gone would calm down for a few minutes, listening to Wolf growl out “How Long, How Long Blues” or “High Water Everywhere.” It was odd, but here in the mad house Chester felt like an equal for the first time.

    • Gulf of Tonkin ‘Crisis’, Iranian Style

      For those who are not cognizant of U.S. history, let’s go back fifty-five years, and review another non-event that had catastrophic, deadly consequences.

      On August 2, 1964, the U.S. destroyer Maddox had been deployed to the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam, where it had no legitimate business. On that day, personnel on the Maddox reported that the ship had been fired on by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The Maddox fired back, and one Vietnamese boat was sunk. Tensions between the U.S. and Vietnam, already high, continued to rise.

      Two days later, the Maddox and a second ship, the C. Turner Joy, were again in the Gulf of Tonkin. Instruments on the Maddox showed that it was under attack, and both ships fired back, assisted by U.S. war planes.

      Yet had there actually been an attack? Within 24 hours, the captain of the Maddox concluded that perhaps there wasn’t one. The pilot of a Crusader jet, James B. Stockdale, undertook a reconnaissance flight over the gulf that evening. He was asked if he saw any North Vietnamese attack vessels. Stockdale did not equivocate in his response. Said he: “Not a one. No boats, no wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes–nothing but black sea and American firepower.” Apparently, ‘ghost’ images on the radar registered an attack that didn’t happen.

    • “Escalating Tensions” with Iran

      The corporate media reports about “escalating tensions with Iran,” implying that Iran is at least partly responsible for such. But in fact, persons in the administration chomping at the bit to go to war with Iran, taking advantage of the moron-president’s mercurial temperament, are (once again) cherry-picking “intelligence” in order to exacerbate tensions and produce a casus belli credible to the ignorant masses—at least temporarily, until their mendacity is (again) exposed, after the damage has been done, and without any consequences to the warmongers responsible.

      The effort is so obvious, so transparent. Underlying it is the cynical premise that the people of this country learned nothing from the Afghan and Syrian conflicts, the Libyan atrocity, and most importantly the Iraq War that has killed half a million people based entirely on lies. They think the people (or at least the Congress) might support yet another war based on mysterious bombings of UAE oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, or insignificant missile strikes attributed to “Iran-backed Iraqi militias” on the massive U.S. imperial embassy compound in Baghdad.

      “Let’s do the Tonkin Gulf thing again,” they think. “It worked.”

      They think they can exploit the enduring, officially encouraged U.S. indignation at the overthrow of the U.S.’s puppet Shah in 1979 and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by students protesting the U.S.’s grant of asylum to a man regarded by Iranians as a mass-murdering criminal. They assume (perhaps correctly) that few people in this country understand anything about the history of the region, know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, or realize that Iran has not attacked another country in 300 years.

      MSNBC interviewed Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger this morning. He’s a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the subcommittee on the Middle East. He validated the recent provocative military deployment in the Persian Gulf, citing credible threats to U.S. interests. He is an ignoramus, a Mike Pence protege, proud of his “service” in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Air Force lieutenant-colonel, a shameless advocate of U.S. imperialism. He is not alone; nearly 400 members of Congress signed a letter to Trump demanding he keep U.S. troops in Syria, where they’re currently deployed in blatant violation of international law.

    • While war drums beat, Trump wants to keep Congress in the dark

      At his hastily arranged Rose Garden press conference on Wednesday, President Trump made a patently laughable claim. “I am the most transparent President in U.S. history,” he protested. But as part of his conspiratorial war against the so-called deep state, Trump has threatened the political neutrality of the military by directing the Department of Defense to decide for itself what is legislatively necessary for Congress to do its constitutionally-mandated job of oversight.

      There hasn’t been a real secretary of defense for five months, since Jim Mattis left the Cabinet abruptly under disturbing circumstances that have never been fully explained. Meanwhile, Trump’s administration appears to be escalating tensions with Iran after unilaterally pulling out of a multinational compact. Now Trump’s acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan — who has not been confirmed by the Senate — wants the military to restrict the information it shares with Congress, the branch of the federal government tasked by the Constitution with declaring war. Let’s state that again for the record: Trump has the military teetering toward war, while keeping those who have the constitutional obligation to declare war in the dark.

    • War is War on Mother Earth

      There is the close relationship between war and climate change that can be seen in a cycle of feedback loops creating the interlocking crisis.

      Take the case of Syria, the perfect example with its direct relationship between war and drought. In an exacting statistical analysis of warsfought between 1980 and 2010 the connection between war and climate change is undeniable.

      The US military itself has long recognized climate change as a “threat multiplier.” The last three Pentagon Quadrennial Defense Reviewscharacterized climate change as a threat to national security.[1]

      Since the idea of climate change as “threat multiplier” tends to encourage militarized responses, (like Elizabeth Warren’s recent proposals) this information is widely reported in the pro-war media and I will not repeat it here. The military and their media allies fall silent when it comes to a far more important truth: war causes climate change.

    • Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag

      You’ve probably seen that black and white POW/MIA flag flying somewhere nearby. The stark banner, dedicated to American prisoners of war and those missing in action, is especially ubiquitous around Memorial Day.

      If a new bipartisan bill passes, you may see it more often, year-round.

      The bill — backed by Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Kyrsten Sinema and Republicans John Thune and Tom Cotton — would require prominent federal properties to fly that flag all year, as opposed to on specific holidays. With its stark image of a war prisoner and the words “you are not forgotten,” it would become the only permanent fixture alongside Old Glory.

      I’m a veteran myself. If people choose to fly the POW/MIA flag on private property, that’s their right. However, the controversial history of that flag ought to make us question whether it should be displayed on federal and state properties.

      As a teenager, I remember the POW/MIA flag conjuring scenes from Rambo and The Deer Hunter. I pictured gaunt soldiers enduring forced labor and torture thousands of miles away in remote jungle camps. How could the U.S. government leave our troops behind in Vietnam? Why didn’t our military go in and take them back?

      This was the very sentiment the flag was meant to conjure. Created in the early 1970s by a group called the National League of POW/MIA Families, the now-iconic image would adorn t-shirts, bracelets, posters, bumper stickers, and more.

      The problem? There’s no solid evidence POWs were actually left behind.

    • The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament

      Donald Trump and his national security team have weakened virtually every aspect of American foreign policy over the past two years. U.S. bilateral relations with both Russia and China have worsened, driving Moscow and Beijing into their closest relationship in more than fifty years. U.S. standing in Europe, particularly with our central NATO allies, has been compromised as President Trump has embarrassed key allies in London, Paris, and Berlin. The recent bungling of political upheaval in Venezuela has made the United States a laughing stock throughout South America. Trump’s obsequious behavior toward Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has alarmed the Arab states and made the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement even more remote.

      The current imbroglio with Iran, which began with the decertification of the Iran nuclear accord, is a result of the combined bungling of Trump, his national security adviser, and his secretary of state. There is no process or policy involved in this diplomatic disarray; instead, we are witnessing a series of personal actions devoid of any consultative or substantive process. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton are on record as favoring regime change and the use of force against Iran; there is no way of determining what Donald Trump actually wants.

      There is one element in this mosaic of disarray, however, that stands out and could have serious long-term repercussions. And that is the total ignorance and inexperience of Trump and his key advisers in the area of arms control and disarmament. During a presidential debate in 2016, Trump demonstrated that he had no understanding of the nuclear triad; as president he has manifested similar ignorance of nuclear verification and typically claimed that “it would take me an hour and a half to learn everything there is to know about missiles. I think I know most of it anyway,” he added.

    • Peace With Iran Is a Good Thing

      Declaring “heightened tensions” as if Iran was out-of-their-minds crazy enough to imminently launch an attack on a US facility, the Trump Administration evacuated non essential US Embassy personnel from Baghdad after two Saudi oil tankers were ‘attacked’ off the UAE coast, a low grade rocket exploded near the Embassy, three mortar shells landed within Baghdad’s Green Zone and a Yemeni drone ‘attacked’ a Saudi pipeline.

      Combining an alarming sense of panic with an overly zealous response, all of that confluence of confusion was sufficient for the US to react with its usual belligerence dispatching a B52 bomber task force, an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln aimed for the Strait of Hormuz (where one third of all oil passes through) and the release of a Pentagon “just in case” contingency for 120,000 troops in preparation for Armageddon. History has its irony as it was the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln where President GW Bush grandstanded with his Mission Accomplished strut in May, 2003 announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq, six weeks after the US invasion.

      With no moderating voice on the President’s national security team, National Security Advisor John Bolton, also known as the “devil incarnate,” has been aided and abetted by ‘bull in a china shop’ Pompeo to create a neocon foreign policy strategy that was not what Trump campaigned on. While the combative trio is equally obsessive regarding Iran, Bolton and Pompeo organized the recent military buildup in the Persian Gulf in anticipation of a rapid response deployment when the next Iranian ‘threat’ occurred. While Bolton holds dual citizenship with Israel and the US, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have long targeted Iran for a direct military confrontation and would relish the opportunity.

      Not surprisingly, there was push back from some of the usual coalition allies with British deputy commander Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika daring to suggest “There’s been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that he made it clear to Pompeo that a unilateral strategy of increasing pressure against Iran was ‘ill-advised.’ Pompeo’s hastily arranged ‘drop in’ on a European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels did little to instill confidence in sloppy US intel or the administration’s Iran agenda as Pompeo related the details.

    • NYT Parrots US Propaganda on Hezbollah in Venezuela

      Judith Miller and Michael Gordon published their now infamous New York Times article on September 8, 2002, falsely claiming on the basis of unnamed “American officials” that Iraq had acquired “aluminum tubes” with the aim of producing “an atomic bomb.”

      Disgraced by her regurgitation of bogus claims, Miller left the Times in 2005, but her spirit is “alive and well” at the “paper of record.” Nicholas Casey follows faithfully in Miller’s footsteps, authoring dubious, anonymously sourced stories that coincidentally happen to further US regime-change objectives.

      In a recent piece headlined “Secret Venezuela Files Warn About Maduro Confidant” (5/2/19), the Times’ Andes bureau chief claimed, on the basis of a leaked Venezuelan intelligence “dossier” that only his paper has seen, that Venezuela’s Industry minister and former Vice President Tareck El Aissami has active links to Hezbollah and drug trafficking.

    • Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire

      With the Trump administration threatening war against Iran and Venezuela, the question of how the U.S. was brought to this point needs to be considered. To argue that current circumstances are particular to this administration is to overlook U.S. history vis-a-vis both Iran and Venezuela and that between them they possess a material proportion of the world’s proved oil reserves (graph below). In 2019, the pretense that local provocations explain anything beyond domestic political posturing is absurd.

      However, domestic political considerations do explain threats of war to a greater degree than should rationally be the case. Removing Americans from the risks of wars the U.S. starts has produced a form of technological nihilism. Just because technology can be used to kill large numbers of people without risk to self doesn’t mean that it should be. Combined with economic motives for launching wars, death, destruction and misery have become just another business opportunity. At this point in history, war is what America does.

      More insidiously, and admitted into evidence that the national Democrats just aren’t very politically astute, two- and one-half years into a soft coup staged by key members of the surveillance and warfare states and national Democrats against his administration, Donald Trump now apparently undertsands the domestic political benefits of unhinged militarism. Through a sycophant press predisposed to support any manner of unprovoked slaughter and the myriad business interests that see their stocks rise with the same, war is apparently a good business to be in.

    • Episode 29: The Push for War with Iran

      On this episode of Along the Line, Dr. Dreadlocks Nicholas Baham III, Dr. Nolan Higdon, and Janice Domingo analyze the American push for war with Iran. ATL’s Creative Director is Jorge Ayala. Mickey Huff is ATL’s producer. ATL’s engineer is Janice Domingo. Adam Armstrong is ATL’s webmaster.

    • Gaslighters of God

      Don’t think about Donald Trump’s divisive narcissistic autocratic personality. His campaign manager Brad Parscale certainly doesn’t. In fact, he testified to Trump’s divine calling on Twitter: “Only God could deliver such a savior to our nation, and only God could allow me to help. God bless America.” (“The sanctification of Donald Trump,” By Andrew Restuccia, POLITICO, 4/30/2019) It is about evangelicals “help[ing] – and being helped.

      Many Republicans and evangelicals share Brad Parscale’s belief. “A Fox News poll released earlier this year found that 45 percent of Republicans believe that God wanted Trump to be president;” and “that figure is even higher among evangelicals”. (Ibid)

      The belief that God wanted a man such as Trump to be president actually reveals these evangelicals’ own biblically-legitimized, gas-lighting, authoritarian tendencies. As journalist Katherine Stewart writes, “The supposed paradox of evangelicals backing such an imperfect man” is misleading. “What we don’t get is that Mr. Trump’s supposedly anti-Christian attributes and anti-democratic attributes are a vital part of his attraction.” Stewart says, “Today’s Christian nationalists talk a good game about respecting the Constitution and America’s founders, but at bottom they sound as if they prefer autocrats to democrats. . . . Of course,” she states, “there are those on the Christian right who have made a show of holding their nose while supporting Mr. Trump to advance their aims of stacking the Supreme Court or ending abortion. But,” she adds, “we are kidding ourselves if we think continuing support for him is purely transactional.” (“Why Trump Reigns as King Cyrus,” The New York Times, Dec. 31, 2018)

    • Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War

      Declaring “heightened tensions” as if Iran was out-of-their-minds crazy enough to imminently launch an attack on a US facility, the Trump Administration evacuated non essential US Embassy personnel from Baghdad after two Saudi oil tankers were ‘attacked’ off the UAE coast, a low grade rocket exploded near the Embassy, three mortar shells landed within Baghdad’s Green Zone and a Yemeni drone ‘attacked’ a Saudi pipeline.

      Combining an alarming sense of panic with an overly zealous response, all of that confluence of confusion was sufficient for the US to react with its usual belligerence dispatching a B52 bomber task force, an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln aimed for the Strait of Hormuz (where one third of all oil passes through) and the release of a Pentagon “just in case” contingency for 120,000 troops in preparation for Armageddon. History has its irony as it was the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln where President GW Bush grandstanded with his Mission Accomplished strut in May, 2003 announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq, six weeks after the US invasion.

      With no moderating voice on the President’s national security team, National Security Advisor John Bolton, also known as the “devil incarnate,” has been aided and abetted by the equally ‘bull in a china shop’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to create a neocon foreign policy strategy that was not what Trump campaigned on. While the combative trio is equally obsessive regarding Iran, Bolton and Pompeo organized the recent military buildup in anticipation for a rapid response deployment when the next Iranian ‘threat’ occurred. While Bolton holds dual citizenship with Israel and the US, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have long targeted Iran for a direct military confrontation and would relish the opportunity.

      Not surprisingly, there was push back from some of the usual coalition allies with British deputy commander Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika daring to suggest “There’s been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that he made it clear to Pompeo that a unilateral strategy of increasing pressure against Iran was ‘ill-advised.’ Pompeo’s hastily arranged ‘drop in’ on a European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels did little to instill confidence in sloppy US intel or Trump’s Iran agenda.

    • Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela

      Why does the dominant media pay so much attention to Russian “meddling” in other countries, but little to Canada’s longstanding interference in the political affairs of nations thousands of kilometres from our borders?

      The case of Ben Rowswell illustrates the double standard well.

      The current Canadian International Council President has been the leading non-governmental advocate of Ottawa’s quest to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In dozens of interviews, op-eds, tweets and ongoing speaking tour the former ambassador has put a liberal gloss on four months of naked imperialism. But, Rowswell has been involved in efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro since 2014 despite repeatedly claiming the president’s violation of the constitution two years ago provoked Ottawa’s recent campaign.

      A March 2014 Venezuela Analysis story suggested the early adopter of digital communications was dispatched to Caracas in the hopes of boosting opposition to a government weakened by an economic downturn, the death of its leader and violent protests. Titled “New Ambassador Modernizes Canada’s Hidden Agenda in Venezuela”, the story pointed out that Rowswell immediately set up a new embassy Twitter account, soon followed by another titled SeHablaDDHH (Let’s Talk Human Rights), to rally “the angry middle classes on Twitter.” The article noted that “Rowswell is the best man to encourage such a ‘democratic’ counterrevolution, given his pedigree” in digital and hotspot diplomacy. According to a March 2014 Embassy story titled “Canada dispatches digital diplomacy devotee to Caracas”, just before the Venezuela assignment “Ottawa’s top digital diplomat … helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors.” Previously, Rowswell was chargé d’affaires in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion and headed the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar during the war there. An international strategy advisor in the Privy Council Office during Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien’s tenure, Rowswell created Global Affairs Canada’ Democracy Unit. Rowswell also worked with the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose board of trustees includes Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the National Democratic Institute, which is part of the US National Endowment for Democracy that performs work the CIA previously did covertly.

    • ‘This Is Big’: 76 Retired US Generals and Diplomats Warn Trump Against War With Iran

      President Donald Trump often says he listens to military generals more than anyone else, and, as the White House prepares to send 1,500 soldiers to the Middle East, that claim is being tested by a Friday letter from the American College of National Security Leaders.

      The letter, which is signed by 76 retired generals, admirals, ambassadors, and diplomats, was published Friday morning by War on the Rocks. The letter asks the administration not to pursue war with Iran, mainly for strategic reasons.

      “A war with Iran, either by choice or miscalculation, would produce dramatic repercussions in an already destabilized Middle East,” reads the letter, “and drag the United States into another armed conflict at immense financial, human, and geopolitical cost.”

      It’s unclear if Trump has seen the letter, but if so he appears to be rejecting the advice. On Friday, the president announced he was sending 1,500 soldiers to the Middle East as part of what the president termed a “protective” move.

      Though Trump emphasized to reporters Friday he doesn’t want war with Iran, moves like that can have dangerous consequences.

      Trump and his team must work to avoid conflict, the letter argues, not the least because higher tensions between the two countries could quickly get out of hand.

    • “I Apologize to No One” for Opposing Disastrous US Wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Says Bernie Sanders

      Following recent efforts by media outlets to paint a picture that his opposition to past U.S. wars—from the Vietnam War when he was a young man to voting against the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a member of Congress—was something he might want to apologize or account for, Bernie Sanders on Friday released a video on Friday to make clear why he opposed those “disastrous” military misadventures and will continue to fight against similar follies in the future.

      “I make no apologies to anybody, that when I was a young man—before I was elected to anything—I opposed the war in Vietnam,” says Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, in the less than two-minute video. “And I know what that war did to my generation. And when I was a member of the House, I helped lead the effort against the war in Iraq, because I knew that Cheney and Bush and these other folks were lying about weapons of mass destruction.”

      The decision to invade Iraq in 2003, Sanders adds, was the “worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of the United States.”

    • End This Hidden Threat to Military Families

      When our loved ones join the military, we know that wearing the uniform could cost them their lives.

      Military family members do all kinds of calculations about the potential price of serving this nation. We run the numbers and wargame the risks; we bargain with God and make deals with the devil hoping our service member never becomes a casualty.

      But what most of us don’t know is that when our family members sign up, they sign away some of their rights — and ours.

      Under what’s called the Feres Doctrine, members of the Armed Forces and their families are prohibited from filing claims against the
      government for death or injury arising from military service.

      But it doesn’t just apply to military settings or deaths in the field. The Feres Doctrine also shields military medical providers from malpractice suits by troops — and their dependents.

      Feres has been around since a 1950 Supreme Court ruling, but military recruiters never tell the families that it applies to them, too.

      Tricia Radenz found out in the worst way possible. On June 9, 2009, her 11-year-old son, Daniel, hanged himself at home.

    • Trump’s Use of Emergency Loophole to Export US Bombs to Saudis, Critics Warn, Will Only Intensify World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

      Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced Friday that President Donald Trump had officially informed lawmakers of his decision to try to flout congressional oversight to send arms to the Gulf nations.

      Menendez’s announcement followed reports this week that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other members of the administration were pressuring Trump to invoke a provision in the Arms Export Control Act that empowers the president to make an end run around Congress for arms sales if he determines “an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States.”

      “I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Menendez said in a statement.

      Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) initially sparked concerns about Trump’s potential use of this provision on Twitter Wednesday. The senator—who has long fought to end U.S. support for the Saudi and UAE-led coalition’s ongoing assault on Yemen—urged his Democratic and Republican colleagues to “stand up right now and tell the president not to set this dangerous precedent.”

    • Pardoning War Criminals Is a Monstrous Way to Honor Memorial Day

      How are you spending Memorial Day? Ordinary people may attend parades, host cookouts, or take the long weekend to visit loved ones.

      Donald Trump, on the other hand, may pardon a few war criminals.

      The president recently requested the files of several accused and convicted U.S. war criminals, a possible step toward expedited pardons for individuals who’ve done unspeakable things.

      There’s SEAL chief Edward Gallagher, who senselessly shot to death a teenage girl and an elderly man in Iraq. Gallagher also brutally stabbed a wounded 15-year-old to death — and then posed for photos with the body, which he texted to friends.

      Trump also requested the files of Nicholas Slatten, a Blackwater contractor convicted of shooting dozens of Iraqi civilians in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square massacre, and of Mathew Golsteyn, who confessed to murdering an unarmed Afghan captive U.S. soldiers had released.

      Trump has already pardoned Michael Behenna, who took an unarmed Iraqi captive into the desert, stripped him naked, and shot him in the head and chest. Behenna was supposed to be returning the man to his home village.

      The president may present these pardons as a show of patriotism — his own Rambo-worshiping way of “supporting the troops.” But several veterans have objected, pointing out that many soldiers do their best to uphold the laws of war even under considerable stress.

    • War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea

      On May 16, 2008, near the town of Baiji in Iraq, 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna, US Army, murdered a prisoner. That was the verdict of the jury in his 2009 court martial, anyway. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but paroled in less than five. On May 6, 2019, US president Donald Trump pardoned Behenna.

      As I write this, news reports indicate that Trump intends to celebrate Memorial Day by pardoning several other Americans convicted of (or accused of and not yet tried for) war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s a horrible idea for several reasons.

      One reason is that it’s morally repugnant to excuse the commission of crimes, especially violent crimes, for no other reason than that the criminal is a government employee.

      A second reason is that it is detrimental to the good order and and discipline of the US armed forces to excuse violations of law by American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

      That phrasing is not random: “[D]isorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces” are themselves crimes under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Yes, Trump has absolute power to pardon under the US Constitution, but this would be an abuse of that power that conflicts with his duties as commander in chief.

      A third reason is that pardons of this type essentially beg other governments to take matters into their own hands where allegations of war crimes by US military personnel arise.

      Among the US government’s excuses for refusing to join the International Criminal Court, and for forcing agreements by other governments to exempt American troops from prosecution under their own laws, is that the United States cleans up after itself and holds its troops to at least as high a standard as would those other governments. These pardons would give lie to that claim and expose US troops to greater risk of future arrest and prosecution abroad.

      Don’t just take my word for these claims. Here’s General Charles Krulak, former Commandant of the US Marine Corps:

      “If President Trump issues indiscriminate pardons of individuals accused — or convicted by their fellow servicemembers — of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States’ moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • The Government’s Indictment of Julian Assange Poses a Clear and Present Danger to Journalism, the Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Speech

      The century-old tradition that the Espionage Act not be used against journalistic activities has now been broken. Seventeen new charges were filed yesterday against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. These new charges make clear that he is being prosecuted for basic journalistic tasks, including being openly available to receive leaked information, expressing interest in publishing information regarding certain otherwise secret operations of government, and then disseminating newsworthy information to the public. The government has now dropped the charade that this prosecution is only about hacking or helping in hacking. Regardless of whether Assange himself is labeled a “journalist,” the indictment targets routine journalistic practices.

      But the indictment is also a challenge to fundamental principles of freedom of speech. As the Supreme Court has explained, every person has the right to disseminate truthful information pertaining to matters of public interest, even if that information was obtained by someone else illegally. The indictment purports to evade this protection by repeatedly alleging that Assange simply “encouraged” his sources to provide information to him. This places a fundamental free speech right on uncertain and ambiguous footing.

      [...]

      Despite this precedent and American tradition, three of the DOJ charges against Assange specifically focus solely on the purported crime of publication. These three charges are for Wikileaks’ publication of the State Department cables and the Significant Activity Reports (war logs) for Iraq and Afghanistan, documents which were also published in Der Spiegel, The Guardian, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Le Monde, and republished by many other news media.

      For these charges, the government included allegations that Assange failed to properly redact, and thereby endangered sources. This may be another attempt to make a distinction between Wikileaks and other publishers, and perhaps to tarnish Assange along the way. Yet this is not a distinction that makes a difference, as sometimes the media may need to provide unredacted data. For example, last year the New York Times published the name of a CIA official who was behind the CIA program to use drones to kill high-ranking militants, explaining “that the American public has a right to know who is making life-or-death decisions in its name.”

      While one can certainly criticize the press’ publication of sensitive data, including identities of sources or covert officials, especially if that leads to harm, this does not mean the government must have the power to decide what can be published, or to criminalize publication that does not first get the approval of a government censor. The Supreme Court has justly held the government to a very high standard for abridging the ability of the press to publish, limited to exceptional circumstances like “publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops” during wartime.

    • Under DOJ’s Own Theory For Prosecuting Julian Assange, Donald Trump Probably Violated The Espionage Act

      Yesterday, I wrote about the new, superseding indictment of Julian Assange and noted how the theories behind it were absolutely insane and a blatant attack on the 1st Amendment. The Obama administration went after leakers using the Espionage Act, which already was really terrible (the law itself should be deemed unconstitutional, but to use it against whistleblowers, rather than actual espionage was horrific). Here, the Trump administration has taken it up a notch by trying to use it against a publisher. I’ve seen a lot of people defending this move by arguing that either (a) Julian Assange is a terrible human being, or (b) that Wikileaks is not a “real” or “legitimate” news organization.

      Neither of those things matter. And if you think they should you are missing the point in an incredibly dangerous way.

      The activities described in the indictment are things that many journalists do all the time.

    • Julian Assange’s Indictment Aims at the Heart of the First Amendment

      On Thursday, the Justice Department charged Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with multiple counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act for his role in publishing tens of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The indictment supersedes an indictment unsealed in April on narrow grounds of attempting to help an Army private surreptitiously break into a government computer to steal classified and sensitive documents.

      The new indictment goes much further. It is a marked escalation in the effort to prosecute Mr. Assange, one that could have a chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations. It is aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment.

      The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time. They did it with the Pentagon Papers and in countless other cases where the public benefited from learning what was going on behind closed doors, even though the sources may have acted illegally. This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.

      President Trump has waged a relentless campaign against the news media, going so far as to repeatedly label it the “enemy of the people.” But with this indictment his administration has moved well beyond dangerous insults to strike at the very foundation of the free press in the United States. The Espionage Act has been used against those who disclose classified information only rarely, for good reason. It has never before been used against a journalist.

      There is much to be troubled by in Mr. Assange’s methods and motives, which remain murky. He released numerous documents without removing names of confidential sources, putting their lives in jeopardy. The government notes in its charging document that those put at risk included “journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents” living in repressive regimes who provided information to the United States.

    • The Danger in Prosecuting Julian Assange for Espionage

      To understand why so many media and legal observers are voicing concern about the Julian Assange indictment, it helps to perform the following mental exercise.

      If you were to click on this link to the WikiLeaks website, copy and paste the information there, some of which remains classified, and post it on the Internet for others to read, you would have technically violated the very same provisions of the Espionage Act under which Assange is now being prosecuted.

      In fact, the Espionage Act is so broad that just encouraging you to do so — which our lawyers would like us to stress that we are not doing here — could be a violation of it.

    • Professional Assange Smearers Finally Realize His Fate Is Tied To Theirs

      Rachel Maddow has aired a segment condemning the new indictment against Julian Assange for 17 alleged violations of the Espionage Act.

      Yes, that Rachel Maddow.

      MSNBC’s top host began the segment after it was introduced by Chris Hayes, agreeing with her colleague that it’s surprising that more news outlets aren’t giving this story more “wall to wall” coverage, given its immense significance. She recapped Assange’s various legal struggles up until this point, then accurately described Assange’s new Espionage Act charges for publishing secret documents.

      “And these new charges are not about stealing classified information or outsmarting computer systems in order to illegally obtain classified information,” Maddow said. “It’s not about that. These new charges are trying to prosecute Assange for publishing that stolen, secret material which was obtained by somebody else. And that is a whole different kettle of fish then what he was initially charged with.”

      “By charging Assange for publishing that stuff that was taken by Manning, by issuing these charges today, the Justice Department has just done something you might have otherwise thought was impossible,” Maddow added after explaining the unprecedented nature of this case. “The Justice Department today, the Trump administration today, just put every journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange’s side of the ledger. On his side of the fight. Which, I know, is unimaginable. But that is because the government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff, and newspapers and magazines and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.”

    • The Espionage Act and Julian Assange

      It seemed flimsy from the start, but the US Department of Justice is keen to get their man. What has certainly transpired of late is that Mike Pompeo was being unusually faithful to the truth when director of the CIA: every means would be found to prosecute the case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. His assessment of the publishing outfit in 2017 as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” finds its way into the latest Justice Department’s indictment, which adds a further 18 counts.

      The prosecution effort was initially focused on a charge of computer intrusion, with a stress on conspiracy. It was feeble but intentionally narrow, fit for extradition purpose. Now, a few more eggs have been added to the basket in a broader effort to capture the entire field of national security publishing. The Espionage Act of 1917, that ghoulish reminder of police state nervousness, has been brought into play. Drafted to combat spies as the United States made its way into the First World War, the act has become a blunt instrument against journalists and whistleblowers. But Assange, being no US citizen, is essentially being sought out for not abiding by the legislation. The counts range from the first, “conspiracy to receive national defense information” (s. 793(g) of the Espionage Act) to “obtaining national defense information,” to the disclosures of such information.

      The first part is problematic, as prosecutors are arguing that Assange does not have to release the said “national defence” information to an unauthorised recipient. In short, as a publisher to the world at large of such material, he can be punished. The second round of charges, drawn from section 793(b) of the Act, makes the prosecution purpose even clearer. The provision, dealing with the copying, taking, making, obtaining, or attempting to do so, material connected with national defence, would suggest the punishment of the source itself. Not so, claim the prosecutors: the publisher or journalist can be caught in its web.

      Section 793(c), upon which four counts rest, is intended to capture instances of soliciting the leaks in question or the recipient of that information, one who “agrees or attempts to receive or obtain it, that it has been or will be obtained, taken, made or disposed of by any person contrary to the provisions of this chapter.”

    • Sanders, Warren, Wyden Join Free Press Advocates in Denouncing Assange Prosecution as Grave Threat—But Others Are Silent

      Though many Democrats have so far remained silent, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, and Bernie Sanders are among the few high-profile party members to join free press advocates in condemning Espionage charges against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.

      The political and journalism worlds reacted to the Trump administration’s decision Thursday to charge Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act with concern for those celebrating the prosecution and dismay over those remaining silent on the issue.

      [...]

      Critics of Assange have claimed that the Wikileaks founder is not a journalist, so his “crimes” are not applicable to journalists and journalism as a whole. But, as Knight First Amendment Institute staff attorney Carrie DeCell pointed out in a twitter thread, that’s not the case.

      “The government argues that Assange violated the Espionage Act by soliciting, obtaining, and then publishing classified information,” DeCell tweeted. “That’s exactly what good national security and investigative journalists do every day.”

      Further, as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer said in a series of tweets, anyone rejoicing over Assange’s indictments is missing the forest for the trees.

      “Some of you are so eager to punish Assange for helping Trump that you’re willing to hand Trump a tool for prosecuting the reporters exposing his corruption,” said Serwer. “That’s plainly idiotic.”

      “Please stop and think,” Serwer added. “If publishing classified information is prosecutable, than any outlet that does so can be prosecuted.”

    • Exclusive: Julian Assange’s Attorney Decries Espionage Charges as “Grave Threat to Press Freedom”

      In an unprecedented move, the Justice Department has indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents were leaked by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The Espionage Act of 1917 has never been used to prosecute a journalist or media outlet. The new charges come just over a month after British police forcibly removed Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he took asylum in 2012. Initially the Trump administration indicted Assange on a single count of helping Manning hack a government computer, but Assange faces up to 170 additional years in prison under the new charges—10 years for each count of violating the Espionage Act. We speak with Jennifer Robinson, an attorney for Julian Assange. “It is a grave threat to press freedom and should be cause for concern for journalists and publishers everywhere,” Robinson says.

    • Daniel Ellsberg: Julian Assange’s Espionage Charges Are a Travesty

      The US Department of Justice issued an 18-count indictment against Julian Assange for violating the 1917 Espionage Act. We speak to Daniel Ellsberg about the dangerous implications this move has for journalism in the United States

    • Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like

      Throughout history, human civilization has been cursed by tyranny. Time and again, power is concentrated in institutions that rule by coercion and force. Humans have suffered through totalitarianism, dictatorships, and fascism repeatedly. Untold suffering and death have occurred.

      But such times have always been marked by resistance. Courageous individuals and movements have fought back with a variety of tactics from open revolt to furtive sabotage. The rate of success in overthrowing particular tyrannical institutions has been mixed (though none of them ever last forever anyway of course) but that is not the only way to weigh the value of freedom fighters. Is it not worthy, in and of itself, to strive on behalf of life?

      Here in the USA, we are living through a time of increasing tyranny. Certainly, the entire experiment has been tyrannical from the start, given the genocide and slavery that founded the nation, and the brutal militarism that wrought its imperium; however, the last few decades have seen a ramping up of assaults against our individual rights and collective liberties that seriously contradict the idea of a “free country.” Under the auspices of fighting “terror,” the amendments in the Bill of Rights have been getting crossed out like items on a grocery list. Since the ascendancy of Trump to the White House, these trends have accelerated. What was once characterized as “creeping” fascism is now “leaping” and it’s a bipartisan affair. The attacks on leftist journalism since the 2016 election, for example, have been coordinated more by Democrats and their allies than by Republicans. (See my “Cowardly New World: Alternative Media Under Attack by Algorithms.”)

      This is definitely a moment when we need resistance. And I mean real resistance, not the faux hashtag Resistance(TM) of Democratic partisans who, had Hillary been the winner, would “be at brunch now.”

      What does “real” resistance look like?

    • Assange, Espionage, and the Cult of Personality

      The announcement that Julian Assange is being charged by the United States government with violating the Espionage Act should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to WikiLeaks over the past decade. As far back as 2010, the Chair of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal entitled, ”Prosecute Assange Under the Espionage Act,” in which it was explicitly argued that WikiLeaks should not be afforded protection under the First Amendment.

      Who was the politician in question? California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

      We need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that—at least in terms of WikiLeaks and Assange—what we are seeing in 2019 from the Trump administration is significantly different from what we saw under Obama. It is well worth repeating the fact that, from 2009 to 2013, Obama prosecuted more people as whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all former presidents combined. Let’s also remember that Chelsea Manning was tried and convicted under Obama, and spent huge periods of time in solitary confinement (even though her sentence was later commuted).

      While Trump’s quasi-authoritarian demonization of the press has been a national disgrace, when it comes to attacks on whistleblowers and chilling free speech and free press, Democrats have absolutely no justification to take the moral high ground.

      Yet, despite all arrows pointing toward the U.S. looking for something more serious than conspiracy to hack into a government computer to pin on Assange, the US and European media have often glossed over these issues in favor of reports on the cult of personality surrounding him. That was a serious mistake. It was also largely of Assange’s own making.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘This is bigger’: Palestinian and Israeli teens strike together for the climate

      In Israel, society prioritizes political conflicts over action against climate change. Because of this, our school system teaches us practically nothing about the threat the climate poses. An overwhelming majority of teens don’t even know that by their thirties they are going to face a point of no return.

      So even though we had three times more people gathered this week, even though we have countries announcing climate emergencies for the first time in history and even though one Knesset member Miki Haimovitz supported us in her first speech to parliament, we cannot rest nor celebrate.

      We have 300,000 more teens to reach in Israel, and more than 190 countries that need to declare the emergency as well. We’ve got 119 more Knesset members to convince, 119 members to show that our future is precious, 119 to show that we matter. Because apparently in the prestigious building they do not think that we matter enough.

    • People power can stop the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota

      We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we’ve proved it over and over again – and recently we’ve had two more big wins.
      In Oregon, a powerful coalition of tribes, landowners, and activists has been resisting the proposed Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector pipeline project for years, pressuring Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown to block the project. Earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a crucial water permit for the huge fracked gas project, dealing it a “potentially fatal blow,” in the words of the coalition.
      This was followed by a major win in New York last week, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration denied a water permit for the Northeast Supply Enhancement gas pipeline, better known as the “Williams Pipeline.” The rejection of this permit follows a string of important victories for the anti-pipeline movement in New York, sends Williams back to the drawing board, and increases pressure on New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy to deny permits for that state’s section of the fracked gas pipeline.

    • The Beauty of Trees

      I live in Claremont, California. On May 20, 2019, I walked to Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store. On the southern corner of the streets Mountain and Foothill, I saw workers and giant machinery cutting down trees. These are trees the City of Claremont tried to eliminate in 2008.

      The absurd reason then was that some California department had funded Claremont to modernize Foothill Blvd. This meant cutting down all trees at the edge of the street in order to widen a strip of cement for people on wheelchairs.

      I was then renting a house just behind this thin green zone of trees separating my house and those of my neighbors from the busy and dangerous Foothill Blvd, which resembles a highway. Cars zoom fast in both lanes and both directions day and night.

      I talked to the neighbors and together we convinced the City Council to abandon that crazy project. Now, more than ten years later, Claremont, “the City of Trees,” is back at it.

      I wrote to the Mayor of Claremont, Corey Calaycay, expressing my concerns. The Mayor responded immediately saying: “The trees being removed are mainly volunteer trees, such as the Shamel Ash, which are not compatible with overhead wires. The improvements for this project include a bike lane and bio-swales.”

      Putting a bike lane in a busy and car-speeding street is not a good idea. And cutting down trees because the electric company says so is even worse. Claremont should have demanded the company bury the wires.

    • No Savior on the Horizon: Native Peoples’ Fight for Environmental and Cultural Protection

      LAND, CULTURE, AND HISTORY are inextricably intertwined, and for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, environmental justice also preserves cultures. This philosophy was vividly on display during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016–’17. But what followed was nothing less than a series of human rights abuses by heavy-handed law enforcement and private security personnel. Hundreds of people were arrested, and many were roughed up.

      Standing Rock is only the latest episode of more than 500 years of European incursions and occupation of the Americas, says scholar Dina Gilio-Whitaker in her new book, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock. Gilio-Whitaker, a citizen of the Colville Confederated Tribes, is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and a consultant and educator in environmental justice policy planning. This book — her second — is a primer on the Native environmental movement, and a long chronicle of fighting back against government and corporate power with varying degrees of success.
      “To be a person of direct Indigenous descent in the US today is to have survived a genocide of cataclysmic proportions,” writes Gilio-Whitaker. “Some Native people have described the experience of living in today’s world as postapocalyptic.” Indeed, between 1492 and 1890, about 99 percent of all Native peoples disappeared from what is today’s United States, victims of disease, war, and starvation. And it wasn’t just people who were disappearing — it was the deliberate degradation of ancestral ecologies in the name of “Manifest Destiny.” This forced Native peoples to adhere to a Western view of land use, leading to even more cultural and environmental destruction.

    • Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls

      The Age of Amazon has broken out over to the Seattle skyline—and on its street view, too. The battle group of high rises kitty-corner from Jazz Alley don’t so much scrape the sky as pummel it into submission. Their foreboding is only exacerbated by the goofy streaks of color that try to make these ghoulish monoliths seem carefree: like highlighters, these sprays of red or pink only emphasize the message already projected by the structures themselves: nothing less than world domination.

      In the central plaza of the complex is a cluster of geodesic domes. A tight pair fused at the base loiters below one of the giant towers, an erection pretentiously called Day 1, as if Jeff Bezos were God himself conjuring his creations from the void. Why couldn’t he have rested on that day, too? After their unveiling last year, the domes were promptly dubbed Bezos’s Balls by local wags. Thus has this stunt of architectural sexting been forever inscribed in the urban dictionary.

      The Seattle Scrotum is filled with tropical plants probably pillaged from what’s left of the real Amazon way down south in Brazil. The Puget Sound amazons scuttle into these testicles to meditate and refocus so that when lifted again to their phallic command posts in the sky they can more efficiently convince as many people in the world below to one-click their way to salvation.

    • Pipeline Activists Challenge Louisiana Law That Criminalizes Protest

      ast August, Water Protectors navigated their small boats through the winding bayous of Louisiana’s iconic Atchafalaya Basin to a small plot of land nestled in the swamp forest. They had received written permission from co-owners of the property to set up camp there in order protest pipeline construction, but construction crews had beaten them to it. By the time the activists arrived, ancient cypress trees had been turned into mulch to make way for the embattled Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

      Over the next few weeks, about a dozen Water Protectors and one journalist were arrested by local sheriff’s deputies and state correctional officers moonlighting as private security guards during protests against pipeline construction on the private plot of land, according to a complaint filed in federal court this week. The activists were charged with felonies under a controversial state anti-trespassing law that had just gone into effect, and was, according to environmental groups, written to target anti-pipeline campaigns. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

      However, co-owners of the land said that the protesters had permission to be there last summer, and it was the pipeline and the companies behind it that were guilty of trespassing. A state court agreed with the landowners in December 2018 and ruled that the pipeline companies indeed trespassed by starting construction without first receiving permission or legally “expropriating” the property under state eminent domain laws. By then, the arrests had already been made.

      This week, environmental and civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of a long list of landowners and activists that asks a federal court in Baton Rouge to declare Louisiana’s “anti-protest” pipeline trespassing law unconstitutional. The law expanded the definition of “critical infrastructure” in the state to include the oil-and-gas rich state’s vast 125,000-mile network of pipelines, making trespassing on or near them a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

    • Russian youth activists strike for climate action despite government resistance

      In at least five Russian cities, young activists joined a worldwide strike to push for action on the global climate crisis. The international environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace tweeted photographs of the demonstrations as part of a day-long action that gave youth organizers in various countries access to the Greenpeace account. Tweeting for Russia was Arshak Makichyan, who protested in Moscow.

    • Fund Endangered Species Act, It’s Saved 99 Percent of Wildlife on the Brink

      The Endangered Species Act is widely recognized as one of the country’s most effective conservation laws. But despite saving thousands of plants and animals from extinction, Congress has consistently starved this landmark law of funding.

      Now, thanks to legislation recently introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), that chronic underfunding could end. As scientists warn of a growing global extinction crisis, Grijalva’s bill would offer a much-needed lifeline for America’s most endangered wildlife.

      The proposed legislation would provide funding for some of the most critically imperiled species in the United States — butterflies, Hawaiian plants, eastern freshwater mussels and southwest desert fish.

      To do that, the bill would create four separate conservation funds, each providing $5 million annually. The targeted funds would support conservation projects to stabilize and prevent the loss of the most at-risk species from each of the four groups.

    • As Millions March to Demand Climate Action, Research Reveals Protests Make People More Optimistic About Affecting Change

      As an estimated 1.8 million people in 125 countries took part in a global climate strike Friday, researchers delivered good news about such protests: they work.

      A psychologist at Penn State University led a study examining the public perception of two climate marches which took place in over the course of a week in 2017 and found that bystanders who observed the demonstrations came away with the belief that protests can make people more optimistic about the possibility of affecting change.

      “Marches serve two functions: to encourage people to join a movement and to enact change,” lead author Janet Swim said in a statement. “This study is consistent with the idea that people who participate in marches can gain public support, convince people that change can occur, and also normalize the participants themselves.”

      Supporters of recent climate strikes that have taken place all over the world were buoyed by the findings.

    • ‘Save Our Planet, Save Our Future’: Youth Demand Action With Massive Climate Strikes Worldwide

      Over one million young people marched in cities across the globe on Friday in what organizers expected to be the largest #schoolstrikeforclimate actions yet.

      With chants including “Save our planet, save our future,” and placards with messages such as “Act like the house is on fire,” the youth-led actions represented a unified call for urgent and sweeping measures to address the climate crisis.

      Organizers said over 1.8 million people took part in over 2,000 actions in 125 countries—a participant figure that, if confirmed, would surpass the massive turnout for the previous coordinated global strikes in March.

    • Waking Up to the Sunrise Movement

      Recently, though, the Sunrise Movement forced me to confront the uncomfortable truth that, as an activist, I was failing to live up to the “love two children at once” bargain. I had been so committed to improving democratic process that I neglected the growing climate justice movement. I battled climate change via a bank shot, never directly, in part because the oncoming catastrophes—droughts, floods, wildfires, unlivable habitats, not-so-natural disasters, mass species extinctions, and millions of climate refugees—engulfed me in existential despair.

      But at the Sunrise Movement’s Road to a Green New Deal Tour in Boston on April 16, I realized my mistake.

      Along with 1,400 other people I learned not only of the horrors to expect should the United States fail to immediately decarbonize its economy, but also how collective action could make a real difference, now.

      After all, it wasn’t that long ago that humanity, tackling the threat posed by a depleted ozone layer, banned many chlorofluorocarbons. And it worked.

      Confronting climate change is a truly different, much larger and more complex problem than the depletion of the ozone layer. Nevertheless, much like banning CFCs, there are clear steps we can take. Doing a better job managing forests, grasslands and soils, for example, could “offset as much as 21 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a Science Advances study. And even without any legislation, governors have broad power over emissions, and can act via executive order if pressured.

      Collective action is already affecting the country. Climate change is now the top issue for Democratic voters and candidates are competing to release the most innovative plans to tackle the crisis—a stark contrast from 2016.

    • We’re Stepping Up—Join Us For a Day to Halt This Climate Crisis

      We hope others will join us: that people will leave their offices, their farms, their factories; that candidates will step off the campaign trail and football stars will leave the pitch; that movie actors will scrub off their makeup and teachers lay down their chalk; that cooks will close their restaurants and bring meals to protests; that pensioners too will break their daily routines and join together in sending the one message our leaders must hear: day by day, a business as usual approach is destroying the chance for a healthy, safe future on our planet.

      We are well aware that, by itself, this strike and a week of international climate action won’t change the course of events. The good news is that we have the technologies we need – the price of a solar panel has plunged 90% in the past decade. And we know the policies to make them work: all across the planet some version of a Green New Deal has been proposed, laws that would speedily replace fossil fuels with the power of sun and wind, along the way providing good jobs and stabilising strong local economies. We salute the people – many of them young – working hard to pass those measures against the entrenched opposition of the fossil fuel industry.

    • The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation

      Since time immemorial, the indigenous people of the Northern Plains have held a profound connection to the Crazy Mountains. The Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation knows this range as Awaxaawippiia, or Ominous Mountains. These spectacular mountains stand as one of the most dynamic and sacred places in our homeland, having provided our communities with knowledge, power and other blessings for a good life here in the mountains and prairies of the Yellowstone (Elk) River region.

      As the U.S. Forest Service considers the future of the Crazies in its revision of the Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan, we are calling on the agency to deliver a plan that takes into consideration and honors the historical, cultural and spiritual significance that these mountains hold for the Apsaalooke Nation in particular and for all Montanans in general.

      The renowned Apsaalooke Chief Plenty Coups spent four days in the summer of 1860 fasting and praying in the Crazy Mountains when he was 11 years old, as young Apsaalooke men had done for centuries. While on Crazy Peak, just a few short years before the Virginia City gold rush, and within view of the Yellowstone River portion of the Bozeman Trail, he received a foretelling. In a dream he saw the bison disappearing into the earth and being replaced by cattle, and of the land beingchanged forever by a powerful force, which was soon coming to his homeland.

      An elder named Yellow Bear interpreted the young Plenty Coups’ dream as instructing the Apsaalooke people that it would be in their best interests to not make war on the soon to be arriving settlers and to negotiate agreements with them regarding the ownership and use of their homelands.

    • Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fai

      California’s current approach to wildfires is pouring more and more money into subsidizing logging and fire suppression, often in remote areas. This strategy isn’t working. In recent years we have experienced skyrocketing state expenditures for this policy, paired with unprecedented loss of lives and homes.

      California is filled with forests and other ecosystems where wildfire is a natural and necessary occurrence. Many California communities are built next to these habitats. Rather than trying to alter wildfire behavior across millions of acres of fire-dependent ecosystems, wouldn’t it be more sensible to focus on keeping fire from coming into our homes where it doesn’t belong?

      This can readily be achieved by retrofitting homes to have fire-resistant features such as non-flammable roofs and vent screens that keep burning embers out, while trimming vegetation within a 100-foot radius. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has described this approach as “working from the home outward.”

      This approach has proven to be highly effective, such as during the 2017 La Tuna Fire in Los Angeles, where community preparation saved more than 99% of the houses in the path of a large wildfire. However, many communities are not properly prepared, and currently California is not putting enough resources into ensuring that the necessary retrofits are made.

      Gov. Gavin Newsom has an opportunity to guide California’s wildfire policies toward a new strategy that prioritizes working from the home outward. Upon taking office, Newsom ordered CalFire to produce new recommendations for state wildfire policy. Unfortunately, CalFire is a state agency long entrenched in a logging-and-suppression approach, and its recommendations doubled down on business as usual, with more than $100 million per year directed to tree-cutting and related activities.

      Interestingly, the CalFire report briefly acknowledged the effectiveness of fire-safe homes, but then didn’t recommend directing any funding for that purpose. What was perhaps most striking about the report was that it made no attempt to ask the crucial question: Which actions would produce the biggest public safety benefits per dollar spent? That analysis would show home retrofits offer the most effective and cost-efficient way to protect our communities from inevitable wildfires.

    • “We’re Stepping Up—Join Us”: Climate Leaders Answer Youth School Strikers’ Call for Global Action

      As more than a million youth poured into the streets worldwide on Friday for the weekly #SchoolStrike4Climate demonstrations, well-known adult climate activists answered a call to action from school strikers with a pledge to join global protests in September.

      “On 20 September, at the request of the young people who have been staging school strikes around the world, we’re walking out of our workplaces and homes to spend the day demanding action on the climate crisis, the greatest existential threat that all of us face,” 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, author Naomi Klein, actor Mark Ruffalo, and more than 50 other activists declared in an op-ed published Friday by The Guardian.

      “This is going to be the beginning of a week of action all over the world. And we hope to make it a turning point in history,” they explained. “We hope others will join us… break their daily routines and join together in sending the one message our leaders must hear: day by day, a business as usual approach is destroying the chance for a healthy, safe future on our planet.”

  • Finance

    • Trump’s Trade Policy Is Accelerating America’s Decline

      The United States has increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products to 25 percent, and Beijing has responded in kind on $60 billion worth of American goods. More tit for tat appears to be on the way: the Trump administration is now openly deliberating whether to impose additional tariffs on a further $325 billion of Chinese goods exported to the United States. National security concerns are also being increasingly invoked: Not only is Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications group, already largely shut out of selling its products in the U.S. domestic market, but Trump is also now taking steps to ban the sale of U.S.-made components to Huawei as well. What was once a mere trade skirmish, therefore, appears to be metastasizing into Cold War 2.0.

      This creates a conundrum for the Trump administration: Beijing is increasingly viewed by many countries as an economic rival or a security threat to be contained, rather than a collaborative trade partner to be accommodated. But the president’s “America First” trade policy is undermining broader multilateral efforts to contain China because Trump’s incessant focus on reducing his country’s bilateral trade deficit with Beijing means diverting Chinese purchases away from other trade counterparties.

      That means, for example, China buying more U.S. cars made on American soil than, say, German ones, more U.S. soybeans than Brazilian, or more U.S. semiconductors than Japanese or South Korean ones, all designed to help reduce the bilateral deficit. This sort of a trade deal, however, is clearly not in the interests of the EU, Brazil, Japan, or Southeast Asia, and is making them averse to collaborating with the United States with regard to any Chinese security concerns they might share (which they do), especially when one considers that the basis for the West’s successful containment strategy against the former Soviet Union was that it was both collaborative and multilateral in scope.

    • Losing Aldermanic Privilege, and How Unprepared Illinois Is for the Next Recession

      No surprises here, but Illinois is very unprepared for the next recession, according to a new Moody’s Investors Service report. But look on the bright side, we get to go down hand-in-hand with New Jersey, the Illinois of the East Coast.

    • Making the World More Equal

      Maybe, after all, there is an argument for saying that the world needs more violence not less if we are to make its societies more equal. This is one conclusion one can derive from Walter Scheidel’s new book, The Great Leveler.

      He starts from what we all know by now: the richest 62 persons in the world own as much net wealth as the poorer half of humanity. This is the number that could fit inside a London double-decker bus.

      This inequality appears to get worse by the year, although if we go back to 1929 it was then about the same. Two thousand years ago in Roman times the richest had fortunes about 1.5 million times that of the average citizen, roughly the same ratio as Bill Gates and the average American.

      Plato, writing in the fourth century BC, was vexed by the fact “there were not one but two states, the one of the poor, and the other of rich men”. Later Jesus, took up similar themes, as the pope does today. There can be no justification in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism for concentrated personnel wealth and the continuous ill-being of the poor.

    • New Analysis Reveals Inequality Chasm Between CEOs and Workers ‘Totally Out of Control’

      Two studies by the executive compensation firm Equilar on Friday revealed that CEOs of some of the wealthiest companies in the U.S. are seeing their pay rise at about twice the rate of the workers who make the day-to-day operations of their businesses run.

      The Associated Press commissioned a study of compensation for 340 executives at S&P 500 companies which revealed that the CEOs earned raises averaging $800,000 in 2018—a seven percent increase over the previous year.

      Workers would need to work 158 consecutive years to earn what their bosses make in one year, the AP reported.

      “This is not sustainable,” wrote Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in response to the AP report.

    • Three Things Motivating China’s Position in Trade Negotiations With the US

      Relations between the U.S. and China have deteriorated sharply in recent days after trade negotiations broke down, leading some to suggest we are on the cusp of a new “cold war.”

      President Donald Trump blames the resumption of hostilities on China. Specifically, he and his negotiators say their Chinese counterparts backtracked on an agreement to change laws aimed at enforcing the deal, prompting Trump to raise tariffs on $200 billion in imports and China to retaliate. Only a few weeks earlier, the two sides seemed very close to a deal.

      So what led to China’s change of heart — if there was one?

      As an expert on China’s development and economic reform, I believe the answer lies in trying to understand the situation from the Chinese perspective.

    • Dean Baker on Trump’s Trade War, Leo Fitzpatrick on Wireless Merger

      Coverage of Donald Trump’s trade war on China has led to some odd writing, as when the Washington Post reported, “Dozens of US companies have complained that Trump’s earlier steel and aluminum tariffs drove up their costs and hurt more US workers than they helped. But Trump does not see it that way.” Or the New York Times says, “The president shows no signs of backing away from his stance that tariffs have helped the United States.” It’s true that the administration is both internally divided and intentionally ambiguous on trade policy and its impacts. But what does that mean for reporters’ responsibility? Surely they can’t just throw up their hands? We’ll seek some clarity on tariffs and trade with economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

    • 21st Century Conglomerate Trusts

      In a 5–4 decision, the Court rejected Apple’s argument and sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court for further adjudication. Newly-appointed conservative Justice Brett Kavanaug, writing the Court’s opinion, noted, “There is no intermediary in the distribution chain between Apple and the consumer. The iPhone owners purchase apps directly from the retailer Apple, who is the alleged antitrust violator.” The Court found that Apple prohibits people from buying iPhone apps anywhere other than from its own App Store, thus restraining trade.

      The Apple decision comes at an historical moment when 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are promoting the break-up of big-tech companies. The Huffpost ran brief profiles of the positions taken by most of the twenty-odd candidates. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) took one of the strongest stands: “My goal is to make antitrust cool again and make people realize that we are in — not just heading into — another Gilded Age of consolidation.”

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is leading the charge among Democratic candidates calling for the break-up of big tech. Writing in Medium, she noted, “Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.

    • A Colonialist Land Grab Is Happening Right Now in Congo

      It was cold when I arrived in Brussels, yet in the sumptuous atrium of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, it didn’t feel cold at all. This lavish building was formerly known as the Palace of the Colonies, and in the late 1800s it served as a paean to the Belgian “civilizing mission” in the Congo. The exhibitions here included a human zoo, in which three “tribal villages” were built in the grounds of the palace and inhabited by “imported” Congolese people, instructed to “act indigenously” for the benefit of visitors. It was cold in Brussels back then too, and, wearing only what they had worn back in Africa, seven of these “villagers” died.

      Over a hundred years later, I arrived at this great monument to racism and oppression to attend the eighteenth meeting of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP). CBFP is a non-profit initiative to promote the conservation and responsible management of the Congo Basin’s tropical forests, led by the United States. I was shocked, though sadly not surprised, to see how few of the attendees were African.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Is Impeachment Really Optional? Sometimes a Strong Offense Is the Only Defense

      On Thursday, the White House announced that Donald Trump has authorized Attorney General William Barr to unilaterally declassify any documents necessary to perform an investigation of the Mueller investigation. The New York Times headline accurately summarized the move: “ Trump Gives Attorney General Sweeping Power in Review of 2016 Campaign Inquiry .”

    • When President Trump Rejects Congressional Subpoenas, He Rejects the Constitution and the Powers it Gave Congress

      What President Trump objects to so strenuously is nothing more than a system of accountability.
      President Trump really, really doesn’t like the fact that congressional committees are investigating him. On Wednesday, he was so mad that he stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about critically needed infrastructure legislation after only three minutes, much like the proverbial boy who takes the football home if he loses a disputed call.

      Trump’s tantrum reflects the fact that the American people and their representatives are getting closer to seeing behind the curtain of secrecy that Trump has wrapped around his financial dealings — even where they implicate serious conflicts of interest prohibited by the Constitution’s ban on presidents accepting “emoluments,” or anything of value, from foreign or domestic government officials.

      On Monday and Wednesday, federal judges in D.C. and New York rejected Trump’s efforts to block subpoenas aimed at uncovering his financial records. Also on Wednesday, the New York Legislature cleared the way to disclosing Trump’s state tax returns.

      What President Trump objects to so strenuously is nothing more than what the framers of our Constitution demanded: a system of accountability. The framers intentionally designed our government so that exactly this would happen. They called it checks and balances, believing that the best way to rein in abuses of power is to divide authority among the three branches of the federal government, as well as among the federal and state governments, so that the different branches will work to keep each other in line.

    • Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries

      The “Forgotten Borough” Staten Island, New York is not like the rest of the city notes Professor of Political Science Richard Flanagan at College of Staten Island CUNY. On November 6, 2018 however, the night that Max Rose (D) defeated Dan Donovan (R) to represent New York’s 11th congressional district in the US House of Representatives, Roxanne Mustafa, co-founder of Staten Island Women Who March (SIWWM) cried tears of joy prompting the owner of Errigo’s to ask “congratulations, is he your son?” She replied “no” but the conversation that followed involved voting, civic duty, the limitations of electoral politics, and the difficulty of turning a red district blue with all of the emotions that might entail.

      Meanwhile Democracy Now! featured political activist and organizer Linda Sansour, journalist Jeremy Scahill, and commentator Ryan Grim. Although Staten Island remains a Republican stronghold, and Rose was only the second Democrat to win the seat since 1981, Barack Obama received 48% of Staten Island’s vote in 2008 and won the island outright in 2012. As it turned out Rose won in stunning fashion, and outperformed the incumbent in both Brooklyn and Staten Island respectively.

      Since New York’s 11th is Sarsour’s district Scahill asked her to tell the audience about Dan Donovan, the incumbent that Max Rose had just defeated. She responded with “Dan Donovan was the district attorney at one point who could not indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo who choked Eric Garner on video for the whole country to watch, for the whole world to watch. And he actually immediately after that won a seat in Congress. He beat a Democrat (Vincent Gentile in a special election) to get into Congress. He was almost rewarded for the non-indictment of officer Pantaleo.”

      Sarsour continued with, “And today he was beat. He was beat by a very young man, a young Democrat, Max Rose, and in a district that has changing demographics. It’s longtime been like the “Mississippi of the North.” But new immigrants, new Americans, young progressives, people of color, black people on the North Shore, a large Latino community has come together and Dan Donovan is out of a job. And we were the only district in New York City that gave a Republican to Congress. And now New York City has become fully a Democratic delegation.”

      [...]

      Max Rose did receive a considerable amount of progressive left votes in his general election bid that he did not receive in the primary. Over a one-third of Staten Island and South Brooklynite Democrats and progressives did not select Rose in his primary but a large portion that saw the need to defeat Republicans voted for him adding to the “surge” and many are following him closely.

    • The Only Solution to America’s Political Crisis

      Most recently, the White House is engaged in chilling and open defiance of Congress’s clear constitutional power to oversee and investigate the executive branch. In a recent hearing held by federal Judge Amit Mehta on the administration’s lawsuit claiming that Congress possesses no legitimate power to obtain Trump’s financial records, Trump’s lawyer, William Consovoy, argued that Congress lacks authority to investigate and publicize possible wrongdoing by the president. An incredulous Mehta asked Consovoy if this meant that Congress’s investigations into Watergate and Whitewater (here we night add the Iran/Contra affair and more) were unconstitutional. Consovoy hemmed, saying it would depend upon the basis for those investigations. It was “straightforward,” responded Mehta: “Congress was inquiring into possible violations of the law by the president.”

      “In that case,” Consovoy said, “then yes, perhaps Congress did overstep its authority.”

      The president, in short, is above the law, according to his lawyers.

      Piecing all these and countless other horrific stories about Trump and his presidency together, anyone with any basic knowledge of fascism, past and present, can easily and correctly identify him as an aspiring fascist leader. It is rare, however, for liberal corporate media operatives to go all the way with the F-word—fascism—when it comes to describing Trump.

      Their silence here is ironic. Worried talking heads at MSNBC—an outpost of the Democratic Party’s reigning corporate establishment—and across the liberal punditocracy warn frequently and loudly about what they consider the Democratic Party’s “socialism problem.” They do this even though just a small handful of Democrats (Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib) identify as “democratic socialists.” They fret over the socialist menace despite the fact that all these “radical” Democrats mean by “socialism” is capitalism with some long overdue Western- and northern European-style social reforms.

    • The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma

      The Trump presidency has been a disaster for the country and the world; a second Trump term would be calamitous. The menace must be stopped.

      The sad fact is, though, that for Trump to lose in 2020, a (big-D) Democrat will have to win.

      This means that the responsible thing for (small-d) democrats to do will be not just to vote for the (big-D) Democrats’ candidate on Election Day, but also to muster enthusiastic support for her or him in the weeks and months leading up to it.

      Enthusiasm is necessary because turnout is all. There are many more registered Democrats than Republicans, and there is reason to think that most independents, whether or not they lean Democratic, oppose Trump.

      The reason Democrats lose as much as they do is that Republicans and “conservative” (right-leaning) independents have been voting at higher rates. Turnout has generally been lower among potential Democratic voters because the Democratic Party has seldom offered them anything worth voting for. There had always had plenty to vote against, but, as in 2015, this time around that may not be enough.

    • Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission

      Back on 31 March 2019 I wrote an essay entitled “God and U.S. Foreign Policy.” The central figure in that essay was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo is a Christian fundamentalist who believes that God is at work when it comes to both sustaining Israeli society as well as the U.S. foreign policies that underpin it. There are other Christian fundamentalists in the Trump White House who agree with Pompeo, significantly Vice President Pence. Both men also appear to believe a really bizarre backstory that predicts that Israel’s success is a prelude to the second coming of Christ and the subsequent end of the world. (Just as an aside, I have to confess that when I was around five or six I was convinced that Godzilla was real and attempting to crawl through my bedroom window at night. I grew out of this quickly.) Folks like Pompeo and Pence seem so attached to their point of view that, as regards Israel, they carry out the duties of their offices as if they were, as the Blues Brothers would put it, “on a mission from God.”

      Such Christian fundamentalists have long had allies among Jewish fanatics—those who insist that Palestine is now the “land of Israel” and divinely reserved for Jews only. Here in the U.S., before the Civil Rights movement changed things in the public sphere, we used to have hotels that were restricted to white Christians only. No Jews, African-Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, etc. were allowed in. The Jewish fanatics currently supporting and running Israel are in the process of turning Palestine/Israel into a restricted hotel.

      Why some—though certainly not all—Jews, who are members of a group that has long been victimized by racism, would want to support widespread official discrimination in Israel is a psychological conundrum. But major Jewish American politicians certainly do support this unfortunate effort, and as pointed out above, this makes them allies of Pompeo, Pence and others like them. Take for instance Charles “Chuck” Schumer, a Democratic Senator from New York, and the Senate minority leader. Schumer too is on a self-declared mission from God to defend Israel. Here is how he describes it: “You know, my name . . . comes from the word shomer, guardian, watcher. … And I believe Hashem [Orthodox for God] actually gave me that name. One of my roles, very important in the United States senate, is to be a shomer – to be a or the shomer Yisrael. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body.”

    • The Americanization of Popular Culture Should Terrify Us All

      The verdict is in, and Hollywood has won the global culture wars, according Violaine Roussel, a French scholar and professor who has had unusual access to the California entertainment industry. In her view, American culture, packaged neatly in film and television for global consumption, has cast a shadow over cultural products in much of the world.

      “The influence of Hollywood has definitely grown these past years, these past decades,” the University of Paris professor tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “That’s true in the realm of cinema, and, of course, maybe even more as far as TV is concerned.”

      European nations, among others, are attempting to preserve their artistic industries through government subsidies. And yet state-funded works continue to fall short of the influence of multimillion-dollar American productions that flood cinema listings from Paris to Pittsburgh.

      “The Americanization of the world [is] sort of a horrifying prospect when you extend it to cultural life,” Scheer remarks. “It’s one thing when we used to make very good cars, and maybe people wanted them. But what the world seems to be most influenced by [now] is our technology and our cultural output. And I find that depressing, because it suggests a certain uniformity; it suggests a certain commercialization, a certain jingoism, in a way. What happened to world culture?”

      Part of the problem with the homogenization of Hollywood’s output is that conglomerates such as Comcast, Viacom and AT&T have taken over the entertainment industry. And while it may seem like movies make companies a lot of money, the profits are a pittance to these companies. The emergence of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon raised the possibility of greater variety, but they ultimately come with their own issues related to data collection. None of these companies, be it Netflix or Comcast, seems to truly care about film and television as artwork, however.

      “The time of the great artist may be over in the world of entertainment that shapes the world’s culture,” Scheer tells Roussel. “The American entertainment industry that shapes the world’s culture—at least you could count on, somehow, the maverick director, the maverick artist, the person who could open a movie and yet had an idea, the great scriptwriter—and you can’t count on that anymore.”

    • Challenging Trump’s “Most Transparent President” Ever Claim, Dems Demand He Ante Up Documents

      A number of lawmakers are cleverly challenging President Donald Trump’s claim this week that he is “the most transparent president” in the country’s history.

      Among them is Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who told the president he could display that supposed transparency with regards to a decision his administration made in 2017.

      “In light of your statements,” she wrote to Trump in a letter sent Thursday, “please let me know what time tomorrow I can come over and review documents related to your administration’s decision to rescind Title IX guidance protecting LGBTQ students.”

    • DHS is Locking Immigrants in Solitary Confinement

      s ICE detention numbers reach record high, new reports are extremely troubling.
      In 2012, I visited the federal supermax prison ADX Florence in Colorado and spoke with men living in solitary confinement. I listened closely to their stories of anguish, but I could not understand how they survived it. They told me of the horror of being trapped in a small room, without access to fresh air or sunlight, for at least 22 hours a day—alone, afraid, and not knowing when it would end. I learned that people in solitary confinement talk to the walls, to themselves, to no one — sometimes they stop talking altogether.

      Those are the types of horrors we now know that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is inflicting on immigrants, thanks to the courage of whistleblower Ellen Gallagher. This week, multiple news outlets reported government documents detailing 8,488 cases of solitary confinement. In half the cases, solitary lasted longer than 15 days — the point at which some of its psychological harms may become irreversible and it can amount to torture, as well as a violation of international standards outlined in the UN’s Nelson Mandela Rules.

      The stories become even more harrowing when we learn why ICE allegedly imposed solitary. NBC news reported reasons including: wearing a hand cast, sharing a consensual kiss, or needing a wheelchair. ICE reportedly put LGBTQ individuals and people with mental illness in solitary as “protective custody,” citing their own safety.

    • Former advisor to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia after 15-year-long case

      A Moscow court has sentenced attorney Pavel Ivlev to 10 years in prison in absentia. Ivlev, who advised Mikhail Khodorkovsky when the anti-Putin businessman led the YUKOS oil company, was charged in a case alleging that the company’s leadership stole more than a trillion rubles ($15.5 billion) in oil. Ivlev has lived in the United States since 2004. He denies any wrongdoing and has said the case is politically motivated.

    • This Is Pure Authoritarian Audacity

      Right now, every couple of hours, the United States starts lurching toward some sort of military confrontation with Iran, and then it lurches back. It’s what The Guns of August would have read like if it had been written by Tom Robbins. It makes the high diplomacy portrayed in Duck Soup look like the Congress of Vienna. The fact that the people calling this particular square dance are John Bolton and Mike Pompeo fills me with confidence in neither my government’s competence in this regard nor in its honesty.

      And now, from the Washington Post, comes just the kind of story you want to hear when the United States is flirting with war in Persia.

    • Theresa May Resigns as British Prime Minister

      Theresa May announced Friday that she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, admitting defeat in her attempt to take Britain out of the European Union and sparking a contest to become the country’s next prime minister.

      She will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process likely to take several weeks. The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election, and will take up the task of trying to secure Britain’s exit from the EU.

      Her voice breaking, May said in a televised statement outside 10 Downing St. that she would soon be leaving a job that it has been “the honor of my life to hold.”

      May became prime minister the month after Britons voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union, and her premiership has been consumed by the attempt to deliver on that verdict.

      Now she has bowed to relentless pressure from her party to quit over her failure to take Britain out of the EU on the scheduled date of March 29. Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has yet to approve divorce terms.

      “I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide,” May said.

      “I have done my best to do that. … But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.”

    • Leaving ‘One Hell of a Mess Behind,’ British PM Theresa May Admits Brexit Defeat and Resigns

      Characterized by critics and political observers as an ignominous end of her three years as leader of the Tory Party and captain of the right-wing ship trying to steer the country toward Brexit, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announced her official resignation on Friday morning as she finally admitted defeat.

      Though she said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street that she had “done everything” she could “to convince MPs to back” her Brexit deal, “Sadly, I have not been able to do so.”

      [...]

      In response to May’s resignation, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn—who earlier this week said in Parliament that May’s time “was over” as he called for a new general election—issued a statement on Friday saying, “Theresa May is right to resign. She’s now accepted what the country’s known for months: she can’t govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.”

      “The burning injustices she promised to tackle three years ago are even starker today,” Corbyn added. “The Conservative party has utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve people’s lives or deal with their most pressing needs.”

    • Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism

      The 2016 U.S. presidential elections showed how easily a real estate hustler can hijack the public’s attention with the help of all major news corporations.

      Not only did Donald Trump receive two billion dollars of free media over the course of his presidential campaign, but he was wrongly accused for colluding with Russia for the next three years — a turn of events that justified the “fake news” narrative he skillfully exploited, brought his approval ratings to an all-time high, and provided him with a huge gift going into the 2020 elections.

      Although it would’ve been helpful to reflect on why the most unpopular political candidate in the history of opinion polls won against the well-funded and connected Clinton empire, the technicalities behind Trump’s ascendancy were overshadowed in the mainstream by the now-debunked conspiracy that Trump colluded with Russia — a narrative that completely engulfed the D.C. media establishment for most of Donald’s presidency.

      It wasn’t the Trump campaign’s skyrocketing ad spending and close partnership with Facebook which interested pundits, but how Russia’s Internet Research Agency “influenced the elections” in his favor via Facebook memes. Corporate news channels didn’t care much for Donald’s 2019 veto on U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, or his 2017 tax giveaway to the very rich, but pundits buzzed with excitement to the slightest hint that there’s a Trump “pee tape.”

    • The Offal Office

      In these tumultuous times it is easy to lose sight of the many things that Donald Trump has in common with those who, at times, are our adversaries, as well as those who have a different approach to human rights from what many of us believe we, in the United States, have traditionally embraced. The most obvious is President Xi Jinping of China.

      Because of the focus on tariffs , and the disagreements between Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump on issues pertaining to trade, it was easy to ignore the fact that they have one very important thing in common. It is a passion that has nothing to do with trade-it has to do with Muslims. Their feelings about Muslims are identical. How they are able to give them voice differs because of the rules of the countries over which they rule.

      President Xi expressed his dislike for Muslims by creating concentration camps in western China where more than 1 million Muslims are confined. According to Amnesty International, “China has intensified its campaign of mass internment, intrusive surveillance, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation against the region’s Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. The inhabitants study communist propaganda and give thanks to President Xi.”

      In addition to reeducating the Muslims, there have also been reports of waterboarding and other forms of torture being inflicted on the inhabitants of the camps. President Xi justifies the use of the concentration camps, and the brutal treatment accorded the residents by describing them as “re-education camps,” and pointing out that the inmates are being taught useful skills.

      Like President Xi, Mr. Trump has no use for Muslims. He is, however, for the time being at least, somewhat constrained in how he deals with what he would describe as the Muslim problem. He cannot imprison and reeducate Muslims, but he can, and does, frequently express his dislike and distrust of them and spout lies in order to give vent to his hatred. .

    • Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon

      It turns out the man in the photo is [S.*]—and the woman in the hat, [G.*]—both music teachers from Philadelphia. Eight years on, at the beginning of the postwar red scare, they would refuse to sign loyalty oaths, quit teaching, and move to the West Coast to work for Folkway Records. But in the meantime, [S.*] heads a group called the American Friends of the Mexican People, for which my mother handles publicity.

      Is it any coincidence so many Philadelphia teachers are down here on sabbatical? The newly elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, George Counts–claiming his narrow victory is a mandate to expel Communists and their supporters–is now investigating Philadelphia’s Local 192 for “subversion.”

      Of course, membership in the Communist party–which is entirely legal–has no more bearing on their classroom teaching than the party membership of teachers who are Republicans or Democrats. Setting aside some fundraising efforts on behalf of Loyalist Spain, for the last five years they have been energetically involved in supporting the reform goals of the New Deal, and along with other Local 192 members, they have mobilized with their students’ communities around such issues affecting students’ needs as crumbling and segregated schools, segregated black teacher lists, racist textbooks, denial of teacher tenure along gender and racial lines [see Nicholas Toloudis, How Local 192 Fought for Academic Freedom and Civil Rights in Philadelphia, 1934-1941, Journal of Urban History, 2018].

      For years, William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, has been trying to expel the AFT from the federation on the grounds that three of its largest locals–New York’s Local 5; New York’s College Teachers Union; and Philadelphia’s Local 192—are Communist controlled.

      And when the Popular Front comes to a screeching halt—as party members fall into line following the shocking news of a Hitler-Stalin pact in the late summer of 1939–Green and his allies in the labor movement are finally able to achieve the longtime goal of ridding it of Communists. The Dies Committee—the House An-American Activities Committee (HUAC), established in 1938–now has a free hand from the administration to raid Communist offices and arrest Communists and their supporters. And unlike the witch-hunt of the McCarthy period a decade later, this red scare is directed solely at Communists and other leftists, not their liberal “fellow travelers.”

    • Jared Kushner is surprised he can’t get Palestinian Businessmen on Board with Promises of Prosperity

      Palestinian business groups accounting for 80% of Palestine’s gross domestic product say they are declining to attend a conference in Bahrain that is part of the roll-out of Jared Kushner’s “Deal of the Century.” The conference was intended to focus on “economic peace,” which is shorthand for investments in and prosperity for the West Bank Palestinians in return for their acquiescence in continued harsh Israeli military occupation. The Palestine Liberation Organization is also refusing to attend, saying, that the goal is not to improve living conditions under Occupation but to end Occupation.

      The idea of an economic incentive to Palestinians to be quiet and let the far rightwing racial supremacist government of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu rule their lives is not new. Netanyahu has been touting it for decades. It won’t work.

      It won’t work for many reasons. Let us examine some.

      1. Palestinians are struggling for a state, for a national identity. Even if they could attain prosperity under Occupation, that isn’t what drives most of them. Identity is at the core of the human self, and Palestinian identity has been deeply damaged by the condition of statelessness in which Israel holds them. Most Palestinians will not cease their struggle short of statehood.

    • “Sooner or Later, Dictators Fall,” Says Eyewitness to Sudan’s Uprising

      The revolutionary process in the Middle East and North Africa continues to unfold as uprisings in Sudan and Algeria have defied the counterrevolutionary wave that swept across the region following the 2011 Arab Spring.

      In Algeria, a sustained protest movement toppled authoritarian leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika on April 2 of this year. About a week later, ongoing popular resistance in Sudan forced out ruler Omar al-Bashir. In both countries, the military remains in power, though the heads of the regimes are gone.

      The uprising in Sudan has benefited from a high level of organization and impressive leadership from students, women and unions. Since the fall of al-Bashir, the Transitional Military Council is attempting to consolidate power with the full backing of regional and international powers. But protesters remain committed to continuing the uprising until the old regime is completely transformed. Their struggle is a beacon of hope and inspiration for all those fighting for freedom.

      Mohamed Mustafa Diab is a Sudanese doctor and activist born and raised in Khartoum. Currently living in the U.S., Diab returned home in January to participate in the uprising. He spoke with Truthout about the protest movement and the future of Sudan. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

    • Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America

      America, the indispensable nation. That old jingoistic canard gets tossed around like confetti in this country, while the rest of the world rolls their collective eyes and crack their collective knuckles. According to patriotic lore, America is some beige, color-blind, miracle designed by the greatest white philosophers since Socrates to free the world from its backwards indigenous ways with the magic of global capitalism. Naturally, this is all bullshit. The kind of sad pep-talk a date-rapist gives himself in the mirror before showering his glamour muscles in Axe body spray. There is absolutely nothing miraculous about America but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t exceptional.

      America is an exceptionally cruel experiment in the outer reaches of colonial social engineering. We are a nation defined by the two greatest holocausts in recorded history, spanning three continents and an entire hemisphere. America as we know it was founded by an ambitious collection of European super-colonialists who found themselves and their nations increasingly depleted of the wealth they accumulated from the Crusades. So they traveled the seas in search of greener pastures to irrigate with more dark-skinned blood. They found their sainted killing fields of Shangri-La in the New World and with the superiority of their steel, they decided to take the Americas by force and slaughter anyone who stood in their way. But with an entire hemisphere half empty of its indigenous inhabitants, these European overlords found themselves with too much work for their feeble bourgeois fingers to handle, so they filled their new colonies with shiploads of slaves pilfered from the jungles of Africa to build a nation on their scarred shoulders, murdering millions more in the process and permanently hobbling another entire continent.

      But even slave-driving proved too onerous for our glorious founding fathers, so they brought in floods of refugees from their more battered European neighbors to serve as a pauper class between the WASPs and their shackled human property. The result of this massive game of Red Rover was a badly cobbled together empire that lacked the royal blood and soil that usually held the illusion of the European-style nation state together. New races had to be constructed to justify their class division. Scores of seemingly incongruous tribes were lumped together into massive racial conglomerations known as White and Colored (later to be broken down into Black and Brown). Whenever the numbers of the people of color swelled to numbers that threatened the White master race, whole chunks were chiseled off and arbitrarily declared White. Irish, Italians, Jews; we were all niggers once until we became more useful as White insulation than dark fodder.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • The Wikimedia Foundation Asks The European Court Of Human Rights To Rule Against Turkey’s Two-Year Block Of All Wikipedia Versions

      As numerous Techdirt stories attest, the Turkish authorities — and the country’s notoriously thin-skinned President, Recep Erdogan — are unwilling to accept even the slightest criticism of their actions, from any quarter. That has led to huge numbers of Turkish citizens being thrown in prison on the flimsiest pretexts, as well as many Internet sites being blocked in a similarly arbitrary way. Perhaps the most significant digital victim of Turkey’s paranoia is Wikipedia. In April 2017, every language version of the site was blocked under a law that allows the authorities to ban access to Web sites deemed “obscene or a threat to national security”. According to The Atlantic, Wikipedia was blocked because it refused to take down an article that claimed Turkey was “aligned with various terrorist organizations”.

      [...]

      Even if the Wikimedia Foundation wins its case, there is not much that the ECHR can do to force Turkey to comply with a decision that the block should be lifted. It’s true that Turkey is a long-standing party to the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf), and that the fundamental rights provided by the Convention are guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution. But given the track-record of the Turkish authorities of ignoring all outside calls and criticism, we can probably expect more of the same if the ECHR finds against Turkey. On the plus side, this kind of high-profile tut-tutting from arguably the top human rights court in the world would doubtless annoy Erdogan hugely, so there is that.

    • Wikimedia Foundation petitions the European Court of Human Rights to lift the block of Wikipedia in Turkey

      At the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe that free access to knowledge and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights. We believe that when people have good information, they can make better decisions. Free access to information creates economic opportunity and empowers people to build sustainable livelihoods. Knowledge makes our societies more informed, more connected, and more equitable.

      [...]

      This is not a step we have taken lightly; we are doing so only after continued and exhaustive attempts to lift the block through legal action in the Turkish courts, good faith conversations with the Turkish authorities, and campaigns to raise awareness of the block and its impact on Turkey and the rest of the world.

    • Several Pro And College Sports Teams Suspended From Twitter Over Mystery DMCA Notices

      We’ve had many long discussions here, and have replicated those discussions through more official channels, as to how there are severe problems with the DMCA when it comes to its collision with free speech. One of the core issues is the way the DMCA sets up a system in which service providers feel forced to proactively take down the speech of others based on accusation in the form of a DMCA notice, rather than this working the way it does in nearly every other aspect of American law in which an accusation does not result in a penalty. And penalty truly is the right word, as the American system recognizes that speech is among the most fundamental of freedoms. And, yet, when service providers like Twitter get sent DMCA notices over copyright claims, they are heavily incentivized to take down the content and take action against the account holder — or face potentially massive liability.

    • The Houston Rockets Twitter Account Was Suspended Over Copyright Issues

      On Monday, the Houston Rockets Twitter account found itself among a handful of official sports team accounts, most of which were college team Twitters.

      The accounts were temporarily shut down due to DMCA complaints against them for the use of copyrighted music without obtaining those rights. The Rockets were joined by Auburn football, Rutgers football, Iowa State football, and Iowa football and gymnastics as prominent official accounts to be shut down either this weekend or on Monday.

      The team released a statement regarding the suspension of the account, noting they were working to fix whatever is needed to get it active again, via the Houston Chronicle.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • New discoveries in KGB archives show a Kyiv agent sold documents to North Korean spies for money, cameras, and ginseng

      The U.S-government-funded Russian-language television channel Current Time released a special feature on May 23 describing the unusual career of Stanislav Pushkar. Pushkar, an engineer from Kyiv, was recruited by North Korean agents while working in a government factory in the 1970s. Recently declassified documents in the Ukrainian KGB’s archives show that Pushkar sold secret documents and appliances to the agents before being arrested and imprisoned ten years later.

    • Hearing against the Privacy Shield before the General Court of the EU!

      In 2000, the European Commission authorised an agreement to simplify the transfer of Europeans’ personal data to the USA, the “Safe Harbor”.

      On 6 October 2015, following a recourse by Max Schrems, the European Court of Justice invalidated this authorisation (see our reaction – in French). Why? Because the Safe Harbor allowed US intelligence services to access private data of Europeans and Edward Snowden had recently revealed the massive attack on our freedoms this led to.

      On 12 July 2016, the European Commission gave it another shot: it authorised a new agreement on the transfer of data to the United States, the “Privacy Shield” (see our reaction, in French).

      On 17 November 2016, we attacked this new agreement before the General Court of the EU, with FFDN and FDN (see our joint complaint, in French). Although less vague than the Safe Harbor, this new Privacy Shield still allowed abuses by the US, such as mass surveillance – which even the Commission has recognised it. Invalidating this agreement would be a way to strengthen European jurisprudence against mass surveillance, which we could then use against abuses in national laws, especially current French law.

      The General Court of the EU has deemed our complaint serious and grave enough to open proceedings. The European Commission has had to defend its text, and many countries came to its rescue (at the forefront of which were the United States and France, but also Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or the Czech Republic), as did multiple companies (Microsoft and Digitaleurope, which represents all the GAFAM), each of them producing arguments, which we then had to answer (see our response to the Commission followed by the one to its allies).

    • One Year Into The GDPR: Can We Declare It A Total Failure Yet?

      Tomorrow will represent a full year since the GDPR went into effect. In the run-up to the GDPR, we called out many of the problems with the regulation which, while well-intended, did not seem to deal well with the nature of the internet, speech, or what privacy actually means. In the year since, we’ve posted numerous stories highlighting the negative consequences of this poorly considered law.

      Whenever we do that, however, many of the law’s defenders insist that these unintended consequences are a small price to pay for either protecting our privacy or reining in the internet giants. So, it does seem worth investigating whether or not the GDPR has done either of those things. And, so far, the evidence is sorely lacking. Indeed, on the question of dominance, we pointed out late last year that the early returns suggested that the GDPR had only made Google more dominant, which hardly seems like a way to punish the company.

    • Blindered by the GDPR

      And that’s the pickle we’re in now: if you want to talk privacy, ya gotta talk #GDPR. And that means assuming that personal privacy is entirely a grace of what others don’t do to us, rather than what we can do for ourselves.. This is a very blindered view: one that locks everybody into thinking about how to protect 2015 from 2012.

      Fortunately, we don’t have to wear the GDPR’s blinders.

      [...]

      And start working on stuff that increases not only our privacy online, but our agency: the ability to get things done. New things. Better things. For example, terms that we can proffer and the sites and services of the world can agree to. (As we’ve promised to do here at Linux Journal.) There’s a good list in An FUQ for the GDPR, and a continuously updated one in this punch list at ProjectVRM, which I run.

      Meanwhile, we’re not going to stop the lawmaking. So let’s help lawmakers think and work outside the GDPR box. That means they should stop assuming that personal privacy is entirely the responsibility of potential violators.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Prosecutor On Forfeiture Reforms: Making Us Prosecute Drugs Cases Will Make It Harder To Prosecute Drug Cases

      All this evidence and nothing to do with it, I guess. Like many in the law enforcement field, Stevenson clings to the myth that robbing random people at gunpoint somehow cripples drug cartels. This belief is backed by far less evidence than the long list of stuff Stevenson claims can’t be cobbled into a successful prosecution. We’re more than 40 years deep into a War on Drugs and the only thing that’s changed for the positive is the public’s attitude towards civil asset forfeiture.

    • Michigan forfeiture law will curtail Wayne County’s civil property seizures

      New legislation prohibiting most civil asset forfeiture in Michigan without a prior conviction is expected to curtail Wayne County’s process of seizing property without a conviction….

    • Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries

      Most people in the West think of Denmark as a tolerant, peace-loving country, even—according to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—as a socialist country. Trump views this as a disease to be excised, and avoided in the US at all costs, while Sanders sees this as an ideal for America.

      The truth is far from these tales. Denmark runs on a solidly capitalist economy, and it has been at war against all the countries the US has invaded since Iraq in 1990. Its troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq; and its planes bombed Syria not long ago. The various government have cut back the social network of “free” education and healthcare to the bare bones in the last decade. The elderly, for instance, who cannot bathe themselves, must wait up to seven weeks before a social welfare assistant can come to wash them and clean house, and must do so in the few minutes strictly allotted. (See my series, ”Scandinavia on the Skids: The Failure of Social Democracy”.)

      There are a few, quiet progressive or radical groupings in Denmark, no peace movement, but a burgeoning climate movement. Yet one alternative institution, Tvind, tries to influence people in Denmark, throughout Europe and in some “third world” countries to be activists and teachers of activism. Tvind started in 1970 (see sidebar) and for the past five years has sponsored an international Peace & Justice Conference.

      One of the unusual aspects of Tvind, at its schools, residences and conferences, is that no alcohol or any drugs are allowed. I was there four days and never did anyone, not even the 20-30 year-old majority, speak of any need for these normal crutches, and they danced after all the work until after midnight stone sober. Maybe they got their energy from a sense of fulfilling togetherness and the delicious vegetarian-ecological food they prepared for two dozen students and another 150 people, who came to the conference from Denmark and a dozen more European countries east and west, a handful from India, Africa and Latin America.

      This year’s conference took place in mid-May for three days. The kick-off speech dealt with “the Russian ‘peace threat’”, other global perspectives, and how to resist; how to bring the deadly and polluting institution of militarism and its wars into the consciousness and the agenda of those opposing climate change. Previous conference themes had dealt with how to stop wars not refugees; to transform from militarism to conflict resolution and peace; and no justice no peace.

    • Development With Dignity

      Asad Ali, a young man in his 20s, has a passion for teaching. He is a high school graduate and has no teacher’s training degree, but he has compassion and inborn pedagogic skills that endear him to his students. His father wanted him to join the army, but Ali preferred his classroom to the battlefield. If Pakistan had more teachers with his commitment, the country would be a different place altogether.

      Ali would be a failure in the postmodern education system the Pakistan government is making futile attempts to create for a people still stuck in the medieval ages. Had Ali managed to adjust to the prescribed system, his students in Khairo Dero—the village in Sindh where he lives and works—would be unable to relate to him as they do now.

      The key to Ali’s success lies in Khairo Dero’s adoption of a holistic approach to community development—both social and economic.

      The development process has two main participants: the beneficiary, i.e., the people, and the provider, which can be the government or a nongovernmental organization. Because providers are the stronger ones in this power relationship, they tend to decide what needs to be done. And if there happens to be a foreign aid component, donors may have the final say, even if their choices may not be appropriate for local conditions.

    • Lawmakers Question Surfacing of New Sandra Bland Video

      Texas authorities on Friday denied withholding a cellphone video of Sandra Bland’s confrontational traffic stop, responding to a Democratic legislator’s heated questions about why the 39-second clip never publicly surfaced until now.

      Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from outside Chicago, had used her phone in 2015 to briefly film a white state trooper as he drew a stun gun and yelled “I will light you up!” while ordering her out of the car. She was dead three days later, hanging in her jail cell outside Houston. Her death was ruled a suicide.

      “The Department of Public Safety has not illegally withheld evidence from Sandra Bland’s family or her legal team,” said Phillip Adkins, general counsel of the department.

      The video had not been publicly seen until it was aired this month by a Dallas television station, and both lawmakers and Bland’s family say they had also never seen the clip. They say the video proves that Trooper Brian Encinia had no reason to fear for his life and questioned whether he should have faced charges beyond perjury.

    • Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines

      Hawaii and the Philippines share a long history. The expansion of the U.S. beyond the North American continent began with the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

      With its victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the U.S. gained control over the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Philippines was a colonial possession of the U.S. from 1899 until 1946, except for the period of Japanese military occupation during World War II.

      While the Philippines nominally gained independence in 1946, the 1947 Military Bases Agreement (MBA) guaranteed U.S. possession of Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay Naval Base, formerly the largest overseas U.S. bases. In response to a growing anti-bases, anti-nuclear movement of Filipinos, the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of the MBA in 1991 and U.S. control of the bases ended.

      However, after Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in 2013, the U.S. military provided disaster relief and, in 2014, the Philippine government agreed to grant the U.S. access to and use of Philippines bases.

      In May 2017, a battle for Marawi City in Mindanao between Islamic State-inspired groups and the Philippine Army led to increased U.S. military involvement in the Philippines. The U.S. military claims it seeks to win the hearts and minds of the people of Mindanao while also providing combat training to the Philippine Army.

      Through Operation Pacific Eagle, an “overseas contingency operation” not subject to congressional spending limits, the U.S. provided $100 million last year in military aid, and this aid is projected this year to increase to $108 million. In fiscal 2018, the U.S. sold the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the Philippine National Police over $63 million in arms. It also donated 2,253 machine guns and over 5 million rounds of ammunition. All in all, over $184 million was given to the Philippine military and police in 2018.

    • Sergey Skripal’s niece turns over purported recording of former spy’s voice message to Russia’s Investigative Committee

      Viktoria Skripal, whose uncle Sergey and cousin Yulia were poisoned in Great Britain last year, told TASS that she has released the audio of a voice message from her uncle to Russia’s Investigative Committee. Moskovsky Komsomolets first published and reported on the recording on March 23.

    • The Right to Stay Home

      “No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark.”

      Immigration is perhaps the defining political issue of the Trump era. The political left, right, and center, each offer their own vision for the proper treatment of those who arrive on American borders in search of a better life. However, as Poet Warsan Shire’s words remind us, migration does not begin at the border, it begins in homes and communities that are rarely abandoned without necessity.

      Though the dynamics of migration are complex, at least one of Shire’s sharks has a name: neoliberal globalization. Since the era of Reagan and Thatcher, powerful states and the wealthy interests that they represent have built a global economic order that places the market above all else. This has resulted in the systematic uprooting of the poor, the working class, and the subaltern of the Global South. Acting through trade deals and international financial institutions, neoliberal globalization causes displacement by creating conditions of poverty, imposing corporate agricultural policies, and fueling environmental destruction. While progressives fight for the rights of those displaced by this unjust system, they must also struggle to replace it.

    • Life After Deportation

      It’s not too far from the center of San Salvador to the house of Liliana. What takes so long is getting through the traffic in the city center. Up a road, into a colonia, and finally to her mother’s house, where she lives with her siblings and their children. Amid the Disney characters on the wall and her nephew in the patio, one youthful element is missing: her own children.

      Liliana’s 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter live in northern Virginia with their dad.

      Liliana had been with them until 2017, working full time and parenting. Yet at her check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in May 2017, she was taken into detention.

      Organizations in the Washington, DC metro area that defend immigrant rights — like the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network, Sanctuary DMV, and CASA — launched an intense campaign to halt her deportation. They held press conferences at the ICE field office and the Department of Homeland Security headquarters, directed countless calls and tweets to ICE and elected officials, and obtained the intervention of both of her senators, her congressional representative, and the governor of Virginia.

      Despite all the efforts, Liliana was moved to another detention center and then deported to El Salvador.

    • Yanis Varoufakis: The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism

      More than three years ago, on 9 February 2016, around a thousand of us gathered at a magnificent theatre in Berlin’s city centre, built originally by workers to stage progressive theatrical productions. On that night, we founded a pan-European, transnational, progressive, democratic movement that we named Diem25, or Democracy in Europe Movement 2025.

      This week Diem25, along with many other movements that joined us to form the European Spring list, is seeking the vote of European citizens across the continent in the context of the European parliament elections. Many ask: “Why?”

      The motivation was implicit in the reason we came together back in February 2016. Speaking to The Independent on the day of Diem25’s inauguration, I explained our purpose by pointing out that “Europe is sliding into a post-modern 1930s”, suggesting that those in authority colossally mishandled our generation’s 1929, which of course hit the financial markets in 2008 before triggering the eurozone crisis in 2010.

      Following the banks’ collapse, European leaders cynically transferred the bankers’ losses onto the shoulders of the weakest taxpayers, beginning with the Greeks but soon after spreading the pain across Europe, including in Germany.
      It took very little foresight to predict that it was only a matter of time before racist, authoritarian right-wing populists would make a bid for power. As I said in that same interview, “the authorities don’t know what they’re doing. They’re making it up as they go along, just like in the 1920s and 1930s”

      In anticipation of the triumphant march of organised misanthropy, we set ourselves the task of working on an ambitious agenda, a European “green new deal”. Our aim was to bring all progressives together around a common plan for channelling 5 per cent of European income every year into investments in green energy, transport and technology that Europe desperately needs.

    • The mad dash for Russian citizenship in separatist Luhansk

      Since April 24, residents of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have been able to receive Russian citizenship through a simplified process. On May 1, this option was made available to all Ukrainian citizens with Russian residence permits. A center for issuing Russian passports to DNR and LNR residents has already opened in Russia’s Rostov region. Since early May, people have flocked to these offices, hoping to lay their hands on a Russian passport, even though the process laid out by Moscow requires them to submit their paperwork where they live. Meduza special correspondent Kristina Safonova travelled to Luhansk and the Rostov region to learn more about this dash for Russian citizenship and why people in Ukraine’s Donbas want it so badly.

    • Thousands of refugees came to the 2018 World Cup through FIFA’s FAN ID system. Now, they’re fighting to find a way to stay in Russia.

      More than three million international tourists visited Russia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but not all of them were there for the soccer. Some hoped to apply for refugee status in the country because they faced life-threatening dangers back home. The Russian government rejected their applications for asylum: after the tournament ended, several thousand people were deported. However, even now, a year after the World Cup, some people are still trying to defend their right to live in Russia. Some of them escaped war, others escaped terrorist groups, and still others escaped religious persecution. In Russia, they encountered new hardships: trouble finding work, trouble finding housing, and trouble with the law. Meduza spoke with three refugees about why they came to Russia and how they have survived the last year.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • House Dems Start To Wimp Out On Net Neutrality

      Back in March we discussed the unveiling of the Save The Internet Act, a three page bill that would do one thing: restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules stripped away by Ajit Pai, as well as restore the FCC’s authority over broadband providers. As we’ve long noted, the net neutrality repeal didn’t just kill net neutrality, it gutted FCC authority over natural broadband monopolies, shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC experts have repeatedly warned lacks the authority or resources to adequately police giants like Comcast (the entire, often missed point of the telecom industry’s lobbying gambit).

      In April, the House passed the bill, though Senator Mitch McConnell stated the bill would be “dead on arrival” once it reached the Senate. McConnell was happy to ignore the fact that net neutrality protections have the bipartisan support of a majority of Americans, reiterating how so many tech policy decisions are inaccurately framed as partisan. Why? It helps encourage division and stall progress on any measures that challenge the revenues of the nation’s biggest (and least liked) companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter Spectrum).

    • Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles

      Across the United States, telecom providers have begun mapping their plans to deploy 5G “small,” microwave-emitting cellular sites throughout neighborhoods. Every person deserves to be informed about what’s happening and what’s within every household’s ability to control.

      Already the largest thing that humanity has built, we double the Internet’s size every two years. The Internet of Things (IoT), also known as machine-to-machine communication, generates data traffic via the “smart” power grid, billions of mobile phone and Internet users who expect 24/7 access, GPS networks and self-driving cars, toilets that analyze stools and blood pressure and send the data to physicians, and refrigerators that can message phones that orange juice needs replenishing.

      Because most people consider mobile technologies a basic necessity for school, work and household functioning, arguing against their expansion is especially challenging – even when they threaten our democracy, security, privacy, health and climate. Indeed, exponential increases in data traffic have the telecom industry launching 5G, the fifth generation of wireless infrastructure, internationally.

      In the U.S., more than 25 states and several federal Acts now mandate “streamlining” (easing deployment) of 5G infrastructure. Let me unpack what this means for municipalities and households.

    • Congress Can End the Digital Divide or Replace It with a Speed Chasm with Its Broadband Infrastructure Bill

      The House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first hearing on a major infrastructure bill called the “Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s (LIFT) America Act,” which authorizes $45 billion in broadband infrastructure money. Such a massive infusion of federal dollars would reshape the United States communications market and help put the United States on more even footing with the EU and Asian market.

      However, there is a real danger of lowering expectations of what can and should be done with a massive federal investment as a means of rigging who receives the federal dollars. If Congress does dedicate an enormous sum of money to build broadband infrastructure, it is important that it goes towards infrastructure that can withstand the test of time. As currently drafted, the legislation makes some concrete steps in that direction, but EFF finds that some areas need improvement in order to really make this bill about building infrastructure for the 21st century.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Standing to Defend your (Expired) Patent

      Sony’s patent no. 6,097,676 is directed toward multiplex audio recordings with each channel having a different language translation. Back in 2015, SONY sued ARRIS for infringing the ‘676 patent. (One of several infringement lawsuits between the companies). In 2016, ARRIS turned-around and filed for inter-partes-review (IPR). The PTAB instituted as to two claims (5 and 8) and found them unpatentable (obvious). That final written decision was issued in September 2017. ARRIS and SONY subsequently settled their ongoing litigation and in November 2017. At that point SONY appealed and the USPTO intervened to defend the PTAB decision. The patent had also already expired (August 2017).

      [...]

      Here, although you might imagine that the “reproduction means” is some piece of hardware, the patent only describes it in software form. The result is that the best interpretation of the claim term also limits it to software form — since means plus function limitations are construed only “to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.” The prior art described the claimed means in hardware form rather than software. On remand, the PTAB will need to determine whether the claims remain obvious in light of that narrowed claim construction.

    • $10,000 PATROLL Contest added for Packet Intelligence Patent

      On May 24, 2019, Unified added a $10,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for U.S. Patent No. 6,839,751 which has been asserted by Packet Intelligence, LLC, an NPE. The ’751 patent, generally related to monitoring and analyzing a flow of packets passing through a connection point on a computer network, has been asserted in nine district court cases to date.

      Routers and firewall appliances have primarily been targeted.

    • Inventergy LBS patent challenged as likely invalid

      On May 24, 2019, Unified, represented by Finnegan Henderson, filed an IPR against U.S. Patent No. 9,781,558, owned by Inventergy LBS, LLC. The ‘558 patent, related to monitoring and communicating tracking devices, has been asserted against tracking device vendors such as Tracking the World, Inc., Geofroce, Inc., and USGlobalSat, Inc.

    • In this Patent Family: Some Claims are Eligible Others Are Not

      This case includes a number of interesting twists — but at its core it is an eligibility decision.

      [...]

      Patent No. 6,728,766: The claims here are directed to license management — and the server provides an “availability indication” based upon a “user policy.” The court explains that “this is an abstract idea” that “does not go beyond requiring the collection, analysis, and display of available information.”

      This quad of cases may be helpful for some folks because all four have the same specification but with dramatically different results regarding eligibility. In my mind, however, the distinctions are hard to comprehend — especially as between the first three cases.

    • Nuvo Pharmaceuticals (Ireland) Designated Activity Co. v. Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      There are provisions and interpretations of U.S. patent law that can be in tension depending on the circumstances under which they are argued, whether before an Examiner or during litigation. One of these is the dichotomy between arguing that the prior art would provide insufficient expectation of success to render an invention obvious, while at the same time relying on what was known by a person of skill in the art to minimize the extent of the written description provided in a specification that satisfies the written description requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112(a). This tension proved fatal to the claims at issue in Nuvo Pharmaceuticals v. Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, decided by the Federal Circuit last week.

      [...]

      The Court concluded that the specification is “fatally flawed” with regard to providing an adequate written description of the requisite efficacy recited in the claims, and reversed the District Court’s finding that Defendants had not established that the ’907 and ’285 patents were invalid for failure to satisfy the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 112.

    • When Factual Allegations Masquerade as “Conclusory Legal Assertions”

      The eligibility challenges continue to be petitioned to the Supreme Court.

      Glasswall’s two patents are are directed to methods and devices for regenerating electronic files in a way that cuts-out non-conforming data. The approach here could be used as a virus filter, for example. U.S. Patent Nos. 8,869,283 and 9,516,045.

      Glasswall sued Clearswift for infringement back in 2016. However, that case was quickly dismissed on the complaint — with the district court holding that all of the patented claims were invalid as a matter of law (ineligible abstract ideas). On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed. As is the standard approach with eligibility cases, both the district and appellate court considered the claims at issue and compared them with the claims adjudicated in prior cases. Here, the courts concluded that Glasswall’s claims are more-like prior invalidated claims.

      The new petition for certiorari asks two questions that focus on procedure — essentially asking whether a patentee can structure its pleading to ensure that eligibility is not decided just on the complaint. An important element of Glasswall’s argument here is that its complaint alleged that its patented invention particularly improved computer processing capability by “eliminating code or data that may perform unwanted operations on the user’s computer without the need to consult or update virus definition files.”

    • Copyrights

      • DSM Directive Series #5: Does the DSM Directive mean the same thing in all language versions? The case of ‘best efforts’ in Article 17(4)(a)

        A couple of days ago, The IPKat posted about a (gross) Italian mistranslation of Article 17 of the DSM Directive 2019/790 (formerly known as Article 13), which seems to require online content sharing service providers (OCSSPs) to prevent the availability of all unlicensed subject matter, irrespective of whether it is infringing or not.

        I have been informed that this error will be corrected soon, as it is clearly an incorrect translation of the adopted text.

        As a follow-up to this, I took a closer look at the Italian translation of Article 17, and was a bit surprised when I saw that the phrase ‘best efforts’ in Article 17(4)(a) had not been translated as ‘migliori sforzi’ but rather as ‘massimi sforzi’.

        I shall try and clarify what I mean.

      • “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”: Fall Out Boy sued for copyright-infringing puppets

        Fans of the band would recognise these iconic costumed characters as de facto members of Fall Out Boy, making their debut in the band’s music video Young and Menace. It was to realise this video that the band originally commissioned Furry Puppet Studios to create 2 monster-like costumes for them to use.

        Post-music video, the popularity of these two characters (Frosty and Royal Tea) has increased dramatically. Fall Out Boy capitalised on this popularity and started to include the two characters in the rest of their music videos, created merchandise featuring them, and even brought them on tour.

        Furry Puppet Studios (the plaintiff) alleges that there was only express permission to use the puppet costumes for Young and Menace, and that no permission had been granted to use the puppets elsewhere. As such, the consent given was an implied limited non-exclusive licence.

        [...]

        It might be possible to say that the rights in the costumes were exhausted after the first sale to the band, under the first sale doctrine, as codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109. However, as the purpose of the purchase of the costumes was expressed to be only for the Young and Menace music video, reliance on the first sale doctrine might be doubtful. Furthermore, this would only excuse the defendants from the count of infringement relating to the use of the costumes outside the implied licence. For the other counts of copyright infringement, such as the reproduction and the exploitation of the work, one might wonder whether fair use might be invoked successfully.

        [...]

        Regarding the fourth factor, the effect on the existing or future market of the original work is potentially one that is beneficial as sales will not be displaced but in fact demand will increase. However, the band in creating merchandise has even in fact created plush toys of the original work of which the claimants already create as merchandise for their puppets.

      • Copyright Office Weighs In After Wannabe Satoshi Craig Wright Registers Copyright On Original Bitcoin Paper

        I was tempted to start this post with just a series of head-smashing-into-desk emojis, but I thought that might come off as a bit weird. Remember Craig Wright? He’s the somewhat controversial guy who has claimed to have really been Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of people who do not believe Craig Wright, and have highlighted how Wright has failed to provide any of the fairly straightforward methods the original Satoshi could use to prove who he was, and instead used complicated methods that suggest gamesmanship, rather than actual proof.

        As we’ve highlighted in our posts, Wright seems most focused on patenting everything he can with regards to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency — which, at the very least, seems to go against the open, sharing nature that was a key part of the early cryptocurrency community that Satoshi Nakamoto supported.

        And now comes the somewhat hilarious report that Wright has tried to register the copyright on the original Bitcoin whitepaper that Satoshi Nakamoto published. This is basically a troll move. Registering the copyright is meaningless. The Copyright Office does not review carefully if you are the actual creator. It’s mostly a rubber stamp process — and it’s rarely an issue because in most cases if someone tried to fraudulently register someone else’s copyright, that would come out pretty quickly and it would not take long to sort out what’s real. But in this case, when you have an anonymous secret author, it gets a little more complicated.

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    Links for the day



  16. The EPO is a Patent Troll's Wet Dream

    The makers of software and games in Europe will have to spend a lot of money just keeping patent trolls off their backs — a fact that seems to never bother EPO management because it profits from it



  17. EPO Spreading Patent Extremists' Ideology to the Whole World, Now to South Korea

    The EPO’s footprint around the world's patent systems is an exceptionally dangerous one; The EPO amplifies the most zealous voices of the patents and litigation ‘industry’ while totally ignoring the views and interests of the European public, rendering the EPO an ‘agent of corporate occupation’



  18. Guest Post: Notes on Free Speech, and a Line in the Sand

    We received this anonymous letter and have published it as a follow-up to "Reader's Claim That Rules Similar to the Code of Conduct (CoC) Were 'Imposed' on LibrePlanet and the FSF"



  19. Links 13/6/2019: CERN Dumps Microsoft, GIMP 2.10.12 Released

    Links for the day



  20. Links 12/6/2019: Mesa 19.1.0, KDE neon 5.16, Endless OS 3.6.0 and BackBox Linux 6

    Links for the day



  21. Leaked Financial 'Study' Document Shows EPO Management and Mercer Engaging in an Elaborate “Hoax”

    How the European Patent Office (EPO) lies to its own staff to harm that staff; thankfully, the staff isn't easily fooled and this whole affair will merely obliterate any remnants of "benefit of the doubt" the President thus far enjoyed



  22. Measuring Patent Quality and Employer Quality in Europe

    Comparing the once-famous and respected EPO to today's joke of an office, which grants loads of bogus patents on just about anything including fruit and mathematics



  23. Granting More Fundamentally Wrong Patents Will Mean Reduced Certainty, Not Increased Certainty

    Law firms that are accustomed to making money from low-quality and abstract patents try to overcome barriers by bribing politicians; this will backfire because they show sheer disregard for the patent system's integrity and merely lower the legal certainty associated with granted (by greedy offices) patents



  24. Links 11/6/2019: Wine 4.10, Plasma 5.16

    Links for the day



  25. Chapter 10: Moving Forward -- Getting the Best Results From Open Source With Your Monopoly

    “the gradual shift in public consciousness from their branding towards our own, is the next best thing to owning them outright.”



  26. Chapter 9: Ownership Through Branding -- Change the Names, and Change the World

    The goal for those fighting against Open source, against the true openness (let's call it the yet unexploited opportunities) of Open source, has to be first to figuratively own the Linux brand, then literally own or destroy the brand, then to move the public awareness of the Linux brand to something like Azure, or whatever IBM is going to do with Red Hat.



  27. Links 10/6/2019: VLC 3.0.7, KDE Future Plans

    Links for the day



  28. Patent Quality Continues to Slip in Europe and We Know Who Will Profit From That (and Distract From It)

    The corporate media and large companies don't speak about it (like Red Hat did before entering a relationship with IBM), but Europe is being littered and saturated with a lot of bogus software patents -- abstract patents that European courts would almost certainly throw out; this utter failure of the media to do journalism gets exploited by the "big litigation" lobby and EPO management that's granting loads of invalid European Patents (whose invalidation goes underreported or unreported in the media)



  29. Corporate Front Groups Like OIN and the Linux Foundation Need to Combat Software Patents If They Really Care About Linux

    The absurdity of having groups that claim to defend Linux but in practice defend software patents, if not actively then passively (by refusing to comment on this matter)



  30. Links 9/6/2019: Arrest of Microsoft Peter, Linux 5.2 RC4, Ubuntu Touch Update

    Links for the day


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