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05.30.19

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

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • 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

Leftovers

  • 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. [...]

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