Links 30/5/2019: China to Drop Microsoft Windows, Dell ‘Advertises’ GNU/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 3:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • China Prepares To Drop Microsoft Windows — Blames U.S. Hacking Threat

    First there have been the drafting of cybersecurity regulations that could see U.S. technology imports blocked on national security grounds. Now comes the news, first broken online by the Epoch Times this week, that China is preparing to replace the Windows operating system with an alternative that is being developed within China in order to “prevent the United States from hacking into China’s military network.”

    Quoting a report from a Canadian military print publication called Kanwa Asian Defence, the Epoch Times revealed how the Internet Security Information Leadership Group (ISILG) in China has been created in order to replace Windows, and the UNIX system, used by the Chinese military.

    The ISILG is part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and falls directly under the control of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This would make a lot of sense given that the United States Cyber Command was similarly formed to provide a separation between network security and national security groups.

    I can certainly see how the technology environment has turned toxic at a national security level for countries on both sides of the East-West divide. While the West has become increasingly hostile towards Huawei, Chinese attention has been focused on networking technology made in the West. The Kanwa report talks of the ISILG believing that German-developed programmable logic controllers used in much of the Chinese industrial sector posing risks to national security.

    Starting with the Edward Snowden NSA document leaks back in 2013 and bolstered by the Shadow Brokers group releasing NSA-developed malware more recently, China fears that U.S. intelligence agencies have the necessary tools to easily hack into operating systems such as Windows, and UNIX or Linux for that matter, and spy on Chinese military secrets.

    The irony of a nation state oft-associated with cyber-attacks on Western targets, both in the business and government spheres, blaming the U.S. hacking capability for the need to develop a custom OS is not lost on me.

  • Server

    • AND…now comes digital transformation…

      Hope you all got home safely after a great Red Hat Summit 2019 in Boston. AND was the theme, and it was all about scaling your technology and culture to meet the specific challenges you face – especially in the area of digital transformation for your business.

      One thing that we took away from all the presentations and demos was that hybrid cloud is the infrastructure of choice for enterprises today. We see that enterprises continue to invest in both private and public cloud options for improved operations and greater productivity. Hybrid cloud allows IT managers to control costs and increase security through optimized workload placement.

    • Tachyum Boots Linux on Universal Processor Chip

      Today Tachyum announced it has successfully deployed the Linux OS on its Prodigy Universal Processor architecture, a foundation for 64-core, ultra-low power, high-performance processor. Running an OS directly and natively on its chip, without the need for host processors or other expensive components, reduces the cost of at-scale data centers and enables nearly unlimited flexibility in use.

    • Powering the Future of HPC & AI with OpenPOWER

      It is coming up on one year that the Summit supercomputer based on IBM POWER9 at Oak Ridge National Lab claimed the number one spot on the Top500 ranking. This system represents the culmination of a significant collaboration between OpenPOWER foundation members IBM, Nvidia, Mellanox and Red Hat with the goal of producing well a balanced computing platform for not only traditional HPC workloads such as modelling and simulation, but also AI workloads. With this milestone approaching, we took the opportunity to catch-up with Hugh Blemings, Executive Director at the OpenPOWER Foundation to chat about the foundation, and what lies ahead.

    • The limits of compatibility and supportability with containers

      Many folks who do container development have run Alpine container images. You might have run Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu images as well. If you are adventurous, you may have even run Arch, Gentoo, or dare I say, really old container images – like, RHEL 5 old.

      If you have some experience running container images, you might be led to believe that anything will just work, all the time, because containers are often thought to be completely portable across time and space. And a lot of the time, they do work! (Until they don’t.)

      It’s easy to assume that there is nothing to worry about when mixing and matching the container image userspace and host operating system. This post intends to give a realistic explanation on the limits of compatibility with container images, and demonstrate why bring your own images (BYI) isn’t a workable enterprise solution..

    • Unlocking new levels of operational efficiency in financial services

      The financial services industry is changing. While the fundamental principles that the industry is built on remain the same—such as trust, value and customer service—the way financial organizations deliver on these values is far different from what it once was. We are now in an always-on, ever-connected world where banking customers expect to have access to accounts, information and services whenever and wherever they want, and the way organizations handle these operations can make or break the overall customer experience – and the bottom line.

      Financial services institutions need to find a balance between driving new innovations and keeping costs in check—all while meeting regulatory requirements. This culture of real-time engagement and access to information is leading organizations to not only reexamine business operational processes but also to think critically about the capabilities their core back-end banking systems provide, making changes and modernizing systems to keep pace.

    • Multi-architecture OpenShift containers

      Following the initial release of RHEL8-based OpenJDK OpenShift container images, we have now pushed PPC64LE and Aarch64 architecture variants to the Red Hat Container Registry. This is the first time I’ve pushed Aarch64 images in particular, and I’m excited to work on Aarch64-related issues, should any crop up!

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • KUnit and Assertions

      KUnit has been seeing a lot of use and development recently. It’s the kernel’s new unit test system, introduced late last year by Brendan Higgins. Its goal is to enable maintainers and other developers to test discrete portions of kernel code in a reliable and reproducible way. This is distinct from various forms of testing that rely on the behavior of the system as a whole and, thus, do not necessarily always produce identical results.

      Lately, Brendan has submitted patches to make KUnit work conveniently with “assertions”. Assertions are like conditionals, but they’re used in situations where only one possible condition should be true. It shouldn’t be possible for an assertion to be false. And so if it is, the assertion triggers some kind of handler that the developer then uses to help debug the reasons behind the failure.

      Unit tests and assertions are to some extent in opposition to each other—a unit test could trigger an assertion when the intention was to exercise the code being tested. Likewise, if a unit test does trigger an assertion, it could mean that the underlying assumptions made by the unit test can’t be relied on, and so the test itself may not be valid.

      In light of this, Brendan submitted code for KUnit to be able to break out of a given test, if it triggered an assertion. The idea behind this was that the assertion rendered the test invalid, and KUnit should waste no time, but proceed to the next test in the queue.

    • Supporting the UFS turbo-write mode.
    • Filesystems for zoned block devices.
    • Filesystems and crash resistance.
    • Asynchronous fsync().
    • Lazy file reflink.
    • Transparent huge pages for filesystems.
    • The rest of the 5.2 merge window

      By the time Linus Torvalds released the 5.2-rc1 kernel prepatch and closed the merge window for this development cycle, 12,064 non-merge changesets had been pulled into the mainline repository — about 3,700 since our summary of the first “half” was written. Thus, as predicted, the rate of change did slow during the latter part of the merge window. That does not mean that no significant changes have been merged, though; read on for a summary of what else has been merged for 5.2.

    • Telling the scheduler about thermal pressure

      Even with radiators and fans, a system’s CPUs can overheat. When that happens, the kernel’s thermal governor will cap the maximum frequency of that CPU to allow it to cool. The scheduler, however, is not aware that the CPU’s capacity has changed; it may schedule more work than optimal in the current conditions, leading to a performance degradation. Recently, Thara Gopinath did some research and posted a patch set to address this problem. The solution adds an interface to inform the scheduler about thermal events so that it can assign tasks better and thus improve the overall system performance.

      The thermal framework in Linux includes a number of elements, including the thermal governor. Its task is to manage the temperature of the system’s thermal zones, keeping it within an acceptable range while maintaining good performance (an overview of the thermal framework can be found in this slide set [PDF]). There are a number of thermal governors that can be found in the drivers/thermal/ subdirectory of the kernel tree. If the CPU overheats, the governor may cap the maximum frequency of that CPU, meaning that the processing capacity of the CPU gets reduced too.

      The CPU capacity in the scheduler is a value representing the ability of a specific CPU to process tasks (interested readers can find more information in this article). The capacities of the CPUs in a system may vary, especially on architectures like big.LITTLE. The scheduler knows (at least it assumes it knows) how much work can be done on each CPU; it uses that information to balance the task load across the system. If the information the scheduler has on what a given CPU can do is inaccurate because of thermal events (or any other frequency capping), it is likely to put too much work onto that CPU.

      Gopinath introduces a term that is useful when talking about this kind of event: “thermal pressure”, which is the difference between the maximum processing capacity of a CPU and the currently available capacity, which may be reduced by overheating events. Gopinath explained in the patch set cover letter that the raw thermal pressure is hard to observe and that there is a delay between the capping of the frequency and the scheduler taking it into account. Because of this, the proposal is to use a weighted average over time, where the weight corresponds to the amount of time the maximum frequency was capped.

    • Linux Foundation

    • Graphics Stack

      • AMD’s Initial Graphics Updates For Linux 5.3 Include PowerPlay Improvements, HMM Usage

        While the Linux 5.2 kernel won’t see its debut until July followed by the opening of the Linux 5.3 kernel cycle, the AMD developers sent in today their initial set of staged changes to DRM-Next for queuing their preliminary AMDGPU/AMDKFD driver changes they want to get into this next kernel cycle. There are some notable additions but what we are expecting/hoping for and haven’t seen yet is the Navi support.

        For the past month we’ve been seeing the AMD Navi / GFX1010 bits trickle into their LLVM shader compiler back-end but surprisingly no AMDGPU kernel driver patches nor Mesa driver work to this point. But perhaps now that the Radeon RX 5700 series was announced as part of their new “RDNA” architecture branding, perhaps the drop is right around the corner. But it simply isn’t ready today for this initial pull request to this staging area of the Direct Rendering Manager drivers.

      • Mesa 19.1-RC4 Released With More RadeonSI, Lima, Vulkan Fixes

        Mesa 19.1 was due to be released by now but instead it’s been another cycle been drawn out by blocker bugs delaying the final release. Instead, Mesa 19.1-RC4 was outed today as an extra release candidate.

        Mesa 19.1 is still plagued by two regressions pertaining to an OpenGL Piglit EGL regressions and an OpenGL CTS failure. Both regressions have been bisected but yet to be resolved and thus 19.1.0 is being dragged out by at least another week.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Streamlined Onboarding – How far has KDE come?

        The KDE mothership has been sailing towards the “Streamlined Onboarding” land for almost 2 years now. It has been a long trip, with its ups and downs, hurdles and joys.

        Set sail

        When I first proposed the idea for this goal, the destination felt being so far ahead, if ever reachable. I could have not have imagined that it would be voted in by the community, adopted and worked on collectively. It was a trip that the KDE community decided to take together.

        At times I was wondering: Where do we begin? Do we have enough people onboard? Where should we be heading next? Are we moving toward the right direction? Are we moving at all?

      • Assistants — copy, share, assignment

        Over the last week I have been investigating into Bug 361012, on the undo history of the modification of guides. But from the very beginning I mixed up the two terms “guides” and “assistants,” so I decided to work on both. The work with guides is a lot simpler and will not be covered here, though.

        As I write this post, the master branch of Krita does not create any undo commands for the document. I first added undo commands for adding and removing assistants, which seems the easiest. The editing of them is a bit more difficult, as the dragging operations involve the movement of many “handles,” the movable round buttons that define the position of one or more assistants. The source code on master for implementing such actions is quite complicated and involves a great number of cases. It would be another great endeavour to put all these bunches of code into a KUndo2Command. But, another thing I have experimented with and I will be working on will immediately clear the clouds.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • 5 best Gnome-based Linux distributions to check out

        Gnome (AKA Gnome 3 or Gnome Shell) is the third iteration of the Gnome desktop environment. Its user-interface is split into a panel at the top, and a favorites dock on the left. Gnome is currently the most popular Linux desktop environment, and most major Linux distributions ship with it as the primary user-interface.

        In the Linux world, many people are using Gnome as it is modern, and often the default choice. Even though it remains the most popular desktop on Linux, some Linux OSes do Gnome better than others. So, here are the 5 best Gnome-based Linux OSes to check out!

  • Distributions

    • Antergos Linux project has been discontinued

      The beloved Linux distribution, Antergos, has been discontinued by its principal developers. Antergos Linux is based on Arch Linux and often described as the version of Arch that is easier to install.

      For most users who wanted a taste of Arch, without much difficulty (of course there would be some), they were always met with Antergos as their choice. Unfortunately, this excellent distribution has run its course now.

    • Scientific Linux and Antergos are shutting down: It’s time for Linux Mint to go [Ed: The anti-GNU/Linux sites of CBS (this one is CBS through ZDNet) keep trolling Linux Mint by suggesting it shuts down]

      Cinnamon, the popular desktop environment featured in Linux Mint, makes more sense as a distribution-agnostic package.

    • New Releases

      • After 14 Years, Open Source Partition Editor GParted Finally Hits v1.0

        If you’ve used Linux there’s a good chance you’ve come across GParted, a popular open-source partition editor — and this week the utility reached a major milestone.

        Having spent the past 14 years releasing 0.x builds (the previous stable release was version 0.33.0-2) graphical partition manager GParted has finally hit the major version 1.0.0 milestone.

        But if you’re expecting a radical set of changes to accompany the radical leap in version number then …Well, you might be disappointed.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • openSUSE considers governance options

        The relationship between SUSE and the openSUSE community is currently under discussion as the community considers different options for how it wants to be organized and governed in the future. Among the options under consideration is the possibility of openSUSE setting up an entirely independent foundation, as it seeks greater autonomy and control over its own future and operations.

        The concerns that have led to the discussions have been ongoing for several months and were highlighted in an openSUSE board meeting held on April 2 and in a followup meeting on April 16. The issue is also set to be a primary topic of discussion at the board meeting to be held during the upcoming openSUSE conference 2019. SUSE itself has been in a state of transition, recently spinning out from MicroFocus to become an independent company with the backing of private equity from EQT. Both openSUSE board chair Richard Brown and SUSE leadership have publicly reiterated that SUSE remains committed to openSUSE. The concerns however have to do with the ability of openSUSE to be able to operate in a sustainable way without being entirely beholden to SUSE.

      • Oracle Database 19c is Available on SUSE Linux Enterprise

        While attending Oracle OpenWorld late last year, I was able to hear firsthand from Oracle Product Management about the new features in Oracle Database 19c. At that time, this release was in beta. Thanks to combined efforts from Oracle and SUSE engineering, I am pleased to report that Oracle Database 19c is certified on SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 12. This brings a wide range of enhancements covering application development, availability, big data / data warehousing, diagnostics capabilities, performance, RAC (Real Application Clusters) / Grid, and security to Oracle customers using SLES.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 31 Considers Compressing Their RPM Packages With Zstd Rather Than XZ

        Fedora has been using XZ-compressed RPMs for the past decade but with the Fedora 31 release due out later this year they are currently evaluating a switch over to Zstd compression.

        The switch from XZ to Zstd compression for Fedora RPMs is currently being considered in the name of greater decompression performance. Tests done by Red Hat engineers show this would pay off big time in much faster decompression speeds — around a third of the time it takes to decompress XZ’ed RPMs currently either to Tmpfs or an actual on-disk file-system. If going for the Zstd Level 19 compression level that’s being considered, it would also offer a much better compression ratio. At present, Fedora’s XZ-compressed RPMs are done at level two.

      • Flatpak 1.4.0 Released, It’s New Stable Series

        Flatpak is a system for building, distributing, and running sandboxed desktop applications on Linux.

        It’s distribution independent package format and the main contributor is Fedora project team. The Flatpak framework is adopted by most of the major Linux distributions.

        It provides a sandbox (isolated) environment to run the app and it doesn’t impact either other apps and distribution core packages.

      • Firefox & Wayland HiDPI screens

        When comes to HiDPI screens and resolutions Firefox has always had some technical debts there. Wayland slightly improved it but we still miss clean user experience.

        We tried hard to improve it and the last piece – hi-res widget rendering – landed in upcoming Firefox 68 (recently Beta). That means Firefox should be fully compatible with HiDPI screens and you shouldn’t see any glitches there.

      • Announcing Alberto Rodríguez Sánchez as next CommOps team lead

        The CommOps team is happy to announce Alberto Rodríguez Sánchez (bt0dotninja) as the next CommOps team lead. Alberto contributes to the CommOps team since July 2016 as a leading member. Starting in the Fedora 30 release cycle, he will succeed leadership from Justin W. Flory.

        Fedora CommOps started in 2015 from a vision. The vision was to enable a new kind of contributor: contributors who worked within Fedora to support sustainable community management practices among other teams of Fedora contributors.

      • Plymouth Adds New Firmware Upgrade Mode For Better Fwupd Integration

        Plymouth, the Linux graphical boot splash screen system/interface used by most Linux distributions out there, now has a “firmware upgrade mode” for offering a tighter level of integration with Fwupd when performing system BIOS/firmware updates.

        The firmware upgrade mode for Plymouth was written by Fwupd/LVFS lead developer Richard Hughes. Richard is employed by Red Hat along with the Plymouth and Fwupd development all being started by and driven by Red Hat developers. This firmware upgrade mode allows for providing localized text string translations for during the firmware update process and also for displaying the vendor BIOS logo (on supported systems) during the firmware update process.

    • Debian Family

      • Debian Policy call for participation — May 2019

        There has been very little activity in recent weeks (preparing the Debian buster release is more urgent than the Policy Manual for most contributors), so the list of bugs I posted in February is still valid.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Dell’s Precision 5540/7540/7740 Now Shipping With Ubuntu Linux

            At the start of May Dell announced an Ubuntu Linux option for their entry-level ~$700 Precision laptop while now they are closing out May by offering up Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on their higher-tier Precision laptop models.

          • Dell Launches Three New Dell Precision Laptops Powered by Ubuntu Linux

            Dell announced today three new Dell Precision mobile workstation Developer Edition models shipping with the Ubuntu Linux operating system.

            Meet the Dell Precision 5540, Dell Precision 7540, and Dell Precision 7740, the latest Ubuntu-based Dell Precision laptops promising a powerful computing boost over previous models, namely Dell Precision 3530, 5530, 7530, and 7730, which were introduced at the end of 2018.

            “Today we are announcing the Precision 5540, Precision 7540 and Precision 7740. If mobile power is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. And if AI is your need, the Precision 7540 and 7740 might just be what you’ve been looking for,” said Dell’s Barton George in his latest blog post.

          • Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing the Dell Precision 5540, 7540 and 7540 developer editions

            Earlier this month we introduced the entry-point system in Dell’s next generation of Ubuntu-based Precision mobile workstations.

            Today we are announcing the rest of the line: the Precision 5540, Precision 7540 and Precision 7740. If mobile power is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. And if AI is your need, the Precision 7540 and 7740 might just be what you’ve been looking for.

          • Dell Announces More Ubuntu-Based Precision Developer Edition Laptops, Mozilla’s Alan Davidson Testifies on Internet Privacy, Canonical Announces the Release of Multipass 0.7.0 Beta, GParted Reaches 1.0 Milestone and New HiddenWasp Malware

            Dell announces its Precision 5540, Precision 7540 and Precision 7740 developer edition laptops, the next in the line of Dell’s Ubuntu-based Precision mobile workstations. From the announcement: “What started 5+ years ago as a blog post explaining how to get Ubuntu up and running on the Precision M3800 soon became a line of mobile workstations. With today’s announcement, project Sputnik’s Ubuntu-based mobile workstation line is now in its 4th generation. What’s next for project Sputnik? Stay tuned…” See the announcement for specs and further details.

            Mozilla’s Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security, testified yesterday before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy. Alan’s testimony focused “on the need for better product design to protect privacy; getting privacy policy and regulation right; and the complexities of content policy issues. Against the backdrop of tech’s numerous missteps over the last year, our mission-driven work is a clear alternative to much of what is wrong with the web today.” See the Mozilla blog for more details, or read Alan’s statement here.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • What To Do After Installing Kubuntu 19.04

              Here’s once again traditional article to help new users use Kubuntu 19.04 for their first time. This article suggests you some stuffs after you have installed Kubuntu successfully. I divided the materials into 3 parts, about file manager, System Settings, and workspace. You will find here quick guides to setup Dolphin as you wish, create new shortcut keys, and rearrange desktop to your needs, and more. In the end, I added short workaround to lock your folders safely using Kubuntu built-in Plasma Vault. Have fun with Kubuntu.


              Do you know you can lock folders with password on Kubuntu? See a Lock icon on system tray? That’s Plasma Vault for you. The system is simple: create a new Vault folder > place files and folders you want to lock in there > lock it > now everything you put in there is locked and hidden unless you enter the Vault password.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source Initiative Announces New Partnership with Software Liberty Association Taiwan

    The Open Source Initiative ® (OSI), the global organization working to promote and protect open source, is excited to announce the Affiliate Membership of the Software Liberty Association Taiwan (SLAT). Founded in 2001, SLAT is Taiwan’s first legal entity dedicated to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), supporting both the development and user communities. As an active community of advocates and technologists, SLAT both drives initiatives, and partners with existing projects, to promote FOSS, including the Open Source Software Application Consulting Center—a program fostering FOSS in Taiwan’s schools.

    Critical to both the OSI’s and open source projects’ success is, as stated in the OSI mission, “building bridges between communities.” Both the OSI and SLAT believe those organizations serving Free and Open Source Software communities should seek out ways to support each other—SLAT’s Affiliate Membership is an excellent example of such collaboration.

    “We’re thrilled to have SLAT join us in our work to advance Open Source Software and foster open source development,” said Patrick Masson, OSI General Manager. ”SLAT is already doing amazing work throughout Asia, and I hope we can compliment their efforts, and even help expand their good work through other OSI Affiliates. Open Source Software is a world-wide phenomena, so the OSI must commit to working globally.”

  • Events

    • SUSECON Wrap-up: SUSE Cloud Application Platform

      Now that SUSECON 2019 has wrapped up, I wanted to share all the information and articles related to SUSE Cloud Application Platform in one place. SUSECON was a really interesting conference, obviously focused on SUSE products and services, but also attended by partners, press, analysts, and customers. It was great to have so many substantive conversations with them. Many SUSE employees work remotely or are distributed at various offices around the world, so it was also great to meet so many colleagues in person for the first time.

      The big news from SUSECON, from my biased point of view, was the announcement of SUSE Cloud Application Platform 1.4, the first Cloud Foundry software distribution to include Project Eirini and enable native Kubernetes container scheduling as an option, in addition to adding support for Google Kubernetes Engine and several other useful features and updates.

    • Flisol 2019 San Cristóbal

      On April 27, 2019, the Latin American Free Software Installation Festival (Flisol) was held in the city of San Cristóbal, Táchira state, Venezuela, the Flisol is an event that takes place simultaneously in many cities of Latin America and Spain, is the largest installation event in the world and is often complemented by talks and workshops.

      In Venezuela at the moment we have had enough problems to be able to organize an event of this type, for which we did not know if we could really do it, everything was decided and things happened a few days before, practically 2 days before we got the headquarters, i’m very happy because we were able to do it in a primary school, the Carlos Rangel Lamus, where his teachers gave us all the support we could need despite the limitations and for that I am deeply grateful, in addition they have two computer labs with GNU / Linux and the doors were open for other events.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Chrome & Noscript – It’s finally here

        I both like and dislike this development. Being part of an exclusive club felt … well, exclusive. Now that Chrome users also get Noscript, I fear Firefox could become even less relevant than it used to be. WebExtensions didn’t help it grow, they just gave skeptics an easy way out. And we actually need a strong Firefox, because otherwise, the future of the Web won’t be that marvelous. Remember 2003? On the other hand, with proposed changes in Chrome adblocking, there’s almost cosmic balance in the browser scene. Still, remember 2003?

        Philosophy aside, Noscript for Chrome works as intended – fast, lean, simple to use and configure, and it sanitizes the pages from so much nonsense you can’t believe what the modern Internet is like until you get to see the difference. You also benefit from some extra security and privacy too. All in all, a good day for Chrome users. But is this a cataclysmic turning point for the wider Web? Maybe. Maybe not so dramatic. Then again, this also gives us fearful Firefox users some hope. If Firefox ever disappears, we will still be able to use Chrome in a more controlled way. I wouldn’t want the first eventuality to happen, but if it does, having extra options is always good. We shall see what happens.

  • Programming/Development

    • A short primer on assemblers, compilers, and interpreters

      In the early days of computing, hardware was expensive and programmers were cheap. In fact, programmers were so cheap they weren’t even called “programmers” and were in fact usually mathematicians or electrical engineers. Early computers were used to solve complex mathematical problems quickly, so mathematicians were a natural fit for the job of “programming.”

    • Creating a Source-to-Image build pipeline in OKD
    • PHP7 – Fix incompatibility errors like: Parse error: syntax error, unexpected new (T_NEW) in file.php on line…
    • Open-Source Compiler Support Starts Riding Down For Intel’s Sapphire Rapids

      Intel’s Sapphire Rapids is the Icelake successor not looking to be released until 2021 but thankfully the open-source compiler support is already seeing initial work on enabling the new instruction set extensions.

      This week the first new instruction set additions have landed into both the GCC and LLVM compilers for bits being introduced with Sapphire Rapids. The main addition is ENQCMD, an instruction disclosed by this month’s architecture instruction set extensions programming reference guide.

    • 2018 in review!

      The Python Ambassador program helps further the PSF’s mission with the help of local Pythonistas. The goal is to perform local outreach and introduce Python to areas where it may not exist yet. In March 2018, the board approved expanding our Python Ambassador program to include East Africa. Kato Joshua and the Afrodjango Initiative have been doing great outreach in universities in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.

      In a general overview, $324,000 was paid in grants last year to recipients in 51 different countries. We awarded $59,804 more in grants in 2018 than 2017. That’s a 22.6% increase for global community support.

    • Community-driven open source and funded development

      If you talk to someone about supporting an open source project, in particular a well-known one that they rely on (e.g. NumPy, Jupyter, Pandas), they’re often willing to listen and help. What you quickly learn though is that they want to know in some detail what will be done with the funds provided. This is true not only for companies, but also for individuals. In addition, companies will likely want a written agreement and some form of reporting about the progress of the work. To meet this need we came up with community work orders (CWOs) – agreements that outline what work will be done on a project (implementing new features, release management, improving documentation, etc.) and outlining a reporting mechanism. What makes a CWO different from a consulting contract?


      A few years ago the number of projects in the PyData ecosystem that had a roadmap was at or very close to zero. That’s slowly starting to change. At last years’ NumFOCUS Summit, Brian Granger and I led a session on roadmaps, to share experiences and best practices in writing roadmaps. In preparation for that session I surveyed the roadmaps of all NumFOCUS projects. About half the projects had a roadmap, and of those roadmap again about half was outdated or very incomplete. So eight months ago only 25% of projects had a good roadmap, today it’s probably a little higher. That’s not a lot if we want to find roadmap items as conversation starters for all projects we’re interested in. Luckily we can talk to project maintainers and get a few big ticket items from them (in most cases) that we can use instead.

      Here’s the idea: we look at a project roadmap, take a couple of ideas that we think are most likely to be of interest to a company, put those on a brochure, and let our sales team take it from there to use (to support a conversation, generate some initial interest, provide an overview of the breadth of our interests and capabilities at Quansight Labs, etc.). Here’s what that currently looks like:

    • Oracle Is Aiming To Contribute An eBPF Backend To The GCC 10 Compiler

      While Oracle has control of DTrace following their acquisition of Sun Microsystems, it turns out Oracle developers are quite interested in adding eBPF support to the GNU toolchain with GCC support as an alternative to the LLVM-focused path currently relied upon for targeting this in-kernel Linux virtual machine.

      Last week I wrote about GNU Binutils seeing eBPF support for this modern and increasingly popular VM solution within the Linux kernel. That’s not all Oracle is looking to contribute on the eBPF front but is also working on a GCC compiler back-end.

    • Pivotal adds OpenJDK support to Spring in response to ‘concerns’ around Oracle’s Java

      Pivotal, developer of the open-source Spring Framework for Java, has confirmed official support for OpenJDK to address “questions in the community” about changes to the way Oracle Java SE is distributed and supported.

      “Many companies and enterprises are scrambling trying to understand their options around support of their application investments,” said Ryan Morgan, Pivotal’s veep of enineering for the Application Platform group.

      The Spring Framework, originally developed in 2002 by Rod Johnson as a lightweight alternative to Enterprise JavaBeans (server-side Java components), remains popular for business applications, more than 15 years after its 1.0 release in March 2004. Johnson’s company SpringSource was acquired by VMware in 2009 and the business moved to Pivotal Software when the outfit was formed by VMware and EMC in 2012.

    • No2Pads, a simple Notepad clone
    • First steps with Qt Creator
    • Test and Code: 76: TDD: Don’t be afraid of Test-Driven Development – Chris May
    • Powering up python as a data analysis platform
    • Angular 8 Tutorial: Learn Angular 8 from Scratch
    • Speeding up Python code using multithreading
    • Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Search

      Search is a deceptively complex field, where competence is hard-won through training, practice, and experience. The list stands at a total of 105 falsehoods. I couldn’t mash up the ole 99-problems meme with this to cull 6 unworthy items, because they are all worthy. I will leave you with that brief introduction and, of course, the list: [...]

    • Accessing UNIX sockets remotely from .NET
    • Use two-factor auth to improve your PyPI account’s security
    • Python For Loops: A Tutorial


  • Science

    • Print book reading is surging, just not in research libraries

      I’m torn here. I love the idea of long-term preservation of books (the Internet Archive is trying to amass every book ever published, scanning them and then preserving them in giant, climate controlled warehouses), it’s also clear that the use-case for research is very different from other forms of reading, and libraries have finite resources that should be oriented around serving their patrons needs — and what the patrons demonstrate a need for is very different from what they demand.

    • The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper

      Little-noticed in this minor skirmish over the future of the library was a much bigger story about the changing relationship between college students and books. Buried in a slide deck about circulation statistics from Yale’s library was an unsettling fact: There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

    • Trump Administration and EPA Anti-Science Work Will Cost Lives

      It’s a wonder how the Trump Administration and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler can get anything done, what with their heads buried so far in the sand. But unfortunately, the work they’re doing to ignore science and public health will cost lives. Recently the New York Times revealed that Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, plans to abandon peer-reviewed science about the damage air pollution does to our health, in order to try and sell the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is the EPA program to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

      The EPA previously estimated that Trump and Wheeler’s “Dirty Power Plan” (what we’re calling their move to roll back the CPP) will contribute to the deaths of as many as 1,400 Americans annually. Wheeler will reportedly have the EPA ignore comprehensive scientific assessments of the dangerous health impacts of air pollution in order to artificially reduce the Dirty Power Plan’s death count on paper, even while the victims of his rule will still face life-threatening effects from air pollution like asthma, heart attacks, and strokes.

      I suppose this horrifying move shouldn’t surprise us—Wheeler and the Trump Administration continue making move after move that favors their fossil fuel buddies over the health and safety of our families, our communities, and our air and water.

      The same deadly, “fuzzy” math they’re using to ignore the deaths from rolling back the CPP is similar to what they’re doing in their attempt to roll back the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). These standards, which EPA finalized in 2012, drastically curtailed the emission of dangerous toxic pollution that poisons wildlife, contaminates seafood, and threatens the health of pregnant women and young children.

      But we cannot ignore what Wheeler and the Trump administration are doing—we must let the shock continue to motivate us to take action. This repugnant attempt to swindle the public will not go unnoticed by the people whose lives and health Wheeler is jeopardizing.

  • Hardware

    • PCI Express 5.0 Announced With 32GT/s Transfer Rates

      While right now PCI Express 4.0 is only really found in Raptor’s Blackbird and Talos II systems or coming up with AMD X570 systems, the PCI SIG today announced PCI Express 5.0.

    • PCI Express 5.0 Released: Promises Up To 128GB/s Transfer Speed

      The PCI Special Interest Group has announced the next version of the popular I/O interface for connecting peripherals to computers. The latest version almost doubles on the speeds provided by PCIe 4.0.

      According to a blog post, PCIe 5.0 can deliver a raw data rate of around 32GT/s (gigatransfers per second). This translates to roughly 128GB/s transfer speeds over 16-lane (x16) configuration. In comparison, PCIe 4.0 over x16 provides a total of 16T/s or 64GB/s.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Amazon pulled a dozen books promoting toxic ‘MMS’ bleach as a cure for autism — but it had been warned months ago

      The mixture in reality creates chlorine dioxide, a form of industrial bleach. The US Food and Drug Administration warns that MMS has no medical benefits, and causes nausea, severe dehydration and vomiting if ingested in large doses.

    • World Health Organization classifies ‘gaming disorder’ as an illness

      WHO added gaming disorder to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This refers to gaming disorder as a kind of addiction, or “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline.

      It is manifested by “impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”

    • ‘Gaming disorder’ officially on World Health Organization’s list of diseases

      “Gaming disorder” is listed after “gambling disorder” in ICD-11 and uses that disorder’s language almost word-for-word, replacing “gambling” with “gaming.” Gambling disorder was formerly “pathological gambling” in ICD-10, which the WHO ratified in 1990. The text of ICD-11 was finalized a year ago; today’s action, at the 72nd World Health Assembly, was its formal adopting. The revision takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.

      The International Classification of Diseases is a system for classifying diseases and disorders for purposes of epidemiological research, health care management and billing, and clinical treatment. It has a chapter set aside for “mental, behavioral or neurodevelopmental disorders,” where gaming disorder is listed.

    • US Abortion Rights Activists Can Draw Inspiration From Ireland

      A year ago, I stood in the street in Dublin with friends, awaiting the first exit polls of the Irish abortion referendum. The tension of the past weeks was peaking as we approached the final hours of the vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution and overturn the ban on abortion. Many of the activists and campaigners I had met over the previous days hoped to edge by with a narrow margin. As the sunny day came to a close and the first polls trickled out, we looked at our phones in disbelief.

      The first polls showed a shock victory for Together for Yes, with 66 percent of voters in favor of repealing the amendment — coincidentally the same margin by which the amendment was adopted in 1983. It was a larger majority than in Ireland’s major referendums on divorce in 1995 (50 percent) and gay marriage in 2015 (62 percent). Most significantly, the vote drew a broad base of support across demographic divisions.

      The next day, what we thought would be a nerve-wracking day spent counting ballots to the last vote instead turned to a jubilant celebration in the courtyard at Dublin Castle. While cheering on the campaigners and politicians who ushered through the referendum with the rest of the crowd, I thought about the U.S. with unease. Though right-wing groups and Republicans have steadily chipped away at reproductive health care for decades, they found a new champion with Donald Trump, who had called for women to be punished for abortion during his campaign. With his administration already targeting transgender protections, I couldn’t believe I had witnessed Ireland cast off the last shackles of its repressive Catholic regime only to watch the war on reproductive rights gear up in earnest in the U.S.

    • What The Possible End Of Abortions In Missouri Means For Neighboring States

      As the last abortion clinic in Missouri warned that it will have to stop providing the procedure as soon as Friday, abortion providers in surrounding states said they are anticipating an uptick of even more Missouri patients.

      At Hope Clinic in Granite City, Ill., just 10 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Deputy Director Alison Dreith said Tuesday her clinic was preparing for more patients as news about Missouri spread.

      “We’re really scrambling today about the need for increased staff and how fast can we hire and train,” Dreith said.

      And at a Trust Women clinic in Wichita, Kan., that already has to fly in doctors, the staff didn’t know what it would mean for their overloaded patient schedule.

      “God forbid we see that people can’t get services in Missouri,” said Julie Burkhart, Trust Women founder and CEO. “What is that going to mean on our limited physician days?”

    • ‘Democrats Against Medicare for All Make Me Sick’: Steny Hoyer First Target of National Emergency Ambulance Tour

      To underscore the life-or-death urgency of passing Medicare for All, Our Revolution members plan to drive an ambulance to the home offices of House Democrats who have yet to sign on to Jayapal’s Medicare for All Act of 2019.

      The nationwide tour kicked off Thursday in the Maryland district of House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a long-time opponent of single-payer.

      “Each day House Democrats fail to lead, lives are lost,” Joseph Geevarghese, national director of Our Revolution, said in a statement. “It is morally unacceptable for the Democratic House majority to stand by and do nothing as Americans needlessly die and families fall into despair.”

      “The truth is Medicare for All is a progressive litmus test—either you’re on the side of the sick and the suffering or you’re with corporate healthcare CEOs,” said Geevarghese.

    • In Landmark Opioid Trial, Oklahoma Accuses Johnson & Johnson of Being Drug “Kingpin” Fueled by Greed

      For the first time, a pharmaceutical company is on trial for its role in the opioid crisis in Oklahoma this week. Johnson & Johnson—the corporate giant better known for its baby products—produces a fentanyl patch and previously also manufactured an opioid pill. In opening statements Tuesday, lawyers made a sweeping case against the company, accusing it of driving demand for opioids while the drug ravaged Oklahoma. The state says Johnson & Johnson targeted children and veterans to sell opioids. In court filings, Attorney General Mike Hunter likened Johnson & Johnson to a “kingpin” that has been targeting an unsuspecting public since the 1990s. Purdue Pharma settled with Oklahoma in March for $270 million, and Teva Pharmaceuticals reached an $85 million settlement deal Sunday, just ahead of the landmark trial. This leaves Johnson & Johnson as the only defendant in the first civil trial of its kind. The trial is expected to last two months, and will set the stage for the nearly 1,900 federal and state lawsuits targeting drug makers and distributors pending around the country. We speak with Jan Hoffman, a reporter for The New York Times who is covering the landmark opioid trial in Oklahoma.

    • McConnell’s Tobacco 21 Bill Exposes States to Big Tobacco’s Wishlist

      Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced a so-called Tobacco 21 bill to raise the federal minimum age for buying tobacco products, including vaping products, from 18 to 21. The legislation does not include preemption of state regulations or other industry-friendly measures, but it requires states to take follow-up actions that could give the tobacco industry a chance to flex its lobbying muscle and enact its regulatory wishes in states across the country.

      Tucked into the bill is an update to a 1992 law, the Synar Amendment, that requires states to enact and enforce their own laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to people under the age of 18. The McConnell bill, which is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, would raise that age limit to 21, forcing states to update their laws in order to remain in compliance. If states are not in compliance with the Synar requirement, they could lose federal funds available through the Department of Health and Human Service’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant awards.

      A critic of the bill is fellow Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who introduced his own bipartisan bill that’s similar to McConnell’s but does not require states to pass their own Tobacco 21 legislation.

    • WHO’s Recognition of Traditional Chinese Medicine Has Conservation Groups Concerned

      The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the inclusion of traditional Chinese medicine in the revision of its influential International Classification of Diseases for the first time on May 25, touching off worries that the move could drive up demand for body parts of wild animals.

      “As the world’s leading global public health organisation, the WHO should be well aware that human health is highly dependent on the vitality of animal populations in the wild and the ecosystems they support,” Fred Launay, the president and CEO of the global wild cat conservation organization Panthera, said in a statement. “Condemning traditional Chinese medicine utilising wild animal parts is a common sense, win-win move for the wellbeing of people and wild animals alike.”

  • Security

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • What I Learned Trying To Secure Congressional Campaigns

      This soul-crushing telethon is the principal activity of a Congressional campaign. Getting in its way is like getting between a mama bear and her cub. You are just going to find yourself clawed to death by a frantic finance director. Whatever you do to secure a campaign must not be an obstacle to fundraising.

    • Malicious JavaScript injected into WordPress sites using the latest plugin vulnerability

      A stored cross-site script vulnerability was discovered last week in the popular WordPress Live Chat Support plugin. The vulnerability allows an unauthenticated attacker to update the plugin settings by calling an unprotected “admin_init hook” and injecting malicious JavaScript code everywhere on the site where Live Chat Support appears. All versions of this plugin prior to version 8.0.27 are vulnerable. The patched version for this vulnerability was released on May 16, 2019, and has been fixed for version 8.0.27 and higher.

      iThreatLabZ researchers recently discovered what may be the first campaign in which attackers are exploiting the Live Chat Support plugin vulnerability and injecting a malicious script that is responsible for malicious redirection, pushing unwanted pop-ups and fake subscriptions. While it is not yet seen as a widespread attack, the number of compromised websites is growing (at the end of this blog there is a link to the names of the compromised sites).

    • [Attackers] actively exploit WordPress plugin flaw to send visitors to bad sites [iophk: "JavaScript, again. Ars Technica should not downplay JavaScript's role in making sites vulnerable."]

      The vulnerability was fixed two weeks ago in WP Live Chat Support, a plugin for the WordPress content management system that has 50,000 active installations. The persistent cross-site scripting vulnerability allows attackers to inject malicious JavaScript into sites that use the plugin, which provides an interface for visitors to have live chats with site representatives.

      Researchers from security firm Zscaler’s ThreatLabZ say attackers are exploiting the vulnerability to cause sites using unpatched versions of WP Live Chat Support to redirect to malicious sites or to display unwanted popups. While the attacks aren’t widespread, there have been enough of them to raise concern.

    • Stephen Michael Kellat: The Coming Cyber War

      Facebook is a company based in the United States of America and that detail of location is key to this plot. Since the Internet has a global reach legislators from countries beyond the United States of America have wanted to question Mr. Zuckerberg himself. After ducking their calls, initially members of a committee from the UK House of Commons came across the ocean to grill Zuckerberg in Washington. Members of the Digital, Culture, Media, Sport Committee were investigating Russian interference in elections at the time. That testimony took place in February 2018. We can then fast forward to Zuckerberg facing multiple hearings before committees of the US House of Representatives and US Senate in April 2018. Again, members of those committees were asking questions concerning Russian interference. Similar questions were put to Zuckerberg in May 2018 by EU officials.

      After that point, pressures begin to build in our chronology. An “international grand committee” met in London in November 2018. According to reports by Canadian television network Global, there were representatives from nine nations at this meeting. The report indicated that Canada, Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Belgium, France, Latvia, and the United Kingdom all had legislators represented to question the head of Facebook. He did not personally attend but was represented by Richard Allan, a company vice president. The report also shows one of the first indications of discussing an international accord to regulate Facebook. That idea was put forward at the meeting by Canadian federal legislator Charlie Angus of the NDP, Canada’s socialist party.

    • Linux Fix Pending For Borked Hibernation After Disabling Hyper Threading

      If you have begun disabling Intel Hyper Threading on your systems over security concerns in light of MDS/Zombieload and other vulnerabilities making HT look increasingly unsafe, you may have noticed your system doesn’t resume properly after hibernation. Fortunately, a fix is on the way.

      More operating systems have been adding options or even on the BSD front considering a default around disabling Hyper Threading out of security concerns. On the Linux front HT/SMT is enabled by default but there is now the new convenient mitigations= option (granted also other ways to disable HT/SMT previously, now just bundled under the “mitigations” umbrella) and even with the case of openSUSE has added mitigations/HT options to their installer. If you’ve decided to disable Hyper Threading, it turns out resuming after hibernation would run into problems and likely just reboot the system rather than successfully resume.

    • New HiddenWasp malware found targeting Linux systems [Ed: CBS ZDNet says "New HiddenWasp malware found targeting Linux systems," but this isn't a Linux issue, it targets already-compromised systems. It's like blaming Adobe flaws on Windows.]
    • HiddenWasp: New Malware Targets Linux Machines To Control Them Remotely [Ed: This is not a "Linux" problem; it exploits things that merely run on GNU/Linux, like iTunes running on Windows.]

      nlike the Windows cybersecurity ecosystem, the threats concerning the Linux systems aren’t often discussed in much detail. The attacks either go undetected by the security mechanisms laid out by enterprises or they aren’t too severe to be reported widely by the security researchers.

    • A wave of malware add-ons hit the Mozilla Firefox Extensions Store

      If you browse the official Mozilla store for Firefox extensions, called Mozilla AMO, you may stumble upon extensions that have names of popular software products or extensions.

      Extensions like Adobe Flash Player or ublock Origin Pro are listed in the Mozilla AMO store currently. These have no users at the time of writing as they are brand new and they appear to have been created and uploaded by random users (Firefox user xyz).

    • We ain’t afraid of no ‘ghost user’: Infosec world tells GCHQ to GTFO over privacy-busting proposals

      Bruce Schneier, Richard Stallman and a host of western tech companies including Microsoft and WhatsApp are pushing back hard against GCHQ proposals that to add a “ghost user” to encrypted messaging services.

      The point of that “ghost user”, as we reported back in 2018 when this was first floated in its current form, is to apply “virtual crocodile clips” and enable surveillance by spies, police, NHS workers and any others from the long list of state organisations allowed to snoop on your day-to-day life.

      “Although the GCHQ officials claim that ‘you don’t even have to touch the encryption’ to implement their plan, the ‘ghost’ proposal would pose serious threats to cybersecurity and thereby also threaten fundamental human rights, including privacy and free expression,” said a letter (PDF, 9 pages, 300kB) signed by around 50 prominent individuals and organisations.

      Those signatories include the aformentioned luminaries and tech firms as well as Apple, the Tor Project, pro-freedom pressure and lobby groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Privacy International and more.

    • Detecting and preventing cybercrime while being compliant has never been more complicated

      Compliance protects your business continuity. as well as your clients’ data and personal information from potential attacks or breaches that might cause financial losses, risk your reputation, and lead the company to sanctions. In addition, compliance works for your competitive advantage, allowing you to offer data and data transfer security to your clients.

      During the International Conference on Cyber Crime and Legal Compliance, we will discuss sensitive issues for data protection security, as well as the biggest risks, norms, and regulations of the moment. We’ll also touch on the economic aspects of compliance, including how companies can and should prevent and protect themselves from data breaches, economic sanctions, cybercrime, and how to ensure legal compliance with national and international regulations.

    • Colossal 2.3 Billion Files Now Exposed Online

      There are now a eye watering 2.3 billion files exposed online, owing to the misconfiguration of commonly used file storage technologies. That’s according to digital risk specialist Digital Shadows – a sharp rise on the number it found last year.

      Ninety-eight million of those are in the UK: up from 64 million in 2018. The company described some of the misconfigurations as “inexcusable”. The files exposed included “everything” a hacker would need for identify theft, including passport scans and financial information, personal medical data including prescriptions and worse.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Navy Didn’t Take My Reporting Seriously

      Our reporting revealed that the Navy knew about safety issues on the helicopter and leadership problems in its squadrons, but was slow to do anything about them. We found that 132 people have died on the Navy and Marine versions of this helicopter in the past 35 years, despite it never being shot down in combat. The 53E is the deadliest aircraft in the military.

    • Americans Should Be Very Concerned About Bernie Sanders’ Record of Opposing Mass Murder

      Bernie Sanders has a problem. As mayor of Burlington back in the 1980s, he attacked the foreign policy of the Reagan administration in Latin America, and even briefly toured Nicaragua in support of its Sandinista government. He was reportedly present at a rally in Managua where protesters chanted anti-American slogans — which is deeply concerning, writes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait.

      Quite right. Americans of all political stripes should be very concerned about Sanders’ anti-mass murder record.

      Historical context is important here, as it reveals beyond question the saintly motives of Reagan’s foreign policy team. From 1936-1979, Nicaragua was benevolently ruled by the Somoza family, who were friendly to the U.S. and the Nicaraguan working class alike. Their government was not at all corrupt, and in no way did the Somozas accumulate a vast dragon hoard of wealth looted out of the country.

      But leftist forces, motivated by nothing more than spite, mounted a guerrilla insurgency in the mid-70s. They took up the mantle of Augusto Sandino, who unfortunately died after slipping on a banana peel during earnest peace talks with Anastasio Somoza García in 1934, who had offered free puppies and ice cream to all leftist factions. After years of hard fighting, these Sandinistas finally overthrew the government of Anastasio Somoza Debayle (son of the first Somoza) in 1979.

    • Troika Fever

      American foreign policy can be so retro, not to mention absurd. Despite being bogged down in more military interventions than it can reasonably handle, the Trump team recently picked a new fight — in Latin America. That’s right! Uncle Sam kicked off a sequel to the Cold War with some of our southern neighbors, while resuscitating the boogeyman of socialism. In the process, National Security Advisor John Bolton treated us all to a new phrase, no less laughable than Bush the younger’s 2002 “axis of evil” (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea). He labeled Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny.”

      Alliteration no less! The only problem is that the phrase ridiculously overestimates both the degree of collaboration among those three states and the dangers they pose to their hegemonic neighbor to the north. Bottom line: in no imaginable fashion do those little tin-pot tyrannies offer either an existential or even a serious threat to the United States. Evidently, however, the phrase was meant to conjure up enough ill will and fear to justify the Trump team’s desire for sweeping regime change in Latin America. Think of it as a micro-version of Cold War 2.0.

      Odds are that Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both unrepentant neocons, are the ones driving this Latin American Cold War reboot, even as, halfway across the planet, they’ve been pushing for war with Iran. Meanwhile, it’s increasingly clear that Donald Trump gets his own kick out of being a “war president” and the unique form of threat production that goes with it.

      Since it’s a recipe for disaster, strap yourself in for a bumpy ride. After all, the demonization of Latin American “socialists” and an ill-advised war in the Persian Gulf have already been part of our lived experience. Under the circumstances, remember your Karl Marx: history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

      And add this irony to the grim farce to come: you need only look to the Middle East to see a genuine all-American troika of tyranny. I’m thinking about the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the military junta in Egypt, and the colonizing state of Israel — all countries that eschew real democracy and are working together to rain chaos on an already unstable region.

    • Saudi Arabia Asks Nations to Respond to Iran With ‘Firmness’

      Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Muslim nations to confront with “all means of force and firmness” recent attacks in the Persian Gulf that U.S. and some Arab officials have blamed on Iran.

      Ibrahim al-Assaf made the comments at a preparatory meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, ahead of a trio of summits in the kingdom’s holy city of Mecca.

      Saudi Arabia hastily called for the meetings in response to the spike in tensions with its key rival, Iran. That King Salman could quickly bring regional leaders and heads of state to Mecca so rapidly reflects the kingdom’s weight in the region and its desire to project a unified position on Iran.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange Hospitalized

      This jarring revelation has been reported by a small handful of outlets, but only as an aside in relation to Sweden refusing Samuelson’s request for a postponement of a scheduled hearing regarding Assange’s detention en absentia for a preliminary investigation of rape allegations. The fact that the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder is so ill that he can’t converse lucidly is itself far more significant than the postponement refusal, yet headlines mentioning Samuelson’s statement focus on the Swedish case, de-emphasizing the startling news from his lawyer.

      As of this writing I’ve been able to find very few news outlets reporting on this at all, the most mainstream being a Reuters article with the very tame headline “Swedish court rejects delay of Assange hearing over ill-health: lawyer”.

      The Sydney Morning Herald also covered the story without even mentioning illness in headline, instead going with “Swedish court rejects effort to delay Assange hearing”. The much smaller alternative media outlet World Socialist Website has been the only outlet I’ve found so far which reports on Samuelson’s statement in anything resembling its proper scale, publishing a good article titled “Despite Assange’s ill-health, Swedish court rejects delay to hearing” a few hours ago.

    • Assange Indictments Hide the Context of War

      The U.S. government protects itself, not democracy. That’s what is most apparent about its 18-count indictment of Julian Assange, not to mention the ongoing imprisonment of Chelsea Manning, for the leaking and release of State Department and military documents and videos a decade ago.

      The current reporting on the indictment is mostly about Assange himself: his expulsion from the Ecuadoran embassy in London after he’d been holed up there for seven years; the sexual assault charges against him in Sweden; and, of course, his role as a “tool” of the Russians, along with his flip-flopping appeal to both the political left and right (depending on the nature of the controversy WikiLeaks is stirring up). What a story!

      Almost entirely missing is anything about the leaks themselves, except vague references to them, such as this comment by John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security: “This release made our adversaries stronger and more knowledgeable, and the United States less secure.”

      These words are remarkable bullshit and have resonance only to the extent that the actual leaked data is missing from the discussion, such as the infamous Apache helicopter video of 11 unarmed men (in U.S. military parlance, “insurgents”)—including a Reuters photographer and his driver—being shot and killed from above on a street in Baghdad, and two children being injured.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Biggest Surprises From ‘The Biggest Little Farm’

      Take a broken-down 200-acre property that has been transformed into an incredibly lush and diverse biodynamic farm over eight years and capture it all on film and you get The Biggest Little Farm. This documentary tells the story of two newbie farmers and their rescue dog as they leave Los Angeles behind to build a farm that will work in harmony with nature in Moorpark, California. John Chester, the Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker who directed the film, and Molly Chester, a private chef and blogger, discovered that nature isn’t easily harnessed when there are coyotes, gophers, snails, windstorms and wildfires to contend with. Here are some of the biggest reasons to go and see this film, which is at times heartbreaking, funny, achingly beautiful, charming and full of surprises.

    • ‘Gas Is a Loser and It’s Time to Move On’: Report Debunks Myth That Natural Gas Can Help Fight Climate Crisis

      “The mythology around gas being a ‘cleaner’ fossil fuel that can support the transition to clean energy goes back at least three decades,” reads the new Oil Change International (OCI) report, which will be unveiled at an event in Trenton, New Jersey, where local environmental activists are battling the expansion of climate-destroying fossil fuel infrastructure.

      “Oil and gas corporations have championed and invested in this myth as a way to delay the transition away from fossil fuels,” OCI’s report states.

    • Climate Denying Trump Administration Rebrands Fossil Fuels as “Freedom Gas”

      The sheer scale of the challenge that all of us face in fighting climate change is once again laid bare by the news that the top ten energy companies are planning to invest even more in fossils fuels and the Trump Administration is redoubling its assault against the climate. This assault by Trump’s cronies goes so far as to try and redefine fracked gas as “freedom gas”.

      According to Bloomberg, the top ten energy companies expect to spend $1 trillion by 2030 on “tapping new fields to equipment ranging from drones to drilling rigs.”

      But this is by no means a certainty. If the climate generation wins, though, significant amount of investors will lose a significant amount of money, just as OCI and others have warned about for years, with oil reserves becoming stranded assets. Trillions of dollars could become stranded assets in the next few decades.

      As Bloomberg reports “If governments make good on tough targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, consumption of carbon-based fuels will fall, and prices would soon follow” with much of the value of the oil and gas infrastructure “risks falling to zero.”

      Despite this, nonsensically and illogically, many people are still investing in oil and gas.

      Anna Howell, oil and gas partner at law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP told Bloomberg that “money continues to pour into the industry, and there are still plenty of deals.”

      “I don’t see that fund managers or companies are finding oil and gas investments difficult,” Howell says.

    • Trump’s DOE Rebrands Natural Gas as ‘Freedom Gas’

      The Trump administration has found a new way to boost the reputation of fossil fuels: associate them with the cherished American value of freedom!

      While announcing an increase in exports from a Texas liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) referred to the energy source as “freedom gas.”

    • The Department of Energy Is Now Referring to Natural Gas as Freedom Gas

      Trump’s most competent Cabinet member — announced in Brussels that the U.S. intends to double liquefied natural gas exports to Europe by 2020. Comparing energy diversification to the American effort to liberate occupied Europe in World War II, Perry said that “the United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent.” The Energy secretary added, “Rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it’s in the form of liquefied natural gas.”

      Hoping to clarify the bizarre analogy, a European reporter asked if “freedom gas” would accurately describe American natural gas shipments to Europe. “I think you may be correct in your observation,” Perry replied. With this frighteningly dumb exchange, the term “freedom gas” was born, and less than a month later, it is appearing in official DOE press releases.

    • Rise of the Extinction Deniers

      Extinction’s not a problem, right?

      That’s actually a point made quite a bit lately by a group of “extinction deniers” — people who use the relatively low number of confirmed extinctions to say there’s no such thing as an extinction crisis. These industry shills came out of the woodwork in the wake of the recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report that predicts the world faces up to one million extinctions in the coming decades due to human activity.

      We saw this misinformation most strongly on May 22 during testimony about the IPBES report for the House Committee on Natural Resources, when two “experts” invited to speak by Republican members of the committee spread messages of extinction denial.

      “Fewer than 900 extinctions have been documented in the 500 years since 1500 AD,” claimed Patrick Moore, a director of a pro-fossil fuels group called the CO2 Commission who always (incorrectly) identifies himself as a cofounder of Greenpeace.

      Moore, who’s also funded by the Koch brothers and others to spread climate denial (he’s a frequent guest on Fox News), tied the IPBES report to his previous rhetoric. “As with the manufactured ‘climate crisis’ they are using the specter of mass extinction as a fear tactic to scare the public into compliance,” he said. “The IBPES itself is an existential threat to sensible policy on biodiversity conservation.”

    • How to Turn Your Patch of Earth From Barren to Bountiful

      Growing your own juicy tomatoes or crisp peppers sounds idyllic. But in practice, backyard farming can be daunting. Many gardeners dealing with pests, weeds and unpredictable weather quickly find themselves questioning whether they are working with nature or against it.

    • Big Oil Pushes Corporate-Friendly Carbon Tax in Attempt to Stem Green New Deal Wave

      With intensifying demands for bold climate action, the fossil fuel industry and its top allies are lining up behind a corporate-funded, market-centered carbon tax proposal, in an effort to stem the rising momentum around ideas like the Green New Deal and growing shareholder and investor concerns about the climate crisis.

      Oil and gas powerhouses BP and Shell recently announced that they were each contributing $1 million over the next two years to lobbying efforts for the Baker-Schultz Plan, which proposes an initial tax of $40-per-ton on carbon emissions.

      The plan, named after ex-Reagan officials James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz, is being promoted by the Climate Leadership Council and its lobbying arm, Americans for Carbon Dividends. The Climate Leadership Council is made up of a host of founding members whose primary business is in the fossil fuel industry, such as BP, Exxon, and ConocoPhillips.

      According to the website of Americans for Carbon Dividends, the Baker-Shultz Plan is “based on the conservative principles of free markets.”

      Backed by top global corporate powerhouses, the plan is driven by an industry-friendly logic firmly within the bounds of the neoliberal imagination. For example, under the plan, revenue generated from the carbon tax would be returned back to “taxpayers,” rather than used by the government to oversee an accelerated transition to a system of renewable energy.

    • Trump Admin’s Latest Rail Safety Rollback Sets up Industry to Make Its Own Rules

      his week, the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation (DOT) withdrew another rail safety recommendation originally proposed during the Obama administration. In the process, the agency made quite clear that it has no plans to further regulate the rail industry, especially the dangerous and continued transportation of oil and ethanol in unsafe tank cars.

      The latest proposed rule to be withdrawn would have required two-person crews on trains. Supporters of this rule argue that two-person crews are safer because the job of operating a train is too demanding for one person, new technologies are making the job more complex, and fatigue becomes a more serious issue with only one crew member. Since 2017, the Trump administration has already repealed a regulation requiring modern brakes for oil trains and canceled a plan requiring train operators to be tested for sleep apnea.

      In announcing this decision, the DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) stated it was “providing notice of its affirmative decision that no regulation of train crew staffing is necessary or appropriate for railroad operations to be conducted safely at this time.”

    • Trump Is Trying to Ban Climate Science Because… Obama?

      Because the memory hole in these United States is wider and more voracious than a light-devouring quantum singularity, people tend to think the Donald Trump Being Awful On Twitter Phenomenon is a new thing visited upon us by a vengeful universe in 2016 as punishment for fouling the pristine ball of life we call home. This is not, in fact, the case.

      “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump infamously tweeted on Election Day in 2012, birthering (pun intended) the “Chinese Hoax” meme into existence. There is a surface strangeness to this, as Trump had been co-signing letters with other business leaders demanding “meaningful and effective measures to control climate change” only three years before.

      Beginning in 2011 and up to the present, however, Trump has been a font of climate denialist nonsense. What changed that year? Oh, right, that was the year President Barack Obama made Trump look like a perfect dunce cap fool at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It is widely believed this was the night Confirmed Racist Trump began to plan his run for the presidency.

      Trump’s main avenue for that run was on the far right. He had already prepared the ground with his brazenly racist “no birth certificate” campaign which so vividly exploded in his face at the dinner in 2011. What better way to augment his standing with those voters who think dinosaurs never existed because they aren’t mentioned in the Bible than to seize the flooded, polluted low country of climate denialism.

      Flash forward to today, and Trump’s cynical climate scam has evolved (pun definitely intended) into actual policy. The New York Times reported on Monday that the Trump administration is not only stepping up its rollback of Obama-era climate policies, but is actively working to sabotage the science behind it.

    • Let’s Be Clear, Says Mexico Environment Minister, ‘Parasitic and Predatory Neoliberalism’ to Blame for Climate Crisis

      As the Mexico News Daily reports, the public comments by Secretary Víctor Manuel Toledo Manzur were his first since his appointment by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier this week and seen as a direct challenge to previous Mexican governments which sacrificed the nation’s environment to the interests of industry.

      “Human beings are not responsible for global warming, as a superficial environmentalism and uncritical science would like to tell us,” said Toledo. “The responsible are a parasitic and predatory minority, and that minority has a name: neoliberalism.”

      According to the News Daily, Toledo vowed “to ‘take back’ the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat), which he said had been controlled by ‘merchants from the automotive sector,’ and involve citizens in policy making.

      He also vowed to put ecological and human concerns above the demands of capitalism and industrial powerbrokers.

      “We can defend life, or we can continue destroying it in the name of the market, technology, progress, development, economic growth, etc.,” he said.

  • Finance

    • Google’s Shadow Work Force: Temps Who Outnumber Full-Time Employees

      Though they often work side by side with full-timers, Google temps are usually employed by outside agencies. They make less money, have different benefits plans and have no paid vacation time in the United States, according to more than a dozen current and former Google temp and contract workers, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements.

    • Amazon is slowly growing its fleet of stores — but you can’t return all online purchases there

      The 19 Books and three 4-star stores will accept customer returns, but mostly only for items actually purchased at each store. Amazon Go’s locations, of course, don’t even have cashiers, so forget about those.

    • Uber will now deactivate riders with below average ratings
    • Business schools are shuttering full-time MBA programs, citing low enrollment, millennials

      As full-time MBA programs become money-losers for their universities, they’re being shut down, with the universities blaming millennials’ unwillingness to incur unsustainable levels of student debt (nice going, millennials!). To add to their woes, Trump’s anti-immigration policies have scared off many of the foreign students who’d fill out the enrollment numbers otherwise.

    • Why Business Schools Are Shutting Down Their MBA Programs

      Why is Gies giving up on its full-time MBA? For one thing, the school admits it is losing money on the program. While it may surprise many observers given how high tuition rates are for MBA programs, many of these programs are actually loss leaders or “show” programs to get a U.S. News ranking. Secondly, applications to most MBA programs have been declining for years, evidence that there is less interest in the degree.

    • Bitcoin Surging Again: Could Hit The $10,000 Mark In 2 Weeks

      Bitcoin is slowly picking up the pace and is recovering from a steep downfall that started at the beginning of 2018. One of the most popular cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, is currently trading at $8,730, falling a few dollars below the day’s all-time high value of $8,785.

      According to Naeem Aslam, Chief Market Analyst at Think Markets UK, the Bitcoin price will soon cross the $10,000 mark; he says it could happen within the next two weeks. If Bitcoin successfully jumps past the $10,000, it will recover half of its losses from its all-time high trading value.

    • After Neoliberalism

      What kind of economic system is most conducive to human wellbeing? That question has come to define the current era, because, after 40 years of neoliberalism in the United States and other advanced economies, we know what doesn’t work.

      The neoliberal experiment—lower taxes on the rich, deregulation of labor and product markets, financialization, and globalization—has been a spectacular failure. Growth is lower than it was in the quarter-century after World War II, and most of it has accrued to the very top of the income scale. After decades of stagnant or even falling incomes for those below them, neoliberalism must be pronounced dead and buried.

      Vying to succeed it are at least three major political alternatives: far-right nationalism, center-left reformism, and the progressive left (with the center-right representing the neoliberal failure). And yet, with the exception of the progressive left, these alternatives remain beholden to some form of the ideology that has (or should have) expired.

      The center-left, for example, represents neoliberalism with a human face. Its goal is to bring the policies of former US President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair into the twenty-first century, making only slight revisions to the prevailing modes of financialization and globalization. Meanwhile, the nationalist right disowns globalization, blaming migrants and foreigners for all of today’s problems. Yet as Donald Trump’s presidency has shown, it is no less committed—at least in its American variant—to tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, and shrinking or eliminating social programs.

      By contrast, the third camp advocates what I call progressive capitalism, which prescribes a radically different economic agenda, based on four priorities. The first is to restore the balance between markets, the state, and civil society. Slow economic growth, rising inequality, financial instability, and environmental degradation are problems born of the market, and thus cannot and will not be overcome by the market on its own. Governments have a duty to limit and shape markets through environmental, health, occupational-safety, and other types of regulation. It is also the government’s job to do what the market cannot or will not do, like actively investing in basic research, technology, education, and the health of its constituents.

    • Russian state-owned bank stops cryptocurrency work in light of unfavorable regulatory environment

      Russia’s Sberbank has decided to suspend its plans for doing business with cryptocurrencies. Andrey Shemetov, a vice president of the bank, explained, “We were waiting for legislative action that would allow us to deal in cryptocurrencies. Because, at the moment, regulators have a negative view, we decided to suspend this plan.”

    • Noam Chomsky: Trump’s “Economic Boom” Is a Sham

      Donald Trump ran a campaign — and won the 2016 presidential election — based on unorthodox tactics, whereby he used irrational provocation to defy traditional political norms and make a mockery of established beliefs on both domestic and international issues confronting the United States. Amazingly enough, Trump has continued his instinctual political posturing even as president, dividing the nation and causing severe friction with the traditional allies of the U.S. Yet, his unorthodox tactics and irrational leadership style appear to remain a winning formula as current polls indicate that, unless something dramatic happens, Trump may very well be re-elected in 2020 by an even bigger margin.

    • It’s Getting Worse: The IRS Now Audits Poor Americans at About the Same Rate as the Top 1%

      Every year, the IRS, starved of funds after years of budget cuts, loses hundreds more agents to retirement. And every year, the news gets better for the rich — especially those prone to go bold on their taxes. According to data released by the IRS last week, millionaires in 2018 were about 80% less likely to be audited than they were in 2011.

      But poor taxpayers continue to bear the brunt of the IRS’ remaining force. As we reported last year, Americans who receive the earned income tax credit, one of the country’s largest anti-poverty programs, are audited at a higher rate than all but the richest taxpayers. The new data shows that the trend has only grown stronger.

      Audits of the rich continue to plunge while those of the poor hold steady, and the two audit rates are converging. Last year, the top 1% of taxpayers by income were audited at a rate of 1.56%. EITC recipients, who typically have annual income under $20,000, were audited at 1.41%.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Worry About Facebook. Rip Your Hair Out in Screaming Terror About Fox News.

      Not that this is a comforting thought; in fact, it makes the whole problem a bit hopeless, because what are we going to do about Fox News? Aside from Elizabeth Warren — who has a plan to limit the power of Fox, as she has a plan for everything (a caveat that is becoming a regular occurrence in my columns) — few on the left bother anymore to even mention the scourge it poses, because it’s all so obvious: Fox is fake, water is wet.

      But we should not grow inured to this. Because if we give up expecting truth from Fox, there’s little point expecting it on Facebook, either.

    • This is Silly: Pelosi Says Facebook Is A ‘Willing Enabler’ Of Russian Election Meddling. It Is Not

      I know that it’s fun and easy to attack Facebook these days — and the company certainly deserves all sorts of criticism. But the criticism should be within the realm of reality. And the latest, from Nancy Pelosi, is not that. As you may have heard, there’s all sorts of controversy over the past week or so concerning Facebook’s decisions on how to moderate purposefully doctored videos of Pelosi, that are either edited or just slowed down to make it appear (falsely) that she is stumbling over words or slurring them. As we pointed out, there are good arguments from a variety of different perspectives on how Facebook should handle this. Currently, it is limiting the ability for the video to spread algorithmically, and when people try to share it manually, it pops up a warning about how the video has issues and you might want to think twice about sharing it.

      That said, it wasn’t even the video that was making the rounds on Facebook that got all the attention. Instead, Fox News ran a similar video, and that’s the one that President Trump himself tweeted. And yet, oddly, everyone seems to be rushing to blame Facebook.

    • ‘Enough is Enough’: Democrats at Town Halls Across the Country Getting Earful From Constituents Who Want Impeachment Hearings

      Holding impeachment hearings over the president’s actions during the Mueller investigation—actions that could amount to obstruction—is not a priority for the House Democratic leadership. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continued to tamp down the possibility of impeachment despite a growing push from members of her party, including a number of 2020 presidential candidates, to hold the president accountable for possible high crimes.

      The recent call for impeachment from Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, has only added to the pressure on Democrats.

      Trump, in remarks to reporters Thursday, said he was disgusted by even hearing the word “impeach.”

      “To me, it’s a dirty word, the word impeach,” said Trump. “It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.”

      Conventional wisdom in Washington holds that voters in the U.S. are committed to “kitchen table issues,” shorthand for economic issues like jobs and healthcare. Conveniently, that allows Democrats uninterested in holding impeachment hearings to avoid treating the issue seriously—at least in comments to the press.

    • German Political Leader Questions YouTubers’ Right To Tell Fans Not To Vote For Her Party, Urgently Summons Her Advisers In Response — By Fax

      One of the many ugly aspects of the Article 13/17 disaster is the way that politicians not only ignored the concerns of millions of EU citizens, but actively insulted them, describing them as “bots” or Google “astroturfing”. As Mike noted at the time, treating people with contempt, shortly before the main elections for the European Parliament, was not a wise move. German politicians were particularly contemptuous of young voters, and the latter did not forget. The mainstream German political parties — the center-right CDU and CSU, and the center-left SDP — were trashed in the recent elections, largely because very few young people voted for them. The German Greens, by contrast, had their best results yet.
      One person who may have helped to bring that about is the YouTuber Rezo. Shortly before the EU vote, he released a 55-minute “personal rant” entitled, “The destruction of the CDU” (in German). In its first week, it had been viewed over 12 million times, and attracted over 180,000 comments. Despite its title, it is not just an anti-CDU polemic, but details the failure of all the mainstream German parties to address key issues — notably the climate crisis, but also poverty, German support for US militarism, and Article 13. It urged German viewers to vote — but not for the CDU, CSU, SDP or the extreme right-wing AfD. A few days later, over 90 fellow YouTubers joined Rezo in making the same call in a shorter video (in German).

    • Investors Slam Comcast For Lack Of Lobbying Transparency

      While we think we have a solid grasp on how much companies spend on lobbying and influence peddling, we actually have no idea. Case in point: while a company like Comcast may disclose its overall spending on “lobbying” (as defined as visiting DC to speak to politicians in a bid to shape policy), there’s a universe of other influence peddling it’s not at all transparent about. For example when AT&T and Comcast wanted the FCC to kill net neutrality rules, both paid a long list of legitimate and sometimes shady groups to express support for the move, even if that support ran in stark contrast of the interest of their constituents.

      Hand in hand with “astroturf” and other efforts, companies often pay a long list of consultants, academics, think tankers and others to parrot support for what, quite often, is anti-competitive and anti-consumer policy positions. For example, paying an ex-politician to write an op/ed supporting the death of net neutrality isn’t strictly “lobbying,” but it’s influence peddling. Yet such efforts aren’t usually included in many companies’ financial disclosures. Participation in proxy trade organizations and state-level lobbying often lacks the same transparency as standard “federal lobbying” disclosures.

    • ‘Explosive’ New Evidence Shows GOP ‘Weaponizing’ the 2020 Census With Citizenship Question to Rig Elections

      Federal district judges in New York and California ruled earlier this year that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the next census violated the Administrative Procedures Act. The Supreme Court heard arguments in April and is expected to issue a ruling in June.

      Immigration and civil rights advocates warn that inserting the citizenship question would cause an undercounting of Latinx Americans—particularly due to fears of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda—which would lead to voting maps that electorally benefit the GOP.

      Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the New York case submitted the new documents (pdf)—which focus on longtime Republican redistricting specialist Thomas Hofeller—in a filing to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

    • Denied Entry to US, Palestinian Diplomat Hanan Ashrawi on US “Peace Plan” & Israeli Political Crisis

      Israel will hold new elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government in six weeks of negotiations following the April 9 election. This marks the first time in Israeli history a prime minister-designate has failed to form a coalition government. The news comes as the United States is continuing to promote a controversial Middle East peace plan drawn up by President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is in Israel today along with special envoy Jason Greenblatt. But the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the political crisis in Israel could kill the U.S. plan, which will be partially unveiled at a conference in Bahrain next month. Palestinian officials have vowed to boycott the conference and dismissed any attempts to tackle peace talks in the region without addressing human rights and the Israeli occupation. We speak with longtime Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. The United States recently denied Ashrawi a visa to enter the country.

    • Elizabeth Warren’s Green Imperialism Isn’t the Answer

      Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced a plan to “green” the U.S. military. After cataloguing some of the threats to our “readiness” posed by climate change—including floods and hurricanes compromising Air Force bases—the proposal quickly pivots to the “thousands of people [forced] to migrate from their homes,” conflating the fates of the most vulnerable people on Earth with that of the world’s largest military.

      It goes on like this, arguing that by reducing its carbon emissions, the U.S. military can help “fight climate change.” The plan rightly acknowledges that America’s armed forces use a downright obscene amount of energy. (According to Common Dreams, “The Pentagon’s carbon footprint is 70 percent of total U.S. emissions … [using] more oil than 175 smaller countries combined.”) And after pitching the need to develop technologies capable of curbing this usage, Warren calls on the Pentagon to “produce an annual report evaluating the climate vulnerability of every U.S. military base at home and abroad.” This is her plan to eliminate its carbon emissions, to “harden the U.S. military against the threat posed by climate change.”

      Although her plan’s introduction does shine a light on one of the most under-discussed causes of global warming, it neglects to acknowledge that U.S. foreign policy, past and present, is predicated on securing land and natural resources—namely oil—and that the need to do so will only intensify as the planet continues to deteriorate. These are resources that must stay in the ground to avoid exacerbating a climate emergency that is already wreaking havoc throughout the world. While Warren believes “accomplishing the mission depends on our ability to continue operations in the face of floods, drought [and] wildfires,” perhaps our “mission” must ultimately end—or at the very least be severely constrained.

      Whatever its merits, Warren’s proposal ultimately fails to confront American imperialism’s foundational belief that the military exists to benefit the United States domestically. What’s more, those who live under the boot of the U.S. empire have been stripped of the self-determination and resources necessary to combat climate change themselves. The Massachusetts senator’s record has been far from progressive when it comes to issues of foreign policy and military spending, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that she has taken this tack.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Inside the Apple Team That Decides Which Apps Get on iPhones

      In the early days, Apple had three reviewers look at each app. That led to long review times, which eventually decreased after the process shifted to one set of eyes, he said. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing who oversees the App Store, pushed for humans to review all apps, rather than just automated tools, to limit improper or buggy apps, Shoemaker said. Still, he said “there’s a lot of stuff in the store that shouldn’t be there.” Apple declined to comment.

    • Supreme Court OKs Retaliatory Arrests For Engaging In Protected Speech

      The Supreme Court has declared it’s cool with cops engaging in retaliatory arrests… just as long as they have the probable cause to do so. Given the thousands of obscure laws we’ve been cursed with by legislators, most law enforcement officers will be able to find some way to shut up someone by putting them in cuffs. (Whatever they’re wrong about can be salvaged by the good faith exception.)

    • Report: Joint Letter to ICO on Age Appropriate Design

      We write to you as civil society organisations who work to promote human rights, both offline and online. As such, we are taking a keen interest in the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code. We are also engaging with the Government in its White Paper on Online Harms, and note the connection between these initiatives.

      Whilst we recognise and support the ICO’s aims of protecting and upholding children’s rights online, we have severe concerns that as currently drafted the Code will not achieve these objectives. There is a real risk that implementation of the Code will result in widespread age verification across websites, apps and other online services, which will lead to increased data profiling of both children and adults, and restrictions on their freedom of expression and access to information.

    • Is ‘Putin is a thief’ a (potentially illegal) insult? Putin’s press secretary thinks so.

      Since a new law banning online insults against the Russian government went into effect on March 29, Russian prosecutors have been busy determining what is insulting and what is not. So far, they have found illegal insults not only in slurs against President Vladimir Putin but also in news stories about those slurs. Today, however, a case against an activist who hung a banner that read “Putin is a thief” was shut down on a technicality by the Supreme Court of Tatarstan. While the message was not posted online and was therefore investigated under a different law, it gave Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov a chance to comment on the banner’s message in an interview with Ekho Moskvy. That exchange is translated here.

    • Report: Collateral Damage in the War Against Online Harms

      The research in this document looked at the 1881 unblock requests which have been made through our Blocked.org.uk tool since 2017. The tool helps people ask Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove wrongfully-included websites from their adult content filters. As part of the Blocked project, since 2014 we have indexed over 35,000,000 websites, creating a database of over 760,000 blocked websites, allowing users of the site to search and check domains which they feel may be blocked.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • ‘Fire Zuck’ Projected onto Hotel as Facebook Shareholders Arrive for Annual Meeting

      “Facebook has violated billions of people’s basic rights, harvested and abused our data in nauseating ways, and shown reckless disregard for the human impact of its products,” said Fight for the Future in a statement. “Facebook’s current business practices are fundamentally at odds with democracy and human rights.”

      The projection on Wednesday night followed an open letter from the group demanding the removal of Zuckerberg, citing the company’s repeated privacy breaches, which gathered thousands of signatures.

      The group noted on Twitter that the action also followed a recent call from Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, for Zuckerberg to step down.

    • Moscow mayor announces plans to build one of the largest facial recognition systems in the world

      Before the end of 2019, the Moscow municipal government will hold a competition for a contract to install a facial recognition system that will encompass more than 200,000 cameras in the Russian capital. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced the competition, which will be held in conjunction with Russia’s Internal Affairs Ministry.

    • Social media users ‘found’ Russia’s new quantum encryption telephone on Amazon for 2263 times less than the list price. What’s the difference?

      On May 28, the technology company Infotecs and the Center for Quantum Technologies at Moscow State University presented a new telephone called the ViPNet QSS Phone, Russia’s first model to use quantum encryption technology. 700 million rubles ($10.8 million) in total were invested in the phone’s development, of which Russia’s Science and Education Ministry contributed 140 million rubles ($2.2 million). The basic equipment set for the device, which consists of one server and two telephones, will reportedly cost 30 million rubles ($461,400).

    • Australia’s decryption law and free software

      Amie Stepanovich, Danny O’Brien, Isabela Bagueros, Ladar Levison

    • Facebook’s scandals weren’t enough for people to stop using it. Here’s how the company has held up through data hacks, lawsuits, and massive security threats.
    • Inside Amazon’s growing ad business: Everything we know about how the e-commerce giant is making inroads with marketers
    • One year GDPR: looking at privacy policies of websites operated by private individuals

      In this article, we look at the privacy policies of 20 websites (operated by private individuals) to check whether they provide information for their users according to Articles 12 and 13 (GDPR).


      If you consider the two-year transition period, the GDPR is actually more than three years old. However, as shown in the article, many privacy policies still lack obligatory information according to the GDPR.

    • EU-US Privacy Shield complaint to be heard by Europe’s top court in July
    • U.S. Military to Trawl Through 350 Billion Social Media Messages

      The U.S. military plans to analyze 350 billion social-media posts from around the world to help it track how popular movements evolve.

      A tender for the project, based at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, calls for screening messages from at least 200 million users from more than 100 countries in more than 60 languages to better understand “collective expression.” Messages, including user names, will be examined for comments, metadata, location and hometown identifiers.

    • Mark Zuckerberg Will Be Served a Summons If He Sets Foot In Canada

      The executives were subpoenaed by Zimmer earlier this month to present evidence regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a quiz app obtained information from tens of millions of Facebook users without their direct consent that was later used to boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

      “We share the Committee’s desire to keep people safe and to hold companies like ours accountable,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. “We look forward to answering their questions and remain committed to working with world leaders, governments, and industry experts to address these complex issues.”

      Declining to appear before lawmakers who have gathered to hear from executives, even under subpoena, is becoming a pattern for Facebook.

    • This Russia whistle-blower is serving 5 years in jail for leaking one document. Her mother says she’s being silenced

      CNN has repeatedly sought permission to interview Winner in federal prison, and recently accompanied Winner-Davis on the seven-hour road trip from her home to visit her daughter at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, where she is incarcerated, but our team was not permitted to go inside.

      FMC Carswell’s warden has denied CNN’s requests, citing the need to maintain the “safety, security, and the orderly management of the facility.” Our attempts to speak with the warden over the phone to understand how journalists could address those concerns were unsuccessful.

    • Meet the Security Company Building an International Database of Banned Bar Patrons

      To some onlookers, PatronScan’s product raises a number of concerns about privacy, surveillance, and discrimination. PatronScan’s reports reveal the company logged where customers live, the household demographics for that area, how far each customer travelled to a bar, and how many different bars they had visited. According to the company’s own policies, the company readily shares the information it collects on patrons, both banned and not, at the request of police. In addition to selling its kiosks to individual bars and nightlife establishments, PatronScan also advertises directly to cities, suggesting that they mandate the adoption of their service.

      PatronScan represents an extreme example of the growing adoption of data collection at bars and restaurants. Such establishments have long had informal systems for tracking problematic patrons. Today, many bars also have internal surveillance systems, which track customer trends and catalog granular data on purchasing habits. Those tools are growing increasingly sophisticated, with obvious benefits to venue owners and law enforcement.

      For bargoers, however, these systems create an uncomfortable new paradigm for partying, one in which data-sharing is a norm and technological tools can multiply the consequences of a single bad night. And once a bar adopts an ID scanning system, even innocent patrons may never know where their ID data will end up, or how it will be used.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Philosopher Herbert Marcuse on the Rise of Fascism in Europe

      As Germany began to fall into Nazi rule in the 1930s, budding philosopher Herbert Marcuse and his contemporaries find sanctuary at Columbia University in New York City. It was then that Marcuse threw himself into his writing and tried to make sense of the upheaval in Europe. In this excerpt of Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of Utopia, cartoonist Nick Thorkelson depicts this politically tumultuous time.

    • New Hampshire Repeals the Death Penalty
    • “Enough Is Enough”: Native Leaders Ask William Barr to Help Fix Alaska’s Law Enforcement Crisis

      Alaska Native leaders called on U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr for federal aid and greater authority for tribes to prosecute certain crimes, saying Wednesday that a dangerous lack of law enforcement is growing worse in the state’s most remote communities.

      Barr, sitting beside U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, heard that the state and federal governments have failed to provide the resources needed to combat a crisis of rural sexual assault, violence and drug use. Sullivan began the meeting by referencing a recent Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica investigation that found that at least 70 Alaska communities — towns and villages large enough for schools and post offices — had no local police of any kind at some point this year.

      In some hub communities that do have police, survivors of sexual assault say rapists go unpunished. Mothers of Alaska Native women who were found dead under suspicious circumstances say cases go unsolved.

    • Why Is This Real-World Samaritan Facing Prison?

      “Every life is sacred, and every soul is a precious gift from heaven.” So said President Donald J. Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast last Feb. 7. Trump’s Christian posturing would be laughable if his policies weren’t so cruel and often deadly. Take, for example, asylum-seekers crossing our southern border. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. Increasingly militarized and violent enforcement of border security has driven desperate migrants further from official ports of entry, forcing many to embark on dangerous treks through the scorching deserts of the American Southwest. Scott Warren, a geographer and educator who volunteers with the humanitarian aid groups No More Deaths and Ajo Samaritans, is on trial now in federal court in Tucson, Arizona. If convicted, he could spend 20 years in prison for giving migrants in need, according to his indictment, “food, water, beds and clean clothes.”

      Before heading to his first day in court Wednesday, Warren appeared on the “Democracy Now!” news hour: “Many have died while making the journey. For decades, activists in the region have left food and water in the desert to help lessen the death toll. Increasingly, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents destroy water and food caches that they find in the desert.”

      On the morning of Jan. 17, 2018, No More Deaths released a report and video detailing CBP interference in humanitarian aid delivery. The report stated, “In the desert of the Arizona-Mexico borderlands, where thousands of people die of dehydration and heat-related illness, Border Patrol agents are destroying gallons of water intended for border crossers. Border Patrol agents stab, stomp, kick, drain, and confiscate the bottles of water that humanitarian aid volunteers leave along known migrant routes in the Arizona desert. These actions condemn border crossers to suffering, death, and disappearance.”

      The videos of border agents emptying gallons of water went viral. By 5:30 p.m., agents had pulled up to “the Barn,” a building near Ajo, Arizona — 40 miles from the border — where volunteers gather, and where migrants occasionally arrive, seeking aid. Two migrant men were detained there, and Scott Warren was arrested. “The report was released that morning, and then agents set up surveillance on the Barn that afternoon and then arrested me that evening,” Warren said.

    • Russia’s State Duma passes law introducing prison sentences of up to 15 years for drunk driving collisions

      The State Duma has passed a law greatly intensifying the legal penalties Russians may face for driving a vehicle while intoxicated. If a driver in a collision is found to be intoxicated and the collision results in deaths or injuries, the driver could face up to 15 years in prison under the new law. The most severe penalties would apply to drivers who are found to be at fault for the deaths of two or more people.

    • ‘Anna Karenina accidentally fell under a train’: Russian regional censors give journalists guidelines on covering suicide

      ‘Anna Karenina accidentally fell under a train’: Russian regional censors give journalists guidelines on covering suicide
      17:53, 30 may 2019Source: Mediazona
      Kostroma Region’s division of Roskomnadzor, Russia’s censorship agency, held a “prophylactic seminar” for local journalists on covering sensitive issues like suicide, drugs, and “insulting the government.” The results, as Kostroma.today journalist Kirill Rubankov told Mediazona, were somewhat absurd.

      Rubanov posted a Roskomnadzor handout detailing phrasings that, in the agency’s opinion, would and would not constitute “violations” of Russian administrative law. The post inspired commenters to devise their own examples of permissible headlines, including “Anna Karenina accidentally fell under a train.” Rubanov has since deleted the post from Facebook.

    • How to respond to a drop in Putin’s approval rating? Russia’s state pollsters simply changed their questions.

      A May 25 survey by the state-owned polling agency VTsIOM showed that only 31.7 percent of respondents named Vladimir Putin when asked which politicians they trusted. That is the lowest figure since 2006, when the question first appeared in nationwide surveys. After Kremlin officials asked VTsIOM to clarify the survey’s results, its director, Valery Fyodorov, said the agency would soon publish results for a poll that simply asked whether or not respondents trusted Vladimir Putin. Fyodorov noted that “the president’s trust rating there is much, much higher.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Meet CC’s 2019 Google Summer of Code students

        This year, CC is participating in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) as a mentoring organization after a six year break from the program. We are excited to be hosting five phenomenal students (representing three continents) who will be working on CC tech projects full-time over the summer. Here they are!

      • Copyleft: A Step After Copyright!

        Intellectual Property is a valuable intangible asset for any business and thus, it is important to ensure its protection in the best possible way. Copyright is one of the types of Intellectual Property protection that any organization can use. Copyright provides its owner an exclusive right over the copyrighted material to use, reproduce and publish the same. No other person can use or publish the copyrighted material unless granted permissions. However, there is a part of the population that attempts to override and reject the concept of copyright and rather believes in permitting anyone to use and modify particular works. This concept can be referred as Copyleft and the same is generally preferred in the cases of software developments.

        Transpired from the radical activism of free software movement which is responsible for bringing the programmers from all around the globe under one roof, against the backdrop of Internet, new technologies and the intangible properties, Copyleft is an agreement promoting free sharing of ideas and knowledge with an objective to encourage inventiveness. The concept of Copyleft was given by Don Hopkins and was further popularized by Richard Stallman in 1980s.

      • 24% of French Internet Users Stream Live TV Content Illegally

        A new study published by anti-piracy agency Hadopi has revealed that 24% of French Internet users stream live TV content illegally. The most popular source of video among respondents is live streaming sites, followed by social networks, dedicated IPTV services, and apps. Pirate IPTV is causing particularly concern due to its claimed cannibalizing effect on legal offers.

      • Poland has filed a complaint against the European Union’s copyright directive

        Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said that the “system may result in adopting regulations that are analogous to preventive censorship, which is forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties.” Polish MPs predominantly rejected the measure (Two abstentions, eight for, 33 against, six no-votes, and two missing) when it was voted on.

      • Poland files complaint with EU’s top court over copyright rule change

        “This system may result in adopting regulations that are analogous to preventive censorship, which is forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties,” Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski told public broadcaster TVP Info.

      • Media & Telecoms Companies Reveal “Self-Learning” Anti-Piracy System

        The Media Communication Union, which represents the interests of major media and telecoms companies in Russia, has revealed its new anti-piracy system. Set to be delivered to copyright holders in July, the system is said to utilize neural networks in order to self-learn while reducing the need for human intervention.

      • Metadata is the biggest little problem plaguing the music industry

        The problem, they said, was metadata. In the music world, metadata most commonly refers to the song credits you see on services like Spotify or Apple Music, but it also includes all the underlying information tied to a released song or album, including titles, songwriter and producer names, the publisher(s), the record label, and more. That information needs to be synchronized across all kinds of industry databases to make sure that when you play a song, the right people are identified and paid. And often, they aren’t.

        Metadata sounds like one of the smallest, most boring things in music. But as it turns out, it’s one of the most important, complex, and broken, leaving many musicians unable to get paid for their work. [...]

Proposed Legislation From Senators Tom Tillis and Chris Coons Will Perish as Usual, Just Like UPC in Europe

Posted in America, EFF, Europe, Law, Patents at 8:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The United States has its own ‘Team UPC’ and the likes of Battistelli at the EPO

Coons bribed

Summary: A great deal of attention is being paid to a bill that’s extremely unlikely to result in anything because it’s very unpopular, even among sponsors of Congress (not just the public at large)

AT THE START of the year the EFF warned that software patents would make a "comeback" because the Trump-appointed Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) wanted to water down 35 U.S.C. § 101. As we explained at the time, this would have no bearing on actual courts. Since then the courts have indeed lashed out. So the threat was clearly overhyped, as we’ve explained many times since. Let’s look at the data. Have software patents made a comeback? Not really, not in courts anyway. SCOTUS isn’t revisiting the subject (even when asked), the Federal Circuit applies Alice routinely, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is still doing its job as shown by inter partes reviews (IPRs) figures, which are publicly accessible. Patent maximalists thus started focusing on ex parte reexaminations, also part of America Invents Act (AIA) but inherently different from IPRs (which are a lot more powerful). We’ve seen some misleading posts from Anticipat (and have not linked to them) and yesterday Janal Kalis wrote: “The PTAB Affirmed an Examiner’s 101 Rejection of Claims in a Patent Application Owned by Stanford Univ. for Analyzing Digital Medical Records” (such patents still routinely perish, but the likes of Kalis typically ignore the evidence and focus on reversal of decisions when software patents are allowed, not rejected).

Alex Moss (EFF) has just published something titled “A Terrible Patent Bill is On the Way” and here’s what it said (déjà vu as it happened in prior years):

Recently, we reported on the problems with a proposal from Senators Coons and Tillis to rewrite Section 101 of the Patent Act. Now, those senators have released a draft bill of changes they want to make. It’s not any better.

Section 101 prevents monopolies on basic research tools that nobody could have invented. That protects developers, start-ups, and makers of all kinds, especially in software-based fields. The proposal by Tillis and Coons will seriously weaken Section 101, leaving makers vulnerable to patent trolls, and other abusers of the patent system.

The draft legislation does remove a few aspects of the earlier proposal, but it has the exact same effect: it will erase more than a century of Section 101 case law—including the recent decision in Alice v. CLS Bank—and take away courts’ power to restore them.

It’s yet another post from the EFF in which the threat is, in our assessment, overblown somewhat. They merely give more visibility to something which doesn’t deserve it (and wouldn’t have earned it otherwise). Well, we wrote about it last week (after the CCIA too had written about this); it is pushed by a few bribed politicians (paid by the litigation ‘industry’, ‘bought’ for these laws), not “Congress” as Mike Masnick (TechDirt founder) puts it in “Congress Now Pushing ‘Bring Back The Patent Trolls’ Bill”. They merely had a little meeting, whereupon patent maximalists pretended it was some major news or development. To quote Masnick:

Back in April we warned about a truly terrible plan by some in Congress to obliterate the last few years of the Supreme Court fixing our broken patent system, and flinging the doors wide open to patenting genes, medical diagnostics, and software (all of which the Supreme Court has mostly rejected as abusive and monopolizing nature). One had hoped that after having explained to them how disastrous such a bill would be, that its backers might think carefully in crafting the final bill. Instead, Senators Tom Tillis and Chris Coons, along with Reps. Hank Johnson and Steve Sivers instead decided to double down with a bill that would massively stifle innovation.

There are some decent comments on there, e.g. from “That Anonymous Coward”:

Who wants to help me get a patent shoved through on running for an elected office & accepting money to pass laws favorable to those paying me??
Considering what other patent trolls have earned we could bankrupt congress.

At the start of the year we insisted that this idiocy would not pose a great threat because courts just carry on as usual, based on caselaw (not Congress), and these bills (as above) are nothing new. We don’t even want to give them attention/visibility anymore; they’re going to perish on their own.

Links 30/5/2019: Russia’s GNU/Linux, GParted 1.0 and New Krita

Posted in News Roundup at 6:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Chinese military to replace Windows OS amid fears of US hacking

    Amidst an escalating trade war and political tensions with the US, Beijing officials have decided to develop a custom operating system that will replace the Windows OS on computers used by the Chinese military.

    The decision, while not made official through the government’s normal press channels, was reported earlier this month by Canada-based military magazine Kanwa Asian Defence.

    Per the magazine, Chinese military officials won’t be jumping ship from Windows to Linux but will develop a custom OS.

    Thanks to the Snowden, Shadow Brokers, and Vault7 leaks, Beijing officials are well aware of the US’ hefty arsenal of hacking tools, available for anything from smart TVs to Linux servers, and from routers to common desktop operating systems, such as Windows and Mac.

  • Chinese Military Plans New Windows Replacement OS To Prevent US Hacking

    It’s being said that China has no trust in Windows, Linux, or even UNIX for that matter. Thanks to all the data dumped by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks in the past, the world knows the extent of US surveillance. Back then, it was revealed that they could hack anything that could be hacked.

    A new custom OS is being created to minimize the effect of foreign threats — primarily the US — on the operations of the Chinese military. However, until now, there has been no official statement from the Chinese government on this matter.

    The development of the Windows replacement OS will be carried out by a newly formed entity, says the magazine. It’s called the Internet Security Information Leadership Group, which will work directly under the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

    This is similar to how the United States Cyber Command is operating in the US. It is part of the US Department of Defense but operates separately from other defense bodies and intelligence agencies.

  • Russia’s Would-Be Windows Replacement Gets a Security Upgrade

    For the first time, Russia has granted its highest security rating to a domestically developed operating system, deeming Astra Linux suitable for communications of “special importance” across the military and the rest of the government. The designation clears the way for Russian intelligence and military workers who had been using Microsoft products on office computers to use Astra Linux instead.

    “There is hope that the domestic OS [operating system] will be able to replace the Microsoft product. Of course, this is good news for the Russian market,” said German Klimenko, former IT advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin and chairman of the board of Russia’s Digital Economy Development Fund, a venture capital fund run by the government. Klimenko spoke to the Russian newspaper Izvestia on Friday.

    Although Russian officials used Windows for secure communications, they heavily modified the software and subjected Windows-equipped PCs to lengthy and rigorous security checks before putting the computers in use. The testing and analysis was to satisfy concerns that vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems could be patched to prevent hacking from countries like the United States. Such evaluations could take three years, according to the newspaper.

  • Russia’s Would-Be Windows Replacement Gets a Security Upgrade

    “The Russian government doesn’t trust systems developed by foreign companies to handle sensitive data, due to fears of espionage through those systems,” said Justin Sherman, Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America. “Using domestically produced technologies to manage sensitive data is just another component of the Kremlin’s broader interest in exercising more autonomy over the digital machines and communications within its borders.”

  • Desktop

    • Raptor’s Blackbird Arrives As The Most Open-Source Yet Fast Desktop System – Up To 8 POWER9 Cores, PCIe 4.0

      The Blackbird has arrived for testing! As written about last week, the Blackbird has begun shipping and is in mass production as the micro-ATX POWER9 system that is the little brother to Raptor Computing System’s long-standing, high-performance, fully open-source Talos II workstation. The Raptor Blackbird is lower-cost while being able to handle up to 160 Watt Sforza 8-core processors, dual DDR4 ECC memory modules, one PCI Express 4.0 x16 slot, dual Gigabit Ethernet, and other common features of desktop/workstation motherboards.

  • Server

    • Cockpit Project: Cockpit 195

      It’s now easier to configure Cockpit’s web server cockpit-ws to run behind a TLS termination proxy. If the proxy runs on the same machine, then cockpit-ws can be run with the new –for-tls-proxy option, which will adjust the allowed Origins and Content-Security-Policy to https:// URLs. With this option, it’s no longer necessary to explicitly configure cockpit.conf.

    • Red Hat Satellite Ask Me Anything Q&A from April 2019

      For anyone not familiar, the Satellite AMAs are an ask me anything-style event where we invite Red Hat customers to bring all of their questions about Red Hat Satellite, drop them in the chat, and members of the Satellite product team will answer as many of them live as we can during the AMA and we then follow up with a blog post detailing the questions and answers.

    • Why Red Hat is investing in CRI-O and Podman

      As an engineering organization, Red Hat is investing in CRI-O and Podman, participating in the Open Containers Initiative standards body, testing performance and security, as well as driving architectural changes in a number of container projects because the underlying shared components help drive innovation in its products like Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. These investments are closely related to the operating system itself and provide our customers with the best products we can produce.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Stateless and Dateless | LINUX Unplugged 303

      We visit Intel to figure out what Clear Linux is all about and explain a few tricks that make it unique.

      Plus Wes and Ell are back from KubeCon in Barcelona and return with some great news for open source.

  • Kernel Space

    • 100GbE Networking Improvements On Tap For Linux 5.3

      While we are just at the RC2 stage for the Linux 5.2 kernel, already queuing in net-next for Linux 5.3 are some 100GbE networking driver improvements.

      Intel’s ICE 100GbE wired network driver is among the high-speed LAN drivers seeing improvements for the next kernel. The “ICE” driver has VF structure optimizations to use less memory, more efficient ordering for transmit buffer and ring structures, and other enhancements so far. Some of those details here and expect more ICE driver work over the weeks ahead given how young the cycle is until Linux 5.3′s merge window in July.

    • The Linux Kernel Continues Being Piped For Intel UMWAIT Support

      Nearly a year ago we reported on the initial work done by Intel’s Linux team on adding new CPU instructions for Tremont CPU cores, in particular the new UMWAIT instructions for enhancing power-savings during idle periods. That code continues to be revised for the UMWAIT kernel support but it has yet to be mainlined.

    • Linux Foundation

    • Graphics Stack

      • Nvidia EGX edge-AI stack debuts on four new Jetson and Tesla-based Adlink systems

        Nvidia’s “Nvidia EGX” solution for AI edge computing combines its Nvidia Edge Stack and Red Hat’s Kubernetes-based OpenShift platform running on Linux-driven Jetson modules and Tesla boards. Adlink unveiled four edge servers based on EGX using the Nano, TX2, Xavier, and Tesla.

        Announced at this week’s Computex show in Taiwan, Nvidia EGX is billed as an “On-Prem AI Cloud-in-a-Box” that can run cloud-native container software on edge servers. The platform also lets you run EGX-developed edge server applications in the cloud.

        Nvidia EGX is built on the Nvidia Edge Stack equipped with AI-enabled CUDA libraries, running Nvidia’s Arm-based, Linux-driven Jetson Nano, Jetson TX1/TX2, and Jetson Xavier modules, as well as its high-end Tesla modules up to a TX4 server. The key new ingredient is the Kubernetes cloud container platform, enabled here with Red Hat’s OpenShift container orchestration stack.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Krita 4.2.0 is Out!

        Compared to the last beta, there have been over 30 bug fixes. New in Krita 4.2.0 is updated support for drawing tablets, support for HDR monitors on Windows, an improved color palette docker, scripting API for animation, color gamut masking, improved selection handling, much nicer handling of the interaction between opacity and flow and much, much, much more.

      • Krita 4.2 Open-Source Digital Painting App Released, Here’s What’s New

        Krita 4.2 is the second major update of the open-source and cross-platform digital painting application since the release of the massive Krita 4.0 series back in 2018. It introduces numerous new features and enhancements, among which we can mention an improved color palette docker, color gamut masking, improved selection handling, support for HDR monitors on Windows, and much-improved support for drawing tablets.

        “We finally managed to bring together the code we wrote for supporting tablets on Windows (both Wintab as Windows Ink), Linux and macOS with the existing code in our development platform, Qt,” said the developers in the release notes. “This has improved support for multi-monitor setups, more tablets are supported and a host of bugs with tablets have been resolved. This was a huge amount of work!”

      • Krita 4.2 Release Notes
      • Krita 4.2 Debuts with 1000+ Bug Fixes, New Features

        A brand new version of Krita, a powerful open-source graphics programme written in Qt, is available to download.

        Described by the Krita development team as a “big release”, Krita 4.2 features more than 1,000 bug fixes (!) as well as several new features, including support for HDR displays on Windows 10.

        You can check out the official Krita 4.2 release notes for more detail all of the changes shipping in this release. I figured I’d pull out a couple of notable additions to highlight in this post too, so read on!

      • GNOME 3.33.2 Released, Krita 4.2 Debuts, RPi Camera Modules on RPi Zeros Power the Penguin Watch Project, Intrinsyc Switches Its Home Automation Dev Board from Android Things to Linux and Intel Hosting a Clear Linux OS Meetup Today

        Krita 4.2 makes its debut. OMG Ubuntu! reports that the new version “features more than 1,000 bug fixes (!) as well as several new features, including support for HDR displays on Windows 10.” See the Release Notes for more on all the new features.

      • Krita 4.2 Released With Better Drawing Tablet Support, Performance Improvements

        Krita 4.2 is out today as the newest feature release for this feature-rich, multi-platform open-source digital painting software.

        Krita 4.2 delivers on updated drawing tablet support, HDR painting support (currently only for Windows 10), better brush speed performance, an improved color palette docker, a Python API for dealing with animations, color gamut masking, an improved artistic color selector, multi-brush improvements, and other performance improvements.

      • Free Raster Graphics Editor Krita 4.2.0 Released With Numerous Improvements

        Krita is primarily aimed at concept art, illustrations, as well as the VFX industry. The application is developed using Qt 5 and the KDE Frameworks 5, and runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS.

        The latest Krita 4.2.0 includes updated tablet support for Windows, Linux and macOS. This includes improved support for multi-monitor setups, more supported tablets, and bug fixes. For this, Qt was patched, and the patches have been included upstream, but until your Linux distribution receives this updated Qt5, it’s recommended you use the Krita AppImage binary, which includes this patched Qt.

      • Krita 4.2.0 Released with HDR Displays Support (Howto-Install)

        Digital painting software Krita 4.2.0 was released today with exciting new features. Here’s how to install it in Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, and higher.

      • Krita 4.2.0 released

        Version 4.2.0 of the Krita paint tool is out.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • DisplayLink’s USB Display Docks Should Work Nicely On Wayland With GNOME 3.32.1+

        For those with DisplayLink adapters for USB-driven display docks or devices like the ZenScreen, the support for Wayland should be in better standing with GNOME 3.32.1 (or newer) including if using the DisplayLink proprietary drivers.

        A Phoronix reader pointed out that as of GNOME 3.32.1, those with DisplayLink hardware should be in good shape for Wayland support. That’s after GNOME 3.32 made many underlying improvements around multiple GPU support, GPU hot-plugging, and other infrastructure improvements to benefit the likes of DisplayLink USB-driven displays.

  • Distributions

    • 10 Best Linux Distro for kids with lightweight to learn Linux

      If your question is which one is the best Linux distro for kids? Then the answer would not be one. It is because of the availability of Linux distros in multiple flavours which is also best because you can choose one according to your kid’s taste. There is a perception that Linux is only meant for developers of hackers which is absolutely wrong. In today’s world, it is more than that. Kids, Parents, School goers, College students anyone can download and easily operate Linux using the Graphical user interface.

    • New Releases

      • MX Linux 18.3 Released With Updated Apps: Install It For A ‘Midweight’ Desktop

        If you search for the list of lightweight desktop environments that one can use on a Linux distribution, options like Xfce and LXDE often make it to the top. However, if you look closely, when compared to LXDE’s substantial power saving and fast performance, Xfce seems more like a ‘midweight’ desktop environment. Probably, that’s the reason why Xfce-based lightweight MX Linux calls itself a midweight desktop OS.

        The developers of this midweight distro have recently released the latest MX Linux 18.3 ISO refresh with all the recent updates, bug fixes, and updates from Debian 9.9 ‘stretch.’ Please note that it’s not a major release, so don’t expect a slew of new features and flashy UI changes.

      • Download MX Linux 18.03 – DVD ISO Images

        MX Linux is a cooperative venture between the antiX and former MEPIS communities. The MX Linux, version 18.3 is the latest version available to download.

      • GParted Open-Source Partition Editor Reaches 1.0 Milestone After Almost 15 Years

        Developed in GTK (GNOME Toolkit) for more than 14 years, Gparted is a graphical front-end to the GNU Parted open-source partition editing utility and the official partition editor app for the GNOME desktop environment. These days, almost all Linux-based operating system ship with GParted preinstalled.

        Today, after nearly 15 years in development, GParted 1.0.0 was released as a major version featuring support for the F2FS file system to read disk usage, grow, and check, the ability to enable online resizing of extended partitions, better refreshing of NTFS file systems, and port to Gtkmm 3 (GTK+3) and GNOME 3 yelp-tools.

      • GParted 1.0.0 Released

        GParted is the GNOME Partition Editor for creating, reorganizing, and
        deleting disk partitions.

        The GParted 1.0.0 release includes a significant undertaking to migrate
        the code base from gtkmm2 to gtkmm3 (our GTK3 port). Thanks go to Luca
        Bacci and Mike Fleetwood for making this happen.

        With this major change we bump up the major version number. This 1.0.0
        release is not meant to indicate that GParted is more stable or less
        stable than before. Instead it means that GParted now requires gtkmm3
        instead of gtkmm2. Note that several other dependencies have changed as

      • GParted 1.0 Released With Gtkmm 3 Port, F2FS Support

        As we reported was on the horizon last week, GParted 1.0 has been released after fourteen years of being the leading GUI-based Linux utility for partition/file-system management.

        GParted 1.0 brings the long overdue porting to GTK3/Gtkmm3 to replace its old GTK2 usage, offers proper F2FS file-system support around growing/resizing/verifying, Btrfs handling improvements, improved NTFS read usage, online resizing of extended partitions, and other fixes/enhancements.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • OpenSUSE Leap 15.1 Is Performing Very Well On AMD EPYC

        OpenSUSE/SUSE has always tended to perform well on AMD hardware given the close collaboration between the two companies for many years on numerous fronts going back to the original Linux AMD64 kernel upbringing to the RadeonHD driver days, compiler collaboration, and numerous other activities between SUSE and AMD. With last week’s release of openSUSE Leap 15.1, the performance on AMD EPYC servers is even more competitive thanks to various upgrades.

        OpenSUSE Leap 15.1 was released last week and based off the sources of SUSE Linux Enterprise 15 SP1. Leap 15.1 updates its Linux 4.12 kernel with more back-ports/upgrades, updates various components from systemd to other packages, minor improvements to its GCC7 compiler (also offering a GCC8 option though not tested as part of this article), Java OpenJDK 11 by default, and other upgrades.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 28 End of Life

        With the recent release of Fedora 30, Fedora 28 officially enters End Of Life (EOL) status effective May 28, 2019. This impacts any systems still on Fedora 28. If you’re not sure what that means to you, read more below.

        At this point, packages in the Fedora 28 repositories no longer receive security, bugfix, or enhancement updates. Furthermore, the community adds no new packages to the Fedora 28 collection starting at End of Life. Essentially, the Fedora 28 release will not change again, meaning users no longer receive the normal benefits of this leading-edge operating system.

        There’s an easy, free way to keep those benefits. If you’re still running an End of Life version such as Fedora 28, now is the perfect time to upgrade to Fedora 29 or to Fedora 30. Upgrading gives you access to all the community-provided software in Fedora.

      • Fedora 28 Linux OS Reached End of Life, Users Urged to Upgrade to Fedora 30

        Released more than a year ago, on May 1st, 2018, the Fedora 28 operating system shipped with the GNOME 3.28 desktop environment, a new Modular repository, automatic updates for Fedora Atomic Host, and other cool features. But, as good things must come to an end, Fedora 28 has now reached end of life and it will no longer be supported with software and security updates.

        “At this point, packages in the Fedora 28 repositories no longer receive security, bugfix, or enhancement updates. Furthermore, the community adds no new packages to the Fedora 28 collection starting at End of Life,” said Paul W. Frields in an announcement. “Essentially, the Fedora 28 release will not change again, meaning users no longer receive the normal benefits of this leading-edge operating system.”

      • EPEL Proposal: EPEL Master branch AKA Rawhide

        In order to allow for the ability for faster availability of packages, add rawhide branches for EPEL-7 and EPEL-8. These branches would allow developers to build new packages they aren’t sure are ready for either EPEL-N or EPEL-N-testing, and would allow for faster rebuilds of newer features when RHEL has a large feature change.

      • FHP: Outreachy! Is it that hard to crack?

        Getting into one of the reputed internship programs might seem scary and unachievable especially when you don’t consider yourself an expert in that field, but trust me it’s not that hard to get into. How can I say this with so much certainty? Well, I got into Outreachy, one of the prestigious internships as a Fedora intern and through this article, I want to share my journey with you all.

    • Debian Family

      • Ask anything you ever wanted to know about Debian Edu!

        You have heard about Debian Edu or Skolelinux, but do you know exactly what we are doing?

        Join us on the #debian-meeting channel on the OFTC IRC network on 03 June 2019 at 12:00 UTC for an introduction to Debian Edu, a Debian pure blend created to fit the requirements of schools and similar institutions.

        You will meet Holger Levsen, contributing to Debian Edu since 2005 and member of development team. Ask him anything you ever wanted to know about Debian Edu!

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu to Package Proprietary Nvidia Driver

            Canonical is making it easier for users to install proprietary Nvidia drivers.

          • Snapception: The Snap Store is Now Available as a Snap App

            If, like me, you didn’t, you most certainly do now!

            The ‘Snap Store’ app is a fork of GNOME Software dedicated to Snap apps, and Snap apps exclusively. When installed, it can be used to browse, search, install and manage Snap apps on any Linux distribution.

            It does not support installing, searching or managing regular repo apps, AppImages, Flatpak apps or anything else.

          • Announcing the Multipass 0.7.0 beta release

            We would like to announce version 0.7.0 beta release of Multipass! The big part is that we added a preview of VirtualBox support for Windows and macOS!

          • Canonical Releases Multipass 0.7 With VirtualBox Windows/macOS Support

            One of the projects in development the past two years that’s been less trumpeted by Ubuntu maker Canonical has been Multipass, but this utility has reached a new milestone today with new capabilities.

            Multipass is an open-source project by Canonical that makes it easy to spin up virtual Ubuntu instances on Ubuntu/Linux itself as well as other operating systems. Multipass aims to orchestrate the creation/management/maintenance of Ubuntu VMs/images.

          • Ubuntu Server development summary – 28 May 2019
  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Events

    • Fedora science/research get together at Flock

      This year, Flock will be held in Budapest from August 8–11. As part of NeuroFedora, we’ve already proposed a talk to discuss how Free/Open source software links very very well with Free/Open science. Please see the proposal here, and give feedback: https://pagure.io/flock/issue/112.

      Apart from that, given that a large number of community members congregate at Flock, it may be a good chance to get together those of us that work in science/research and related areas. So, if you are planning to attend Flock and work in, or are interested in science/research, please drop a note at this tracker ticket: https://pagure.io/neuro-sig/NeuroFedora/issue/242

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Finally, a bit of love for Intel Tiger

        Again, a polite reminder that Intel Macs aren’t supported, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to run TenFourFox on them. Thanks to new builder Hayley, Tiger-compatible versions of FPR14 and the MP4 Enabler are available for Intel. Previous versions have had issues on Tiger due to issue 209, so watch for that if you choose to run these, but initial testing at least looks very promising.

      • Hacks.Mozilla.Org: JavaScript and evidence-based language design

        In what ways can empirical evidence be used in the design of a language like JavaScript? What kind of impact would a more direct connection to developers give us? As stewards of the JavaScript specification, how do we answer questions about the design of JavaScript and help make it accessible to the thousands of new coders who join the industry each year? To answer this we need to experiment, and I need your help.

      • “We believe the internet can be better,” Mozilla to the International Grand Committee

        Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security testified today on behalf of Mozilla before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy. The International Grand Committee, composed of representatives from numerous governments around the world, has gathered in Ottawa, Canada for its second meeting, hosted by the House of Commons of Canada.

      • Tantek Çelik: I Am Running For The @W3C Advisory Board (@W3CAB)

        I am runnning for the W3C Advisory Board (AB). If you work on or care about open web standards, I am asking you, and in particular your W3C Advisory Committee representative, to vote me for as their #1 vote (due to the way the current W3C STV mechanism is interpreted and implemented by the W3C Team).

        The web community depends on W3C as a key venue for open web standards development. We are in a period of transition and existential risks for W3C (detailed in my official Advisory Board nomination statement). I bring both the experience (served on the AB for five years, 20+ years of first-hand standards work at W3C), and the boldness (created and drove numerous open reforms) necessary to work with an Advisory Board committed to modernizing W3C into a form that continues to support pragmatic & responsive open standards development.

        There are many highly qualified candidates running for the W3C Advisory Board in this election, with a variety of strengths and abilities.

  • LibreOffice

    • Annual Report 2018: LibreOffice Online

      LibreOffice Online is a cloud-based version of the suite that end users can access via a web browser. It uses the same underlying engine as the desktop app, so that documents look identical across the versions. But where did it come from, what happened in 2018, and how can you deploy it on your infrastructure?


      This last development brought collaborative editing to LibreOffice Online, a feature which transforms the application into a state of the art cloud office suite – the first to natively support the ISO/IEC standard Open Document Format (ODF) with collaborative editing features.

      The rendering fidelity of LibreOffice Online is equivalent to that of the desktop software, and interoperability matches that of LibreOffice thanks to the support of both standard and proprietary document formats. LibreOffice Online has been developed mainly by Collabora, a leading contributor to the LibreOffice codebase and community.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Android Pie kernel sources now available for the Motorola One Power, Moto G7, Redmi 7, and Redmi Y3

      Android’s customizability is one of the reasons for its immense popularity and its open-source nature allows independent developers and enthusiasts to create tools that allow you to fine-tune the experience with Android devices. The public availability of kernel source code for specific devices plays a vital role in spurring the development of AOSP-based ROMs, official support for custom recoveries like TWRP, or custom kernels. Under GNU General Public License (GPL), manufacturers are compelled to share kernel sources for any Linux kernel used on their device so that the development community can benefit from them. With the growing awareness of the consumers, more and more companies are using early access to the kernel sources as a selling point. Xiaomi is among them and has now released the kernel sources for Redmi 7 and the Redmi Y3, which were recently launched in India.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development

    • Release notes for the Genode OS Framework 19.05

      The Genode release 19.05 is primarily focused on platform support. It adds compatibility with the 64-bit ARM architecture (AARCH64), comes with improvements of the various kernels targeted by the framework, and extends the list of supported hardware. The increased diversity of base platforms calls for unifications to keep the hardware and kernel landscape manageable.

      On that account, Genode uses one reference tool chain across all kernels and CPU architectures. The current release upgrades this tool chain to GCC 8.3 with C++17 enabled by default (Section Tool chain based on GCC 8.3.0 and binutils 2.32).

    • Genode OS 19.05 Adds 64-bit ARM, Uses C++17 By Default

      For those intrigued by the Genode open-source operating system framework and its microkernel abstraction layer, Genode OS 19.05 is out this morning as the newest quarterly feature release.

      With Genode 19.05 is the introduction of a kernel-agnostic virtualization interface, initial support for 64-bit ARM (AArch64), the new/upgraded toolchain uses C++17 by default with GCC 8.3, and various run-time updates.

    • Qt 5.13.0 Beta4 out

      We have finally released Qt 5.13.0 Beta4. Delta to Beta3 attached.
      Please take a tour & make sure possible new release blockers are visible in release blocker list (https://bugreports.qt.io/issues/?filter=20625).

      All known blockers are fixed and so on we are targeting to get RC out at the beginning of next week. And target for official Qt 5.13.0 release is 13th June 2019.

    • Qt 5.13 Should Be Released By Mid-June With Lottie Support, WebAssembly, glTF 2.0 Import

      Qt 5.13 had originally been slated to ship last week and then revised to this week, but instead the fourth and final beta shipped today while the official release has been pushed to next month.

      Qt 5.13 Beta 4 is out today and with this milestone all known blocker bugs for v5.13 have been resolved. Due to the extra betas to allow these blockers have been corrected, there was a delay in the schedule. The Qt Company is now hoping to ship the Qt 5.13 release candidate next week and to get the official release out on or around 13 June. Details in today’s Beta 4 announcement.

    • 7 Languages | Coder Radio 359

      Wes is back and Mike’s got a few surprises in store, including a new view on Electron, a hot take on titles, and a programming challenge for the both of them.

    • Michal Čihař: Spring cleanup

      What you can probably spot from past posts on my blog, my open source contributions are heavily focused on Weblate and I’ve phased out many other activities. The main reason being reduced amount of free time with growing family, what leads to focusing on project which I like most. It’s fun to develop it and it seems like it will work business wise as well, but that’s still something to be shown in the future.

      Anyway it’s time to admit that I will not spend much time on other things in near future.

      Earlier this year, I’ve resigned from being phpMyAdmin project admin. I was in this role for three years and I’ve been contributing to the project for 18 years. It has been time, but I haven’t contributed significantly in last few months. I will stay with the project for few more months to handle smooth transition, but it’s time to say good bye there.

    • Pointers in Python: What’s the Point?
    • Mu Contributor Focus: Tiago Montes

      Mu is not a solo effort. Many folks have contributed to Mu, and I will be eternally grateful for their work. With the spirit of recognising the voluntary contributions of others in mind, I’m going to write about some of our most prodigious programmers. This post, the second in this series, is about Tiago Montes.

    • How to Learn Python 3 from Scratch | A Beginners Guide
    • Coding in Python 27 – Closing
    • Graphically program in Python with Pythonic
    • This Week In Rust: This Week in Rust 288


  • Lodestar

    So, were you asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? Bet ya were. I’ll also bet that most never saw what was coming either. Neither did I. It took me 50 years to “grow up.” A person and a remarkable bit of computer code made it all possible.

    There is a saying that many sport coaches share with their teams when trying to motivate them to a higher standard of performance.

    There is no “I” in Team.

    The obvious meaning that the letter i is not included in the spelling of the word team.

    But the broader meaning implied is that one person’s skills and accomplishments cannot accomplish nearly as much as an entire team or group of people. That a group of like-minded people can accomplish more than the individual, regardless of how talented or skilled one individual may be. As a younger man, I found that phrase inspirational. As an older man, I see the fallacy of that phrase…riddled with philosophical bullet holes and shallow of meaning in some cases.

    That’s not to say it’s a completely false statement. In the military, the organization and skill of a team is paramount. Not only in accomplishing a given mission, but in keeping you alive or uninjured. In the most harrowing of predicaments, the guy on the right and left of you hold your life in their hands. So yeah, There may be no “I” in team, but never diminish the efforts and accomplishments of one individual. (S)he is capable of shaping history.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • ‘A Public Health Crisis’: With Deadline in 48 Hours, Missouri’s Last Abortion Clinic Sues GOP Government to Remain Open

      With the threat of being shut down within 48 hours, the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri on Wednesday accused the state of “intimidation at the highest levels of government” as it prepared for a legal battle over a decision not to renew the clinic’s license.

      Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Michael Parson and the state Department of Health and Senior Services on Tuesday, arguing that the agency’s decision to withhold the license was another in a long line of tactics to “restrict abortion access and deny Missourians their right to choose abortion.”

      The decision came less than two weeks after Missouri lawmakers voted to ban abortion in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy, one of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country.

    • Upholding Indiana’s Fetal Remains Law, Supreme Court Sends ‘Direct Signal’ That Roe May Be In Jeopardy

      Pro-choice groups called a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a restrictive abortion law a “mixed ruling” on Tuesday, expressing relief that the court did not rule on whether women should be permitted abortion care in certain situations but decrying the ruling’s overall message about women’s right to choose abortion.

      In a 7-2 ruling, the court upheld part of an Indiana law—signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2016—which requires abortion providers to cremate or bury fetal remains instead of disposing of them in medical offices with other medical waste. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

      NARAL Pro-Choice America argued Tuesday that the law has no legitimate purpose, a point the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had made in an earlier ruling. Forcing medical providers to add another step to obtaining abortion care creates a new barrier for women, NARAL said.

      “This law does absolutely nothing to improve healthcare,” the group tweeted. “It’s meant to shame women and cut off access by driving up the costs of an abortion procedure.”

    • Supreme Court Signals More Openness to State Abortion Rules

      The Supreme Court signaled Tuesday it is more open to state restrictions on abortion, upholding an Indiana law supported by abortion opponents that regulates the disposal of fetal remains.

      At the same time, the justices declined to take on an issue closer to the core of abortion rights, rejecting the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked a ban on abortion based on gender, race or disability.

      Both provisions were contained in a law signed by Vice President Mike Pence in 2016 when he was Indiana’s governor.

    • The Egregious 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.

      Little boys talk about their penises openly, and later they discuss masturbation and even porn with one another. While parents might not want their preteen or teen boys consuming porn, they often shrug off boys’ expressions of sexuality because “boys will be boys.”

    • Polling Shows How Impossible It Is to Actually Poll on Abortion

      Abortion continues to remain a highly contentious issue — but is it as contentious as we think it is? With the latest extreme abortion bans sweeping through state legislatures, polling on the actual issue of abortion varies wildly — often depending on who asks the questions, how those questions are framed and which outlet does the reporting.

      The end result? A mishmash of results that are unreliable at best — and outright misleading at worst.

      Take recent reporting on Fox News after the Alabama “no exceptions” total abortion ban passed. According to Raw Story, the news anchor leadingly asked Americans United for Life director Catherine Glenn Foster, “Why are the Democrats, why are the media, why are they hitting so hard against these states [passing abortion bans] when this is what the voters want?”

      Of course, these measures aren’t what voters want. Fox is attempting to use the results from the 2018 Amendment 2 vote to claim Alabama voters want a total abortion ban with no exceptions – but the vote didn’t focus on an abortion ban, per se; it aimed to add “personhood” language to the state constitution. Even as legislators campaigned on the ballot initiative, voters were repeatedly reminded that as long as Roe v. Wade was in place, this would have no impact on legal abortion in Alabama.

    • The 2020 Election Hinges on Health Care

      Last week, I visited the Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles near a public housing project in a poor neighborhood. Two days later, I drove to a South Los Angeles area where pollution from the freeway—not to mention mold, rat droppings, dust and cockroaches—infest crowded apartments, causing asthma that sends children to the nearby St. John’s Well Child and Family Center.

      I visited St. John’s and the Venice clinic while trying to make sense of the health care debate, which should be dominating the presidential campaign but has so far failed to do so. I was angry that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan, and other Democratic contenders’ plans for health care reform, are being lost in campaign news dominated by the ever-present, ever-bombastic Donald Trump. Unbelievably, this demagogic liar and foe of democratic values, is calling the shots in the presidential campaign.

      To me, the clinics are a ray of hope in the gloomy political scene. I had first visited them before President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Both were strapped for money back then, with staffs and community supporters spending much of their time drumming up contributions to support care for their predominantly Latino and African American patients. Obamacare—the Affordable Care Act—pushed through by then-President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010, changed the lives of the clinics’ employees and their patients.

      In both St. John’s and the Venice Family Clinic, most of the working poor—defined as a family of four earning $26,000 a year or less—now receive good medical care thanks to the Affordable Care Act. At St. John’s, Chief Executive Officer Jim Mangia told me how Obamacare had permitted expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s program for medical help to the poor, expanding it to include those who have jobs but can’t afford a doctor, a dentist or an optometrist. The number of immigrants enrolled at St. John’s doubled within two or three years of Obamacare’s passage. In addition, several thousand more have purchased health insurance policies through the Covered California exchanges created by Obamacare. “We doubled in size,” Mangia said.

    • Missouri’s Last Abortion Clinic Faces Imminent Closure. Meet One of the OB-GYNs Fighting Back

      “This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is real, and it’s a public health crisis.” Those were the words of Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen Tuesday, when news broke that Missouri’s only abortion clinic might be forced to close by the end of the week, effectively ending access to legal abortion in the state. Planned Parenthood says that Missouri’s health department is threatening not to renew its license over a series of unreasonable demands, including interviewing seven of the clinic’s doctors. Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an abortion provider at the clinic, told reporters, “This is harassment and attempted intimidation of doctors at the highest levels of government.” Missouri is one of six states in the country with just one abortion clinic left. If it fails to renew the license by May 31, it will become the first state without any abortion services since Roe v. Wade recognized the constitutional right to an abortion in 1973. Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit to stop the clinic’s closure. A hearing is scheduled for this afternoon in St. Louis. This comes less than a week after Missouri’s Republican Governor Mike Parson signed a law banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The law will trigger a total ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned. We speak with Dr. Erin King, a gynecologist and the executive director of Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, about 10 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

    • Child Psychiatric Abuse Is Real — I Should Know, I Lived It

      My mother struggled to hold back tears as she spoke these words to me on the morning of March 28, 1988. I remember this morning more vividly than any other memory I have from my early childhood: I was sitting on my parents’ bed preparing myself for the school day when mom opened the door and told me the news. I did not understand why she was crying, or what “died” meant. Days later my brother and I were sent home early from his funeral with some family friends because we kept attempting to rouse my father from his casket. “Why won’t daddy wake up?” my brother asked.

      I’ve heard my mother recount my life story many times and she always begins in the same place — when I was four my father went to work in the morning and never came home. He was very depressed, had been abusing narcotics and had threatened suicide on multiple occasions. He never left a note, and my mother still insists it was not a suicide. “He’d been taking a new anti-depressant and was feeling better, he didn’t kill himself.” I tell her that these periods of enhanced mood after lengthy bouts of profound, debilitating depression are the exact circumstances in which many suicides occur.

      I was always a very quiet, introverted child, easily frightened and incredibly anxious. I remember having OCD symptoms at a very young age: a vague and overpowering fear would grip me to the point I was afraid to go out in public. Later I learned that these episodes were called “panic attacks,” and they became more frequent as I grew older. When I was around 9, I became so anxious that I would literally regurgitate after I ate. I would have panic attacks and have to leave class. The bullying I’d always experienced because of my gender non-normativity intensified, and I stopped going to school. When I was 6 my mother met the man who would eventually become my stepfather, and he was physically and emotionally abusive toward my two siblings and me. Eventually I began self-injuring.

      My mother took me to see a psychiatrist who put me on an antidepressant medication, during which time I attempted suicide at age 11. Soon after, my mother learned of Dr. Joseph Biederman who was the chief of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. She took me to see him for the first time when I was 12. She recounted my troubles, beginning with my father’s death, and he made a hasty diagnosis of bipolar disorder — a diagnosis he used for the basis of his “treatment” of me over the next six years. He told my mother that she should come to terms with the fact that children like me “rarely lived to see 18.”

    • Tooth fairy study reveals children near lead smelters are exposed to dangerous lead in the womb

      The environmental tragedy in Flint, Michigan, in which drinking water contaminated with lead raised fears of potential health effects for exposed children, revealed the failure of a regulatory system to protect residents from lead exposure.

      Until 2015 the Exide Technologies lead-acid battery smelter, in southeast Los Angeles County, California, recycled approximately 11 million lead acid batteries per year while operating on temporary state permits. This violated multiple federal environmental regulations and exposed over 100,000 residents to lead and other toxic metals. The result was large-scale environmental disaster with lead contamination of the air and soil in largely Latino communities.

      As an environmental scientist and epidemiologist, I sought to understand lead pollution in children growing up in this area. For my research I collaborated with local community organizations and relied on an archive of biological samples that families often save: baby teeth.

    • Group Demands to Know: Who at Trump’s EPA Decided to Slash Funds Used to Protect Children From Toxic Poisoning

      Exactly what led President Donald Trump’s EPA to stop funding research centers tasked with probing environmental health threats to children?

      One advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), wants answers.

      EWG said in a press statement Wednesday that it filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain documents, including electronic records and minutes of meetings, about the decision.

      The Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers have existed thanks to a two-decade partnership between the EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

      Currently, the network includes 13 centers at institutions, including Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California, which are conducting long-term studies on issues including the links between pollutants and allergens with asthma-related illnesses in minority children, and potential near-roadway air pollution impacts on the risk of childhood obesity and inflammatory issues.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Debian has Released Security Updates for jackson-databind

      Debian has released security update for jackson-databind package.

      This release fixes around 11 vulnerabilities against jackson-databind package.

    • Red Hat has Released Critical Security Updates for Firefox
    • Red Hat Released Security Update And Bug Fix For libvirt
    • Two weeks after Microsoft warned of Windows RDP worms, a million internet-facing boxes still vulnerable [Ed: Get ready for some more Microsoft Windows back doors to be discovered and corporate media to cover up for Microsoft by blaming NSA (which cannot go out of business). #microsoft/NSA back doors are costing us all billions while Microsoft makes money from that collusion]

      The vulnerability, designated CVE-2019-0708 and dubbed BlueKeep, can be exploited by miscreants to execute malicious code and install malware on vulnerable machines without the need for any user authentication: a hacker simply has to be able to reach the box across the internet or network in order to commandeer it.

      It is said to be a “wormable” security hole because it is possible to write a worm that spreads automatically, infecting a machine and then attacking others. Two weeks ago, Microsoft released security patches for systems going back to Windows XP to kill off this bug, and everyone is urged to install them.

    • BlueKeep RDP Bug: 1 Million Windows Machines Exposed To Attacks [Ed: Enormous cost of Windows back doors when more people discover them. Snowden's leaks have shown that Microsoft now only participates in NSA agenda but plays a very leading role. This is how it secures contracts and favours. ]
    • Build a Multi-Protocol Tunneling Tool in Java

      For this project we aim to create a multi-protocol tunnelling tool which will allow us to easily run multiple tunnelling tools conveniently within a simple graphical user interface. While there are many tools available out there to tunnel different protocols they are all implemented in different ways which can require a lot of research on each tool and a lot of trial and error to get them operating

      In order to achieve our goal we intend to set up a server to act as a proxy for a client. This proxy will act as a middle man to receive requests from the client and send them on, on behalf of the client. These requests from the client will be packaged inside the slack space of other protocols such as DNS, ICMP or TCP.

    • Russian developers present 30 million-ruble telephone with quantum encryption technology

      The Russian technology company Infotex and the Center for Quantum Technologies at Moscow State University have announced the development of the ViPNet QSS Phone, Russia’s first telephone to feature quantum encryption technology.

      Vedomosti reported that the ViPNet QSS is a stationary telephone that generates random keys for both of its users and then uses photons to exchange those keys. Because the quantum states of the photons are modified if any external measurement is applied to them, the security of the telephone’s connection is extremely reliable. However, the telephone cannot operate over a distance of more than 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Why War With Iran is Not a Rational Strategy for Saudi Arabia

      The navy of the Former United States has a base in Bahrain, a majority-Shi’ite, Sunni-ruled, state. It is a base first controlled by the British in 1936 when Britain still had an empire. Just above the base is the oil port, Ras Tanura, a facility the United States built during the second World War and through which most of Saudi Arabian oil flows. That is why the naval base is where it is. By locating a fleet in Bahrain, the Former US grips Saudi Arabia by the throat. It controls whether or not oil flows from Ras Tanura. And since the world needs this oil to maintain breakneck industrialism, it has the world by the throat as well.

      Ostensibly, this fleet protects Ras Tanura from whatever. But technology has made the fleet obsolete. In all out war with Iran the ships could not stand a barrage of land to sea missiles. Deadly drones and cavitating torpedoes in large numbers would overwhelm any defenses. Within the first few hours it would be a smoking pile of metal filled with the corpses of American sailors. Although the fleet could close Ras Tanura if there were no war, it could not protect it in war.

      The fleet, like much of the rest of the Former United States military, is a tripwire. If Iran attacks it, the story goes, that will be a New Pearl Harbor and the American population will suddenly throw off its apathy and redevelop a taste for war. So the fleet, with the sailors, is actually offered up as a sacrifice in the hopes of producing yet another “New Pearl Harbor.”

      After Roosevelt maneuvered to create the first Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbors became a habit-forming drug. The Entity, always looking for war, needed a spanking-new Pearl Harbor to whip the population into war frenzy. Like in a gunfight in a western, the bad guy has to shoot first. Gulf of Tonkin? Heigh de ho! 9/11? Whoop de do! The idea is to pretend that the enemy launched a surprise attack while you were innocently going about your business. Will it work again? I’m dubious. Drugs tend to have less effect the more you use them. And once you have seen a few false flags you develop a jaundiced view. Just the willingness to maneuver to sacrifice some of your citizens to concoct a New Pearl Harbor is a sign of cultural bankruptcy.

    • The Ever Dependable Bully on Embassy Row

      The United States is still punishing Iran for the 1979 takeover of its ‘sacred’ premises, its embassy in Tehran. By contrast, when American authorities occupy another nation’s embassy there’s nothing but approval from its citizens and silent acquiescence by others. I don’t know about you, but I heard no outcry, not even a quiet show of concern emanating from the diplomatic corridors of Washington or New York earlier this month around the violation of foreign diplomatic property—that belonging to Venezuela. That silence recalls a similar embassy raid:—the American assault on and occupation of the Iraqi embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in late 1990.

      Anticipating the recent incursion, at least the Venezuelan administration was able to remove their files and to made an arrangement with a brave team of American supporters, The Embassy Protection Collective, to occupy the building for as long as possible in order to attract some media attention to the threat and eventual (illegal) takeover of its property by U.S. law enforcement personnel. That handful of activists stood against not only a police force, but a menacing crowd of Venezuelan opposition supporters eager to assume control of the building in the name of U.S.-backed Venezuelan president-in-waiting Juan Guaido.

      The 1990 assault on the Iraqi embassy went unnoticed and completely unprotested at any level. At that time, a public unfamiliar with Kuwait (and Iraq) was overwhelmed by terrifying media accounts of the unspeakable military aggression. Worldwide, emotions were swiftly roused by images of a new Hitler; Saddam Hussein was reframed as a menace to the entire world, his arsenal directed at Europe.

      There wasn’t a whimper when Washington’s Iraq embassy was stormed and barricaded. It would remain empty and barred to any Iraqi presence for more than 12 years (until 2003 when the U.S. occupied Iraq and installed its chosen leaders in Baghdad).

      The American assault proceeded at multiple levels, as with Venezuela, but more rapidly in Iraq’s case and with blanket global approval. Within a mere four days, after the August 2nd invasion of Kuwait, an unprecedented international embargo, probably drawn up in anticipation of an Iraqi miscalculation and blunder– was imposed on the nation of 18 million. It was comprehensive, ruthlessly policed and internationally adhered to, lasting long after Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction were neutralized, after billions of dollars of Iraqi revenue from controlled oil sales were essentially stolen, after the country’s overseas holdings were impounded, after treasures were pillaged, after millions died or were stricken by embargo-related illnesses and starvation, after medicines were long unavailable, and after millions of its citizens fled in search of relief from that punishing siege.

    • Robert Stuart vs the BBC

      The video report in controversy is ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. Scenes from it were first broadcast as a BBC news report on August 29, 2013 and again as a BBC Panorama special in September. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced by BBC reporter Ian Pannell with Darren Conway as camera operator and director.

      The news report footage was taken in a town north of Aleppo city in a region controlled by the armed opposition. It purports to show the aftermath of a Syrian aerial attack using incendiary weapons, perhaps napalm, killing and burning dozens of youth. The video shows the youth arriving and being treated at a nearby hospital where the BBC film team was coincidentally filming two British medical volunteers from a British medical relief organization.

      The video had a strong impact. The incident was on August 26. The video was shown on the BBC three days later as the British Parliament was debating whether to support military action by the US against Syria.

      As it turned out, British parliament voted against supporting military action. But the video was effective in demonizing the Syrian government. After all, what kind of government attacks school children with napalm-like bombs?

    • Rising Tensions With China

      Philippe Waechter, Chief Economist with French Company Ostrum Asset Management, published on May 17 last year an interesting analysis of the current tensions between China and the United States.

      The French expert explains that Donald Trump’s tweets of May 5 increased tension between Washington and Beijing and re-launched new discussions on the terms of a trade agreement between the two powers.

      Chinese retaliation against US imports in response to the new U.S. tariffs calls into question the lengthy period of calm begun after the G20 meeting on December 1st last year.

      Trump’s desire to impose new restrictions on China reflects his desire to repatriate jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector, and also to reduce US dependence on China.

      In 2018, the U.S. external trade balance with China showed a more than $400 billion deficit.

      The counterpart of this Chinese surplus with the United States reflected Chinese financing of the U.S. economy through the purchase of U.S. federal bonds. The logic was that the Chinese products in the U.S. market financed the U.S. economy to compensate for the lack of savings there.

    • Mike Pence’s West Point Address Should Keep Us Awake at Night

      Time was that a stint, or even a career, in the military did not necessarily translate into any serious combat duty. That may seem hard to believe eighteen years after 9/11, but this middle-aged middling major is just old enough to remember such a bygone era. As a cadet at West Point (2001-05), having joined the army just months before the September 11 attacks, most of my professors and tactical officers had never been to war. The colonels had joined in the early 1980s and, at worst, saw limited combat in the petite (and absurd) conflicts in Panama and/or Grenada. The captains and majors commissioned in the early 1990s. As such, most just missed Persian Gulf War 1.0, a few deployed to Somalia or the Balkans, and most hadn’t seen the elephant at all.

      Back then, soldiers trained for war but didn’t necessarily expect to fight in one. The Cold War, post-Vietnam army was built as much to contain America’s enemies, and to deter war, as it was to actually engage in combat. Those days seem charmingly quaint from the viewpoint of 2019. Indeed, when I entered the U.S. Military Academy on July 2, 2001, my expectation was to travel the world and maybe do some light peacekeeping in Bosnia or Kosovo, not to fight extended wars. How naive that seems now.

      Instead I spent a career training for and deploying to wars across the Greater Middle East. Hell, that’s been the story of my entire generation of soldiers. When I graduated in 2005, this still seemed unique and profound. More than a decade later it’s simply the mundane way of things. So it was, this past week, that Vice President Mike Pence addressed the graduating class at West Point, and reminded them to prepare for ever more war.

      The content of this bellicose, and banal, speech should have been remarkable; should have raised Americans’ collective “spidey-sense.” Instead, hardly anyone noticed that Pence, like a Punxsutawney groundhog, was veritably predicting many more years of winter (read: warfare). Still, the vice president’s oratory was disturbing on a number of levels.

    • How About a Peace Race Instead of an Arms Race?

      In late April, the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that, in 2018, world military expenditures rose to a record $1.82 trillion. The biggest military spender by far was the United States, which increased its military budget by nearly 5 percent to $649 billion (36 percent of the global total). But most other nations also joined the race for bigger and better ways to destroy one another through war.

      This situation represents a double tragedy. First, in a world bristling with weapons of vast destructive power, it threatens the annihilation of the human race. Second, as vast resources are poured into war and preparations for it, a host of other problems―poverty, environmental catastrophe, access to education and healthcare, and more―fail to be adequately addressed.

      But these circumstances can be changed, as shown by past efforts to challenge runaway militarism.

      During the late 1950s, the spiraling nuclear arms race, poverty in economically underdeveloped nations, and underfunded public services in the United States inspired considerable thought among socially-conscious Americans. Seymour Melman, a professor of industrial engineering at Columbia University and a peace activist, responded by writing The Peace Race, a mass market paperback published in 1961. The book argued that military spending was undermining the U.S. economy and other key aspects of American life, and that it should be replaced by a combination of economic aid abroad and increased public spending at home.

      Melman’s popular book, and particularly its rhetoric about a “peace race,” quickly came to the attention of the new U.S. President, John F. Kennedy. On September 25, 1961, dismayedby the Soviet Union’s recent revival of nuclear weapons testing, Kennedy used the occasion of his address to the United Nations to challenge the Russians “not to an arms race, but to a peace race.” Warning that “mankind must put an end to war―or war will put an end to mankind,” he invited nations to “join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war.”

    • Trump Hasn’t Pardoned the War Criminals Yet, But His Message Is Clear

      About a week before Memorial Day, reports started circulating that Trump had ordered officials to quickly draw up paperwork for him to pardon a number of U.S. military personnel either convicted of, or standing trial for, war crimes. Rather than engaging in a drawn-out process, Trump apparently wanted to issue such pardons on Memorial Day as a twisted, sick gift to the troops.

      However, facing a barrage of criticism, not least from the military top brass, he pulled back, ruefully acknowledging that the pardons were rather controversial. At this point, they have not yet been signed. In all likelihood, though, like so many other god-awful ideas floated by this administration, the pardons will, quite soon, be resurrected and dangled as red meat before the MAGA crowd.

      It’s hard for me to understand what sort of a Memorial Day gift Trump thought this would be, other than to send a message to the most violent, sadistic elements in his constituency, telling them that under his leadership literally anything goes; that the U.S. is unbound; and that acts of random, extreme violence against civilians, especially in Muslim-majority countries in which the U.S. has entanglements, are henceforward to be glorified as acts of patriotic heroism.

      Trump has, time and again, called the handful of American soldiers convicted by military courts of war crimes “heroes.” These include Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who is standing trial for thrill-killing civilians in Iraq; Nicholas Slatten, a Blackwater contractor found guilty in 2007 of killing numerous Iraqi civilians; Green Beret Mathew Golsteyn, who stands accused of killing an unarmed Afghan man; and several Marine Corps snipers accused of urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.

    • Israeli Leader Uncharacteristically Quiet Over Gulf Crisis

      Israel’s prime minister has been a vocal critic of Iran over the years, accusing the Islamic Republic of sinister intentions at every opportunity. But the outspoken Benjamin Netanyahu has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the current crisis between the U.S. and Iran.

      While Israel has welcomed Washington’s pressure on Tehran, the crisis has nonetheless put Netanyahu in a delicate position, not wanting to be seen as pushing the Americans into a military confrontation and wary of being drawn into fighting with Iran’s powerful proxy, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

      “In recent developments, Israel has taken the backseat. There’s one reason for this: it’s not in Israel’s interest to take the lead,” said Yoel Guzansky, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank, and former Iran analyst in the prime minister’s office.

      It’s a new look for Netanyahu, who has made Iran his top priority during his decade-long tenure.

    • Khabarovsk governor says deadly fire aboard emergency landed SSJ100 in Moscow was caused by pilot error, but Aeroflot says baloney

      Khabarovsk Governor Sergey Furgal announced on Wednesday that the deadly fire aboard an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 on May 5 at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport was the result of pilot error. “We’ve received the official findings that the aircraft was technically in perfect condition… The commission’s official conclusion is that the plane was technically fully operational. It was 100 percent human error,” the governor said in an interview with the TV station Guberniya.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Unequal Justice: Julian Assange is an Enemy in Trump’s War on the First Amendment

      The prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act represents a dangerous turn in President Donald Trump’s war on the First Amendment. Whether you love Assange or loathe him, it is vital to understand the eighteen-count indictment filed against him on May 23 in the context of that wider conflict. In a very real sense, we are all defendants in the case against Assange.

      The new charges allege that Assange collaborated with former Army Intelligence Officer Chelsea Manning from 2009 to 2011 to obtain and publish national defense information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. items supplied by Manning included more than 250,000 classified State Department cables as well as several CIA-interrogation videos. Manning also leaked the now-widely viewed video of a 2007 attack staged by U.S. military Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed two Reuters employees and a dozen other people.

    • Unraveling The Justice Department’s Conspiracy Theory Against Julian Assange

      Espionage Act charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange revealed the Justice Department is relying on a theory of the case, which was concocted and partly tested during Chelsea Manning’s military trial.

      The theory adopts the CIA’s viewpoint, which is that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” and suggests Assange recruited Manning as an insider or spy. She was deployed to Baghdad and immediately went to work stealing documents for WikiLeaks in November 2009.

      But according to Manning, she did not seriously contemplate releasing documents to WikiLeaks until January 2010. She copied databases of military incident reports from Iraq and Afghanistan on to her personal laptop to take with her before she returned to the United States for mid-tour leave.

      This is but one example of how military prosecutors fabricated a timeline to bolster their narrative of criminal conspiracy.

      To convict Manning, a military judge did not have to issue any findings of fact about Assange or WikiLeaks. The matter of whether Manning was working for Assange was debated by prosecutors and Manning’s defense attorneys but never officially settled.

    • WikiLeaks warns Assange is in very poor health

      WikiLeaks publisher and founder Julian Assange has been moved to health ward of Belmarsh Prison where he is incarcerated for jumping bail…

    • Authoritarian Spirits: Congress, the Espionage Act and Punishing WikiLeaks

      The time was 1917, and for anyone keen to impress us about any liberal feelings on the part of President Woodrow Wilson, the following should be said. Having deemed the United States too proud to fight, he proceeded to commit the very same to the first global industrial conflict of its kind and overturn every reservation against backing the Franco-German alliance. Initial constipation and weary restraint gave way to a full-blooded commitment against Kaiserism.

      In doing so, the nasty instrument known as the Espionage Act of 1917 came into being, a product of disdain in the face of the First Amendment’s solemn words that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

      The Espionage Act, also known as 18 USC 793, has been a bother to a good number in the legal profession. It was, according to Charles P. Pierce, “the immortal gift of that half-nutty professor, Woodrow Wilson, and his truly awful attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer.” Even then, Wilson was disappointed, given that the final document was somewhat more diluted from its initial concentrate featuring wide-ranging press censorship and the targeting of anarchists.

      In the words of law academic Stephen Vladeck, the law “draws no distinction between the leaker, the recipient of the leak, or the 100th person to redistribute, retransmit, or even retain the national defence information that by that point is already in the public domain.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • HBO’s hit miniseries is ending, and here’s how its characters compare to their real-life counterparts

      There’s just one episode remaining of “Chernobyl,” the HBO miniseries about the catastrophic nuclear accident that rocked the Soviet Union in April 1986. As the show comes to an end, many are left wondering how much of the dramatization is historically accurate, where the showrunners learned what they did about the events, and how people can find out more about the disaster. Meduza suggests some places to start.

    • Memo to Tourists: Enjoy Montana, Don’t Destroy Montana

      Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of the camping season in Montana. We are a state rich in natural assets already lost in most the nation, such as clear, clean and cold flowing streams filled with wild trout, forests and plains that still hold grizzly bears, mountain lions, elk, antelope and deer, and of course two premier national parks. It’s no wonder more than 10 million tourists visit our state annually, providing more than $7 billion to the economy. Montanans are legendary for their hospitality, but we also expect visitors to respect our state, follow our laws and rules and enjoy, not destroy, Montana.

      It’s really easy to have a great time in Montana thanks to our abundant public lands and the resources they nourish. But our forests, plains and mountains are not “domesticated.” They maintain rare natural functioning ecosystems that can and have been impacted by human activities. Hence, it’s up to humans to be aware of their “footprint” — whether it’s an actual footprint or the impacts from their mechanized transportation.

    • 1 Dead, 130 Injured as Tornadoes Rip Through Ohio and Indiana

      A swarm of tornadoes so tightly packed that one may have crossed the path carved by another tore across Indiana and Ohio overnight, smashing homes, blowing out windows and ending the school year early for some students because of damage to buildings. One person was killed and at least 130 were injured.

      The storms were among 55 twisters that forecasters said may have touched down Monday across eight states stretching eastward from Idaho and Colorado. The past couple of weeks have seen unusually high tornado activity in the U.S., with no immediate end to the pattern in sight.

      The winds peeled away roofs — leaving homes looking like giant dollhouses — knocked houses off their foundations, toppled trees, brought down power lines and churned up so much debris that it could be seen on radar. Highway crews had to use snowplows to clear an Ohio interstate.

    • ‘A Drastic Difference’: With Climate Crisis Fueling Storms and Floods, Historic Delay in Planting Season Threatens US Farmers and Food Prices

      Farmers in the Midwest are watching the spring planting season shrink due to the climate crisis as damaging storms and flooding are making fields from Oklahoma to Arkansas impossible to sow, a situation that is driving grain prices up in futures markets in a way that could have devastating consequences.

      A lower yield of corn and soybeans is already jacking prices for the staple cereals up, which could lead to a ripple effect across the economy. And farmers can lose crop insurance if they don’t hit growing planting deadlines, most of which are in late May and early June, a major source of recovery for struggling farmers in an already volatile economy.

    • Disaster Aid Bill Again Blocked in House by GOP Conservative

      A second conservative Republican on Tuesday blocked another attempt to pass a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill, delaying again a top priority for some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies on Capitol Hill.

      Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said that if Democratic leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi thought the measure was so important, they should have kept the House in session in Washington late last week to slate an up-or-down roll call vote.

    • Two House Republicans Block Passage of Long-Awaited Disaster Aid

      The House’s Republican leadership had agreed not to obstruct passage of the bill over the recess, CNN reported, but had also warned that individual members might try to stall it.

      House Democrats will attempt to pass the bill again Thursday, but that attempt could also be blocked by a single Republican, according to The New York Times. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bill would pass “overwhelmingly” when House members return from the recess the first week of June, Reuters reported.

    • The Colorado River’s Biggest Challenge Looms

      For years it’s been apparent that the Colorado, which supplies water to 40 million people in the West — including major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver — is in “structural deficit.” There’s more demand for water than the river can provide.

    • New Poll Shows Widespread Bipartisan Interest in Electric Cars

      The vast majority of Americans have a positive impression of electric vehicles (EVs), according to a newly released nationwide survey of registered voters by Climate Nexus.

      The poll, conducted in partnership with Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, finds that 77 percent of American voters have a positive opinion of electric cars. This strong majority carried across all demographic groups, with seven out of every 10 self-identified Republican voters viewing electric vehicles positively.

    • Malaysia to Return 3,300 Tons of Plastic Waste Illegally Imported From Countries Including the U.S.

      Malaysia’s Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin announced Tuesday that the country would return as much as 3,000 tonnes (approximately 3,307 U.S. tons) of plastic that had been imported illegally from countries including the U.S., Reuters reported.

      “Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world … we will fight back,” Yeo said at a press conference reported by the Associated Press. “Even though we are a small country, we can’t be bullied by developed countries.”

      The waste comes in 60 containers smuggled into the country. Ten of the containers, containing some 450 tonnes (approximately 496 U.S. tons) will be shipped back within two weeks, Yeo said.

    • Malaysia to send back plastic waste to foreign nations [Ed: Late stage capitalism is nations passing trash around by sea, back and forth, burning fuel in the process and going into 'war' over who gets whose garbage]

      Malaysia will send back some 3,000 metric tons (3,300 tons) of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia in a move to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said Tuesday.

      Yeo said Malaysia and many developing countries have become new targets after China banned the import of plastic waste last year.

      Last week, the Philippines said it would ship back dozens of containers of garbage which Filipino officials were illegally shipped to the country from Canada in 2013 to 2014.

    • Malaysia to send 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste back to countries of origin

      Malaysia last year became the world’s main destination for plastic waste after China banned its import, disrupting the flow of more than 7 million tonnes of the trash a year.

      Dozens of recycling factories have cropped up in Malaysia, many without operating licenses, and communities have complained of environmental problems.

      Yeo Bee Yin, minister of energy, technology, science, environment and climate change, said 60 containers of trash that had been imported illegally would be sent back.

      “These containers were illegally brought into the country under false declaration and other offences which clearly violates our environmental law,” Yeo told reporters, after inspecting the shipments at Port Klang, on the outskirts of the capital.

      Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept them.

    • The Bottom Line: Go for the Money

      It’s rare to hear business magazines admit the power of nonviolent action. As the editor of Nonviolence News, a service that collects and shares 30-50+ stories of nonviolence in action each week, I often see business journals minimizing the effect of activism.

      Usually, industry tries to conceal the impact nonviolent action has on their bottom line by chalking it up to market pressures—as with the case of Shell’s Arctic drilling rig. Business magazines credited falling fossil fuel prices with the decision to withdraw from drilling in the Arctic. Beneath that story, however, the reality was that hundreds of kayaktivists in the Shell No campaign blockaded the oil rig all the way from Portland, OR to Seattle, WA, to Alaska, eventually succeeding in stopping the drilling project.

      That’s why I was glad to see an honest admission of activists’ impact in Newsweek recently. An article blared the news that a first quarter securities filing from private prison company GEO Group warned their investors that activism poses a risk to their bottom line. Due to widespread resistance to mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline to nationwide outrage over family separation policies, private prisons and detention centers are facing the heat of a (rightfully) outraged public.

    • Big Pharma Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than the Automotive Industry

      Rarely does mention of the pharmaceutical industry conjure up images of smoke stacks, pollution and environmental damage.

      Yet our recent study found the global pharmaceutical industry is not only a significant contributor to global warming, but it is also dirtier than the global automotive production sector.
      It was a surprise to find how little attention researchers have paid to the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. Only two other studies had some relevance: one looked at the environmental impact of the U.S. healthcare system and the other at the pollution (mostly water) discharged by drug manufacturers.

      Our study was the first to assess the carbon footprint of the pharma sector.

    • Every Oklahoma County Under State of Emergency as Historically Wet Spring Continues

      This has been a historically wet spring for the South and Central U.S.

      The National Weather Service said that Mississippi River flooding in at least eight states has lasted its longest since the “Great Flood” of 1927, USA Today reported Wednesday. And now, following two weeks of storms in Oklahoma and Kansas, the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas has swollen to record levels, Axios reported Wednesday.

    • Global warming: Human activity is the cause

      British scientists have re-asserted an essential reality about global warming: human activity, not slow-acting and so far unidentified natural cycles in the world’s oceans, is its cause.

      That activity – including ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels as well as the devastation of the natural forest – is enough to account for almost all the warming over the last century.

      Researchers from the University of Oxford report in the Journal of Climate that they looked at all the available observed land and ocean temperature data since 1850.

      They matched this not just with greenhouse gas concentrations but also with records of volcanic eruptions, solar activity and air pollution peaks – all of which affect temperature readings.

    • A journalist in Baltimore shows HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ to his stepfather and discovers that he was part of the USSR’s military cleanup

      Slava Malamud is a journalist and math teacher with Moldovan roots who now lives in the United States. His tweets about the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” are enormously popular, attracting thousands of likes and reposts, including from Craig Mazin, the show’s creator. Malamud says he recently decided to show the miniseries to his stepfather, and was surprised to learn that the man worked as a liquidator at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant — something he’s never talked about before. To this day, it’s an experience he still wants to forget.

    • New Report Warns Planet May Be Warming Twice as Fast as Expected

      New earthshaking science will be coming out in the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that could nearly double future warming predictions. We have a window into this new science now, and if we thought the spate of apocalyptic climate reports last year was bad, our near-term future will create a plausible scenario that is far worse than the worst-case scenario we have come to fear.

      If we don’t get our collective climate acts together immediately, what will our future look like when warming is near double the astonishing impacts we have already been told to expect? How are we going to stop this future calamity?

      Doubt, delay and inaction continue. Unprecedented firestorms, floods, droughts and hurricanes strengthen nonlinearly because of small amounts of additional warming. Abrupt Earth system collapses are completing their initiations and becoming unrecoverable. Most concerning is something brand new — something climate science has been puzzling over for 30 years.

      Most of us have heard that we have 12 years to fix climate change. This 12-year time frame is what we have left to get our greenhouse gas emissions budget under control, and to meet a target of returning to and staying at 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C) of warming. It requires we follow a path of emissions reductions where we reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) levels about 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030. The rest of the emissions reduction path varies a bit depending on how much CO2 we actively remove from the atmosphere, and includes zero CO2 emissions by 2050. So based on this pathway, we have delayed so long that we have only 12 years to succeed or fail. Failure is poorly defined, but a recent article in The Guardian does a pretty good job of describing failure as “render[ing] the planet unrecognizable from anything humans have ever experienced.”

    • #MakeThemPay: Demonstrators Call Out ExxonMobil for Climate Crimes at Shareholders Meeting

      Dozens of people demonstrated outside ExxonMobil’s annual general meeting in Irving, Texas on Wednesday to tell shareholders and the public that because the energy giant’s executives knew long ago that carbon emissions were creating a climate crisis, it is now time to #MakeThemPay for the destruction their deception sowed.

      The demonstration, organized by a coalition of groups including 350.org, highlighted 2015 reporting that revealed Exxon scientists determined several decades ago that continued fossil fuel use would cause catastrophic consequences for the planet and its inhabitants—but rather than sharing those findings with the public and halting oil and gas production, the company’s leaders spent several subsequent years bankrolling efforts to raise doubts about the reality of the climate crisis.

    • ‘Animal Fur Is Obsolete’: Lawmakers Push Bills to Ban Sale of Animal Fur in California, Hawaii, and New York City

      In the 1980’s and 90’s, fur activists were mocked and viewed in the mainstream as a radical nuisance, embodied by a stereotype of dousing wearers of fur coats in red paint. Since then, undercover investigations and campaigns targeting leading fashion corporations have swayed public opinion against the use of fur in the fashion industry, and lawmakers have started to respond with proposals to ban its sale and manufacturin

      West Hollywood, California was the first city in the United States to pass a fur ban in 2011. Berkeley followed in 2017, with San Francisco passing their own fur ban in March 2018 and Los Angeles, the largest city to ban fur, passing the sale and manufacturing of fur within city limits in September 2018. As cities in California have led the way to banning fur in the United States, a bill in the state assembly was recently proposed that would ban the sale and manufacturing of animal fur throughout the state of California.

      “The City of Los Angeles has just gone through their process to ban the sale of fur, San Francisco had already done it and several other cities, so I felt it was time to have the conversation at the state level,” said California assemblymember Laura Friedman, the author of the legislation, AB44, which passed a vote in the appropriations committee and will likely reach a floor vote within a few weeks. “We have a lot of evidence and heard from clothing manufacturers that its nearly impossible to find out whether the fur was sourced for clothing is raised in a humane way.”

    • Fossil Fuel Subsidies Mean Using Public Money ‘To Destroy the World’: UN Chief

      As Pope Francis called on global financial leaders to help keep dirty energy in the ground, the United Nations chief said Tuesday that fossil fuel subsidies amount to “using taxpayers’ money… to destroy the world.”

      “Climate disruption is upon us, and it is progressing faster than our efforts to address it,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Vienna at the climate-focused R20 Austrian World Summit.

      While near-daily global disasters including floods, droughts, and wildfires make clear that the impacts of the climate crisis are already occurring, Guterres said, “there is a silver lining to the looming cloud.”

      That’s because “if we do what we must to combat climate change, the benefits for societies around the world would be profound,” he said, pointing to “cleaner water and air” and “reduced biodiversity loss.”

    • Reindeer turn to seaweed as winters warm

      Deep in the Arctic Circle, on the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, nature has found a way to outwit climate change: deprived of their normal diet, the world’s most northerly reindeer turn to seaweed.

      Strangely, it is not cold and snow that have threatened them with starvation, but rain. In the warmer winter weather rain falls instead of snow, causing a crust of ice too thick for the reindeer to break through and reach the plants beneath which they need to eat to survive.

      The Svalbard reindeer are a sub-species adapted to the extreme climate and known locally as Arctic pigs, because of their round shape and stubby legs.

      Normally even with deep snow the reindeer can use their hooves to scrape the covering layer away to reach the grasses and plants underneath and survive the long dark winter. But recently Svalbard, which is at the most northerly point of the Gulf Stream, has been experiencing warmer winters

      .Frequently it rains heavily rather than snowing, and the rain turns to ice when it hits the frozen surface, cutting off the reindeers’ food supply. The animals have taken to moving down to the seashore to graze to get enough nourishment until the spring comes.

  • Finance

    • There, We Fixed It. Because People Other Than White Men Built This Country

      Lovie Meets Harriet. Three-year-old Auriah “Lovie” Duncan was walking with her grandmothers Tracy and Tammy Lynndee when saw this newly-painted mural by Michael Rosato on Cambridge’s Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center. It wasn’t quite finished – hence the white hand – but “she wanted to go up and give (Harriet) a high-five,” said Tracy. Photo from Facebook and Maiden Maryland.

      It was less than surprising when slimy Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on behalf of Great Pretender Donnie “Very Fine People” Trump, announced last week they were “postponing” an Obama-era plan to put the image of abolitionist and freedom fighter Harriet Tubman on $20 bills, thus ousting genocidal racist, slave owner and evil creator of the Trail of Tears Andrew Jackson – a no-brainer move, you’d think, for anyone except an oblivious fan-boy who thinks Jackson “had a great history.” Born a slave in Maryland in 1820, Tubman endured years of abuse before escaping to free territory in Philadelphia and becoming a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, escorting over 300 slaves to freedom, including her own parents, on 19 fraught trips back to the South. Often following the stars, Tubman became known for her courage, tenacity and strategic thinking: She would steal a slave master’s horse and buggy to start their trip, spirit slaves away on Saturday night knowing notices of runaways wouldn’t be posted until Monday, carry a gun to prevent her charges from giving up or turning back. “You’ll be free or die,” she told them, echoing her own response to a $40,000 ransom on her head: “I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to: liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive.”

    • Iran Economic Sanctions Cost Lives

      The Trump administration’s illegal economic sanctions against Iran reduce access to essential medicines, according to UN experts and interview with CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot

    • ‘The Merger Would Increase Prices—and You Don’t Have to Take Our Word for It’ – CounterSpin interview with Leo Fitzpatrick on T-Mobile/Sprint merger

      The Washington Post headline was blunt: “T-Mobile and Sprint Want to Merge. Here’s Why You Should Worry.” The lead was also direct, with the reporter’s assertion that, at the news of a possible merger between the two big wireless carriers, “A collective groan went up from industry-watchers: Ugh, this again?”

      That’s because telecom companies’ urge to merge is relentless; their promises of more and better for everyone perennial, though unproven; and their public interest critics exasperated.

      The Post article was, as it happens, from 2013, but it might as well have been this week. T-Mobile and Sprint still want to merge. They’re still promising benefits for all concerned, and consumer advocates are lined up to say, Ugh, this again? again.

      Now, though, we have a Republican-led FCC, chaired by the cartoonishly co-opted Ajit Pai, who has just announced that the agency will approve the deal.

      We’re joined now to talk about what happens next by Leo Fitzpatrick, policy counsel and C. Edwin Baker fellow at Free Press. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Leo Fitzpatrick.

      LF: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

    • Jumia’s Stock Listing Spotlights African E-Commerce

      Despite a growing population, a rising middle class and increasing internet and mobile phone use, Africa is one of the world’s least convenient locations for e-commerce. A host of logistic nightmares include still-low internet penetration, a poor road system that hinders deliveries to consumers, and a population that largely does not have bank accounts and therefore has difficulty making online purchases.

      So who would be crazy enough to launch an e-commerce business under such conditions? Two Harvard Business School classmates were that crazy, and their daring has paid dividends. In 2012, Nigerian Tunde Kehinde and Ghanaian Raphael Kofi Afaedor started Jumia Technologies in a garage in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, and last month the e-commerce company became the first African tech startup to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The event is being hailed as a major development for Africa and African commerce.

    • Google’s Reliance on Temps and Contractors Creates Unfair ‘Caste System’

      Endless free meals. On-site gyms. Ample paid time off and regular contributions to 401(k)s. Even routine in-office massages. Google portrays itself as a company that, as Business Insider wrote in 2017, “pulls out all the stops when it comes to attracting top talent.” Behind the carefully crafted image, however, is what New York Times reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi calls a “shadow work force” of temporary employees and contract workers who don’t get access to any of the benefits and now outnumber the full-time employees.

      “As of March,” Wakabayashi reports, “Google worked with roughly 121,000 temps and contractors around the world, compared with 102,000 full-time employees, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times.”

      These temps, vendors and contractors may seem indistinguishable from full-time employees. They perform multiple jobs, from content moderation to human resources roles to software development, but they’re employed by staffing agencies, not Google.

    • ‘Let’s Expand Employee Ownership’: Bernie Sanders Backs Plan to Give Workers Power Over Corporate Decisions

      Decrying an economic status quo that “produces huge CEO bonuses while millions are paid starvation wages,” Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday backed a pair of policies aimed at reducing soaring inequality by giving workers more power over corporate decision-making.

      According to the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein—who first reported on Sanders’s plans—the Vermont senator is developing a proposal that would force large companies to “regularly contribute a portion of their stocks to a fund controlled by employees, which would pay out a regular dividend to the workers.”

    • Taking Farmers for a Ride

      Over the last year, President Trump has taken farmers on a roller coaster ride that’s finally gone off the rails.

      Escalating trade fights have kicked farmers, already mired in a five-year slump, in the gut. Now, the administration is working up a new trade aid package, while simultaneously opposing aid for farmers recovering from recent Midwest flooding.

      What’s going on? If there’s a plan, it’s hard to see from here.

      Just in the last few weeks, Trump tweeted a dramatic escalation in new tariffs on China, which immediately announced an escalation of tariffs on U.S. goods, including agriculture products.

      A week later, without notice or explanation, Trump ended steel tariffs (based on dubious national security concerns) on close trading partners Mexico and Canada. Yet the same day, Trump signed an executive order threatening new auto tariffs on Japan and the European Union.

      If the auto tariffs move forward, Japan and the EU will almost certainly retaliate with tariffs on, you guessed it, agricultural products.

    • Virtually No Wage Growth, Surge in Stock Buybacks: Study Offers More Proof Trump Tax Cuts Were ‘Designed to Put a Big Windfall in Oligarch Pockets’

      Despite lofty promises from President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that went into effect last year have done little—if anything—to raise workers’ wages, boost economic growth, or spur business investment.


      The CRS report also suggested that worker bonus announcements by major corporations immediately following the passage of the GOP tax bill in 2017 may have been little more than “a public relations move.”

      As for overall growth, the CRS analysis cast serious doubt on Trump’s repeated claim that his tax cuts were “rocket fuel” for the U.S. economy.

      “On the whole,” the CRS said, “the growth effects tend to show a relatively small (if any) first-year effect on the economy.”

    • We Can Free a Generation From Burden of College Loan Debt

      The reaction — shock, joy, disbelief, euphoria — revealed the importance of Robert F. Smith’s stunning gift, when he announced, unexpectedly, that he would pay off all the college debts of Morehouse College students graduating this year.

      His gift literally changed the prospects and the lives of the vast majority of those 396 graduates.

      Morehouse is a proud, historically black college, the alma mater of extraordinary leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Julian Bond, Howard Thurman, Maynard Jackson, former head of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, former head of the black caucus Cedric Richmond, Hollywood legends Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee, Olympic champion Edwin Moses and many more.

      Full-time tuition costs $25,368, with room and board and other expenses, a year at Morehouse can cost nearly $50,000. Ninety percent of Morehouse students get some kind of financial aid, cobbling together Pell grants, federal and private loans, family loans and more.

      Morehouse seniors who borrow to pay for college carry an average of $26,000 in federal student loans. Private loans, federal Parent Plus loans, credit card and other debts are on top of that. The federal student loans alone would result in a monthly payment of $276.

    • Making Wall Street Pay

      Last week Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Barbara Lee are introducing bills in the Senate and House for a financial transaction tax (FTT). Their proposed tax is similar to, albeit somewhat higher than, the FTT proposed by Senator Brian Schatz earlier this year. The Sanders-Lee proposal would impose a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions, with lower rates on transfers of other financial assets. Senator Schatz’s bill would impose a 0.1 percent tax on trades of all financial assets.

      At this point, it is not worth highlighting the differences between the bills. Both would raise far more than half a trillion dollars over the next decade, almost entirely at the expense of the financial industry and hedge fund-types. In the case of the Schatz tax, the Congressional Budget Office estimated revenue of almost $80 billion a year, a bit less than 2.0 percent of the budget. The Sanders-Lee tax would likely raise in the neighborhood of $120–$150 billion a year, in the neighborhood of 3.0 percent of the federal budget.

      While the financial industry will make great efforts to convince people that this money is coming out of the middle-class’ 401(k)s and workers’ pensions, that’s not likely to be true. This can be seen with some simple arithmetic.

      Take a person with $100,000 with a 401(k). Suppose 20 percent of it turns over each year, meaning that the manager of the account sells $20,000 worth of stock and replaces it with $20,000 worth of different stocks. In this case, if we assume the entire 0.5 percent specified in the Sanders-Lee bill is passed on to investors, then this person will pay $100 a year in tax on their 401(k).

      While no one wants to pay more in taxes, this hardly seems like a horrible burden. After all, the financial industry typically charges fees on 401(k)s in excess of 1.0 percent annually ($1,000 a year, in this case), and often as much as 1.5 percent or even 2.0 percent.

      The actual financial transaction tax burden to this 401(k) holder will be considerably less than this $100 for two reasons. First, not all of the tax will be passed on to investors. The industry will have to bear part of the burden in lower fees. If they can pass on 90 percent, the burden on this 401(k) holder falls to $90 on their $100,000 in assets. If the industry can only pass on 80 percent, then the burden falls to $80, or 0.08 percent of the value of the holder’s 401(k).

      Even this amount overstates the actual impact. One outcome of the tax is that stocks will be traded less frequently. That is an intended result. There is considerable research on how the cost of trades affects the volume of trading. Most of the research finds it to be roughly proportional, meaning that a 10 percent increase in the cost of trading results in a 10 percent decline in the volume of trading.

    • Capitalism and Its Discontents in Africa

      This low intensity of an explicit capitalism debate is not necessarily unique to these two countries or the region. Colleagues who do research in Central Asia tell me the situation is similar in that region too. And in my home country, Germany, this topic is hardly ever discussed head-on by government officials and mainstream parties either; official discourse there circles around the term “social market economy”.

      In Kampala, despite the capitalist character in the culture of everyday life that is intensifying by the day, public debate is about almost everything except capitalism. Government officials, public servants, technocracts, political, religious, and business leaders and national observers and commentators rarely use the C-word in their public analysis, speeches or statements. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni once in a while offers a brief take on the matter by declaring that Uganda is pre-capitalist and the analyst Andrew Mwenda from time to time touches upon the topic too.

      Plus there is a group of other public intellectuals who are making various aspects of capitalism the explicit focus of some of their analyses, including Fred Muhumuza, Moses Khisa, Charles Onyango-Obbo, Kalundi Serumaga, Mary Serumaga, and Yusuf Serunkuma. But that, more or less, is basically it in terms of focused, explicit articulations on the matter in the analysis that makes it into the (English language) media space. To date, the weekly prime time talk shows on NTV and NBSas a rule of thumb do not frame debates in terms of capitalism, neither does the weekly media roundtable. The general silence regarding capitalism in Africa (CiA) doesn’t stop there, or on the continent for that matter. It also extends to university campuses where it suppresses intellectual creativity (as I have argued previously).

      And yet, many African countries are by now capitalist societies and analytically need to be treated as such. A number of social phenomena in these countries can be seen to be typical of a capitalist society, such as inequalities and uneven spatial development. These are to some degree comparable to similar phenomena in other capitalist countries across the world, including the Global North. There are striking similarities now across the North-South axis when it comes to some of the experiences of capitalist everyday life. Let me go deeper here…

    • Busting the Food Monopolies

      Democrats need to study history and follow the example of Theodore Roosevelt, in other words, become “trust busters.” Roosevelt was a Republican and his willingness to confront the monopolists of his day earned him scorn from some, yet enough support to win the Presidency in 1904. Eventually, the Democratic Party took up the gauntlet of Progressivism from Roosevelt and other courageous and successful politicians, like Bob LaFollette – finally passing it to Franklin Roosevelt, a man of wealth accused of being “a traitor to his class”.

      Progressivism is growing within the Democratic party. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) have coauthored a bill to place an immediate moratorium on large acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector. Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have insisted it is long past time to break up agribusiness giants.

      The problems are clear – overall, farm incomes in 2018 reached a 12-year low. As 2019 unfolds, a positive turnaround is uncertain. In Wisconsin, farm bankruptcies continue, and the ongoing trade dispute with the Chinese government led by the Trump administration continues to pull down grain prices.

      Food industry monopolists are behind the dismal economic reality of rural America.

      According to data compiled by the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012, the four largest food and agriculture companies controlled 82 percent of the beef packing industry, 85 percent of soybean processing and 63 percent of pork. Market concentration drives up the prices that farmers pay for inputs, such as seeds, and forces them to accept lower prices due to the lack of any pretense of a competitive marketplace.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The End of Theresa May

      The vultures of the British conservative party have gathered, and the individual who seemed to thrive in failure, to gain momentum in defeat, has finally yielded. UK Prime Minister Theresa May will leave the way for change of leadership on June 7. Never known for any grand gestures of emotion, the Maybot finally gave way to it.

      It had begun rather optimistically in 2016. May would preside over a Britain leaving the European Union in good order. She even dared suggest that an agenda of domestic reform might be implemented. Neither has transpired, and clues were already apparent with the blithely optimistic trio in charge of overseeing the Brexit process: David Davis, as a fabulously ill-equipped Brexit Secretary, Liam Fox holding the reins as international trade secretary and Boris Johnson keeping up appearances at the Foreign Office. But for all that it was May who seemed to insist that all was possible: the UK could still leave the customs union and single market, repudiate free movement and wriggle out of the jurisdiction of the European Court. Independent trade deals with non-EU countries would be arrived at but similar trading agreements could still continue in some form with the EU. And there would be no Irish border issue.

      Problems, however, surfaced early. May’s leadership style problematic. Her cabinet reshuffles (read bloodletting) did much to create animosity. Some eight ministers were sacked in the first round, with all but one under 50 at the time. They were, as Stephen Bush puts it, “right in the middle of their political careers, a dangerous time to leave them with nothing to lose.”

      Her decision to go to the polls in 2017 to crush the opposition was also another act of a folly-ridden leader. From a position of strength from which she could instruct her party on the hard truths of Brexit instead of covering their ears, she gave Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn ample kicking room to revive his party while imposing upon herself a considerable handicap. EU negotiators knew they were negotiating with a significantly weakened leader.

      Then came the cold showers, initiated by such wake-up alarms as shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s suggestion in 2017 that a transitional phase would have to come into effect after the UK had thrown off the EU. As Starmer observed at the time, “Constructive ambiguity – David Davis’s description of the government’s approach – can only take you so far.”

      May duly suffered three horrendous defeats in Parliament, all to do with a failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, and fought off the daggers of usurpation within her own party. She had also had to convince the EU that two extensions to Brexit were warranted. The last throw of the dice featured bringing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the negotiating table. To a large extent, that had been encouraged by the third failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement on March 29th.

      On May 21, the prime minister outlined the latest incarnation of a plan that has never moved beyond the stage of life support. It had that air of a captain heading for the iceberg of inevitability. She remained committed “to deliver Brexit and help our country move beyond the division of the referendum and into a better future.” It was spiced with the sweet nothings of forging that “country that works for everyone”, all with “the chance to get on in life and to go as far as their own talent and hard work can take them”.

      She hoped for alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop. The new Brexit deal would “set out in law that the House of Commons will approve the UK’s objectives for the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU and they will approve the treaties governing that relationship before the Government signs them.” A new Workers’ Rights Bill would be introduced to guarantee equivalent protections to UK workers afforded to those in the EU, perhaps even better. No change to the level of environmental protection would take place, something to be policed by a new Office of Environmental Protection. But May’s concessions on the subject of a customs union and a proposed second referendum as part of the package, both largely designed to placate Labour, were too much for her cabinet. Her resignation was assured.

    • What Does Oligarchy Mean?

      “Oligarchy” means government of and by a few at the top, who exercise power for their own benefit. It comes from the Greek word oligarkhes, meaning “few to rule or command.”

      Even a system that calls itself a democracy can become an oligarchy if power becomes concentrated in the hands of a few very wealthy people – a corporate and financial elite.

      Their power and wealth increase over time as they make laws that favor themselves, manipulate financial markets to their advantage, and create or exploit economic monopolies that put even more wealth into their pockets.

      Modern-day Russia is an oligarchy, where a handful of billionaires who control most major industries dominate politics and the economy.

      What about the United States?

    • Euro-Greens Win the Parliamentary Hot Seat

      The Guardian (UK) is calling the Green parties of Europe, which did very well in the May 26 European Parliament election, “radical”, and parties such as Margaret Thatcher’s heirs the British Tories are being labeled as “centrist” by that same media outlet. That is how far to the right The Guardian has moved. Here in Germany the Green Party is far from “radical” these days, having become more and more established and mainstream since its truly radical origin in the 1980s. And for years the German Green Party has chosen not to sound too “alarmist” about the growing climate crisis, in order to become “respectable” and win votes. But now a large segment of Europe’s voters are themselves growing alarmed about the climate crisis, and many of them have responded by voting Green. So it is now time to find out whether the Greens have any radical sense of urgency left in them, because only radical action on the environmental crisis will change anything.

      Actions such as those by the movements “Extinction Rebellion” and Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” may not be enough to save the planet, but I find it very encouraging that so many people are now refusing to go along with the pretense that nothing has changed. Here in Europe, governments are beginning to pay attention. As James Dyke wrote in an excellent recent article carried by UK’s “The Independent” among others:

      “The sudden increase in media coverage of climate change as a result of the actions of Extinction Rebellion and school strike for climate pioneer Greta Thunberg, demonstrates that wider society is waking up to the need for urgent action. Why has it taken the occupation of Parliament Square in London or children across the world walking out of school to get this message heard?”

    • Does Iran’s Economic Fate Depend on a Lifeline From China?

      It’s hard to predict what will happen in the oil market as the U.S. sanctions on Iran tighten. For now, it looks like India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey will hold off from buying Iranian oil. These countries—with China—had been the main sources of Iran’s foreign exchange. It is unlikely—at the present time—that India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey will break the U.S. siege on Iran. They have made it clear that they do not want to rattle the U.S. cage. Request for new waivers from the U.S. came to naught. India’s government had said that it would reassess the purchases of cheap Iranian oil after the elections. It is likely that India will restart some buys, but certainly not enough to prevent economic collapse in Iran.

      As the May deadline for the U.S. sanctions loomed, these countries bought vast amounts of oil from Iran to create their own buffer stocks. Revenues from the export of oil reached $50 billion for the Iranian financial year of 2018-19 (ending March 20). The oil sector contributed to 70 percent of Iran’s exports. This income is essential for running Iran’s government and paying its 4.6 million employees. The cost of the government is roughly $24 billion. With the collapse of sales to India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey, Iran will have a very difficult time raising revenues to maintain its economy. The National Development Fund and the hard currency reserves have already begun to be depleted, with dollar holdings now in the tens of billions.

    • ‘The Road to Tyranny Is Paved With Corrupt Intentions’: Transportation Secretary Chao Still Profiting From Asphalt-Construction Giant

      “The road to tyranny is paved with corrupt intentions: Elaine Chao just threw her hat into the ring for the Trump admin’s worst self-enriching action—retaining shares in a construction-materials company more than a year after she promised to relinquish them,” the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted in response to the report.

      Shares of Vulcan Materials Co. “have risen nearly 13 percent since April 2018, the month in which Ms. Chao said she would be cashed out of the stock, netting her a more than $40,000 gain,” the Journal noted. “The shares, now worth nearly $400,000, were paid out to Ms. Chao in April 2018, as deferred compensation for the roughly two years she served on Vulcan’s board of directors before being confirmed as secretary of transportation.”

    • Another Group Joins the Impeachment Chorus, Adding to Pressure on House Democrats

      In a statement, Eldridge, who is Stand Up’s president, pointed to the behavior of Trump laid out in the Mueller report as the main motivator for his organization’s call for hearings.

      “The Mueller report exposes how Trump welcomed an attack on our democracy from a hostile foreign nation to help him win, and how he broke the law to cover up the truth,” said Eldridge. “It details over 10 episodes of obstruction of justice, including witness tampering, dangling pardons to discourage cooperation with prosecutors, and ordering the White House counsel to fire the special counsel—and then later to lie about that order.”

      “These are high crimes,” Eldridge added.

    • Contracts Reveal For First Time How DEA Exercises Control Over Television, Film Productions

      Nearly 200 pages of Drug Enforcement Administration contracts with producers were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. They show for the first time how the agency interacts with television and film productions.

      The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is quite active in the entertainment industry. It exercises stringent control over how the agency is represented in documentaries, reality shows, and dramas.

      With several projects, the DEA carefully reviews their own files to pick out select cases that made them look good, which then form the basis for either fictional or factual productions.

      The contracts [PDF] cover 2011 to 2017. Over that time period, DEA supported dozens of projects, including “Cops and Coyotes” and multiple episodes of “Drugs Inc.” and “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.” They support the fictional drugs drama “Pure,” too.

    • Greens respond as EU citizens are denied vote in today’s elections

      The Green Party has responded to reports that EU citizens are being denied a vote in today’s EU elections due to administrative errors.

      Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the party, said: “Nothing sums up the future of Brexit Britain better than today’s voting scandal. The Government’s promises to protect the rights of EU citizens appear to be false.

      The hostile environment is already impacting against EU citizens, who have been denied their legal rights before we have even left the EU.

    • Mueller: “If We Had Confidence That the President Clearly Did Not Commit a Crime, We Would Have Said So’

      Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his first public statement since the conclusion of his investigation on Wednesday, announcing his official resignation from the U.S. Department of Justice and explaining his thoughts on the report he submitted on Russian interference and the possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

      In one striking comment, Mueller said, “if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

    • “Trump, Inc.” and Former FBI Deputy Chief Andrew McCabe Compare Notes

      Before he became infamous for working on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Trump Russia investigation, former acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe investigated the Russian mob in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. McCabe has been asking some of the questions we at “Trump, Inc.” have asked ourselves about Trump’s business. So today, we compare notes.

      In this conversation with Andrea Bernstein and Heather Vogell, of “Trump, Inc.,” McCabe talks about why it makes sense that some of the people he investigated in the 1990s have resurfaced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, what questions he still has after the Mueller report and why he and former FBI director Jim Comey have said Trump’s management style reminds them of the mob.

      Trump has long denied any wrongdoing, and he has said he was simply acting as an ordinary businessman in his Russia dealings.

    • Why Israeli Gov’t May Fall: Like US, Secularists and Fundamentalists are Polarized

      We’ll know on Wednesday whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will succeed in forming a government. If not, Israel will have snap elections in September. In parliamentary systems, coalitions are often made after the election. In the US, the two big parties have already made their coalitions before the election (the GOP is a combination of wealthy entrepreneurs, prairie farmers, and Evangelicals, which Trump manages to bring together around economic nationalism and hatred of certain ethnic groups, or maybe most of them. In Israel, they have to put together the coalitions afterward. The Israeli far right, which dominates, has both secular and religious constituencies, and they absolutely despise one another.

      Israeli society is, like that of the United States, deeply polarized between the secular-minded and the religious. Some 40% of Israelis report themselves not religious, and 23% say they do not believe in God.

      In the 1990s, about a million immigrants came in from Ukraine and Russia (the former Soviet Union). They had been brought up to view religion as sort of like smoking– maybe it won’t kill you immediately but it is bad for you an probably will eventually kill you.

    • Biden’s Inappropriate Comment to 10-Year-Old at Town Hall Makes Clear Candidate ‘Is Not Listening’ to Women, Critics Say

      Progressives urged Democratic primary voters not to dismiss concerns about former Vice President Joe Biden’s conduct towards women and girls after the 2020 presidential candidate touched a young girl and commented on her appearance at a campaign event Tuesday evening.

      At a town hall hosted by the American Federation of Teachers in Houston, Biden responded to a 10-year-old girl’s question with the comment, ‘I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking” before holding her by the shoulders and leading her over the press to introduce her to reporters.

    • Now We Are Spreading Freedom Gas Around the World and We Are Definitely Doomed

      What fresh hell is this. Today we found out not only is our Sociopath-in-Chief escalating the war on reality ie climate change and our Toddler-In-Chief insisted the USS McCain be hidden from his fragile sight in Japan, but his minions have now taken fossil fuel capitalism to its logical, rapacious, demented extreme by rebrand our increased natural gas exports, often via lethal fracking, as “freedom gas” and “molecules of freedom,” even if en route they also worsen freedom global warming, cause freedom cancers and ignite people’s freedom drinking water. Thus in an otherwise boiler-plate press release did the Energy Department tout approval of more exports by a Freeport LNG terminal off the coast of Texas – exports “critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.” Also: additional exports will help American energy, jobs, blah blah and allow for “molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.” The response by most right-thinking people was best summed up in, “As a physicist may I say what – and I cannot stress this enough – the F**K?”

      This latest imbecility reportedly originated with alleged Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who earlier this month signed an order doubling U.S. liquefied natural gas shipments to Europe. At a press briefing, he said that by helping European nations diversify their energy supply away from Russia, the U.S. was “delivering a form of freedom” to them; when a reporter wryly suggested the term “freedom gas,” a small, dumb, unironic lightbulb evidently went off in Perry’s wee brain, and the rest is stupid jingoistic history. We are now beyond parody, Orwell, The Onion and the many wisecracks offered about freedom gas being second cousin to freedom fries, only more stinky. “Awesome,” wrote one long-suffering patriot who clearly didn’t think any of this was. “All my molecules would officially like to get off the clown timeline and back to sanity, please.” We’re kinda more with the person who wrote,

    • The Maybot is Gone

      Many Brits, wallowing in their post-imperial hangover, sometimes make fun of countries, typically in southern Europe and Latin America, which from time to time are afflicted with a political paralysis— “Look at country X, still can’t put together a government after 3 elections”, etc.

      Ukania has however exceeded countries such as X when it comes to governmental paralysis.

      It only took a single election, in 2017, to allow the Tories to form a minority government with the support of the northern Irish DUP (founded by the rabble-rousing hate-preacher Ian Paisley), that has been paralyzed ever since by its utter inability to negotiate any kind of Brexit deal with the EU.

      The coming to power of the Tories in that single election has ensued in just as much governmental paralysis as country X with its inability to acquire a functioning government after 2-3 elections.

      Ukania as Ruritania as Kakania (the latter being Robert Musil’s term in his great novel The Man Without Qualities (1930), describing the Habsburg monarchy as mired in a self-stultifying political morass overlaid by mindless flummery that has no limits; and Ukania being Tom Nairn’s term to designate the UK’s own embodiment of Kakania).

      Ukania/Ruritania/Kakania—Brits currently have little choice but to go for all three when it comes to describing their laughing-stock of country.

      Groups within Ukania treat Brexit as a battle that must be fought to the death, but really the issues that appear to cause divisions in this dog-fight are moot in a wider scheme of things.

      Remain in the EU? Accept the rule of Eurocrats who will do the bidding of the multinational corporations.

    • Who cares how war criminals vote?

      And so ends the Labour career of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s PR man, one of the key architects of the “dodgy dossier”, a man complicit in every death that resulted from the US/UK illegal invasion of Iraq.

      The reaction of anyone, with even the most rudimentary grasp of ethics, should be “good riddance”.

      Clearly therefore, the vast majority of the pundits, “journalists” and talking heads do not have a rudimentary grasp of ethics.

      Yes, Campbell was actually defended. By journalists. And celebrities. And members of parliament.

      Campbell is a “strong voice for Labour values” according to some, his expulsion is “Stalinist” according to others.

      It’s time for a very serious reality check: Alastair Campbell should not be in the Labour Party.

      He shouldn’t be tweeting his thoughts or giving interviews or writing columns. He shouldn’t have any power or influence or authority. He shouldn’t even be breathing free air.

      He should be in the dock at the Hague, briefly. And then – hopefully – spending the rest of his time in eternity’s waiting room, carving tally marks on a cell wall.

    • Democrats Urged to ‘Take Note’ as GOP Rep. Justin Amash Gets Standing Ovation From Constituents for Backing Trump Impeachment

      While several Trump supporters in the audience of around 900 Michiganders said they will no longer back Amash—who is facing a primary challenge in 2020 due to his support for impeachment—the town hall crowd appeared overwhelmingly supportive of the Republican congressman’s stance.

      “We can’t let conduct like that go unchecked,” Amash said. “Congress has a duty to keep the president in check.”

      Amash warned that refusing to consider impeachment as a response to the behavior detailed in the Mueller report poses “a greater risk than the risk that it will be used too often.”

      The Nation’s John Nichols tweeted that “Democrats who are reluctant to impeach might want to take note of the reaction from voters in Republican Justin Amash’s district.”

    • Mitch McConnell Is a Master Troll

      Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is a hilarious, fun-loving guy. Just ask him.

      “We need to have a little fun in this business,” the Senate majority leader told Politico in a recent interview. “I used to call myself Darth Vader when I was back in the campaign finance wars. I appreciate they’ve picked up on what I call myself, which is the Grim Reaper when it comes to things like the ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘Medicare for None.’ I appreciate the attention.”

      My daughter also appreciates attention. She’s six years old and still learning the ropes, so she blows it every now and again in typical 6-year-old fashion by interrupting a conversation she isn’t part of or drumming loudly on the table so we all know she’s there. “Remember, sweetie,” I will remind her, “there’s a really big difference between good attention and bad attention.” McConnell is 71 years older than my daughter. He still hasn’t learned that lesson because he has not been made to, and will likely remain immune from that education for the foreseeable future.

      After speaking at a Chamber of Commerce gathering in Paducah, Kentucky, on Tuesday, McConnell took some questions from the audience. A man rose and asked, “Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?” McConnell took a long swallow from a tall drink — it looked like iced tea but could have been old blood for all I know — and responded with a wide grin, “Oh, we’d fill it.”

      Several members of the audience guffawed loudly — He just owned the libs! Did’ja see that? So cool! — and when reports of his quip hit the news wires, much of the country experienced the now-commonplace duality of being simultaneously astonished and not at all surprised.

    • With Democrats Clamoring for Trump Impeachment After Mueller Statement, Pelosi’s Response Denounced as ‘Embarrassingly Weak’

      “The special counsel’s report revealed that the president’s campaign welcomed Russian interference in the election, and laid out eleven instances of the president’s obstruction of the investigation,” Pelosi said. “The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy.”

      Critics were quick to slam Pelosi’s statement as “tone deaf” and “embarrassingly weak” compared to the responses of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Pelosi leadership team member Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), and other Democrats who demanded impeachment hearings against the president as soon as possible.

      “Nancy Pelosi and House leadership are out of touch with their own party,” tweeted HuffPost reporter Zach Carter.

    • Mueller: Special Counsel Probe Did Not Exonerate Trump

      Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday he believed he was constitutionally barred from charging President Donald Trump with a crime but pointedly emphasized that his report did not exonerate the president. He cautioned lawmakers who have been negotiating for his public testimony that he would not go beyond his report in the event he appears before Congress.

      The comments were Mueller’s first public statements since his appointment as special counsel two years ago.

      “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”

      Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Mueller’s report cleared him of obstruction of justice, modified that contention somewhat shortly after the special counsel’s remarks. He tweeted, “There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed!”

    • Mueller Just Invited Congress To Do Its Job: Impeach Trump

      Robert Mueller’s public statement today was, apparently, “vintage Mueller”—I say apparently because I don’t know this guy at all, and am relying on the comments of those who do.

      He was careful, concise, by the book, and delivered with all the dispassion he could muster.

      Mueller essentially reiterated what has already been clear: (1) his investigation was a professional endeavor warranted by overwhelming evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and was the farthest thing from a “witch hunt” or a “coup”; (2) the report which resulted from the probe contains substantial evidence of Trump campaign cooperation with the Russian effort, even if not “criminal conspiracy”; (3) the report contains more substantial evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice, but it did not recommend criminal indictment for one simple reason: such a recommendation was inconsistent with Justice Department rules, and thus with Mueller’s charge as a Justice employee; (4) it is for Congress to decide whether and how to act on the evidence contained in the report.

    • Immigration largely absent from Democrats’ 2020 policy blitz
    • “No Excuse Left”: Critics Say Mueller Can’t Wriggle Out of Testimony to House

      Robert Mueller may not want to testify to Congress about the findings of his two-year long probe into the President Donald Trump administration’s relationship with Russia and the president’s subsequent treatment of that investigation, but, as progressive commentators and advocacy groups pointed out Wednesday, that’s not really for him to decide.

      In remarks to the media Wednesday morning, Mueller said that he would prefer not to appear before Congress and that, if he was called to testify, he would simply repeat the findings of his 448-page report, delivered on April 18.

      “There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress,” said Mueller. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.”

      Mueller added that he was hesitant to testify based on his belief that doing so would be unseemly.

      “I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress,” Mueller said.

      In a statement, progressive advocacy group Common Cause called for Congress to subpoena Mueller anyway, citing the need to air the findings of the report in public, irrespective of Mueller’s reluctance.

    • As Mueller Delivers ‘Impeachment Referral’ to Congress, Calls for House Democrats to Act Grow Louder

      On Wednesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller closed the investigation he was tasked to lead in 2017, announcing the end of the process, and his career, to the public in a 9 minute statement that put the onus for the next step—impeachment—on the House.

      Mueller and his team never considered charging the president with a crime, he told reporters, because of DOJ guidelines that state the president cannot be indicted.

      As the special counsel pointed out, that leaves the responsibility for holding the president accountable on Congress, the governmental body that has the power to begin impeachment proceedings.

      “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” said Mueller.

      In remarks to the public at the Department of Justice, Mueller said that his investigation found that the Russian military’s intelligence operation to disrupt the U.S. election in 2016 worked, but that the Russians and the campaign of then-candidate, and now-president, Donald Trump, did not conspire together.

    • Imperial Joe: Biden Trades Bread and Circuses for War

      Bread and circuses pacified the Roman masses while the emperors with their legions patrolled far borders to pacify barbarians who resisted joining the empire. Joe Biden updated this governing method at his presidential campaign launch rally in Philadelphia.

      He offered a buffet of appetizing items to improve America’s education, infrastructure, health care and climate policies. He pledged to unite the nation and restore its soul and backbone. And he said not a word about the country’s ongoing and looming wars.

      He looked abroad only to lament that Trump’s antics and his affections for “dictators and tyrants” like Putin and Kim “undermine our standing around the world.”

      Silence about the wars allowed him to pretend their cost would never shrink or spoil the buffet selections he was dangling before the masses. But that’s a mirage.

    • Israel Heads to Election as Netanyahu Fails to Form Government

      Israel’s parliament voted to dissolve itself early Thursday, sending the country to an unprecedented second snap election this year as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition before a midnight deadline.

      The dramatic vote, less than two months after parliamentary elections, marked a setback for Netanyahu and sent the longtime leader’s future into turmoil.

      Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade, had appeared to capture a fourth consecutive term in the April 9 election. But infighting among his allies, and disagreements over proposed bills to protect Netanyahu from prosecution stymied his efforts to put together a majority coalition.

      Rather than concede that task to one of his rivals, Netanyahu’s Likud party advanced a bill to dissolve parliament and send the country to the polls for a second time this year.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Conservative Bias? Twitter Bans Famous ‘Resistance’ Heroes

      When not fawning over G-men-turned-Resistance heroes like James Comey, they were hammering F5 on Donald Trump’s Twitter page. They may not have been the first to respond, but they were some of the accounts that did the most business, racking up retweets and likes with each amateurish counter to Trump’s latest announcement, assertion, or declaration of fake news.

      Now, there’s the question of how much of that Twitter business was legit. The Krassensteins claim nothing about this was inorganic. They deny buying followers or bots to give their accounts more prominence and rack up more internet points.

      It could be Twitter is mistaken. Moderation at scale is hard, as has been hammered home by several posts here recently. What Twitter thought it saw happening with the Krassensteins’ accounts may have been benign, rather than malignant.

    • Press Freedom is Under Threat in the Land of its Birth

      Here in this ultra-modern city on the coast of southern China, I read in the morning paper that 11 consulates representing most of the nations of Europe, have lodged protests with the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor over a controversial new extradition bill that if passed would allow Hong Kong to extradite suspects to nations with which Hong Kong does not have an extradition deal. That would include China (a country of which Hong Kong is an integral part while still retaining local control over such things as its legal system which remains based upon British Common Law, not Chinese law).

      I was not surprised to see that the US Consulate here in Hong Kong did not join in the protest against the new bill.

      After all, the US is itself clearly flouting the extradition treaty it signed in 2003 with the UK, which states that neither nation will extradite to the other anyone who faces politically motivated prosecution. Yet just this past week, the US filed 17 charges of violation of the hoary US Espionage Act, a measure enacted by Congress in 1917 during the First World War that has rarely been used since then and that is widely viewed as designed to target political opponents of the government.

      How, really, could the US with a straight face object to Hong Kong passing an act that endorses extradition for political “crimes” while Washington is aggressively pursuing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for political “crimes” based upon a law that could end up, if he were extradited and then tried and convicted in the US, with his being sentenced to life for simply publishing truths about US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan?

      There is some connection between Hong Kong’s proposed new extradition law and the US obsession with capturing and prosecuting Assange. It was to Hong Kong, recall, that Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, first fled to avoid prosecution for releasing tens of thousands of documents exposing the monstrous spying program being conducted against all Americans and most foreign countries by the NSA. Because of Hong Kong’s model law and practice on extradition, Snowden, with the assistance of local activists and attorneys and lawyers for Wikileaks, was able to board a plane to Russia, which eventually granted him asylum, thus keeping him safely out of the clutches of the insidious US prosecutorial machine.

    • A Russian deputy wants to ban ‘Minecraft’ for its violent influence on teens. He may have confused it with ‘World of Warcraft.’

      Vladimir Reinhardt, a deputy in the Krasnoyarsk Krai Legislative Assembly, stated on May 23 that the popular construction video game Minecraft should be banned. Reinhardt, who represents the ruling United Russia party, spoke out against the game just before the deputies were scheduled to hear a speech from the region’s lead children’s rights official, Irina Miroshnikova.

    • EFF Receives $300,000 Donation from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to Support Threat Lab

      EFF identifies and tracks the rise of malware attacks, which primarily affect journalists and their sources globally. We have collaborated with groups like Citizen Lab and mobile security company Lookout to conduct these investigations, and the results of the research have helped the world understand this growing threat.

      With the help of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Threat Lab will continue to identify and track the complex web of groups who use malware against reporters and activists. Threat Lab will apply this information to educate the public and put pressure on the companies that build, sell, and license this spyware.

    • Dear Kara Swisher: Don’t Let Your Hatred Of Facebook Destroy Free Speech Online

      I’ll start this post off with a brief story about famed tech reporter Kara Swisher. Many, many years ago, she reached out to me and suggested we meet up for some reason or another (I honestly don’t remember why). I went to her house in San Francisco and we walked to a fancy nearby coffee shop where she insisted on telling me exactly what type of coffee I should get.

      Here’s the thing: I don’t drink coffee. I can’t stand the stuff.

      However, Swisher is such an incredible force of nature that I felt like I literally had no choice but to order the coffee that she recommended. I ordered it and drank (a bit of) it. And I’m not exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to expressing my own opinions on things.

      That is to say, Swisher is not just strongly opinionated, she has a way of convincing lots of other people that her opinions should be theirs as well. And that’s a really powerful ability, and one that Swisher has wielded well over the past few decades — especially in calling bullshit on dumb tech ideas and policies. We need someone like Swisher holding tech companies accountable.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Social Media Monitoring

      The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is rapidly expanding its collection of social media information and using it to evaluate the security risks posed by foreign and American travelers. This year marks a major expansion. The visa applications vetted by DHS will include social media handles that the State Department is set to collect from some 15 million travelers per year. Social media can provide a vast trove of information about individuals, including their personal preferences, political and religious views, physical and mental health, and the identity of their friends and family. But it is susceptible to misinterpretation, and wholesale monitoring of social media creates serious risks to privacy and free speech. Moreover, despite the rush to implement these programs, there is scant evidence that they actually meet the goals for which they are deployed.

      While officials regularly testify before Congress to highlight some of the ways in which DHS is using social media, they rarely give a full picture or discuss either the effectiveness of such programs or their risks. The extent to which DHS exploits social media information is buried in jargon-filled notices about changes to document storage systems that impart only the vaguest outlines of the underlying activities.

    • The DHS’s Social Media Monitoring Is Causing Collateral Damage, But Doesn’t Seem To Be Making The Nation Safer

      The DHS has made traveling in and out of the US an experience worth sharing. Not so much with your fellow travelers or friends and family back home, but with CBP officers and other DHS employees, who are demanding access to social media accounts under its “extreme vetting” program.

      While DHS components have stepped up the intrusiveness of their border screenings, they haven’t been able to show all these manhours and infringed rights are actually doing anything to keep the country safer. More and more information is being gathered, but it’s either of little to no use, or the agencies engaging in these searches can’t be bothered to tally up the wins and losses of the border security game.

      The Brennan Center, however, has compiled a report on the DHS’s screening programs and their various enhancements. It isn’t just about what has been done by DHS components, but the side effects of these efforts. The Fourth Amendment might be the noticeable victim, but these programs — especially the social media monitoring — have adverse effects on other rights as well.

    • Texas Cities Rush To Extend Camera Contracts Ahead Of The State’s Red Light Camera Bans

      Arlington is one the cities that has decided to screw its residents porn-style, going at them from multiple angles. When the bill passed, city legislators unanimously voted to extend its contract with American Traffic Solutions from five years to twenty years. This move will give residents less protection from traffic cams’ perverse incentives than residents living elsewhere in the state. It also means they’ll be paying more tax dollars for this dubious privilege, as there will be no reason for ATS to maintain competitive pricing for the next couple of decades. Nor will it feel any pressure to improve its tech, which has performed poorly enough to result in millions of dollars of refunds.

      The good news is these cities will have to deal with the state Attorney General if they want to continue utilizing traffic enforcement measures the state has banned. Tickets from red light cameras in the cities that opted for extended revenue generation rather than compliance with the law are going to have a hard time collecting on unpaid tickets. The law prohibits the DMV from blocking vehicle registrations and license renewals for unpaid tickets. The problem is drivers may not be aware of the ban and will continue to pay fines when they’re not legally required to.

    • The Government Needs to Get a Warrant if It Wants Access to Our Private Health Information

      The Drug Enforcement Administration is once again trying to access private prescription records of patients — this time in New Hampshire — without a warrant, despite a state law to the contrary. Today the ACLU filed a brief in support of the state of New Hampshire’s fight to defend the privacy of our sensitive medical information against unwarranted searches by law enforcement.

      New Hampshire — like 48 other states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico — has established a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which logs records of every prescription for a long list of “controlled substances,” including Xanax, Ambien, and many painkillers, filled by pharmacists in the state. The PDMP is intended to function as a public health tool to allow physicians and pharmacists to look up their patients’ past prescriptions for medications that have addictive potential. Because these prescription records are so sensitive, New Hampshire law bars law enforcement agents from accessing the database unless they have a search warrant signed by a judge.

      That rule has worked just fine for state and local police, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration refuses to respect it. The DEA insists that, because it is a federal agency, it can ignore state law and request people’s PDMP records with an administrative subpoena instead of a warrant. Unlike a warrant, a subpoena is issued directly by the agency based on a low legal standard, without requiring the approval of a judge.

      When New Hampshire received a DEA subpoena for a patient’s PDMP records last year, the state rightly refused to comply because doing so would violate the state law requiring a warrant. The DEA then sued in federal court, but New Hampshire stood firm, arguing that the subpoena was improper under federal law and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After losing in trial court, the state appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

      The DEA’s most galling argument in the case is that people have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their prescription records held in the PDMP because of the “third-party doctrine.” Under that doctrine, a person is considered to lose their Fourth Amendment protections in information voluntarily shared with a “third party,” like a company they do business with.

    • Secret tracking device found in Navy email to Navy Times amid leak investigation raises legal, ethical questions

      A Navy prosecutor last week sent an email to the editor of Navy Times that was embedded with a secret digital tracking device. The tracking device came at a time when the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is mounting an investigation into media leaks surrounding the high-profile court-martial of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes.

      That email, from Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak to Navy Times editor Carl Prine, came after several months of Navy Times reporting that raised serious questions about the Navy lawyers’ handling of the prosecution in the war crimes case.

      When asked about the email Czaplak sent to Prine, NCIS spokesman Jeff Houston said Thursday that “during the course of the leak investigation, NCIS used an audit capability that ensures the integrity of protected documents. It is not malware, not a virus, and does not reside on computer systems. There is no risk that systems are corrupted or compromised.”

    • Government Prosecutor Caught Sending Emails With Tracking Software To Reporters And Defense Attorneys

      Sure, there’s not much to be gleaned from scraped IP addresses, but it’s possible that’s not all that was picked up by the NCIS’s NIT. It could have gathered email metadata as well, which can be almost as revealing as the content of the emails, especially when prosecutors are looking for sources of leaks.

      This is problematic for a number of reasons. Targeting journalists to reveal sources does damage to First Amendment protections. Targeting defense attorneys puts attorney-client confidentiality at risk and strongly suggests the government isn’t interested in a fair trial.

      NCIS insists its prosecutor is in the right, despite all this potential collateral damage. The attorney representing a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes begs to differ.

    • Mexican Government Pitched In To Help The CBP Spy On Journalists, Activists, And Lawyers

      I guess it all depends on how you define “illegal.” Or “surveillance.” Maybe the federal police limited themselves to adding people to the CBP’s watchlist. Perhaps this sort of surveillance isn’t illegal in Mexico. But it’s definitely on the illegal side here in the United States. If it’s not a legal issue on the other side of the border, then the CBP and DHS are basically using a foreign government to engage in surveillance they’re not allowed to perform on this side of the fence.

      It doesn’t appear the CBP and DHS are all that concerned about the possible Constitutional violations they’re engaged in themselves. The letter the CVP sent says the agency was only trying to round up people trying to assist migrants in crossing the border illegally, which somehow included journalists covering the border caravans and immigration lawyers trying to help people through the asylum process.

      The CBP does admit it will periodically violate Constitutional rights, but it claims these violations are only minor speed bumps on the road of American life.

    • If Facebook’s Privacy Practices Anger You, AT&T Shouldn’t Get A Free Pass

      Recent privacy conversations have tended to fixate almost exclusively on Facebook and its seemingly-bottomless pit of privacy scandals. But we’ve noted more than a few times how telecom has somehow been excluded from these conversations, despite behavior that’s historically been as bad…or worse. From hoovering up and selling your location data to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the internet, to trying to charge consumers even more money just to protect their own private data, telecom has a long, thirty-year history just packed with playing fast and loose with your private browsing, location, and other data.

      And yet while the newswires are routinely now flooded with stories about how we need to break up Facebook, telecom has oddly gotten a pass. Telecom lobbyists just convinced the US government to effectively neuter FCC oversight authority over ISPs, all while these same ISPs call for heavier regulation of Silicon Valley giants they want to compete with in the online video ad space. That this might just be all one connected problem appears to be a concept that has escaped the thinking of far too many purported experts in the antitrust and tech policy worlds.

    • Perspective | It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?

      We ran a privacy experiment to see how many hidden trackers are running from the apps on our iPhone. The tally is astounding.

    • Apple Is No Different: Your iPhone Sends Data To Advertisers When You’re Asleep

      Apple claims: ‘What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,’ but the reports say otherwise. The Cupertino giant’s tall claims of privacy come crashing as The Washington Post has reported that many popular apps, including The Washington Post’s own app, send data to tracking companies.

      TWP’s Geoffrey Fowler conducted a research in collaboration with the privacy firm Disconnect and found that popular apps like Microsoft OneDrive, Spotify, Nike and IBM’s The Weather Channel exploit iPhone’s ‘Background App Refresh’ feature to send users’ personal data, including phone numbers, emails, and IP addresses to marketing companies and research firms.

    • EFF Asks San Bernardino Court to Review Cell-Site Simulator and Digital Search Warrants That Are Likely Improperly Sealed

      Since the California legislature passed a 2015 law requiring cops to get a search warrant before probing our devices, rifling through our online accounts, or tracking our phones, EFF has been on a quest to examine court filings to determine whether law enforcement agencies are following the new rules. We have been especially concerned that cops and the courts have been disregarding the transparency measures baked into the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA).

      As it turns out, our suspicions were well warranted. A lawsuit we filed last year against the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office has turned up evidence that potentially hundreds of digital search warrants have been improperly and indefinitely sealed, blocking the public’s right to inspect court records.

      EFF, represented by the Law Office of Michael T. Risher, has filed a formal request with the Presiding Judge of the San Bernardino County Superior Court to review and unseal 22 search warrants that appear to be sealed in violation California’s penal code. We are also asking that the court “take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that similar files—both in the past and in the future—are open to the public as required by law.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • SFPD Finally Admits The Search Of A Journalist’s Home Over A Leaked Document Was Probably Illegal

      The raid of stringer Bryan Carmody’s home by the SFPD has detonated directly in the face of the department. After someone in the department leaked a police report in an effort to smear a prominent public defender following his unexpected death, an internal investigation was opened to determine which SFPD employee was the source of the leak.

      This internal investigation quickly went external. Bryan Carmody had shopped copies of the police report to a few news stations, which resulted in the SFPD raiding his home and seizing $10,000 of his equipment, including phones, laptops, and storage devices.

      After a brief round of “this is all by the book” by a number of SF officials, it soon became apparent this was not at all by the book. In addition to Carmody’s First Amendment protections, the stringer was also likely shielded by state law, which forbids searching and seizing journalists’ property for the sole purpose of trying to identify a source.

    • Russian scholars who pointed out major flaws in Culture Minister’s doctoral dissertation have been dropped from government posts

      Russian academic institutions may attract less attention in the news media than their political counterparts, but they have seen their share of controversy in recent years nonetheless. Some of that controversy has stemmed from the fact that Russian political figures often turn to academia for cultural validation. In 2011, for example, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky received the degree of Doctor of Historical Sciences, one step higher than the equivalent of an American Ph.D. After a group of scholars pointed out a mass of basic factual and analytical errors in Medinsky’s dissertation, his work was officially reviewed. The Higher Attestation Commission (VAK), a government body that curates dissertation committees and rates already defended dissertations, voted to uphold the minister’s degree in October of 2017.

    • Following spike in tensions, Kosovo prosecutors request that Russian UN employee’s diplomatic immunity be removed to allow criminal charges

      Kosovo’s federal prosecutorial office has requested that the United Nations revoke the diplomatic immunity of Mikhail Krasnoshchekov, an employee of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Krasnoshchekov was arrested during a May 28 special operation on the part of Kosovo’s military that targeted predominantly Serb-inhabited regions and therefore led to a sudden rise in tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.

    • Russian National Guard spokesperson says actions of troops who injured 30 at hip-hop festival were ‘appropriate’

      Russian National Guard representative Valery Gribakin said the actions of National Guard police officers at Moscow’s Hip-Hop Mayday festival were “appropriate to the situation.” After a small number of audience members threw tiling at National Guard troops to protest crowd control efforts, the officers began beating those around them at random, injuring 30.

    • Meet the Artists Holding a Mirror to Our Cursed World

      Before a backdrop of rising global tensions and increased anxiety surrounding political change and inertia, the 58th international Venice Biennale fulfills its goal of delivering an aesthetic temperature reading of the world in 2019. The central exhibition’s title, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” is an ersatz ancient Chinese curse that uncannily reflects our present struggles with fake news and colliding cultures. But whereas the biennale’s institutional framework fails to deliver constructive alternatives in much the same way our governments have, the artists themselves occasionally offer hopeful glimpses of something better.

      Known as the Olympics of the art world, the Venice exhibition (on view until Nov. 24) is host to 90 national pavilions, a curated international exhibit of 79 invited artists, 21 official “collateral events” and myriad unofficial satellite events.

    • Trump Administration Separates Some Migrant Mothers From Their Newborns

      This is the third article in a Rewire.News series on the treatment of pregnant migrants under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. Read the first article here, and the second article here.
      It has been almost a year since President Donald Trump signed the executive order purporting to end his policy of separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, his administration’s broader zero-tolerance policy continues today — and because of it, a particularly heinous form of family separation is playing out in Texas.

      As Rewire.News reported in part one of this series, migrants prosecuted under the “zero-tolerance” policy are remanded to U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) custody, and this is when lapses in medical care happen. Advocates told Rewire.News pregnant migrants detained in USMS custody are not receiving adequate services, and they are shackled when accessing prenatal and postpartum care. Some women are even shackled during birth, as Rewire.News reported in part two of this series.

      Advocates also report that some asylum seekers in the Western District of Texas who have given birth in USMS custody were forced to hand over their newborns to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Reuniting with their newborn hinges on their release from federal custody, and whether they can access legal help to navigate the child welfare system. We learned that women who find their way to advocacy organizations appear to be reuniting with their newborns, but Rewire.News was unable to verify what happens to the children of women who do not have access to legal help.

    • Another Fake “Emergency”

      Just a few months ago Saudi Arabia’s leader, Mohammed bin-Salman (MBS), was on the defensive. He had authorized the murder of an independent journalist, his domestic “reforms” had turned out to be fanciful, and the US Congress had moved to deprive him of the military support he had counted on continue his war crimes in Yemen. But MBS had crucial support from the Trump administration. Trump was unwilling to accept the CIA’s finding that MBS probably ordered the assassination of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and Jared Kushner evidently persuaded Trump that continued support of his friend, the crown prince, was essential to US ideas about a Middle East peace.

      As a result, US policy toward Saudi Arabia did not change one iota. And now, we see that far from distancing the US from Saudi Arabia, Trump has found a false reason to tighten it. Based on accusations of a new security threat from Iran, Trump has authorized the dispatch of 1500 additional troops to the Middle East and the sale of several billion dollars in “precision-guided” weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The arms sale is being made without Congressional authorization or consultation, on the argument (made by Pompeo) that an “extreme emergency” eliminates the legal requirement to make the case to Congress.

    • ‘Criminalizing Compassion’: Trial Begins for Humanitarian Facing 20 Years in Prison for Giving Water to Migrants in Arizona Desert

      Human rights advocates accused the U.S. Justice Department of “criminalizing compassion” as a federal trial began in Arizona Wednesday for activist Scott Warren, who faces up to 20 years in prison for providing humanitarian aid to migrants in the desert.

      Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor from Ajo, Arizona, is a volunteer for the humanitarian organization No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, an official ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson. He was arrested by Border Patrol agents in 2017 and faces three felony counts for providing food, water, clean clothes, and beds to two migrants.

    • Scott Warren Provided Food & Water to Migrants in Arizona; He Now Faces Up to 20 Years in Prison

      An Arizona humanitarian aid volunteer goes to trial today for providing water, food, clean clothes and beds to two undocumented migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. If convicted, Scott Warren could spend up to 20 years in prison. Warren, an activist with the Tucson-based No More Deaths, is charged with three felony counts of allegedly “harboring” undocumented immigrants. For years, No More Deaths and other humanitarian aid groups in southern Arizona have left water and food in the harsh Sonoran Desert, where the temperature often reaches three digits during summer, to help refugees and migrants survive the deadly journey across the U.S. border. Warren was arrested on January 17, 2018, just hours after No More Deaths released a report detailing how U.S. Border Patrol agents had intentionally destroyed more than 3,000 gallons of water left out for migrants crossing the border. The group also published a video showing border agents dumping out jugs of water in the desert. Hours after the report was published, authorities raided the Barn, a No More Deaths aid camp in Ajo, where they found two migrants who had sought temporary refuge. We speak with Scott Warren and his fellow No More Deaths volunteer and activist Catherine Gaffney in Tucson.

  • DRM

    • ‘It Makes a Hell of a Lot More Sense to Negotiate Sharing Technology, Rather Than Locking It Down’

      To be generous to journalists, Donald Trump has introduced a new dimension to policy-making. In assessing his current trade war with China, for example, reporters are forced to consider: Does Trump believe, as he says, that tariffs imposed on Chinese goods are paid by the Chinese? Does he not know how tariffs work? Is he pretending not to know? Does it not matter, because he just wants to be seen to be “clashing with Beijing”? Which of these possibilities are China and other countries responding to? And will Fox air a show on Chinese checkers next week, and all of this changes? It’s not clear.

      But the murk around the White House’s thinking is all the more reason for reporters to be as clear as possible in explaining the actual impacts on differently situated people of economic actions. Joining us now to help with that is Dean Baker, senior economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and author of the book Rigged, among other titles. He joins us now by phone from Utah. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Dean Baker.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Bethesda And Zenimax Settle ‘Redfall’ Trademark Dispute With Trollish Book Publisher

        Zenimax, parent company of Bethesda, was in a trademark dispute with book publisher BookBreeze.com on behalf of author Jay Falconer over Zenimax’s trademark application for the term “Redfall”. I could have sworn I wrote about this when the this dispute started in February, but it appears not. At issue is that Falconer has a sci-fi series of novels with the Redfall title and he is claiming that the public might be confused between his books and whatever game Zenimax is planning to publish with that trademark. Much of the speculation is that it will be for the next Elder Scrolls game.


        So what does that all mean? Who knows. I’ll be interested to see if Zenimax gets its trademark for “Redfall”, or uses it without a trademark. We’ll never find out if any money was exchanged, but, if that happened, it looks like Falconer will have pulled off some trademark bullying for profit. It would have been much better to see this fought out in court, because the initial claims weren’t particularly strong.

        Oh well. Perhaps Zenimax’s lawyers have grown tired of lawyerly adventures after taking too many trademark arrows to the knee.

    • Copyrights

      • What does it mean to have a shared culture? A wrapup from this year’s CC Global Summit

        The Global Summit was designed by the community, for the community to inspire action and events for this group of participants from around the world. Each one of the over 130 sessions was chosen by our volunteer program committee, proposed by CC chapters and organizations from around the world. From Portugal to Tanzania to New Zealand, our presenters came from hundreds of local contexts, sharing stories, data, projects, and ideas at the beautiful Museu do Oriente, our main venue.

      • Why Is Congress Moving Forward With Its Plan To Encourage Copyright Trolling?

        You would be hard pressed to think what the world needs is more copyright lawsuits. As we’ve discussed for years now, the US is already inundated with copyright lawsuits, many (perhaps most) of them filed by so-called “copyright trolls” who are seeking to shakedown recipients with “settlement” demands. A competent Congress would respond by looking at this abuse of the court system for extortionate purposes and maybe make it less inclined to abuse.

        But not this Congress.

        Instead, it has decided to bring back a truly awful idea: a special copyright trolling court, which it likes to say is the equivalent of a “small claims court” for copyright. The latest version of the CASE (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Act of 2019) in the House and the Senate was introduced recently, and is getting lots of love from all the usual sources.

        We should note, that the House bill is sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, along with Jerry Nadler. You may recall that those two Congressman were recently seen hosting a giant $5k per ticket fundraiser at the Recording Industry’s biggest party of the year, the Grammys. And, right afterwards, they suddenly introduce a bill that will help enable more copyright trolling? Welcome to the world of soft corruption.

        As we explained last year when this monstrosity was introduced as well, the bill is written in a manner totally disconnected from reality. Supporters insist it is “too difficult” to sue over copyright, yet provide no evidence that this is true. But, more importantly, the entire framing of the bill is based on the idea that those who sue for copyright infringement only do so when they have valid claims. Indeed, anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to copyright lawsuits over the last decade would know this is laughable.

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