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06.15.19

António Campinos — Unlike His Father — Engages in Imperialism (Using Invalid Patents)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: The EPO is a Threat to Software Developers Everywhere, Not Just in Europe

Corruption at the EPO is a Threat Not Only to Europe But to Every Continent in the World

EPO on CII

Summary: Despite some similarities to his father (not positive similarities), António Campinos is actively engaged in imperialistic agenda that defies even European law; the EPO not only illegally grants patents but also urges other patent offices to do the same

THE European Patent Office (EPO) under the leadership of António Campinos is arguably far more dangerous than the USPTO with Iancu. Why? Because Iancu can still be sued and he is being challenged, unlike Campinos. The US doesn’t play fast and loose with institutional immunity, at least not at the patent office.

The US, on the patent quality front, has 35 U.S.C. § 101. Many patents fall at the altar; if not at the Office/PTAB, then in courts. The EPO, contrariwise, is ignoring the law and intimidating judges (not national ones but the ones it has access to). We’ve been writing about this since 2014, i.e. for half a decade. It’s not a new issue.

A growing problem that we mentioned several times last month is that the EPO seeks to influence (or lobby) other nations/entire continents to adopt its dubious practices; EPO management says it bluntly (see links and image at the top, right from the horse’s own mouth).

“A growing problem that we mentioned several times last month is that the EPO seeks to influence (or lobby) other nations/entire continents to adopt its dubious practices…”Just before the weekend Ben Wodecki (IPPro Magazine) wrote that “IP5 agree to launch AI and emerging tech task force” (similar to the EPO’s headline, which we’ll come to in a moment). To quote: “Present at the meeting was KIPO commissioner Park Wonjoo, who chaired proceedings; EPO president António Campinos; JPO commissioner Naoko Munakata; CNIPA commissioner Shen Changyu; and USPTO director and under secretary of commerce for IP Andrei Iancu. [...] The next IP5 heads of office meeting will be hosted by the CNIPA in 2020.”

Really? CNIPA? With its notoriously low patent quality? What on Earth is going on? Watch who’s taking over patent offices (the leadership positions in particular). It’s like “vendor capture”. Wodecki wrote what he did after the EPO had published this (warning: epo.org link) about the meeting in Incheon (headline was “World’s five largest patent offices agree on joint task force for emerging technologies and AI”). There was also this tweet about it (with a photo): “World’s five largest patent offices ( #CNIPA @kipoworld @JPO_JPN & @uspto ) agree on joint task force for emerging technologies and AI…”

Yes, CNIPA. The National Intellectual Property Administration in China, probably the only office where software patents are still allowed.

The EPO was ‘beaten to it’ by Korean media, as we noted the other day. What’s common is the “AI” hype. The EPO is lying to the public using buzzwords such as these; it’s hoping to promote abstract patents on algorithms, pushing software patents in Europe and elsewhere under the guise of “AI”. So do the maximalists at the UN/WIPO; they’re just striving to make up as many patents as possible, irrespective of any economic or scientific basis (patents for the sake of making their job seem relevant). In the EPO’s own words (repeating the term “harmonisation” thrice in one paragraph): “Meanwhile, the heads of office endorsed the final results of work on the three sub-projects in the area of patent practice harmonisation – unity of invention, citation of prior art and written description/sufficiency of disclosure – which aim to alleviate the burden on applicants and increase work efficiency. They acknowledged that the tangible outcomes of IP5 patent practice harmonisation have brought substantial benefits to users. They also recognised the need to select new harmonisation topics, which are in line with the IP5 vision, to be discussed in the future.”

The term “harmonisation” was thrown about quite a lot when Campinos and Battistelli pushed for the UPC, formerly “community” and “EU” patent. Words like “harmonisation” and “unity” (or “unified” or even “unitary”) are hard to antagonise because they sound so soothing. We’ll say more about the UPC in our next post. And speaking of “harmonisation”, the incestuous relationship between EPO and EUIPO seems to have deepened even further (‘fixing’ job appointments, based on nepotism and favours). Archambeau now heads the EUIPO (after his EPO career) and the EUIPO’s chief became the EPO’s. Just before the weekend the EPO published (warning: epo.org link) another piece of the puzzle. There was a Friday tweet about it (one of many like it) which said: “The likelihood of experiencing a high-growth period is 9% higher for SMEs that have filed for at least one #patent. More key findings about the IPR profile of high-potential SMEs in Europe here: http://bit.ly/HGFfull cc @EU_IPO #IPforSMEs pic.twitter.com/en4nAa4nSn”

This is what their latest “news” says:

The new MoU, which was signed by the EPO President and the EUIPO’s Executive Director, Christian Archambeau and follows an earlier one from May 2011, provides an extensive and flexible framework to foster even closer collaboration between the EPO and EUIPO. It aims to increase the consistency of activities involving both offices and their users in existing networks, and successfully support the transformations envisaged in the EPO and EUIPO strategic plans, likely to be adopted in the coming months.

Under the MoU the two offices will share information and align their European and international co-operation projects, especially in light of the complementarity of their activities (EPO responsible for patents, EUIPO for trade marks and designs); they will work to provide joint high-quality IP training activities, and raise awareness of the IP system, supporting business’ use of IP in the development of their innovation strategies, and informing policymakers of the socio-economic impact of IP in Europe.

The MoU will be accompanied by annual work plans detailing the joint projects to be carried out over the year.

The EPO can keep insisting that EU law and authorities mean nothing to it (because it predates them), but it’s pretty clear that the connection gets stronger over time. Yet the EPO continues to ignore or defy EU directives, granting loads of software patents in gross violation of these directives. This includes patents on life.

Days ago it carried on retweeting Qualcomm and writing its own promotional tweets about likely fake, bunk, invalid, bogus patents on algorithms (any mathematics patent would be thrown out by courts). The EPO wants to give actual awards for these. Another example involves algorithms dressed up as “AI”; this one too the EPO offers to reward (with special honours), as it did by retweeting the company and then adding: “Driving is safer than ever thanks to Amnon Shashua & his team at @Mobileye whose invention uses a single-lens camera & cutting-edge AI to spot & avoid traffic hazards in real time.”

“AI” just means navigation by computer code; these things are not patentable, but the EPO just doesn’t care. Just keep saying “HEY HI!”(AI) and it will sound novel.

António Campinos Takes EPO Waste and Corruption to Unprecedented Levels and Scale

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Months ago: Battistelli Trashed 223 Millions (of Stakeholders’ Euros) on a System That Destroyed the European Patent Office and Made Few Private Corporations a Lot Richer

A month ago: Did Battistelli ‘Steal’ ~100,000,000 Euros From the EPO?

Summary: The “B” word (billions) is thrown around at Europe’s second-largest institution because a mischievous former EUIPO chief (not Archambeau) is ‘partying’ with about half of the EPO’s all-time savings, which are supposed to be reserved for pensions and other vital programmes, not presidential palaces and gambling

“Urgent needs”, really?

So says an insider from the European Patent Office (EPO), who is concerned about what happens at his/her employer. These concerns are certainly shared by the vast majority of EPO staff, but how much of the media actually covers these scandals? Almost none. Only a few blogs do.

The recent financial study, according to this insider, says: “we have no money and we must cut staff pensions and social benefits to be safe”.

“Is Mr. Campinos requesting a billion EUR of applicants’ money for other luxury projects such as the ISAR top-floor suite? Or is it for other (unclear) purposes?”
      –Anonymous insider
“At the very same time,” the insider notes, “Mr. Campinos asks for one BILLION for utterly unclear buildings projects!

“At EPO no one is aware of any “urgent needs” to spend so much applicants’ money and as you may imagine, surely to enhance transparency (the very transparency Mr Campinos trumpet in each of his story-telling piece – the staff representatives were once more not consulted upon this folly.

“Is Mr. Campinos requesting a billion EUR of applicants’ money for other luxury projects such as the ISAR top-floor suite? Or is it for other (unclear) purposes? CUI BONO?”

The financial report he 'orders' from Mercer is considered to be a "hoax" (by the staff representatives) and someone has sent us 41 more photos from the ‘deck’ of António Campinos; we presume that our criticism of this gross misuse of EPO funds, presumably masked behind a Dutch (unrelated) project, makes it Fair Use (as per the doctrine). The designer tried hard to hide these and even took down the photos from his site; he had done that before media republished these, proving the Streisand Effect. Let’s amplify that effect a little (below).

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Links 15/6/2019: Astra Linux in Russia, FreeBSD 11.3 RC

Posted in News Roundup at 10:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Astra Linux-based mobile devices to get introduced in Russia

    A smartphone and two tablets based on the Astra Linux OS will be introduced in Russia, reports Vedomosti citing a joint statement put out by Mobile Inform Group, the producer of the devices, and of the Astra Linux group. The devices will be aimed at use in extreme conditions. Booking will become possible in September.

    The MOG C55AL smartphone will feature a 5.5-inch screen, and the MIG T8AL and MIG T10AK tablets 8 and 10 inch screens, respectively. State institutions, the military, power, oil and gas companies, mining, industry and transport companies are expected to take up the devices.

  • Desktop

    • Linux-powered System76 Gazelle laptop allows users to avoid the Windows Tax

      The relationship between Linux users and portable computing has long been a fraught one—although it remains easy to build your own desktop computer, buying a laptop from vendors like Dell, HP, or Lenovo typically requires paying the “Windows Tax,” as licenses of Windows are essentially compulsory. System76, a Colorado-based vendor, offers laptops with either Ubuntu, or their custom Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS distribution pre-installed.

      System76′s Gazelle line is their higher-power desktop replacement, available in 15.6″ or 17.3″ versions, powered with a 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H, a 45W, six-core, twelve-thread CPU with 2.6 GHz base and 4.5 GHz turbo clock speeds. The Gazelle can be configured with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 or 1660 Ti, paired with either 32 or 64 GB DDR4 RAM, respectively. Storage options are quite expansive, with two M.2 2280 PCIe-linked slots, and one 7mm 2.5″ slot, allowing for a potential 8TB of SSD storage.

  • Server

    • Building IT Transformation Architecture with Red Hat OpenShift

      In the era of mobile applications, business challenges to the enterprise IT organizations are more dynamic than ever. Many enterprises have difficulties responding in time because of the inherent complexity and risk of integrating emerging technologies into existing IT architectures. In this article, I will share my experience on how to utilize Red Hat OpenShift as a “Middle Platform” (中台) for enterprises to construct its bimodal IT architecture with agile, scalable and open strategy.

      In the past year, I have discussed with many corporate customers–especially in the financial services industry–the challenges of digital transformation, and the solutions. Most of their difficulties are coming from “core systems” which have been working for more than 10 years.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Plumbers Conference: Open Printing Microconference Accepted into 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference

      We are pleased to announce that the Open Printing Microconference has been accepted into the 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference! In today’s world much is done online. But getting a hardcopy is still very much needed, even today. Then there’s the case of having a hardcopy and wanting to scan it to make it digital. All of this is needed to be functional on Linux to keep Linux-based and open source operating systems relevant. Also, with the progress in technology, the usage of modern printers and scanners is becoming simple. The driverless concept has made printing and scanning easier and gets the job done with some simple clicks without requiring the user to install any kind of driver software. The Open Printing organization has been tasked with getting this job done. This Microconference will focus on what needs to be accomplished to keep Linux and open source operating systems a leader in today’s market.

    • The Newest Wacom Intuos Pro Small Drawing Tablet To Be Supported By Linux 5.3

      Wacom’s second-generation Intuos Pro Small digital drawing tablet will be supported by the upcoming Linux 5.3 kernel.

      Wacom drawing tablets continue to see improved Linux driver support and for this next cycle is support for this newest version of the Intuos Pro Small, a smaller tablet version coming in at about six inches by four inches (approximately 15 x 10 cm). While small, it still commands a premium at around $250 USD.

    • ZFS On Linux 0.8.1 Brings Many Fixes, Linux 5.2 Compatibility Bits

      Released at the end of May was the huge ZFS On Linux 0.8 release with many new features like native encryption, TRIM/discard support for SSDs, device removal, Python 3 compatibility with its tooling, pool check-points, and much more. Out today is now the first maintenance release following that big release.

    • /proc/pid/arch_status Is Coming To Show Architecture-Specific Details Of A Given Task

      To be exposed via /proc/[pid]/arch_status is a new interface for exposing architectural-specific information for a given Linux process.

      When CONFIG_PROC_PID_ARCH_STATUS is enabled, there will be this new arch_status file to expose any extra architecture specific information for a given task. At this point, it’s just exposing the elapsed time since last using AVX-512.

    • Systemd Is Now Seeing Continuous Fuzzing By Fuzzit

      In hoping to catch more bugs quickly, systemd now has continuous fuzzing integration via the new “Fuzzit” platform that provides continuous fuzzing as a service.

      New this week to systemd is the continuous fuzzing integration where every pull request / push will see some quick checks carried out while on a daily basis will be fuzzed in full for all targets.

    • Graphics Stack

      • DXVK 1.2.2 Brings Minor CPU Overhead Optimizations, Game Fixes

        In time for those planning to spend some time this weekend gaming, DXVK lead developer Philip Rebohle announced the release of DXVK 1.2.2 that will hopefully soon be integrated as part of a Proton update for Steam Play but right now can be built from source.

        While certain upstream Wine developers express DXVK being a “dead end” and are optimistic in favor of piping their WineD3D implementation over Vulkan, for Linux gamers today wanting to enjoy D3D11 Windows games on Linux the DXVK library continues working out splendid with great performance and running many Direct3D games with much better performance over the current WineD3D OpenGL code.

      • Intel 19.23.13131 OpenCL NEO Stack Adds Comet Lake Support

        We’ve seen the Intel Comet Lake support get pieced together in recent months in the different components making up the Intel Linux graphics stack while the compute-runtime is the latest addition. Comet Lake as a refresher is a planned successor to Coffeelake/Whiskeylake and expected to come out this year as yet more 9th Gen hardware. But Comet Lake should be interesting with rumored 10-core designs. Though with being more processors with Gen9 graphics, the Comet Lake Linux support basically boils down to adding in the new PCI IDs.

      • AMD Wires Its New Runtime Linker Into RadeonSI Gallium3D

        RadeonSI Gallium3D has already shifted over to using this new linker. Making use of the .rodata should help with efficiencies throughout the driver (more details in this forum thread) but at this point is mostly laying the groundwork for more improvements to be made moving forward.

    • Benchmarks

      • Initial Benchmarks Of Microsoft’s WSL2 – Windows Subsystem For Linux 2 On Windows 10 Is A Mixed Bag

        Since the release of WSL2 as a Windows 10 Insider Preview update this week, we’ve been putting the new Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 under some benchmarks compared to WSL1 and bare metal Linux. While WSL2 has improved the I/O performance thanks to the new Hyper-V-based virtualization approach employed by WSL2, the performance has regressed in other areas for running Linux binaries on Windows 10. Here are our preliminary benchmark results.

        In this comparison is a look at the Windows 10 WSL1 performance against that of the new WSL2 when using the same Windows 10 Insiders build as of this week that introduced the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 support. The Ubuntu 18.04 LTS WSL instance was used for testing with its default packages. In addition to looking at the WSL1 vs. WSL2 performance of Ubuntu 18.04, Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS itself was also tested bare metal on the same system for looking at the raw performance of Ubuntu on the Intel desktop being tested. Additionally, Clear Linux 29920 was also tested for what has largely become a “gold standard” for Linux performance in showing what Intel systems are capable of achieving performance-wise under Linux, so that is being used in this comparison as a reference point.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Jonathan Riddell: KDE.org Description Update

        The KDE Applications website was a minimal possible change to move it from an unmaintained and incomplete site to a self-maintaining and complete site. It’s been fun to see it get picked up in places like Ubuntu Weekly News, Late Night Linux and chatting to people in real life they have seen it get an update. So clearly it’s important to keep our websites maintained. Alas the social and technical barriers are too high in KDE. My current hope is that the Promo team will take over the kde-www stuff giving it communication channels and transparancy that doesn’t currently exist. There is plenty more work to be done on kde.org/applications website to make it useful, do give me a ping if you want to help out.

      • Done with boost

        One of the so called pillar of the c++ world, boost, sucks a lot when it comes to documentation, I wouldn’t have to write more than one blog post if they had their documentation in place. It has been almost a month that I have started working on the Magnetic Lasso and I wasted most of the time fighting with boost instead of working on my algorithm. Okay, fine I am getting paid for it, I shouldn’t complain.

      • Meet KDE in València

        During the next days, we’ll be having several sprints in València.

  • Distributions

    • Enso OS Makes Xfce Elementary

      The most impressive aspect of Enso OS is the tweaked desktop that combines a somewhat modified Xfce environment with key elements from Elementary OS. The result could be a better alternative to Xubuntu, depending on your computing preferences.

      For an early beta release of a relatively new Linux distribution, Enso OS has much going for it. This distro also has numerous areas where the developer must grow the infrastructure.

      Enso OS is clearly a distro that bears watching over the next few releases.

    • Best lightweight Linux distro of 2019

      Modern Linux distros are designed to appeal to a large number of users who run modern hardware.

      As a result, they have become too bloated for older machines, even if you manually delete files. Without a healthy dollop of system memory and an extra core or two, these distros may not deliver the best performance.

      Thankfully, there are many lightweight distros, trimmed and tweaked by expert hands, which can be used to breathe new life into older hardware.

      But there’s one caveat to bear in mind when working with lightweight distros – they usually manage to support ancient kit by cutting away just about everything you take for granted, such as wizards and scripts which make everyday tasks easier.

      That said, these lightweight distros are fully capable of reviving older hardware and can even function as a replacement of your current operating system, if you’re willing to adjust to their way of working and install extra programs as necessary.

    • How To Test Drive 200+ Linux Distributions Without Ever Downloading Or Installing Them

      Basically you browse or search for the Linux distro you want to test (you can also filter the site by the very newest releases) and then click Start. The equivalent of booting up the Live ISO or installer image is streamed to your browser in a separate window via NoVNC, but you can also connect to the system on a locally installed VNC client — the server’s IP address and port are provided after you start your session.

      I found I only needed to wait a few seconds for each distribution to load, and occasionally you may enter a queue to manage the server side’s bandwidth load. Then you’ll have a full two hours to treat the distro as your own. Add or remove software, tweak configuration files, partition and format hard drives, whatever you desire. Once you shut it down, the system is wiped clean.

      You’ll get a faster and smoother experience running these on your own hardware — or even from locally installed Virtual Machine software — but first impressions are everything, and DistroTest is a brilliant way to acquire that first impression!

    • Reviews

      • An Overview to deepin 15.10 GNU/Linux

        For users who want to know latest deepin 15.10 before downloading it, this article is for you. In this version, deepin once again fulfills its commitment to be pretty and user friendly, as it brings a lot of new improvements in shapes and performance. Nw it introduces Auto Merge on desktop, along with new control for Sound Effects. The file manager got Advanced Search. It even got a new window manager, called dde-kwin, modified from KDE Kwin. And now it is rebased to Debian Stable instead of Unstable, for the users to get more timely security updates. I hope this short overview gives you enough information to finally try deepin 15.10.

    • New Releases

      • Q4OS 3.7 Centaurus, testing

        We are entering the final phase of the Q4OS 3 Centaurus development, so it’s now officially frozen. On this occasion we have released a brand new 32bit Q4OS Centaurus installation media designed for older computers, as well as 64bit media cumulative update. Users can now easily deploy the Q4OS 3.7 testing release, if they want to become early adopters or just help with the testing. Please download 64bit, as well as 32bit iso images on the dedicated Testing releases webpage.

        Please note, there is also a Q4OS for Windows installer on the downloads page available for users who want to install Linux from within Windows as easy as an application, even without need of partitioning.

      • IPFire 2.23 – Core Update 133 ready for testing!

        it is time for the next Core Update. Number 133!

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Fedora

      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-24

        Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week. Elections voting is open through 23:59 UTC on Thursday 20 June.

        I have weekly office hours in #fedora-meeting-1. Drop by if you have any questions or comments about the schedule, Changes, elections, or anything else.

      • Copr’s Dist-Git

        In Copr, we use dist-git to store sources as well. However, our use case is different. In the past, Copr only allowed to build from URL. You provided a URL to your SRC.RPM and Copr downloaded it and built it. This was a problem when the user wanted to resubmit the build. The original URL very often did not exists anymore. Therefore we came with an idea to store the SRC.RPM somewhere. And obviously, the dist-git was the first idea.

    • Debian Family

      • Utkarsh Gupta: GSoC Bi-Weekly Report – Week 1 and 2

        The idea is to package all the dependencies of Loomio and get Loomio easily installable on the Debian machines.

        The phase 1, that is, the first 4 weeks, were planned to package the Ruby and the Node dependencies. When I started off, I hit an obstacle. Little did we know about how to go about packaging complex applications like that.

        I have been helping out in packages like gitlab, diaspora, et al. And towards the end of the last week, we learned that loomio needs to be done like diaspora.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical’s Linux Snap Store Adds 10 Distro-Specific Installation Pages For Every App

            Canonical’s Snap Store — a fairly distro-agnostic solution for easily installing a wide variety of apps — is loaded up and ready to go in Linux distributions like Zorin OS and Ubuntu. It’s also supported on dozens of others including Arch, Linux Mint, Manjaro and elementary OS, provided you install the Snapd service first. Now it looks like Canonical is striving to make the entire experience more user-friendly by serving up distro-specific landing pages for every single app in the Snap Store.

            They look pretty slick, too.

            For example, if you want to install something like Telegram, the Snap Store is ready to serve up a unique page, complete with an appropriately colored and logo-laden background explaining how to install both the required Snapd service and the app for the distro you’re using. In the screenshot below, you’ll notice commands to pull Snapd from the AUR (Arch User Repository), enable the service and then install Telegram Desktop.

          • Development in LXD

            Most of my development is done in LXD containers. I love this for a few reasons. It takes all of my development dependencies and makes it so that they’re not installed on my host system, reducing the attack surface there. It means that I can do development on any Linux that I want (or several). But it also means that I can migrate my development environment from my laptop to my desktop depending on whether I need more CPU or whether I want it to be closer to where I’m working (usually when travelling).

            When I’m traveling I use my Pagekite SSH setup on a Raspberry Pi as the SSH gateway. So when I’m at home I want to connect to the desktop directly, but when away connect through the gateway.

          • Snap Store Is Available for Ubuntu!, How to Install It?

            Snap is a software used to install software packages that can run on various Linux distributions. This time Snap Store can be installed and used like using the Software Center (on Ubuntu), or GNOME Software. This application was created specifically to make it easier for users when installing software packages on Snap.

            Actually, the Ubuntu Software Center and GNOME software can add the url of a software package and install it. But both of these applications will mix search results that are snap, flatpak and others.

          • Use Font Finder to Install Google Fonts on Ubuntu

            If you are in search of finding and using some pretty fonts for your Ubuntu desktop, applications, and web pages, Font Finder is there for your help.

          • An OpenJPEG Surprise

            My previous blog post seems to have resolved most concerns about my requests for Ubuntu stable release updates, but I again received rather a lot of criticism for the choice to make WebKit depend on OpenJPEG, even though my previous post explained clearly why there are are not any good alternatives.

            I was surprised to receive a pointer to ffmpeg, which has its own JPEG 2000 decoder that I did not know about. However, we can immediately dismiss this option due to legal problems with depending on ffmpeg. I also received a pointer to a resurrected libjasper, which is interesting, but since libjasper was removed from Ubuntu, its status is not currently better than OpenJPEG.

            But there is some good news! I have looked through Ubuntu’s security review of the OpenJPEG code and found some surprising results. Half the reported issues affect the library’s companion tools, not the library itself. And the other half of the issues affect the libmj2 library, a component of OpenJPEG that is not built by Ubuntu and not used by WebKit. So while these are real security issues that raise concerns about the quality of the OpenJPEG codebase, none of them actually affect OpenJPEG as used by WebKit. Yay!

          • Call for testing: chromium-browser deb to snap transition

            The chromium browser has been available as a deb package for all supported Ubuntu releases and as a snap since version 60, and the time has come to start transitioning away from the debs.

          • Canonical Announces Embedded Computer Manifold 2 for Drone Developers, Request For Help Testing Snap Package, PHP v7.4.0 Available, PyCharm 2019.2 EAP3 Released, Talks To Port Over Microsoft’s Chromium-Based Edge browser To Linux

            Yesterday, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu announced the availability of Manifold 2, a high-performance embedded computer offered by leading enterprise drone manufacturer, DJI. This availability will allow developers access to containerized software packages (e.g. Snaps), allowing for infinite evolution and functionality changes.

            It looks as if Ubuntu is transitioning the Chromium Debian package to a Snap one. The community behind this effort is asking for assistance in testing the Snap package.

          • Give Ubuntu a Bold New Look with the Qogir Theme

            The background imagery in the Nautilus file manager (the effect also apparently works with Nemo, but I haven’t tested it) is the most visually striking element in the Qogir theme.

            It’s a love it/hate it gimmick, which explains why it’s rarely used. Personally I enjoy the visual flourish it adds (though it certainly helps if your desktop wallpaper compliments it).

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Regolith Linux is the i3 Ubuntu Spin You’ve Been Waiting For

              Okay, okay. If you are sat there mouthing “what is i3?” at me with a confused, borderline-desperate look on your face, I’ll fill you in:

              i3 is a tiling window manager created for X11 (the display manager most Linux distros use, including Ubuntu). i3 supports traditional horizontal vertical window tiling — think window snapping, but arranged and resized automatically — as well as stacking and tabbing.

              The differences don’t end there, though.

              Like me, you’re probably used to managing app windows with a mouse, but the i3 window manager is largely keyboard driven. The idea is that you use keyboard shortcuts to move, manage and arrange open apps and windows (though you can use a mouse too).

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Vijay Prashad: My friend is in a prison in Ecuador

    My friend Ola is a kind-hearted vegetarian who languishes in Ecuador’s prison system. Special Rapporteurs from the UN and the Organization of American States have written to Ecuador on May 7 to express their concern about Ola’s arrest and detention; no one has responded to them.

    David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression said that “nothing in this story connects Ola to any crime.” There is a large net thrown by U.S. intelligence around human rights defenders — people like Ola. They are being treated as criminals because they do not accept the deterioration of humanity in our world.

    “The world is full of horrible things,” Ola wrote earlier this year.

    One of them is his unjust imprisonment.

  • Ola Bini Was Friends with Julian Assange. He Has Spent Two Months in Jail Without Charge in Ecuador

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared before a magistrates’ court in London Friday, saying his life was “effectively at stake” if the U.K. honors an extradition request from the United States, where he faces 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act. Meanwhile, a friend of Assange’s, Swedish programmer and data privacy activist Ola Bini, is still in prison in Ecuador, after being arrested April 11, the same day Assange was forcibly taken by British authorities from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and has been jailed ever since without charges. We speak with Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and a friend of Ola Bini.

  • LibreOffice

    • Annual Report 2018: LibreOffice Conference

      The LibreOffice Conference is the annual gathering of the community, our end-users, and everyone interested in free office software. Every year, it takes place in a different country and is supported by members of the LibreOffice commercial ecosystem. In 2018, the conference was organized by the young and dynamic Albanian community at Oficina in Tirana, from Wednesday, September 26, to Friday, September 28, the eight anniversary of the LibreOffice project. Here’s a quick video recap – read on for more details…

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD 11.3-RC1 Now Available

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

    • FreeBSD 11.3 Release Candidate Brings Different Fixes

      FreeBSD 11.3 is lining up for release in July while this weekend the first release candidate is available for testing.

      Following the weekly betas the past few weeks, the first RC is out. FreeBSD 11.3 has brought Bhyve updates, the latest CPU vulnerability mitigations like Zombieload/MDS, driver updates, hardware support improvements, and a random collection of other fixes/enhancements for those still on the FreeBSD 11 series.

  • Programming/Development

    • How to generate a usable map file for Rust code – and related (f)rustrations

      Cargo does not produce a .map file, and if it does, mangling makes it very unusable. If you’re searching for the TLDR, read from “How to generate a map file” on the bottom of the article.

    • Converting a Python data into a ReStructured Text table

      This probably exist but I couldn’t find it. I wanted to export a bunch of data from a Python/Django application into something a non-coder could understand. The data was not going to be a plain CSV, but a document, with various tables and explanations of what each table is. Because ReStructured Text seems to be the winning format in the Python world I decided to go with that.

    • Python Anywhere: Using MongoDB on PythonAnywhere with MongoDB Atlas

      Lots of people want to use MongoDB with PythonAnywhere; we don’t have support for it built in to the system, but it’s actually pretty easy to use with a database provided by MongoDB Atlas — and as Atlas is a cloud service provided by Mongo’s creators, it’s probably a good option anyway :-)

      If you’re experienced with MongoDB and Atlas, then our help page has all of the details you need for connecting to them from our systems.

      But if you’d just like to dip your toe in the water and find out what all of this MongoDB stuff is about, this blog post explains step-by-step how to get started so that you can try it out.

    • Toward a “Kernel Python”

      Prompted by Amber Brown’s presentation at the Python Language Summit last month, Christian Heimes has followed up on his own earlier work on slimming down the Python standard library, and created a proper Python Enhancement Proposal PEP 594 for removing obviously obsolete and unmaintained detritus from the standard library.

      PEP 594 is great news for Python, and in particular for the maintainers of its standard library, who can now address a reduced surface area. A brief trip through the PEP’s rogues gallery of modules to deprecate or remove1 is illuminating. The python standard library contains plenty of useful modules, but it also hides a veritable necropolis of code, a towering monument to obsolescence, threatening to topple over on its maintainers at any point.

      However, I believe the PEP may be approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Currently, the standard library is maintained in tandem with, and by the maintainers of, the CPython python runtime. Large portions of it are simply included in the hope that it might be useful to somebody. In the aforementioned PEP, you can see this logic at work in defense of the colorsys module: why not remove it? “The module is useful to convert CSS colors between coordinate systems. [It] does not impose maintenance overhead on core development.”

    • EuroPython: EuroPython 2019: Warning – Spoiler alert!

      The device was created and designed by Radomir Dopieralski, a long time EuroPython regular and enthusiastic Python device and robotics builder.

      The PewPew is a simplified game console, programmable with CircuitPython, a variant of MicroPython. It comes with a 64 LED display and a set of small buttons to drive the console.

      We will have one device per attendee with training or conference ticket and plan to give them out together with the badges.

    • sphinxcontrib-spelling 4.3.0

      sphinxcontrib-spelling is a spelling checker for Sphinx-based documentation. It uses PyEnchant to produce a report showing misspelled words.

    • Run-Length Encoding

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Free school decision driven by ideology not evidence, says Green Party education spokesperson

      Vix Lowthion, Green Party education spokesperson, has described the announcement today by Damian Hinds of 22 new free schools as a decision based on “ideology not evidence”.

      Vix, a secondary school teacher, said: “Free schools have not raised attainment. They have consumed vast financial resources and are not accountable to their local communities. Their creation is driven by ideology, not evidence.

      “They are not being put where they are needed, whilst too many of our community schools are bursting at the seams.

      “The government must end this privatisation ideology and allow councils to plan for and deliver the educational needs of their communities.”

      The announcement came as the failures of the school inspection system were exposed by a report showing that more than 80% of schools that had been top-rated by Ofsted were downgraded on their latest inspection, with inspections being conducted after a hiatus of up to a decade.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • ‘Debate in The Netherlands about medicine prices is too polarized’ [Ed: Decent people say, let ill people have medicine to survive. Lawyers and patent extremists day debate in The Netherlands about medicine prices is too polarized!!!!!!!]

      The focus in The Netherlands on the option of compounding medicines as a means to circumvent the use of (expensive) authorised medicinal products of pharmaceutical companies and to pressurize them into lowering their prices, is confusing and possibly misleading and not necessarily good for patients. Attorney-at-law Hanneke Later-Nijland, also a trained pharmacist and a former Inspector for Healthcare, has said this in an interview with Kluwer IP Law.

      In the Netherlands, a new provision of the Dutch Patent Act 1995 came into force on 1 February 2019, allowing pharmacists to prepare patented medicines, on a small scale, for patients. This attracted quite a lot of attention. Can you explain why?

      “The new provision* is not remarkable or exceptional in itself. It is based on European legislation and surrounding countries have had this option for many years. But in The Netherlands it was never implemented, it didn’t have any priority. This probably changed due to the report Development of new medicines – Better, faster, cheaper of the Council on Public Health and Society (November 2017), in which compounding of medicinal products was proposed as an efficient instrument to curb the cost of medicines.”

    • New York State Ends Religious Exemptions for Vaccines

      New York state has joined California, West Virginia, Arizona, Mississippi and Maine in ending religious exemptions for parents who prefer not to vaccinate their children, The New York Times reported.

      The bill passed both the state Assembly and Senate Thursday, and was immediately signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, citing a measles outbreak that has sickened 1,022 people in 28 states since January, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. That is the highest number of cases since measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

    • Measles Outbreak: N.Y. Eliminates Religious Exemptions for Vaccinations

      Lawmakers in New York, the epicenter of the nation’s measles outbreak, voted on Thursday to end religious exemptions for immunizations, overcoming opposition by vaccine skeptics and others who said the measure infringed on religious and constitutional rights.

      Calling it a public health emergency, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo immediately signed the bill, adding New York to a small handful of states that do not allow exemptions on religious grounds, including California, Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi and Maine.

      The issue is particularly acute in New York, where many measles cases have originated in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and in Rockland County, where so-called vaccine symposiums have featured speakers who encouraged people to shun immunization.

      The tension over the issue was readily apparent in the Capitol on Thursday as hundreds of angry opponents — many with young children and infants — pleaded with lawmakers to reject the bill, sometimes invoking the will of God, other times their rights as parents. The show of raw emotion affected even supporters of the bill.

    • Michigan Prosecutors Drop Criminal Charges Against Officials Involved in Flint Water Crisis

      Michigan prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis Thursday, citing concerns about the investigation they had inherited from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette, CNN reported.

    • Prosecutors drop criminal charges in Flint water scandal

      Nearly four years since the City of Flint declared a state of emergency over the state of its water — and three years after the first criminal charges were filed against government officials — prosecutors on Thursday dismissed all pending criminal cases, pledging to start the investigation from scratch.

      Prosecutors said that they had grave concerns about the investigative approach and legal theories embraced by the former Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that oversaw the investigation, according to a press release issued by the Michigan Department of Attorney General. The OSC was appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette.

      The OSC entered into agreements that gave private law firms that were representing the accused a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement, according to the release.

    • Pramila Jayapal, Motivated by Wave of Right-Wing Attacks on Reproductive Rights, Draws Praise for Sharing Her Abortion Story

      “I have never spoken publicly about my abortion,” the congresswoman writes, several years after her procedure. “In some ways, I have felt I should not have to, because it is an intensely personal decision. But I have decided to speak about it now because I am deeply concerned about the intensified efforts to strip choice and constitutional rights away from pregnant people and the simplistic ways of trying to criminalize abortion.”

      This year alone, legislators in nine states—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah—have passed extreme restrictions on abortion that are intended to provoke a court battle that forces the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that affirmed the constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

      Those developments motivated Jayapal to share her story—which begins with the birth of her child Janak, who was unexpectedly born in India at just 26.5 weeks. Janak subsequently “went through multiple blood transfusions and was unable to eat because their internal organs were not developed enough to take in or process milk.”

      In the months and years that followed, Janak experienced “endless trips to the emergency room because of weak lungs and repeated pneumonia, a seizure, and delays in speaking,” and Jayapal endured both postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Her doctors warned about the high risks of future pregnancies, and years later, she made the “excruciating” and “heartbreaking” decision to have an abortion, despite wanting more children.

    • Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive

      Residents of Minden, West Virginia and surrounding Fayette County have been fighting for more than three decades to get government officials to clean up extremely toxic industrial chemicals that experts have linked to the death of an unusually large number of residents in the old coal mining town.

      Even though the toxic contamination was first detected in 1984, state and federal government officials have failed to protect the people of Minden, who are still getting sick and dying at unusually high rates. Minden’s population continues to decline as people move out or die. Currently, 250 people live in the community. Since 2014, about 160 people have been diagnosed or have died of cancer in the town.

      Minden residents, frustrated by 35 years of ineptitude by the government, are once again banding together to ensure state and federal officials do the cleanup right this time.

    • Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India

      In February 2010, the Indian government placed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal. Prior to this decision, numerous independent scientific experts from India and abroad had pointed out safety concerns regarding Bt (insecticidal) brinjal based on data and reports in the biosafety dossier that Mahyco, the crop developer, had submitted to the regulators.

      The then Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh had instituted a unique four-month scientific enquiry and public hearings. His decision to reject the commercialisation of Bt brinjal was supported by advice from renowned international scientists. Their collective appraisals demonstrated serious environmental and biosafety concerns, which included issues regarding the toxicity of Bt proteins resulting from their mode of action on the human gut system.

      Jairam Ramesh pronounced a moratorium on Bt brinjal in February 2010 founded on what he called “a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach.” The moratorium has not been lifted.

      In India, five high-level reports have advised against the adoption of GM crops. Appointed by the Supreme Court, the ‘Technical Expert Committee (TEC) Final Report’ (2013) was scathing about the prevailing regulatory system and highlighted its inadequacies and serious inherent conflicts of interest. The TEC recommended a 10-year moratorium on the commercial release of all GM crops.

    • Echoes of Flint in ‘Chernobyl’

      On May 30, toward the end of its five-week run on HBO, author Stephen King tweeted that the mini-series “Chernobyl” is impossible to watch without considering our feckless and incompetent president. “Like those in charge of the doomed Russian reactor,” King wrote, “[Donald Trump] is a man of mediocre intelligence in charge of great power—economic, global—that he does not understand.”

      [...]

      In 2014, Michigan state officials told Flint residents that although their water was disconcertingly odorous and discolored, tasted of copper and appeared to be giving people skin rashes, it was perfectly safe to drink. This insistence from government officials that there is no cause for alarm is echoed in “Chernobyl,” when, in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, plant higher-ups and Soviet officials inform employees and the people of nearby Pripyat that its nuclear explosion is merely a fire. The town and its environs are eventually evacuated, but not before thousands are exposed to deadly radiation. At virtually every turn, the government’s efforts to contain what Zharkov (Donald Sumpter) calls “the spread of misinformation” end up exacerbating the crisis.

      The similarities between these two incidents don’t end at institutional inaction, unfortunately. In Flint, as in Chernobyl, the state acknowledged that warning signs were ignored after the worst-case scenario had come to pass. And in both disasters, officials only took responsibility for their negligence after the knowledge of what had happened spread outside the affected regions.

      Perhaps the most haunting parallel between the Chernobyl and Flint debacles, however, is that their true perpetrators have largely gone unpunished. While we learn in the show’s epilogue that a trio of Russian scientists were sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for their crimes, the Soviet bureaucracy that enabled them escapes indictment. And just this week, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against eight officials in the Flint water scandal, pledging to begin their investigation anew. It appears that one of the warnings of Chernobyl—that the powerful are rarely held accountable in a major disaster—has largely gone unheeded.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Contradicting Trump Claim of Iranian Mine Attack, Owner of Japanese Oil Tanker Says ‘Flying Object’ Likely Caused Explosions

      During a press conference just hours after the U.S. released video footage that purported to show an Iranian boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of an oil tanker, the Japanese owner of that vessel said Friday that the ship was likely damaged by a “flying object” and called claims of a mine attack “false.”

      “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,” Yutaka Katada, president of the Japanese company that operates the Kokuka Courageous tanker, told reporters in Tokyo.

      Katada’s account of the attack appeared to contradict the Trump administration’s suggestion that Iranian mines were responsible for the explosions that damaged the Kokuka Courageous and one other oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

      As Common Dreams reported Friday, major American media outlets uncritically propagated the U.S. military’s video footage and accompanying claims, despite widespread skepticism from independent critics and other nations.

    • Vijay Prashad: U.S. Rushes to Blame Iran for Tanker Attacks as Much of World Pushes for Diplomacy

      Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are again ratcheting up as the Trump administration accused Iran of orchestrating an attack Thursday on Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denied any involvement and accused the Trump administration of trying to sabotage diplomacy. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly accused Iran of attacking the oil tankers, and the U.S. released video of what it claimed was Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese oil tanker that was attacked. However, the president of the Japanese company that owns the ship said it was not attacked by mines but two flying objects. He also said he doesn’t believe any objects were attached to the side of the ship. We speak with Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

    • Trump Must Not Be Allowed to Use Gulf of Oman Incidents as ‘Pretext for Illegal War With Iran’: Bernie Sanders

      Sen. Bernie Sanders responded on Friday to president Donald Trump’s assertion that Iran was behind Thursday’s suspected attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman with a call for restraint against pursing what he said would be a dangerous and “illegal” war against the country.

      “Attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman are unacceptable and must be fully investigated,” the Vermont Independent and 2020 president hopeful said in a statement. “But this incident must not be used as a pretext for a war with Iran, a war which would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States, Iran, the region, and the world.”

      “The time is now for the United States to exert international leadership,” Sanders continued, “and bring the countries in the region together to forge a diplomatic solution to the growing tensions.”

      The Trump administration late Thursday released video footage that it claimed proved that Iran was behind the alleged attacks, though the Japanese owner of one of the tankers on Friday appeared to contradict the White House narrative.

      Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday also claimed, without evidence, that Iran was behind not only Thursday’s alleged oil tanker attacks but other “recent similar… attacks on shipping.”

      In his new statement, Sanders appeared to confront Pompeo’s reported assertion in a closed door meeting with lawmakers that the 2001 AUMF provides legal grounding for a war with Iran.

      “I would also remind President Trump that there is no congressional authorization for a war with Iran,” said Sanders. “A unilateral U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal and unconstitutional.”

    • Trump Blames Iran for the Tanker Attacks. But Let’s be Skeptical of his Administration’s Pro-War Bluster

      The Trump administration was quick to point fingers at Iran after explosions on two oil tankers from Japan and Norway in the Gulf of Oman.

      Undoubtedly, Iran is a plausible suspect. It has repeatedly threatened to strangle the flow of Persian Gulf oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and the UAE if the U.S. embargoes Iranian oil. But the presence of a potential motive does not amount to the presence of evidence, and the owner of the Japanese tanker is already contesting the U.S. explanations.

      But, if anything, the speed in which the Trump administration officially blamed Iran should give us pause, given John Bolton’s long history of fabricating intelligence in favor of war. The mere process of gathering evidence — let alone conclusive evidence — of how the attack on Thursday was conducted and who was behind it would take days and weeks, not hours.

    • Warnings of Effort to ‘Maneuver the US Into a War’ as Trump Officials Rush to Blame Iran for Attacks on Gulf Tankers

      The alleged attacks, which set a Japanese-owned tanker ablaze, came as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an attempt to reduce dangerous military tensions between the Iran and the U.S.

      As Common Dreams reported last month, the recent escalation between Iran and the U.S. was sparked by the Trump administration’s belligerent threats and naval activity in the Persian Gulf.

      Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said in a statement that Thursday’s attacks could have been carried out by “actors in the region and beyond who want to maneuver the U.S. into a war.”

      “With [national security adviser] John Bolton seeking to maneuver the U.S. into a war with Iran,” said Abdi, “the sabotage of more oil tankers underscores the increasingly dangerous situation in the Middle East as the Trump administration pursues its maximum pressure approach toward Iran.”

      “The fact that the sabotage occurred amid Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state visit to Iran—where he is believed to have communicated a message from Trump to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—underscores that the likely motive of the attackers is to prevent any easing of tensions,” Abdi added. “For Congress, these attacks are yet another warning sign that Trump and his team are leaning into a disastrous war in the Middle East.”

    • Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0

      President Trump has threatened China’s President Xi that if they don’t meet and talk at the upcoming G20 meetings in Japan, June 29-30, the United States will not soften its tariff war and economic sanctions against Chinese exports and technology.

      Some meeting between Chinese and U.S. leaders will indeed take place, but it cannot be anything like a real negotiation. Such meetings normally are planned in advance, by specialized officials working together to prepare an agreement to be announced by their heads of state. No such preparation has taken place, or can take place. Mr. Trump doesn’t delegate authority.

      Trump opens negotiations with a threat. That costs nothing, and you never know (or at least, he never knows) whether he can get a freebee. His threat is that the U.S. can hurt its adversary unless that country agrees to abide by America’s wish-list. But in this case the list is so unrealistic that the media are embarrassed to talk about it. The US is making impossible demands for economic surrender – that no country could accept. What appears on the surface to be only a trade war is really a full-fledged Cold War 2.0.

    • Whoever Hit the Gulf Tankers, Pompeo was Wrong to Finger Iran before Evidence Was In

      The mysterious mines that blew up two tankers, one of them Japanese-owned and operated, on Wednesday, sent a frisson of fear through the Gulf, since it was clear that Trump warmongers would blame Iran and then use the incident as a springboard to war.

      Despite the confident pronouncements of “Benghazi Mike” Pompeo at his brief news conference, the fact is that US intelligence hasn’t had time or access to come to a firm conclusion about the author of the mine attack.

      Pompeo’s people put out grainy video of some sort of small ship coming alongside one of the tankers and then leaving peacefully. Since this doesn’t look very much like an attack, they are alleging that the Iranians were taking away an unexploded mine. That doesn’t make any sense at all, and the video again needs to be carefully analyzed.

      Pompeo alleged that only the Iranians had the expertise to deploy these mines.

    • Pompeo Gulf of Oman Narrative Torpedoed by Vessel’s Japanese Owner

      The Japanese owner of the vessel maintains that there were no mines — or torpedos — involved, denying that such could have been the case because the damage to the ship was above the waterline. He went so far as to call the whole U.S.-pedaled notion of mines being responsible “false.”

    • Lies Liberals Tell Themselves About the Second Amendment

      You’ll have heard it said by many liberals and even progressives that the Second Amendment centers on arming militias in a post-colonial America. But the reality behind the legal statute that enshrined gun rights in the Constitution is more nuanced, and far more sinister. As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz notes in her book, “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” the arming of state militias (which ultimately became the National Guard) was already noted elsewhere in the Constitution, so why was there a need to stipulate the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights, which pertains to individuals? That’s because, according to Dunbar-Ortiz, the Second Amendment can be traced directly back to settler colonialism.

      “Basically, the Second Amendment is about killing Indians, taking their land and, increasingly, slave patrols,” Dunbar-Ortiz tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” The author lays out the genocidal genealogy of the right to bear arms, and explains that, at its root, it ensured the ability of white men to oppress people of color in order to steal or keep stolen land, and to control slaves through slave patrols. To top it off, she goes on to argue, our current police forces are essentially just modern-day slave patrols.

    • Study Linking US Sanctions to Venezuelan Deaths Buried by Reuters for Over a Month

      It would indeed have been impossible for a Reuters reporter to be aware of the study if they depended only on Reuters articles to keep informed. The news agency hadn’t mentioned the study since it was released, never mind written an article about it.

      I asked a contact I have at Reuters about this, and he was also surprised that Reuters hadn’t even mentioned the study. He suggested I query some of Reuters’ Venezuela-based reporters, which I did a few days later.

      In my email to them, I passed along a list of news articles since August 2017, when Trump first dramatically intensified economic sanctions, that described worsening economic conditions. I also noted that though the Sachs/Weisbrot study was ignored by Reuters, it had been intensely debated in public by Venezuelan opposition economists (i.e., the kind of people Reuters and other Western media actually pay attention to on Venezuela).

    • Think US Media Won’t Help Lead Nation Into War With Iran Based on Flimsy or False Intelligence? Looks Like They Already Are

      If there were any lingering hopes that the corporate media learned from its role in perpetuating the lies that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and would never again help start a Middle East war on the basis of false or flimsy evidence, the headlines that blared across the front pages of major U.S. news websites Thursday night indicated that such hopes were badly misplaced.

      The U.S. military late Thursday released blurry, black-and-white video footage that it claimed—without any underlying analysis or further details—showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, one of the oil tankers damaged in attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

      [...]

      Just taking a random sample of screenshots after the news broke Thursday night, major outlets largely did the Pentagon’s dirty work by posting uncritical headlines that took the claims at face value.

      The Washington Post used the word “purported” in its headline, but erroneously reported that the video was taken “before” the explosion on the vessel, not after. The headline was later changed, but was made no more critical of the military’s claim…

    • Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns

      Since the Second World War, governments across the world have increasingly relied on aerial bombardment in order to achieve strategic and/or political objectives. However, with the aim to reduce exposure to risk, the leaders that employ these measures without any ground support risk merely extending the misery visited upon the enemy but not achieving any decisive breakthrough.

      The largest air force in the world, unsurprisingly, is the United States Air Force. The second largest is the United States Navy. Combined with the allied forces that make up NATO, the transatlantic alliance has an aerial capacity that is unmatched. Despite this overwhelming force, they are surprisingly impotent. It took NATO 78 days to subdue little Yugoslavia in 1999. It took eight months in the case of Libya, an even more stunning figure when one considers that the Libyan military had already been denuded of all meaningful capabilities for years itself. Why does it take so long? Aerial warfare can be divided into two predominant forms of assaults: attacks on military infrastructure and general bombing campaign. The former, naturally, requires pre-existing targets, which in the face of a materially superior enemy is quickly depleted. As such, those who launch air wars quickly shift their efforts over towards a much more generalised effort that lacks purpose.

      Vietnam is perhaps the clearest example of a disastrous and catastrophic implementation of area bombardment. When President Johnson, at the urging of those who had two decades earlier masterminded the flattening of the German and Japanese landscapes, initiated Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, a strategic aim beyond the degradation of enemy morale was lacking. Yet, like during the Blitz, aerial bombing had the unintended consequence of producing a sense of resilience. This is not to mention that aside from Hanoi’s ability to effectively evacuate large portions of its civilian population (upwards of 80%) and the questionable morality of the campaign, North Vietnam had little industry worth targeting in the first place.

      Financially, air campaigns have a rather low return on investment. Due to the absence of any real parity in terms of weaponry, the fighting naturally turns into an asymmetric conflict. As such, it only took a couple of (relatively) cheap stingers in the hands of rural Afghans to take down Soviet helicopters. In the case of the Gaza Strip, Hamas knows well that their so-called ‘rockets’ (arguably glorified fertiliser fireworks, considering their effectiveness) cannot penetrate Israeli air defence system so they resort to balloons with burning coal, much cheaper than any multi-million dollar missile found in the arsenals of strong militaries.

    • The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition

      The Indian subcontinent got partitioned in 1947 when the British colonial rule came to an end. India was divided into two new independent states: India and Pakistan. The reason for the division was the Indian National Congress’ (INC’s) adamant refusal to share power with the Indian Muslim League (IML) headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was himself a non-practicing Muslim with a secular vision. Muslims represented over 25% of the then total Indian population.

      The partition was gory and bloody; in excess of a million people were killed. Also, millions of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan and Muslims in India, migrated to areas cohabited by their coreligionists.

    • Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book

      Thom Hartmann has long written and spoken on the topic of guns in the United States, along with many other topics. Of those topics he’s dealt with that I know anything about, I have not always agreed with him on every detail, but on most I’ve found him highly informative and persuasive. His new book, The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, is possibly the best book I’ve ever seen on its topic, both to read, and to pass along to anyone in the United States, whatever their current opinion on guns and gun laws may be, as well as to share with anyone else on earth who may be trying to understand why the United States seems to be allowing its own ongoing slaughter, with guns the second-leading cause of death among children in the United States.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange’s U.S. Extradition Hearing Is Set for February

      A British court on Friday set February 2020 as the date for the full extradition hearing on whether Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, should be sent to the United States to face a slew of charges, including several under the Espionage Act.

      Mr. Assange, 47, appeared by video link from Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London for his first hearing since the United States formally requested his extradition. He had skipped a previous hearing because, his lawyer said, he was too ill to appear. Some experts, including a United Nations official, said he had exhibited signs of a deteriorating physical and mental condition.

      Mr. Assange’s hearing came days after Britain’s home secretary, Sajid Javid, signed the extradition request from the United States and expressed his support for Mr. Assange’s detention.

      “He’s rightly behind bars,” Mr. Javid told BBC’s Radio 4.

      Protesters holding signs that read “Hands off Assange” outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Friday denounced Mr. Javid’s decision and demanded Mr. Assange’s release. If the court rules in the United States’ favor, the extradition process is expected to be a long and complicated one.

    • Assange to Face 5-Day Extradition Hearing in February 2020

      A decision on whether Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act will not come until the end of February 2020 at the earliest, the Westminster Magistrate’s Court ruled on Friday.

      [...]

      The WikiLeaks publisher told the court that “175 years of my life is effectively at stake,” according to Sky News. He addressed the judge as Lady Arbuthnot, saying: “WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher.” Mark Summers, a lawyer representing Assange, told the court there are a “multiplicity of profound issues” with the extradition case, Sky News reported.

      “We say it represents an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights,” he said.

      Assange spoke to the court via video link from Belmarsh prison where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail on a Swedish sexual assault investigation. Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid onward extradition from Sweden to the United States. He was arrested on April 11 when Ecuador allowed British police to enter the embassy.

    • Facing Serious Charges, Judge Sets ‘Long Timetable’ For Assange To Prepare Defense Against Extradition

      In the United States government’s extradition case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, his attorneys agreed to a “long timetable” so he may prepare his defense against “incredibly serious charges, which impact upon typical newsgathering activities.”

      Judge Emma Arbuthnot set a five-day hearing over the extradition request that will take place in late February 2020. One of the first major filings in the case will come from the U.S. government in July.

      Assange faces 17 counts of allegedly violating the Espionage Act for publishing classified information from Chelsea Manning and one conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge related to the publication.

      During brief proceedings at the Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange appeared via video from Belmarsh prison, where he is serving a 50-week sentence for violating bail conditions when he sought political asylum from Ecuador. His attorneys are appealing his sentence.

      “We are very concerned about his health,” declared Jen Robinson, one of Assange’s attorneys. “He remains in the health care ward of Belmarsh, and he is under a huge amount of pressure and in very difficult circumstances.

      “He’s facing a significant complex case of huge size and scale. And that is an incredible pressure to be placed on someone who’s already suffered significant health impacts as a result of his continued confinement inside the embassy and now inside prison,” Robinson added.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘The Changes Are Really Accelerating’: Alaska at Record Warm While Greenland Sees Major Ice Melt

      The climate crisis is rapidly warming the Arctic, and the effects are being felt from Alaska to Greenland.

      The northernmost point on the planet is heating up more quickly than any other region in the world. The reason for this warming is ice–albedo feedback: as ice melts it opens up land and sea to the sun, which then absorb more heat that would have been bounced off by the ice, leading to more warming. It’s a vicious circle of warmth that’s changing the environment at the north pole.

      In Alaska, the crisis led this year to the warmest spring on record for the state; one city, Akiak, may turn into an island due to swelling riverbanks and erosion exacerbated by thawing permafrost and ice melt. Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Center scientist Susan Natali told The Guardian that what’s happening in Akiak is just an indicator of the danger posed to Alaska by the climate crisis.

    • Protesting Against Air Pollution Crisis, Extinction Rebellion Stalls Rush-Hour Traffic in London

      Dozens of students, parents, teachers, and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London’s southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

    • Prisoners, Grassroots Activists Halt Construction Of Federal Prison On Former Coal Mine

      Federal prisoners and grassroots activists defeated plans by the United States government to embark on the most expensive prison construction project in the country’s history.

      The plans for a federal prison and labor camp in Letcher County, Kentucky, would have cost at least $444 million and resulted in serious and longstanding negative consequences for the environment and public health.

      The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) initially released a “record of decision” in March 2018 for the 800-acre site. It was to be built atop a highly toxic former coal mine and mountaintop removal site located nearby an active mine and coal sludge pond.

      On June 5, 2019, the BOP withdrew the plans after years of sustained opposition and in spite of the agency’s efforts to subvert numerous federal safety and transparency requirements for construction projects. The agency also failed to prove the project was necessary to reduce prison overcrowding in the region.

      Twenty-one federal prisoners were named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit [PDF] against the plans. Each of the prisoners were at high risk of transfer to Letcher County, and they were prevented by the BOP from participating in the public comment period in violation of federal rules.

      The Abolitionist Law Center and Friends of Lilley Cornett Woods and North Fork River Watershed pursued the lawsuit as well.

    • Our Post-Carbon Future Depends on Electric Vehicles—Our Congress Controls Their Economic Lifeline

      There are a few competing electric vehicle-related bills kicking around Capitol Hill right now. One, a bipartisan bill aptly titled the Driving America Forward Act, would keep the country moving in the right direction to address the worldwide climate crisis. Another, dubbed the Fairness for Every Driver Act, would slam us into reverse.

      The forward-looking bill proposes to extend a tax credit—currently pegged at $7,500—for electric vehicles (EVs) that currently phases out once an automaker has sold 200,000 of them. Tesla and General Motors have already exceeded the cap. Introduced in April, the legislation would raise the cap to 600,000 vehicles per manufacturer, providing a $7,000 tax credit to purchasers after the original 200,000-unit threshold is met. It is sponsored by two Democrats from Michigan, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, along with Republicans Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine.

    • Allergy Season Is Bad This Year. Thank Climate Disruption.

      If you think allergy season this year is especially severe, you are not wrong. Even people who do not normally deal with pollen allergies are suffering, and those with serious allergies or other respiratory issues are under siege by a marauding army of windblown dots of pollen. This is on top of the smoke pouring into the U.S. from Canadian wildfires. As with so much else today, the stark reality of climate disruption is playing a part in our misery.

      More than half the states in the continental U.S. are enduring pollen counts ranging from “High” to “Very High.” Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas are an inland sea of allergens, and every Southern state from Mississippi to South Carolina and up through Virginia are painted yellow and orange with the misery-inducing spores. The story is the same out West from Washington State to California, and from Idaho to Arizona and New Mexico. Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois are likewise feeling the sting.

      Harsh allergy seasons are nothing new in the human experience, and I am certainly not trying to pull a Reverse Inhofe by claiming climate disruption is to blame for your car looking like someone slathered it in cake batter every morning. The science here, however, is entirely straightforward.

      “For the first time in human history, on May 13, Earth’s concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 415 parts per million (ppm). Before the 19th century’s industrial revolution, the CO2 concentration was at about 280 ppm,” writes Dahr Jamail for Truthout. “The current dramatic rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is unparalleled in Earth’s history dating back hundreds of thousands of years, based on ice-core data.”

      Put plainly, C02 is plant food. The more plant food there is in the air, the more pollen trees and other plants will produce. Combine that with the historically wet spring season felt by the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest, and all the ingredients for a pollen explosion are in place.

    • ‘This Exchange Cuts to the Heart of Our Crisis’: Watch DNC Chair Hide Behind Party Rules to Argue Against Climate-Focused Debate

      “Humans can change human-made rules, we can’t change the laws of nature.”

      That’s how author and activist Naomi Klein responded to a video posted to Twitter Wednesday evening that shows an activist with the youth-led Sunrise Movement challenging Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez on his refusal to hold a 2020 primary debate on the climate crisis and candidates’ proposed solutions, despite pressure from many presidential hopefuls and voters.

    • Climate crisis raises risk of conflict

      If the world warms by 4°C this century, the climate factor becomes more dangerous – five times more dangerous, according to new research, which predicts a 26% increase in the risk of conflict, just because of climate change.

      Even if the world sticks to a promise made in Paris in 2015, when 195 nations vowed to contain global warming to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, the impact of climate on the risk of armed conflict will double. The risk will rise to 13%.

      US researchers report in the journal Nature that they quizzed a pool of 11 experts on climate and conflict from a range of disciplines. There is no consensus on the mechanism that links a shift in average temperatures and ethnic bitterness, migration, violence and outright civil war within any single nation. But there is a simple conclusion: whatever the process, climate change raises the risk of conflict.

      And the study comes just as the latest publication of the Global Peace Index warns that 971 million people now live in areas with what is termed high or “very high climate change exposure”, and 400 million of these people already live in countries with “low levels of peacefulness.”

    • New California Bill Could Revolutionize How the U.S. Tackles Plastic Pollution

      The ubiquity of plastic in our lives is leaving a mark — on the geologic record, in remote regions of the Earth, in the bodies of 90 percent of seabirds. Our oceans are a toxic soup, swirling with an estimated 50 million tons of plastic waste. But the tide is changing.

      Mounting global pressure to curb plastic pollution is gaining steam. A significant leap came last year with the European Union’s vote to ban single-use plastic items by 2021 and boost bottle recycling 90 percent by 2025. On June 10 Canada announced it would follow Europe’s lead.

      In the United States, efforts to reduce plastic waste have so far been piecemeal — bans on specific items, like plastic bags, and only in certain municipalities. But California could help the country take a massive leap forward.

      At the end of May, the California Senate passed S.B. 54, the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, introduced by Senator Ben Allen and modeled after the European effort. A day later, the state’s assembly passed identical legislation, A.B. 1080, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. If the bills clear opposite houses and earn the governor’s signature, it will be groundbreaking.

    • How ‘Freeway Revolts’ Helped Create the People’s Environmental Law

      In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, “White man’s roads through black men’s homes.”

      Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation’s capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

    • US Poised to Approve Shipping LNG by Rail for Export With No New Safety Rules

      On June 6, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced that the company Energy Transport Solutions LLC had applied for a special permit to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) in unit trains 100 cars long and for the express purpose of moving LNG to export facilities. The notice in the Federal Register starts a comment period, ending July 8, for the public to weigh in on the proposal, which represents a new mode for transporting LNG and includes no new safety precautions.

      The permit documentation and environmental assessment from PHMSA suggest that federal regulators — instead of learning from the deadly mistakes of the essentially unregulated oil-by-rail boom — are poised to allow the fossil fuel and rail industries to repeat the same business model with LNG, with potentially even higher consequences for public health and safety.

    • After Losing a Similar Case, BLM Sued Again Over Climate Impacts of Oil and Gas Leases

      An environmental group based in New Mexico is suing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) related to climate change. It’s the second lawsuit the agency has faced over its approval of oil and gas leases on public lands in recent years.

      WildEarth Guardians has filed a lawsuit against BLM and the Department of Interior, asking a federal court in New Mexico to vacate 210 oil and gas leases approved between 2017 and 2018. The leases cover over 70,000 acres of public land in the southeastern portion of the state, just a few miles away from Carlsbad Caverns National Park and within the Permian Shale, a hotbed for fracking.

    • U.S. Forest Service aims to speed up logging, infrastructure projects

      The U.S. Forest Service, which manages millions of acres of national forests and grasslands, on Wednesday proposed “bold” changes for how it carries out environmental reviews of logging, road building and mining projects on public land, a move that raised red flags for environmental groups.

      The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service published proposed changes for how it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a decades-old law that requires detailed analysis to be conducted before approving projects that could significantly affect the environment.

    • Forest Service Wants to Fast-Track Logging Without Environmental Review

      The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.

    • Time to Celebrate National Pollinator Week

      Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it’s a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.

      The Pollinator Partnership created Pollinator Week and the U.S. Senate designated National Pollinator Week in 2007. The intention was to draw attention to the protecting pollinator habitats, since they are in steep decline due to human activity, according to Transmission & Distribution world.

    • How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions

      Each year, human beings release an increasing amount of carbon dioxide (C02) into the atmosphere; at present, around 40 billion tons per annum. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, 8.4 billion tons are attributed to the burning of fossil fuels; primarily coal, gas and oil. The European Commission and Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency lists the most polluting countries (including the EU as a whole and each of its member states). They are China, the US, the EU, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada and Brazil. When measured in terms of per capita emissions, the US and Canada are the biggest culprits, with each Canadian and American emitting an average of >15 tonnes of CO2 per annum (“carbon footprint”). This is a result of commuting, consumption, domestic energy use, leisure and travel.

      CO2 accounts for approximate 76 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency says that combustion (of coal, gas and oil) is the main human activity that releases CO2. Electrical production, which uses coal combustion for its generation, accounts for 32.9% of US CO2 emissions. Transport accounts for 34.2%, which is where oil comes in, as most transport (cars, trucks, planes and ships) relies on petroleum. Industry is responsible for 15.4% of emissions and residential/commercial for 10%.

      One barrel consists of 42 gallons (159 liters) of oil. Each day, 96 million barrels of oil and liquid fuels are consumed worldwide. This equates to 35 billion barrels a year. Vehicles are significant C02 emitters. The majority of vehicles run on oil. There are 800 million cars in the world. According to Automotive Industry Solutions, there are 253 million cars and trucks in use in the US. There are 234 million cars on the roads of Western Europe in a sector that employs 13 million people. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that half of all carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides and a quarter of aromatic hydrocarbons, released each year can be attributed to transport. The Union further notes that much of the pollution could be easily reduced by clean vehicle fuel technologies. It’s not just the use of vehicles which causes pollution. The Union also points out that from design, to manufacture, to disposal, vehicle-related pollution is significant.

    • The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal

      The information blockade starts with the military itself. The military purposely restricts information plus its immense size and bureaucratic complexity means that it is so hard to grasp that political leaders cannot themselves understand the institution they are supposed to command.

      You want proof? Just try reading the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2016 report which could not figure out just how much oil the military burns. The GAO concluded: “[C]ongress does not have full visibility over the amount of fuel volume the military services require on an annual basis for their activities…”

      This should not come as a surprise. Since its inception in 1950 or so the modern military has resisted any accounting of costs in violation of Article I, Section 9, of the US Constitution. In 2018 the Pentagon failed its first ever audit. It’s not just about the missing 6.5 trillions dollars, (although that really matters too) it’s that the opaque accounting system is armor — a defensive weapon used to neutralize anyone that wants to understand, let alone oppose, the US government.

      This massive fraud is just the financial side of the serial political con committed by the US government. Article 1, Sec. 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution clearly gives Congress, and only Congress, the right to declare war — but that has never stopped the Pentagon or the President or the Congress or the Courts from betraying their duty to defend the Constitution.

      Not only can’t the government regulate corporations it cannot regulate itself in line with what is supposed to be the highest law of the land— the US Constitution.

      But shift your vantage point to see the merger of the corporation and the state and then you see a military perfectly regulated in keeping with a corporate empire that equates profit with power and actively promotes both without limit. The liberal state is no more.

      For example, the War on Terror increased the Pentagon’s appetite for power and secrecy at the cost of environmental justice. According to legal scholar Hope Babcock,

      “[O]ne response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 has been a significant erosion of basic civil liberties. Congress has given unprecedented power to the President and his law enforcement agencies to wage this war against terror….The military has sought, and largely received, permission from Congress to weaken environmental and public disclosure laws as part of the arsenal of “tools” it needs to fight this war.”

      If weakening “environmental and public disclosure laws” is a weapon of war — then “destroying the planet to save it” is the outcome.

    • The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?

      About a century ago the American chestnut tree was attacked by the introduced fungal pathogen (Cryphonectria parasitica). This fungus drove the chestnut to functional extinction. Now, scientists at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) claim to have created, through biotechnology, a resistant American chestnut variety. They aim to petition the required regulatory agencies (USDA, FDA, EPA) for deregulation of their genetically engineered chestnut in the near future, with the stated goal of “restoring” the species to nature.

      If it is deregulated, the GE chestnut would be the first GE forest tree species to be planted out in forests with the deliberate intention of spreading freely. Monitoring or reversing their spread, once released, would likely be impossible. Performing valid risk assessments of the potential impacts of GE American chestnut on forests, wildlife, water, soils, pollinators or people, is hampered by our lack of knowledge about both the ecology of the American chestnut and forest ecosystems. Furthermore, since American chestnuts can live for more than 200 years, risk factors may change over the tree’s lifetime in unpredictable ways.

    • Sandy Cioffi on Nigerian Oil, Riki Ott Looking Back at Exxon Valdez Spill

      The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened from the spring through the fall of 2010. The blowout of the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people, and countless animals, on its way to becoming the worst marine oil spill in history. It seemed to take that protracted disaster on the US coast to generate a New York Times front-page story on June 16, 2010, about oil industry ravages in Nigeria’s delta region, which, the article noted, “has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years, by some estimates.” CounterSpin had a powerful conversation that week with filmmaker and video artist Sandy Cioffi, whose film, Sweet Crude, looks at the oil industry in Nigeria, and the way it is covered in the US. We’ll hear that conversation today.

    • Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis

      Plastic pollution is everywhere, it litters beaches, clogs up oceans, chokes marine life, is ingested by seabirds that then starve to death, and has even been discovered embedded in Arctic ice. It’s in the air we breathe, the water we drink (bottled and tap), and last year plastic was found in human stools for the first time. Friends of the Earth report that, “recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.

      According to the United Nations Environmental Agency the world produces around 300 million tons of plastic each year, half of which is single-use items, food packaging mainly. Of this colossal total a mere 14 percent is collected for recycling, and only 9 percent actually gets recycled; 12 percent is incinerated releasing highly poisonous fumes. The rest – nearly 80 percent – ends up in landfill, or worse still, is illegally dumped or thrown into the oceans; around eight million tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans annually, and while some of the environmental damage plastics cause is clear the full impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems is not yet apparent.

      Plastic recycling rates are appalling and considerably lower than other industrial materials; recycling of steel aluminum, copper and paper e.g., is estimated to be 50 percent, and plastic doesn’t disappear it just gets smaller and smaller, reducing over hundreds or even thousands of years into tiny micro-plastics and nano plastics.

    • Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons

      As far as I know climate change (CC) computer models include the variations of insolation (i.e., sunspot cycles, and the Milankovitch Cycles set by solar-earth alignments and angle changes over time) as part of the external radiation driving function (i.e., solar radiation falling on Earth over time). IPCC is an agency that reviews peer reviewed science publications by research scientist/modelers calculating estimated resulting average (and regional) global temperatures of the biosphere over time. Said researchers then try to compare their calculations with experimental data / field observations of CO2, CH4 and air/ocean temperature measurements (current and fossil from: tree rings, ice cores, mineral deposits).

      Also, it has long been known to the scientists that the amount and distribution of water vapor and droplets in the atmosphere — clouds, fog, mist, humidity — is/are the most difficult parameter (parameters) to include in the computer models because such atmospheric moisture is so rapidly transient and localized, and so intimately entwined with local temperature and wind patterns (weather). Water vapor has always been known as the major gas/vapor storage medium of atmospheric heat. Also, clouds have a significant effect on the magnitude of the albedo (sunlight reflection coefficient, hence a localized cooling effect, similar to that of snow and ice caps)

    • Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation

      A wise old political adage says, “When you’re ‘splainin’, you ain’t gainin’.” We need a new, ad hoc version to wake up “climate kid” supporters of an existentially crucial Green New Deal, now sitting politely bored—as through their principal’s speech—while Democrat elders crowd them off stage with their heated-but-trivial Mueller-based debate on whether or not to impeach Trump. I propose this: “When they’re ‘splainin’, you ain’t gainin’.” It’s frankly depressing to see passionate, idealistic kids hold still like respectable middle-aged Rotarians while adults with shallow, juvenile agendas waste civilization’s ever-more-precious time and dominate the floor.

      Hey, climate kids, it’s time to act like kids and get seriously rowdy. This is one “adult” conversation you desperately need to disrupt. And not merely disrupt but actually hijack. The future of the Green New Deal—and therefore of civilization itself—may depend on you remembering that you’re still kids and therefore totally smashing up what the old farts had planned. You’ve already earned your maturity street creds by your incredibly sane, responsible climate activism; it’s time to have some delinquent, disruptive, old-fart-torturing fun.

      As an old fart who never quite grew up—what the Sunrise climate kids more politely call a “Young at Heart” supporter—I’ve already started fracking with the old folks’ minds like someone a fraction of my age. In fact, not just once but twice. But see, I can’t do this alone; after a few hours of “delinquent” head-butting with fellow AARP types, I desperately need a nap. And juvenile delinquency—however urgently needed—can quickly look a little pathetic when not perpetrated by actual juveniles. Still, I do a pretty decent job, and the seriously pissed-off comments under the Nation of Change versions of my two “delinquent” articles (see here and here) show I’ve gotten deeply under Democrat geezers’ sagging skins.

    • “Freedom Gas” Will Be Used to Justify Oppression at Home and Abroad

      The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) made a recent foray into unintentional self-parody when it began describing natural gas as “molecules of U.S. freedom.” While amusement and ridicule are perfectly reasonable reactions to this spectacle, all of us who care about freedom (for people, not molecules) and a livable future need to think about the terrifying potential uses of this language.

      The new term came in a press release boasting that the Trump administration was green-lighting the expansion of a natural gas export terminal in Texas so it could sell more fracked gas overseas.

      Just two days later, Oil Change International published a report demonstrating that continuing development of known gas reserves alone will make it impossible to keep the global temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to within 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the scientifically determined upper limit to avoid planetary catastrophe. The report also showed that investments in any new natural gas infrastructure — such as pipelines and export terminals — locks in planet-warming emissions for years, since these facilities are expensive and designed to last for a long time.

      In other words, the U.S. government is using outlandish self-congratulatory language to brag about approving natural gas infrastructure that will threaten the future of humanity if it’s allowed to operate over the entirety of its expected lifetime. It’s also a colossal waste of resources, the report shows, because a combination of renewable energy, battery storage, and demand-responsive electric grid management is cost-competitive with natural gas and addresses any concerns about grid reliability.

      Why, then, does the government persist in expanding natural gas and other fossil fuel extraction, use and export? Because of crony capitalism, pure and simple.

    • The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage

      With the ravages created by the climate emergency including flooding in the Midwest, wildfires in the West, cities going underwater on the coast of Florida, and extreme heat, we might begin to look at our public lands as carbon storage sites.

      One of the misconceptions guiding public forest policy is the assumption that logging/thinning can preclude large high severity fires, which is assumed to result in tremendous amounts of carbon emissions.

      The timber industry and some agencies try to suggest that cutting trees to “restore” forest ecosystems and/or to turn these trees into “wood products” stores carbon and at the same time will reduce wildfires.

      There are two things wrong with this assumption.

      The first problem is that extreme fire weather is responsible for nearly all massive wildfires. Under extreme fire weather conditions of drought, high temperatures, low humidity and in particular, high winds, nothing stops the fires. Indeed, there is even evidence that by opening up the forest to drying and wind penetration, thinning can sometimes exacerbate fire spread.

      The second problem is that in the process of logging/thinning emits a tremendous amount of carbon.

    • United Nations Agency Criticizes Carbon Offsets

      The United Nations drew attention this week for an article published by its environment program that criticized carbon offsets, a strategy the UN has supported for two decades. The headline: “Carbon offsets are not our get-out-of-jail free card.”

      It came three weeks after ProPublica published a widely discussed investigation into how offsets related to forest preservation have not provided the promised carbon savings and instead have given polluters a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO₂.

      “Scientists, activists and concerned citizens have started to voice their concerns over how carbon offsets have been used by polluters as a free pass for inaction,” the UN article said.

      Niklas Hagelberg, a senior program officer at the Nairobi, Kenya-based UN Environment Programme, said ProPublica’s investigation contributed to the questions raised over offsets, capturing key challenges such as how to accurately monitor trees in protected areas and how to fund livelihoods for forest communities that don’t involve cutting down trees.

    • USDA Employees Turn Backs on Sonny Perdue as USDA Head Announces Moving of Research Agencies

      Over a dozen USDA employees stood and turned their backs on Sonny Perdue Thursday as the U.S. agriculture secretary detailed the relocation of two of the federal agency’s key research offices out of Washington, D.C.

      Purdue was speaking at an “all hands meeting” of employees of the two agencies in question: the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which both recently unionized to protest the reorganization. ERS and NIFA, as Union of Concerned Scientists economist Rebecca Boehm recently wrote, perform work “which directly supports farmers while protecting our food.”

      At least three agency employees, a video of the protest from CNN shows, shook their heads when Perdue said their primary concern about the imminent move was how it would be a “personal disruption.” The Hill has video of a portion of the protest as well.

    • Trump Official Consulted Climate-Change Rejecters, Emails Show

      A Trump administration national security official has sought help from advisers to a think tank that disavows climate change to challenge widely accepted scientific findings on global warming, according to his emails.

      The request from William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, is included in emails from 2018 and 2019 that were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund under the federal Freedom of Information Act and provided to The Associated Press. That request was made this past March to policy advisers with the Heartland Institute, one of the most vocal challengers of mainstream scientific findings that emissions from burning coal, oil and gas are damaging the Earth’s atmosphere.

      In a March 3 email exchange Happer and Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down climate change as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership.” Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller.

  • Finance

    • Pork is Not the Problem

      The federal government plans to spend more than $4.5 trillion in 2019. Those earmarks constitute a whopping one third of one percent of that total.

      Critics of earmarks point out, correctly, that they’re used by members of Congress to direct federal spending to their own districts, not always with much “public good” justification (cue complaints about $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum, $7.5 million for golf education, etc.)

      True, all of it — but it’s baked into any political process. Whether formal earmarks exist or not, politicians will support bills that spend money in their districts, oppose bills that don’t, shill for their favored projects, and make deals to bring home the bacon.

      And, it should be mentioned, earmarks do not directly increase total spending. They simply require that if Congress appropriates $10 billion for Purpose X, $1 million of that $10 billion be spent on Project Y.

      The problem in that hypothetical isn’t the $1 million earmark, it’s the $10 billion appropriation.

      The problem with the real numbers isn’t $15 billion in earmarks, it’s $4.5 trillion in federal spending.

      If Congress has $9 million to spend on a fruit fly quarantine program and $3 million to blow on bad loans to ship buyers (among 2019 earmarks), Congress has too much money to spend on, respectively, Agriculture and THUD (Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development).

    • Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved

      The ongoing trade war between the United States and China, and the rhetoric surrounding it coming out of the White House, has served to reinforce the idea that China is “stealing” jobs from the United States. The reality, however, is that if we are seeking the responsible party, our attention should be directed toward U.S. corporate boardrooms.

      The internal logic of capitalist development is driving the manic drive to move production to the locations with the most exploitable labor, not any single company, industry or country. For a long time, that location was China, although some production, particularly in textiles, is in the process of relocating to countries with still lower wages, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam. (The last of those is already a long-time source of highly exploited cheap labor for Nike.) It could be said that China is opportunistic in turning itself into the world’s sweatshop. And that it constitutes a colossal market is no small factor.

      Low wages and the inability of Chinese workers to legally organize are crucial factors in the movement of production to China. The minimum wage in Shanghai is 2,420 renminbi per month, which equals US$349. Per month. And Shanghai’s minimum wage is the country’s highest rate and “roughly double the minimum wage in smaller cities” across China, reports the China Labour Bulletin. That does not translate into a living wage for Chinese workers.

    • China and Russia in Strategic Alliance

      The Russian magazine of the Strategic Culture Foundation (FCE) published on 7th June an important editorial dedicated to highlighting the strong contrast between the strategic alliance for the 21st century that is being consolidated between China and Russia and the situation of enmity and confrontation that can be seen among Western leaders.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin received his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow this week for a three-day state visit.

      The meeting not only enhanced the personal affection cultivated among them in nearly 30 meetings over the past six years. President Xi referred to Putin as a close friend and a great international ally.

      Even more important is the fact that the two nations are solidifying a strategic alliance that could define the geopolitics of the 21st century, the FCE editorialist considers.

      Putin and Xi – who also recently attended the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg – signed a series of bilateral trade agreements there that will boost Eurasian development and, indeed, global development.

      Of particular importance is the continued drive by Moscow and Beijing to conduct international trade in national currencies, thus avoiding the use of the US dollar as a means of payment in international transactions. This is a crucial step in countering Washington’s purported hegemonic control of the global financial system.

    • Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative

      The foreign and domestic policies of the US Administration appear to be guided by a combination of financial greed, the desire to exploit weakness for the sake of doing so, a partiality for malevolence, and determination to be spiteful. In no manner, domestically, has the last been more effectively demonstrated than by Trump’s treatment of the children of illegal immigrants.

      On June 5 the Washington Post reported that in its most recent persecution of migrant children “The Trump administration is cancelling English classes, recreational programs and legal aid for unaccompanied minors staying in federal migrant shelters nationwide.” One shelter employee spoke for all civilised people when he said that “educational classes and sports activities are crucial to maintaining physical and mental health while the children are in custody” but this means nothing to Trump and his followers, so many of whom seem to be bigots who actually take pleasure in making life disagreeable and distressing for people who have done them no harm but have in some fashion displeased them.

      The hostility of members of the Washington Establishment to those considered to be non-conformist extends world-wide, being displayed in the main by the massive US military presence in all parts of the globe. The aim appears to be world domination, and it is therefore not surprising that a major target is China’s Belt and Road initiative, about which the Council on Foreign Relations observed that “in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road infrastructure development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. The project, eventually termed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) . . . is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived.” It is intended to facilitate international trade and improve the economies of participating nations.

    • Huawei to Countries: Welcome Us In and We’ll Invest Big Time

      The U.S. Justice Department has also indicted Huawei for theft of trade secrets and is pursuing a criminal case against the company’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, alleging that she conspired to defraud banks into unwittingly clearing transactions linked to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

    • The American Dream Is Alive and Well—in China

      Home ownership has been called “the quintessential American dream.” Yet today less than 65% of American homes are owner occupied, and more than 50% of the equity in those homes is owned by the banks. Compare China, where, despite facing one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, a whopping 90% of families can afford to own their homes.

      Over the last decade, American wages have stagnated and U.S. productivity has consistently been outpaced by China’s. The U.S. government has responded by engaging in a trade war and imposing stiff tariffs in order to penalize China for what the White House deems unfair trade practices. China’s industries are said to be propped up by the state and to have significantly lower labor costs, allowing them to dump cheap products on the U.S. market, causing prices to fall and forcing U.S. companies out of business. The message to middle America is that Chinese labor costs are low because their workers are being exploited in slave-like conditions at poverty-level wages.

    • How to Clean Up the “Hot Mess” That Is Chicago’s Ticketing and Debt Collection Practices — According to a City Task Force

      Did you know that Illinois is the opposite of Alabama? At least, that’s what one New York Times writer suggested in a piece this week examining America’s growing divisions, as most states are now under the control of a single political party. But maybe our states have more in common than it seems? Plenty of people agree that both Illinois and Alabama are among the most corrupt in the country … ha.

    • Making Sense of NAFTA and Its Replacement

      “I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me,” Trump has said. His gut instinct said NAFTA was bad. Unfortunately, gut instinct is typically simplistic, often impulsive, and by definition not strategic or coherent.

      We need to think of our domestic policy and trade policy together. Tariffs, like trade deals, make sense only as tools within a larger coherent strategy. Trade policy should reinforce the principles in our domestic policy. If trade policy is not working, it’s a fair bet that our underlying domestic policies aren’t either.

      Since 1980, the prevailing political message has been, “Markets will solve all our problems. Government is the problem.”

      The term for this is neoliberalism. “Neo” means new. In the language of economics, “liberal” means “liberated” or free from regulation. Neoliberalism “frees” markets by shrinking government, dismantling social programs, and cutting investment in education and research-and-development.

    • UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth

      Beginning on Wednesday and extending through Friday, approximately 1,700 employees at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be asked to vote on whether or not to join the United Auto Workers (UAW).

      The outcome of this landmark vote is being carefully watched not only by the Mandarins at Solidarity House, in Detroit, and by auto executives and economists throughout Europe and Asia, but by American companies unrelated to the auto industry. A pro-union vote in Chattanooga can revitalize the whole labor movement.

      Which is to say, there is a great deal riding on this. Way more than simply a bunch of workers choosing whether or not to affiliate. For if VW workers do, in fact, become the first big-time auto plant in the Deep South (which historically has rejected anything having to do with organized labor) to go union, it will send a clear message to companies like Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes, et al.

      It will suggest to foreign automakers that the decades-long gravy train—where these companies could treat American workers worse than they would dare treat their own workers back home—is finally over.

    • When Will Presidential Candidates Propose Ending the Criminalization of Poverty?

      Multiple Democratic presidential candidates have staked their campaigns on promises to fight for economic justice and protect low-income people from ruin. So it’s mysterious and frustrating that none of these candidates have proposed to end our justice system’s criminalization of poverty — at least beyond the occasional nod to ending money bail.

      These candidates are missing an opportunity. The incomes of people in U.S. prisons and local jails are overwhelmingly low, and one in two American adults has had a close relative incarcerated, meaning that a candidate who understands the criminalization of poverty could propose transformative reforms and speak to a huge number of voters. In particular, candidates are missing an opportunity to speak to Black voters, who are hit hardest by policies that punish poor people.

      To be sure, many Democratic candidates have alluded to economic inequality in connection with criminal justice reform — and Bernie Sanders even uses the phrase “criminalizing poverty” on his campaign website — but I’ve seen no indication that any of the candidates can speak to either the specifics or the scale of this problem. Candidates must go beyond criticizing money bail, and promise to end the unequal treatment of poor people at every stage of the justice process:

    • Women in Switzerland Strike Over Pay, Harassment

      Women across Switzerland walked off the job, burned bras and blocked traffic Friday in a day of demonstrations to demand fairer pay, more equality and an end to sexual harassment and violence. It was the first such protests in the Alpine nation in 28 years.

      Discontent over sexism and workplace inequality in prosperous Switzerland underpinned the women’s strike. Many protesters were also demanding more pay specifically for domestic workers, teachers and caregivers — jobs typically held by women.

      Swiss female lawmakers — mostly decked out in purple, the movement’s color — streamed out of parliament Friday in the capital of Bern, where several thousand women were demonstrating, public broadcaster RTS reported.

    • ‘Eye-Popping’: Analysis Shows Top 1% Gained $21 Trillion in Wealth Since 1989 While Bottom Half Lost $900 Billion

      Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People’s Policy Project, broke down the Federal Reserve’s newly released “Distributive Financial Accounts” data series and found that, overall, “the top one percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing, meaning they have more debts than they have assets.”

      The growth of wealth inequality over the past 30 years, Bruenig found, is “eye-popping.”

      “Between 1989 and 2018, the top one percent increased its total net worth by $21 trillion,” Bruenig wrote. “The bottom 50 percent actually saw its net worth decrease by $900 billion over the same period.”

    • “Chernobyl” Undermines True Socialism at a Time When We Need It Most

      The old man with the cane is a reference to a party ideologue within the show that, through his adherence to the party line, guarantees the unfolding calamity that Chernobyl will become. Thus, Mazin sides with King, asserting that the show should be interpreted not only as a condemnation of the Soviet Union’s brand of totalitarianism, but more universally, and does indeed apply to the Trump administration (the man whose portrait Bongino worships) — in particular around its denial of pending catastrophic climate change.

      You can change the figurehead, but if the system is maintained, its crises will be perpetuated.

      If we read the tweets closely, something becomes apparent. Notice the right-wing critique is against a system — socialism. Notice also that Bongino defined socialism as “the govt owning the means of production.” Here, Bongino links Chernobyl to an ideological and flawed definition of socialism, essentially redefining what the term actually means. In reality, socialism means socializing the means of production, with the workers themselves directly owning the means of production.

      In seeming opposition, the “left” critique is about a person, an individual. It is not a systemic critique. It is a critique of President Trump, not a critique of capitalism, per se. The logic of the criticism is that if we remove Trump and had a Democrat in power, all would be fine. The problem is not with the system, but with who is its figurehead.

    • Retail Workers Nationwide Are Forming a Coalition to Demand a Just Economy

      Toys ‘R’ Us workers won a crucial severance pay victory last year after the company closed its U.S. stores. Private equity firms KKR, Bain, and Vornado had bought up the legendary toy store just a decade before, saddled the company with debt, and left the 33,000 laid-off employees without access to the millions they were owed in severance.

      But rather than letting private equity vultures enrich themselves on the backs of employees who’d been with the store for decades, workers fought back, taking creative actions across the country and pushing legislators and pension funds to get on board — and eventually won a $20 million severance fund. Their victory was part of a broader movement — one that’s been fighting for justice for retail workers for years. Under the umbrella of United for Respect, retail workers from corporations like Toys ‘R’ Us, Sears, and Walmart are joining together to demand a just economy.

      United for Respect made headlines just last week by filing a resolution at a Walmart shareholders meeting to allow workers on the company’s corporate board. While the resolution didn’t pass, the news — alongside the appearance of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was invited by Walmart workers — was a welcome addition to the conversation about the role of workers in corporate decision-making.

      In addition to the waves made by worker organizing, talk around shifting power on corporate boards is growing as Democratic presidential candidates elaborate on their labor proposals. The Sanders campaign has announced it’s working on a plan to require corporations to give workers a share of corporate board seats, as well as a proposal that would require large businesses to direct a portion of their stocks into a worker-controlled fund. And Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the Accountable Capitalism Act — which would require companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue to allow workers to elect at least 40 percent of board members — last year before announcing her presidential run.

    • Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism

      In Cormac McCarthy’s consummate work of apocalyptic dread The Road, about a perished world, the narrator dreams of life with his former bride, a mere memory come to haunt his cold nights. Yet rather than embrace such crepuscular balms, he finds them suspicious. “He mistrusted all of that. He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of langour and of death.”

      I imagine this is how neoliberals think about socialism. As a call of langour and death. Fearful of being gulled by fantasies, they resist idealistic barnstormers with the same intensity with which they reject base fascists. There must be some deep inbuilt bias against reachable idealism in some, and against unpleasant truths in others. But the latter seem more numbersome. And yet so much of the world we inhabit, in all its gray capitalist drudgery, in all its gaudy pomp, its tatty circumstance, its bricolage culture, is a product of our acquiescence. The notion of the unreachable distance of the ideal may represent more a failure of collective imagination than a material impediment. How many of us are convinced that there is no alternative to capitalism? How many have ingested that neoliberal narcotic of foreclosed imaginations?

      Then, as a nation of small minds, we accept the tutelage of small men. We acquiesce to the dimmed horizons of candidates like Former Vice President Joe Biden, whose cheaply bought lunchpail posturing is a transparent farce to anyone with a passing knowledge of his record. His like is a metastasizing presence on a crowded campaign trail. The elder Biden is flanked by moderate Republican Beto O’Rourke, doing his best to be Obama-lite, a young, idealistic avatar of hope, full of windy platitudes and a believer’s mien; Elizabeth Warren, whose latest brainstorm is to make the violent hegemonic armed forces more environmentally friendly, a kind of last consolation on the downslope to extinction; New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose cheery multiculturalism faintly veils a familiar and spineless centrism; self-absorbed Kathleen Harris, who giggles at jailing truants; and friend-of-the-people, friend-of-Pharma, Cory Booker. Yet the half of the electorate that remains engaged in the roiling fraud of elections quickly fall to debating the manifold vices and minor virtues of these candidates, petitioners all for the role of caretaker of the public weal.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry

      Beyond Common Sense, most Americans know little about Thomas Paine (1737-1809). Few know that at the end of Paine’s life, he had become a pariah in U.S. society, and for many years after his death, he was either ignored or excoriated—the price he paid for The Age of Reason and its disparagement of religious institutions, especially Christianity.

      Early in The Age of Reason, Paine attacks the hypocrisy of religious professionals: “When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury.”

      If alive today, Paine may well have been even rougher on psychiatrists. Paine revered science, and he would have been enraged by professionals who pretend to embrace science by using its jargon but in fact make pseudoscientific proclamations that purposely deceive suffering people. “To subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe” is exactly what many modern psychiatrists are routinely guilty of—this by their own recent admissions. Before detailing this “perjury,” a little bit about Paine and his compulsion to confront all illegitimate authorities.

      Beginning in 1776, both Common Sense and then The American Crisis made Thomas Paine a hero for insurgent American colonials. Following the successful American revolt against British rule, the globetrotting revolutionary Paine returned to England where his Rights of Man enraged William Pitt. Narrowly escaping arrest by Pitt’s goons, Paine fled to revolutionary France, where Paine then narrowly survived the disloyalty of his “friend” George Washington—a betrayal that kept Paine (a victim of the Jacobins-Girondins gang war) rotting in Luxembourg Prison. Only with great luck would Paine avoid Robespierre’s guillotine so as to return to the United States.

    • Trump 2020 campaign ad payments hidden by layers of shell companies

      The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019, according to new government records analyzed by OpenSecrets.

      The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records in OpenSecrets’ political ad database.
      The Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers at American Media & Advocacy Group following allegations that the company facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA through American Media’s affiliates National Media Research, Planning & Placement and Red Eagle Media Group. The companies share a storefront and employ many of the same individual ad buyers.

    • To St. Petersburg With Love

      I’m on the 250 km/hour train hurtling from Moscow to St Petersburg when it suddenly clicks in my mind. My apologies for being so stupid, but despite regular trips to Russia over many years I have only suddenly got it – I too have been brainwashed about Russia by Western politicians, media and authors, like nearly everyone else.
      What I noticed in Moscow and what I’ve seen in St Petersburg on previous trips is that, yes, I am, indeed I am, in a normal Western big city environment. Both cities are grand in different ways.

      St Petersburg, with its museums, palaces, great churches, canals and river, its rich store of art (probably second only to the Louvre) and its musical life (the Marriinsky theatre is the epicenter of world ballet) is arguably the most beautiful and imposing of all the world’s cities.

      Moscow has the Kremlin, the most majestic seat of government in the world. Although beset by too much traffic despite a dense metro system built by the orders of Stalin using near-slave labour, which made mini palaces of major stations, it’s full of little parks, good old architecture and interesting streets.

    • Elizabeth Warren overtakes progressive rival Bernie Sanders in trio of recent polls

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has pulled ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thus far her chief rival for the mantle of progressive alternative in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, in a trio of recent polls.

      The first result comes from a recent Economist/YouGov poll, which finds Warren ahead of Sanders by a margin of 16 percent to 12 percent nationwide. Thus far, Warren has been trailing Sanders in national polls as both candidates grapple for the same base of progressive voters. If this trend breaks, it will be a sign that Warren could be winning over that key demographic. Both candidates still continue to trail former Vice President Joe Biden.

      A second poll — this one involving an early nominating state rather than the nation as a whole — also showed Warren pulling ahead of Sanders. In the Monmouth poll of Democrats likely to participate in the Nevada caucuses, which is scheduled to follow the Iowa causes and New Hampshire primary next year, Biden is leads with 36 percent, followed by Warren with 19 percent and Sanders with 13 percent.

      And that was not the only good news for Warren. A new UC Berkeley-Los Angeles Times poll of California found Biden again ahead with 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, but he was closely followed by Warren with 18 percent and Sanders with 17 percent.

    • Elizabeth Warren’s Rise Is a Plus for Issue Politics—And a Bad Sign for Billionaires

      Now Warren is the beneficiary of positive headlines, all cheering a recent rise in the polls—on average, she’s jumped about 6 points overall since hitting a low of just over 4 percent in February. The substance of these stories is preposterous, and I’ll get to why in a moment. But first, it’s worth talking about the real reasons Warren is doing well.

      The strength of Warren’s campaign is a series of detailed policy proposals aimed at correcting a series of corrupting inequities in American life. The first major proposal she released, on January 24th, was aimed at perhaps the biggest problem in American society: the wealth gap.

      While working people almost all live off highly-taxed “income,” high net worth individuals mostly live off other revenue streams: carried interest, capital gains, inheritance, etc. Warren’s plan would create a net worth calculation that would hit households worth between $50 million and $1 billion with a 2% annual “ultra-millionaires tax.”

      She has a similar plan for corporate tax, one that would wipe away the maze of loopholes big companies currently use, and force any firm that makes over $100 million in profits to pay a new 7 percent tax. “Amazon would pay $698 million instead of zero,” she says. “Occidental Petroleum would pay $280 million … instead of zero.”

      Other proposals include a Too Big To Fail breakup program for Silicon Valley that would designate internet firms that “offer an online marketplace” and have annual revenues of $25 billion or more as “Platform Utilities.” Under the plan, “Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart,” and “Google Search would have to be spun off as well.”

      Warren has also unveiled ambitious plans for cancelation of student debt and free college, universal child care and a new corporate accountability plan that would force high-ranking corporate executives to certify they’d conducted a “due diligence” inquiry, making it easier to prosecute them for misdeeds conducted under their watch.

    • It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers

      Friends often ask me why I spend so much time reading print versions of newspapers. I respond with the usual general reasons about learning what is happening, worsening or improving, in the world. I also point out that I send people helpful clippings.

      Unfortunately, responses do not get many people to expand their print newspaper reading time. Some recent topics that caught my attention might encourage you to revisit the printed version of your newspapers:

      “It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?” The Washington Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler says this is not true. With his screen off, he showed 5,400 hidden app trackers guzzled his data in a single week. Shame Apple and CEO Tim Cook. You lied.

      “Take a Page From Kids Who Care” – The Washington Post’s Christina Barron starts with the now famous Greta Thunberg’s weekly protests on climate disruption before the Swedish Parliament and goes on to reference eight new books “in which kids engage, in ways big and small, to better the world.”

      “Why I’m Swearing off Trump’s Nicknames,” by Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post. About time a writer did this. When will reporters stop being Trump’s bullhorn for his scornful, ugly nicknames, without printing rebuttals or nicknames coined by Trump critics– like “Draft-dodging Donald,” or “Lying Donald,” or “Corrupt Donald,” for example.

    • Lineup for First Democratic Debate Set at 20 Candidates

      The two Democratic presidential front-runners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, will appear together on the second of NBC’s two debate nights later this month.

      Twenty candidates in all will debate in two, two-hour sessions on June 26-27, televised by NBC News. The network announced the pairings on Friday.

    • Capitalism Versus Democracy

      It was always just a matter of time before the reemergence of establishment Democrats reminded people why they were booted from power in 2016. As ugly as Donald Trump is and as not constructive as his tenure in the White House has been, the Democratic establishment would rather lose with establishment candidates and retrograde policies than loosen its grip on its service to the oligarchs.

      Phrased differently, if Democrats cared about ‘defeating Trump,’ they would offer programs that people want. But they are so firmly in the grip of corporate interests and the oligarchs that they won’t do so. The Republicans are just as beholden, but they offer fewer (manufactured) illusions. They represent the interests of capital. This transparency provides political clarity for those who oppose their policies.

    • It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC

      Sinclair Lewis’s widely read and semi-satirical 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here resonates chillingly with current events in the United States. Published as fascism rose to power in Germany, the dystopian novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a bombastic and “populist” demagogue elected President of the United States in 1936. Windrip’s campaign combines a pledge for sweeping social reform with calls for a return to patriotism and “traditional” values. It is crafted by a shrewd and sinister newspaperman named Lee Sarason. Sarason believes in propaganda, not science, facts, and truth. He argues that real information “is not fair to ordinary folks — it just confuses them [and tries]…. to make them swallow all the true facts that would be suitable to a higher class of people.”

      Sarason ghost-writes Windrip’s widely read volume Zero Hour, a jeremiad against national decline and a call to Nativist action on behalf of “real Americanism.” Zero Hour upholds an idealized notion of a lost, betrayed and (supposedly) idyllic patriarchal and white-supremacist national past.

      Windrip’s campaign channels white male hatred of racial minorities, Mexicans, uppity women, and liberal and Left “elites.” These ugly sentiments inform his election platform, labeled “Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Man.”

      After he’s inaugurated, Windrip creates a paramilitary auxiliary to the United States Army called the Minute Men. The Minute Men arrest the Supreme Court and most of Congress. They suppress protests and arrest dissidents while the new “corpo” government passes draconian measures that oppress women, Blacks, and Jews.

      Most U.S. citizens initially approve of Windrip’s authoritarian measures, thinking them necessary to restore American “greatness,” power and prosperity. Others dislike Windrip’s “corporatism” but take assurance in the comforting idea that fascism can’t really “happen here” – not in the “democratic” and “republican” United States, the land of liberty.

      It Can’t Happen Here’s main protagonist is a liberal social-democrat and upper middle-class journalist named Doremus Jessup. As Windrip implements his agenda, leading to the incarceration of Jessup and many others, it dawns on the journalist that he and his fellow liberal elites are largely responsible for the national nightmare. “It’s my sort, the Responsible Citizens who’ve felt superior because we’ve been well-to-do and what we thought was ‘educated,’” Jessup reflects, “who brought on the…Fascist Dictatorship… I can blame no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind…Forgive, O Lord. Is it too late?”

      Jessup and his and his fellow comfortable New Deal liberals’ main mistake is their failure to respond with adequate seriousness and alar, to the threat posed by the outwardly clownish Windrip. Jessup “simply did not believe that this comic tyranny could endure.” Jessup and his ilk don’t fight back soon or hard enough because they are certain Windrip’s popularity will sputter. They underestimate the depth and the degree of popular anger and resentment Windrip exploits. By the time Jessup and other liberals and leftists catch up to the existential gravity of the American-fascist peril it’s too late.

    • Is Pompeo Angling to Interfere in British Politics?

      Apparently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had quite a lively, candid conversation in a recent closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders. Among the invited guests, someone recorded Pompeo’s comments, and they were quite revealing.

      The Washington Post, which was given the tape, reported last week that Pompeo had conceded Trump’s “deal of the century” was perhaps “unexecutable” – wonk-speak for DOA.

      The Trump official was being candid, while also telling his audience what many of them wanted and expected to hear. Unlike the rank-and-file of American Jewry, the communal leadership is almost uniformly right-wing and pro-Likud.

      Israel certainly doesn’t want a peace deal—at least not one that any self-respecting Palestinian leader could accept—so maintaining the status quo is far preferable.

    • Report: Response to the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation Call for Evidence Consultation on online targeting

      The main potential benefit and harm of online targeting is its ability to affect individual behaviour, and thereby at a macro level effect societal change. However, whilst practitioners of online targeting have a vested commercial interest in consumers and businesses thinking that it is an effective way to change individual views or behaviour, we have found little documented evidence to support this as a reality. Studies report varying degrees of efficacy in targeting achieving its objectives, and gains are often marginal: one recent study notably found that targeted behavioural adverts generated a mere 4% more revenue for advertisers than non-targeted equivalents. [1]

      There is some evidence that shows narrowly targeted online political advertising is contributing to the polarisation of democratic discourse in a harmful manner. Political actors seeking votes have always aimed to identify their audience and direct information and adverts accordingly, but online targeting ratchets this up to new levels of segmenting and individuality. When parties’ messaging will only be seen by people already most likely to vote for them, it becomes less important to try and build consensus; instead, messaging becomes increasingly geared towards riling up supporters in order to drive them to the ballot box. A study by Demos has evidenced how this “riling up the base” approach can then be used to fuel a decidedly nasty kind of political engagement. [2]

    • After Exposing ‘Corrupted’ Brazilian Government, Journalist Glenn Greenwald Faces Deportation Warning and Death Threats

      Journalist Glenn Greenwald and his family are receiving death threats over reporting from The Intercept on Brazilian corruption.

      The “grotesque” threats came days after Greenwald and his colleagues published leaked chats from government officials that appear to show justice minister Sérgio Moro was involved in a plot to keep former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, from entering the country’s 2018 presidential race. The reporting has already caused controversy in Brazil and forced Moro to answer difficult questions from the public.

      In addition to physical harm, Greenwald, who is American but lived in Brazil for many years, says powerful members of the Brazilian government are also threatening to have him deported because of his journalism.

      Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, is a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party, and was elected to Brazil’s National Congress last year.

      In comments to AFP, Greenwald said his family would not be intimidated by the threats and would not leave Brazil.

      “We have taken all the measures that we feel like we should take for our legal and physical security,” said Greenwald. “After that you have to go about and do your work.”

    • Whither The Trump Paradox?

      That Donald Trump is a vulgar, self-aggrandizing narcissist was obvious decades before that day of infamy in 2015 when he and his well-preserved trophy bride descended the Trump Tower escalator to kick off his presidential campaign.

      His strategy then was clear: stir up nativist animosities by calling immigrants and asylum seekers from south of the border rapists, drug dealers, and gang members.

      Also: rev up America’s ambient Islamophobia, “dog whistle” support for the “alt-right,” pander to Evangelicals, and give crony capitalists anything and everything they want. In Trumpland, crony capitalists are capitalists who pay homage to Trump and who act as if they owe him fealty.

      Trump’s strategy has evolved only slightly since then, mainly to take account of changing circumstances and evolving business opportunities.

    • “Not Founded On Anything”: The Epitaph for the Sarah Huckabee Sanders Era

      At Politico’s “Women Rule” event in late 2018, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who President Trump announced Thursday would soon be leaving her position as White House press secretary, said that she hoped her legacy would be as a person who was, “transparent and honest throughout that process” and did “everything I could to make America a little better that day than it was the day before.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Report: Analysis of BBFC Age Verification Certificate Standard June 2019

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

      As society goes digital we wish to preserve its openness. We want a society built on laws, free from disproportionate, unaccountable surveillance and censorship. We want a society in which information flows more freely. We want a state that is transparent and accountable, where the public’s rights are acknowledged and upheld.

      We scrutinise and critique the policies and actions of governments, companies, and other groups as they relate to the Internet. We warn the public when policies — even well-intentioned ones — stand to undermine the freedom to use the Internet to make a better society.

      [...]

      The fact that the scheme is voluntary leaves the BBFC powerless to fine or otherwise discipline providers that fail to protect people’s data, and makes it tricky for consumers to distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy providers. In our view, the government must legislate without delay to place a statutory requirement on the BBFC to implement a mandatory certification scheme and to grant the BBFC powers to require reports and penalise non-compliant providers.

      The Standard’s existence shows that the BBFC considers robust protection of age verification data to be of critical importance. However, in both substance and operation the Standard fails to deliver this protection. The scheme allows commercial age verification providers to write their own privacy and security frameworks, reducing the BBFC’s role to checking whether commercial entities follow their own rules rather than requiring them to work to a mandated set of common standards. The result is uncertainty for Internet users, who are inconsistently protected and have no way to tell which companies they can trust.

    • ORG report: BBFC age verification standard is pointless, misleading and potentially dangerous

      “On July 15, millions of Internet users in the UK will have to make a decision about which age verification providers they trust with data about their personal pornography habits and preferences.

      “Due to the sensitive nature of age verification data, there needs to be a higher standard of protection than the baseline which is offered by data protection legislation.

      “The BBFC’s standard is supposed to deliver this. However, it is a voluntary standard, which offers little information about the level of data protection being offered and provides no means of redress if companies fail to live up to it. Its requirements are vague and a ‘tick box’ exercise. This renders it pointless, misleading and potentially dangerous as advice to consumers seeking safe products.”

    • Moscow mayor’s office approves Libertarian Party’s permit request for June 23 protest to support Ivan Golunov

      A protest in support of Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov, this one organized by Russia’s Libertarian Party and the Union of Journalists, has received a government permit to take place June 23 on Moscow’s Sakharov Prospect, Interfax reported.

      Organizers petitioned for the permit on June 10, when Golunov was still under house arrest on fabricated charges of attempted drug distribution. They estimated that 20,000 people might attend. Reports had previously emerged that City Hall turned down the petition.

    • Ivan Golunov names police officer who beat him in custody

      Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov has identified the police officer who beat him after he was arrested on fabricated charges. During a live online interview with media personality Ksenia Sobchak, Golunov said the officer was named Maxim Umetbayev.

    • TikTok announces decision to cooperate with Russian government after censors began searching the app for child porn

      The mobile video sharing app TikTok has announced that it plans to cooperate with the Russian government and follow Russian law, Mediazona reported. Representatives of the highly popular app said they made the decision to collaborate with Russian authorities in order to create a “positive environment” for Russian users, adding that they would develop strategies to “eliminate inappropriate content.”

    • Ivan Golunov tells ‘Meduza’ about life as an investigative journalist in Russia today and being framed for drug dealing

      On June 11, Russia’s Interior Ministry closed the criminal case against investigative journalist and Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov, after police officers charged him with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Golunov’s arrest triggered an unprecedented outpouring of public and professional solidarity, as well as a sustained protest outside Moscow’s police headquarters. After four days of support and demonstrations, the charges were dropped, and Ivan went free. Golunov spent the next few days with family and friends, and now he’s spoken to Meduza colleague Ilya Zhegulev about his remarkable experiences over the past week.

      [...]

      Golunov is uncomfortable with the publicity that has followed him out of house arrest. He told Meduza that he’s even taken to hiding under a hat and behind sunglasses, when venturing outside. When he was in jail and told that “Golunov” was getting more news coverage than “Putin,” he thought it was a prank.

      Ivan says he wanted to join Wednesday’s march in Moscow, where police arrested hundreds of demonstrators, to show his thanks to the public and support for persecuted journalists, but he was ultimately persuaded that his attendance would be unsafe for him and everyone else. (Friends pointed out that the crowd would likely gather around him, creating a bottleneck and obstructing traffic, which could have prompted an additional police response.)

    • Green MEP Magid Magid calls for justice for Orgreave

      The Green MEP for Yorkshire and Humber Magid Magid today will join the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign 35th anniversary rally.

      He said: “Last year, as Lord Mayor of Sheffield, I was proud and honoured to dedicate one of my monthly campaigns towards demanding an immediate enquiry into this injustice from home secretary Sajid Javid. This year I will be joining thousands at the rally on Saturday to wholeheartedly reiterate that demand.

      “Thirty five years after the grave abuse of state power and injustice of Orgreave, I commend everyone joining the community today to march for justice.

      “The Green Party backs campaigners’ calls for an independent inquiry into the police brutality on that day.

    • The Flipside To Figuring Out What Content Do You Block: Cloudflare’s Project Galileo Focuses On Who It Should Protect

      There has been so much discussion lately about the impossibility of doing content moderation well, but it’s notable that the vast majority of that discussion focuses on what content to ban or to block entirely. I do wish there was more talk about alternatives, some of which already exist (from things like demonetization to refusing to algorithmically promote — though, for the most part, these solutions just seem to annoy people even more). But there is something of a flipside to this debate which applies in perhaps somewhat more rare circumstances: what content or speakers to specifically protect.

      [...]

      I was particularly interested in how Cloudflare chose which organizations to protect, and spoke with the company’s CEO, Matthew Prince last week to get a more in-depth explanation. As he explained, they partnered up with a wide variety of trustworthy organizations (including EFF, Open Technology Institute, the ACLU, Access Now, CDT, Mozilla, Committee to Protect Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, among others), and would let those organizations nominate organizations which might be at risk or if organizations approached Cloudflare about being included in Project Galileo, Cloudflare could run their application by those trusted partners. What started with 15 partner organizations has now nearly doubled to 28.

      [...]

      For what it’s worth, this is also quite important as more and more politicians around the globe are gearing up to “regulate” content moderation in one way or another. It’s one thing to say that social media sites should be required by law to block certain accounts (or to not block certain accounts), but think about how any of those laws might also apply to services like Project Galileo, and you can see why there should be caution in rushing in with regulatory solutions. The approach taken with something like Project Galileo ought to be entirely different than the process of determining whether or not a platform has decided to remove Nazi propagandists. But it’s doubtful that those proposing new regulations are thinking that far ahead, and I worry that some new proposals may sweep up Project Galileo in a manner where it may become more difficult for Cloudflare to continue to run such a program.

      Still, in this era when everyone is so focused on the bad stuff online and how to stop it, it’s at least worth acknowledging a cool project from Cloudflare to note the good stuff online and how to protect it.

    • Russia To Ban VPN Providers That Refuse To Aid Censorship

      Back in 2016 Russia introduced a new surveillance bill promising to deliver greater security to the country. Of course, as with so many similar efforts around the world the bill actually did the exact opposite — not only mandating new encryption backdoors, but also imposing harsh new data-retention requirements on ISPs and VPN providers. As a result, some VPN providers like Private Internet Access wound up leaving the country after finding their entire function eroded and having some of their servers seized.

      Last March Russia upped the ante, demanding that VPN providers like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, IPVanish, and HideMyAss help block forbidden websites that have been added to Russia’s censorship watchlist. Not surprisingly those companies balked at the request, and now Russia’s moving on to what was the goal from the start: banning these companies from doing business entirely.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The US wants to copy Europe’s strict data privacy law – but only some of it

      One year ago, Europe’s landmark privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) put big tech on the defensive.

      Now, with their companies under unrelenting scrutiny over how they handle user data, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai have called for similar “comprehensive privacy legislation ” on a federal level in the U.S.

      Privacy legislation has become a rare bipartisan topic on Capitol Hill, and some states have swiftly forged ahead with their own versions of the EU law.

      While CEOs and policymakers pile on the praise for GDPR, they are also quick to point out its flaws.

      “As lawmakers adopt new privacy regulations, I hope they can help answer some of the questions GDPR leaves open,” Facebook’s Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post in March.

    • Episode 32: The Facebook Scandals

      On this episode of Along the Line, Dr. Dreadlocks Nicholas Baham III, Dr. Nolan Higdon, and Janice Domingo outline Facebook’s history and analyze the tech-giant’s various scandals. ATL’s Creative Director is Jorge Ayala. ATL’s Assistant Creative Director is Dylan Lazaga. Mickey Huff is ATL’s producer. ATL’s engineer is Janice Domingo. Adam Armstrong is ATL’s webmaster.

    • Todd Weaver on Digital Trends Live

      I have just had a wonderful conversation with Greg Nibler, from Digital Trends Live, about all kinds of different ways these issues are being tackled. Greg started by asking me to introduce Purism, and why we do what we do.

      Well, we started around 2014 as a Social Purpose Company: we advance social good over maximizing profit. We build laptops, a secure token called a Librem Key, and we are also coming out with the Librem 5: a smartphone that doesn’t run on Android nor IOS, but our own operating system PureOS (the same you get on our laptops). These are available today, with the Librem 5 phone (on pre-order now) coming out in Q3 of this year. Our services—chat, email, social media, VPN—are all standardized protocols, decentralized, with no data retention and end-to-end encrypted. We are going to continue to put out more and more hardware, software, and services as we progress.

      I’m kind of a hardcore geek, both in the hardware and software side—but I also am a digital rights activist, making Purism my dream come true by combining hardware, software and services together, in one convenient package. What is awesome is that our entire team is excited about the exact same thing: making convenient products that respect people. Hardware is a little bit more security-minded and privacy-focused, it is where the hardcore audience is: it really gets down to a trust and verified model. The same happens with software: it all needs to be released.

    • Congress Should Pass the Protecting Data at the Border Act

      Under the bipartisan Protecting Data at the Border Act, border officers would be required to get a warrant before searching a traveler’s electronic device. Last month, the bill was re-introduced into the U.S. Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). It is co-sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and the House companion bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Cal.).

      The rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution don’t fade away at the border. And yet the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserts the power to freely search the electronic devices of travelers before allowing them entrance into, or exit from, the United States. This practice will end if Congress passes the Protecting Data at the Border Act.

      Think about all of the things your cell phone or laptop computer could tell a stranger about you. Modern electronic devices could reveal your romantic and familial connections, daily routines, and financial standings. Ordinarily, law enforcement cannot obtain this sensitive information absent a signed warrant from a judge based on probable cause. But DHS claims they need no suspicion at all to search and seize this information at the border.

    • The Omnipresent Surveillance State: Orwell’s 1984 Is No Longer Fiction

      1984 portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. People are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or “Party,” is headed by Big Brother who appears on posters everywhere with the words: “Big Brother is watching you.”

      We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by not only Orwell but also such fiction writers as Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

    • Amazon hit with two lawsuits alleging Alexa ‘illegally’ records kids

      By doing so, Amazon is violating laws that require the informed consent of all parties to a recording, regardless of age, in at least eight states – Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington — the suit claims, according to the Seattle Times.

    • UK gov’s porn block is a privacy disaster waiting to happen, says new report

      With just a month to go until the government (maybe?) rolls out porn blocks for under 18s and tug tokens for over 18s that still want to enjoy the less fine things of life, a new report from the Open Rights Group (ORG) has highlighted yet more problems: this time in BBFC age verification certificate standards and data protection.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Bridging the Internet’s Digital Language Divide

      There are thousands of different tongues spoken around the world, but most of the content on the web is only available in a select few, primarily English. More than 10 percent of Wikipedia is written in English, for example, and almost half the site’s articles are in European dialects. Getting one billion more people online is often held up as the next major milestone, but when they log on for the first time, those users may find the internet has little to offer in the primary languages they speak.

      “Approximately 5 percent of the world speaks English at home,” said Juan Ortiz Freuler, a fellow at the World Wide Web Foundation, during a panel at the RightsCon conference in Tunisia Wednesday, but around “50 percent of the web is in English.” Freuler argued the internet has facilitated “cultural homogenization,” now that the majority of its users rely on Facebook and Google, and communicate in the same dominant languages. But the problem “is not because of changes in technology,” said Kristen Tcherneshoff, community director of Wikitongues, an organization that promotes language diversity. Corporations and governments largely didn’t provide the resources and support necessary to bring smaller languages online.

    • Chiranjeevi’s Son-In-Law Allegedly Harassed On Instagram, Case Against 10

      The police said a case has been registered against the accused for using objectionable language against Mr Dhev on photo-sharing app Instagram.

    • Pinterest Is Latest Tech Company Drawn Into U.S. Culture Wars

      An effort by the social media company Pinterest to limit the spread of medical conspiracy theories has blocked one of the most prominent anti-abortion groups in the U.S. from sharing its content on the site. And it’s put the social media company squarely in the middle of today’s culture wars.

    • The Armed Bureaucracy

      This is hardly a surprise: A recent study by the Missouri attorney general’s office shows that black drivers are at least twice as likely — in some towns, much more than that — to be stopped by police as white drivers.

      And a few days before the study came out, something called the Plain View Project hit the news. The project, an exhaustive, two-year analysis of social media posts by some 2,800 police officers and 700 former officers, from police departments across the country, revealed another non-surprise: a racist subculture permeates American police forces.

      The researchers “found officers bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racist stereotypes, identifying with right-wing militia groups and, especially, glorifying police brutality,” according to the Associated Press.

      Thousands of such posts — from officers’ personal Facebook pages (and thus public) — can be seen at the Plain View website. The comments, such as the one at the top of this column, are raw and unconstrained by political correctness. Other examples:

      “It’s a good day for a choke hold.”

      “Death to Islam.”

      “If the Confederate flag is racist, then so is Black History Month.”

    • Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate

      The recent protest outside Philadelphia’s Police headquarters – triggered by yet another instance of police racism – had an emphasis distinctively different from similar demonstrations during past decades against recurring police misconduct in the city that preens as the Birthplace of Democracy in America.

      While protestors demanded disciplinary action against the 328 individual officers responsible for social media postings that oozed violent racist and Islamophobic commentary, protesters repeatedly emphasized the need to end the ‘institutional culture’ within the city’s criminal justice system that has enabled bigotry and brutality to persist among police, prosecutors and judges.

      A dramatic example of the institutionalized racism in the Plain View revelations is the offending posters include high-ranking Philadelphia Police Department members: one inspector, six captains and eight lieutenants.

      “I was not surprised by those Facebook postings. This has been the culture of the Philadelphia Police Department for years,” the Rev. Gregory Holston said at the protest where he recounted a list of brutal, racist policing incidents in Philadelphia dating back to the vicious November 1967 police nightstick assault on black high school students peacefully protesting against wretched conditions inside their public schools.

    • Police Report Deems Firing 55 Shots In 3.5 Seconds At A Sleeping (Black, Duh) Man “Reasonable”

      The choice by six crazed racist cops to pump 55 shots into Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old Bay Area rapper, for the crime of falling asleep in his car at a Taco Bell was “reasonable,” argues a newly released report by a paid “expert” and former cop who called the gruesome killing “in line with contemporary training and police practices” – which is the damn problem, say many Americans weary of dead black bodies in the streets. The Vallejo police officers turned up last February for – bitter irony alert – “a wellness check” after a worried Taco Bell employee called to say there was an unresponsive man in his car in the drive-through lane. Police found McCoy asleep at the steering wheel with a gun in his lap. Inexplicably for officers of the law supposedly trained to serve and protect and think on their feet, it evidently didn’t occur to them to do a normal human thing like try and wake McCoy by honking or shining lights at him, perhaps from a safe distance in case he was startled. Instead, they took the gun narrative, and ran with it: They reported “a confrontation with an armed man,” said they “gave loud verbal commands” McCoy didn’t follow, and were forced to fire out of “fear for their own safety” after McCoy reached for his gun.

      In fact, body-camera footage released following pressure from the family and the community showed McCoy sound asleep for several minutes as officers frantically pointed guns at his head; it also revealed police remarking McCoy’s gun didn’t have a magazine in it, one cop bragging, “I’m going to pull him out and snatch his ass,” and McCoy simply, slightly stirring in his sleep to scratch his arm before the explosion of gunfire – 55 shots in 3.5 seconds. He was reportedly hit about 25 times; his family said he was unrecognizable, his face, chest, throat, arms and body riddled with bullets in an “execution by firing squad.” The family’s attorney John Burris used the same term, adding, “This young man was shot to pieces.” Another attorney: Police wanted “to ensure that this human being does not survive.” “They killed him in his sleep,” charged his cousin David Harrison after seeing the footage. “He scratched his arm…and they murdered him.” As a black man in a town with a long ugly history of police brutality, racism and misconduct, this was not Harrison’s first rodeo: McCoy was the 16th person to die at the hands of Vallejo cops since 2011 – the highest rate of police killings per capita in Northern California, resulting in the second highest rate of civil rights lawsuit settlements. Says Harrison, “We’re being slaughtered in the streets.”

    • Chicago Police Tortured Victims With Electric Shocks, Burns and Beatings

      Flint Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, has spent almost 50 years defending some of the most vulnerable people within the criminal legal system. In his new book, The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago, Taylor describes the history of systemic violence running rampant within the Chicago Police Department. It’s a history he knows all too well from his work with the Fred Hampton assassination case, among many others. This excerpt recounts some of the torture unleashed by police in Chicago during the 1980s, under Police Commander Jon Burge. During this time, Burge led officers in a manhunt following the deaths of two police officers. The following is a graphic account of the torture endured by Andrew Wilson and other Black men at the hands of the racist Chicago police.

      Just months before we finally settled the Hampton case, Chicago was rocked by a series of fatal shootings of police officers in broad daylight. On February 9, 1982, two uniformed CPD officers, Richard O’Brien and William Fahey, were shot and killed during a routine traffic stop on Chicago’s south side. They had just attended the funeral of a Chicago police officer who had been shot only days before. Two Black men fled the scene in a brown Chevy, and mayor Jane Byrne and her police superintendent, Richard Brzeczek, mandated what would become the most massive manhunt in the City’s history. Brzeczek designated lieutenant Jon Burge, who headed up the Violent Crimes Unit at Area 2, to direct the search for the killers. The geographical area policed by Area 2, which covered most of Chicago’s predominantly African American far south side, became the main focus of the manhunt.

    • Activists block the Moscow Beltway, protesting the construction of another unwanted garbage dump

      In the town of Likino-Dulyovo, outside Moscow, local residents blocked off the Moscow Beltway (Route A108) to stop forest clearing in preparation for a new landfill site. Activists told the television station Dozhd that riot police responded to the demonstration with force, reportedly breaking one woman’s rib. According to oppositionist Dmitry Gudkov, who shared videos of the police response on Twitter, officers arrested 15 people.

      Protests and clashes with the police in Likino-Dulyovo have continued since the spring. Residents oppose the construction of a waste treatment and incineration plant at a local wet peatland forest, which they say is home to endangered species and feeds several nearby rivers.

    • New York Activists Are Leading the Charge on Sex Work Decriminalization

      The struggle for sex workers’ rights is ramping up around the U.S. Over the winter, the Decrim NY coalition came together in New York City to win sex workers the right to survive and not be harassed by state law enforcement. In May, 100 current and former sex workers, trafficking victims and advocates who were part of the coalition traveled to Albany, where they spoke to legislators about how the existing laws governing the industry enable the profiling of trans people for allegedly selling sex. They also pushed for expanding relief for those with criminal records.

      This week, Albany lawmakers introduced additional legislation that would decriminalize sex work between consenting adults while maintaining existing anti-trafficking laws. The Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act would end the criminalization of both sex workers and buyers across the entire state. The bill would also strike down restrictions on sex workers working together, either in person or online, which is a crucial part of staying safe in the industry. If passed, New York would become the first state in the country to decriminalize sex work.

      This has been the culmination of years of organizing.

      Activists saw some hopeful signs, though the fight is far from over. In late January, the state legislature began discussing a bill that would prevent police from using loitering as a pretext for making prostitution-related arrests. In early May, legislation that would expand the number of offenses trafficking victims can have vacated from their records advanced to its third reading.

    • Journalists track down Slovakian property belonging to family of FSB officer with ties to Russia’s corrupt funeral industry

      The family of Russian Federal Security Service Lieutenant Colonel Marat Medoev owns villas and companies in Slovakia, according to a new investigation by Novaya Gazeta and the Investigative Center of Jan Kuciak (ICJK). Sources previously told the website Proekt that Medoev “could be a stakeholder in funeral business projects” about which Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov has reported.

      Journalists learned that Marat Medoev’s mother and father have owned a country house in an affluent district outside Bratislava since 2011. Real-estate experts estimate that the couple’s home is worth between 250,000 and 600,000 euros ($281,975 and $676,735). The real-estate management company “Medeva” is also registered in the name of Medoev’s mother.

    • Diary: The Black Body in LA

      In Henry Taylor’s figurative paintings of Los Angeles, the event is the black body in Los Angeles, the event to be or to exist in relation to. Born in Oxnard California, Henry Taylor has witnessed the black body in Los Angeles as outsider and insider, with the cultivated freedom to make this body central to his art. He asks us first to see this body, a body often not as important as the Colossus, the city itself. As fellow witnesses of the black body, he compels us to act.

      Is he asking us to love the black body, or just to see the black body (a body that he does not only paint in black color)? Taylor never seems to be arguing anything about the black body other than about the presence of the black body. Is he then asking us to love the presence of the black body, and to make this love central to our thoughts and citizenship, or how we go about attempting to shape our collective life? Perhaps he is asking us to witness the black body, the extent of both a triumph and a catastrophe and to, to quote Fannie Lou Hamer, not have a minute for hate. The colossus that is Los Angeles has waged a war on drugs, and is a pole of the New Jim Crow in a way that very few cities are. Presently, as Taylor paints, this black body is often poor and plunged into a life of time conditioned by this poverty and space in which to program or strategize one’s blackness. It’s a shame what LA has done to black persons (39 percent of the homeless, now only 9 percent of LA city) and it’s the same case for LA county.

      What are Taylor’s black bodies waiting on? A comparison to Edward Hopper’s paintings points us in the direction of quiet, solemness, and survival strategy. Here there isn’t the vibrancy of for example Romare Bearden’s Harlem or Robert Colescott’s south. Instead very few bodies are found on Taylor’s frames navigating background, in other words “being black in America” and attempting to survive as such.

    • Can Society Survive Without Empathy?

      As anyone who keeps a household budget can attest, the unexpected happens all the time. A refrigerator evaporator fan motor fails. Some part on your car you never realized existed breaks down. A loved one passes away and you have to — you want to — be at the funeral 1,000 miles away.

      “Unexpected” expenses like these will, sooner or later, hit all of us. But not all of us, says new research out of the Federal Reserve, can afford them.

      In fact, nearly 40 percent of Americans “would have difficulty handling an emergency expense as small as $400,” the Fed says.

      A fifth of American adults, it adds, had major unexpected medical bills last year. An even larger share “skipped necessary medical care in 2018 because they were unable to afford the cost.”

      Meanwhile, 17 percent of American adults can’t afford to pay all their monthly bills, even if they don’t experience an unexpected expense.

      What these stats like these mean in human terms? If you live in a place like Northern California’s Bay Area, you need only look around to see.

    • Sanders, Cummings Demand DOJ Investigate Pharma Giants for ‘Sick and Disgraceful’ Price-Fixing Conspiracy

      After 44 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit accusing some of America’s largest generic drug manufacturers of a sprawling “multi-year conspiracy” to hike prices on life-saving medicines—in some cases by over 1,000 percent—Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday demanded that the Justice Department launch an investigation into the companies’ price-fixing scheme and their alleged efforts to obstruct congressional probes.

      “It is sick and disgraceful that generic pharmaceutical executives, who should be making medicines affordable for the American people, were instead busy coordinating a cover-up scheme to hide the truth about their price-fixing conspiracy when we asked about their skyrocketing prices,” Sanders said, referring to letters he and Cummings sent in 2014 to inquire about soaring drug costs.

    • Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica

      The island of Jamaica has achieved international notoriety as a space of unbridled violence and as one of the main hubs for the trans Caribbean and trans-Atlantic drug networks within the illicit global economy. These features of Jamaican society developed rapidly after 1980 when Edward Seaga, became the fifth Prime Minister of Jamaica. As the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) 1974 to 2005, Seaga was associated with the refinement of a mode of politics that garrisoned poor Jamaicans into areas controlled by political contractors. Seaga was born in Boston in 1930 and died peacefully in Miami, Florida in May 2019. In the ensuing 89 years, his insecurity as to his identity and his wish to be accepted as part of the Jamaican ruling oligarchy sent him into a career to be an expert on Jamaicans of African descent. Edward Seaga and the JLP mobilized Jamaican workers against their own interests in organizations that guaranteed his success as a political entrepreneur. One organization that has been linked to Edward Seaga was the deadly Shower Posse that wreaked murder, violence and drug running in the Caribbean, North America and Europe. The historical record now attests to the fact that this organization was integrated into the networks of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States when the USA moved to destabilize Jamaican society in the 1970’s.

    • Study Shows Asset Forfeiture Doesn’t Fight Crime Or Reduce Drug Use

      The lies law enforcement tells about civil asset forfeiture are just that: lies. They may not be intentional lies in some cases. Many law enforcement officials may actually believe the bullshit they spill in defense of taking property from people without convicting them of crimes. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s bullshit.

      If law enforcement was serious about crippling drug cartels, they wouldn’t be watching the roads leading out of their jurisdictions for drivers to pull over and shake down for cash. They’d be watching roads leading into the state to seize the drugs before they can be sold. But that’s not how it’s done. Drug busts are rare. Cash seizures — especially small ones — happen all the time.

    • Scott Noble’s History of Resistance

      Scott Noble has been making documentary films for close to a decade. His films are consistently thoughtful and never superficial. Reminiscent of Chris Marker’s documentary work in style and approach, Noble’s films remind us that history is important. They also provoke a sense that it might still be possible to wrest the world away from those who would destroy it in the name of their profits. Of course, in a capitalist culture like that of our current situation, films with this message are not going to receive press notes in that culture’s media. After all, Noble’s films do not feature superheroes, champion imperial war or capitalist con men. Instead, they show the viewer an alternative anti-capitalist history; a history of resistance.

      Most recently, Noble released a film titled Subterranean Fire. It is the fifth installment of a series he has titled Plutocracy. In short, the series is a working-class history of the United States. The first four films of the series can be viewed for free at the Metanoia Films website. The most recent chapter—Subterranean Fire—covers the years of the Great Depression through the anti-leftist witch hunts of the 1950s. Noble’s film combines historical film footage, still photographs and interviews. The addition of a superb soundtrack and a concise yet descriptive narration makes this film a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking. Even a detached viewer (like a student in a required high school or college history class) would find themselves emotionally and intellectually involved as the essence of the film revealed itself. Having seen all of Noble’s works, it seems fair to state that each of his films continues to surpass the previous one.

      The fact that he does this work on a shoestring somehow makes it even more valuable. Indeed, he finances his film through donations. His interview subjects are activists, academics, organizers and writers. Some are known mostly to those they work with while others are considered famous. Noble’s choices of interviewees and questions reflect an understanding of how to simultaneously steer the film’s narrative forward and develop a deeper analysis of the subjects being discussed. Consequently, the interviews enhance the seamless flow of the film instead of interrupting it..

    • How to support the news outlets and human rights projects that support Russians when they need it most

      The drug case against Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov was shut down after an unprecedented solidarity campaign led by other journalists, and attorneys from nonprofit human rights projects have been a fixture of Golunov’s legal defense. In the week after Golunov was arrested, about 150 people signed up for regular donations to Mediazona, a news outlet that specializes in reporting on Russian law enforcement agencies and court cases. Meanwhile, OVD-Info, a project that sheds light on arrest proceedings and offers resources to arrestees, received more donations than it usually does on average in an entire month. Nonetheless, more regular donations are necessary for these organizations to continue providing objective coverage of the Russian legal world and effective aid for those who find themselves facing the system alone. Meduza explains how you can (and should!) support those who supported Ivan Golunov and would support you as well if the Russian government began prosecuting you illegally.

    • How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account

      Fifty years ago, this June, the Students for a Democratic Society held its last united National Convention. It was torn apart by ideologically driven factions, each claiming to have the only correct approach for saving America. Ironically, SDS was initiated by the anti-authoritarian, but socialist oriented, League for Industrial Democracy. Al Haber, SDS’s first president, encouraged it to work with any group that was seeking social change.

      It may be unpopular to say, but extremism from within SDS destroyed it, not the government or the rightwing. Sure, they would have liked to see that happen, but in the end the leftist SDS leadership was demanding their supporters to conform to a party line as they embraced rightwing Senator Barry Goldwater’s advice from 1964, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

    • Horror on the Border: Slew of Recent Incidents Highlight Human Rights Crisis

      The New York Times reported Friday that the youngest child taken from his parents at the southern border over the past three years under the Trump administration’s separation policy is four month-old Constantin Mutu, from Romania. Constantine and his father, Vasile, were apprehended in Texas by border patrol agents. Vasile, who has a criminal record, was detained and deported to Romania while Constantin was sent to live with a fister family in Michigan.

      Eventually, the family was reunited—mother Florentina and the couple’s four year-old son got lost in Mexico and returned to Romania to join the couple’s other three children ahead of Vasile and Constantin—but the case shows how the administration isn’t bound by age in separating families and raises questions about who else is in custody.

    • Complaints Intensify Over Migrant Detention Conditions

      The Trump administration is facing growing complaints from migrants about severe overcrowding, meager food and other hardships at border holding centers, with some people at an encampment in El Paso being forced to sleep on the bare ground during dust storms.

      The Border Network for Human Rights issued a report Friday based on dozens of testimonials of immigrants over the past month and a half, providing a snapshot of cramped conditions and prolonged stays in detention amid a record surge of migrant families coming into the U.S. from Central America.

      The report comes a day after an advocate described finding a teenage mother cradling a premature baby inside a Border Patrol processing center in Texas. The advocate said the baby should have been in a hospital, not a facility where adults are kept in large fenced-in sections that critics describe as cages.

      “The state of human rights in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands is grave and is only getting worse,” the immigrant rights group said in its report. “People are dying because of what is happening.”

    • Homan’s Appointment as Trump ‘Border Czar’ Will Continue the Administration’s Cruel Border Policies

      Homan was one of the architects of Trump’s family separation policy.

      President Trump announced today that former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Thomas Homan will return to his administration as “border czar,” a new post he described during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”

      The news comes immediately after we’ve learned even more shocking revelations about the treatment of migrant families and children in U.S. custody, including along the border. But Homan’s appointment will likely intensify the cruelty of the administration’s border policies.

      Homan was one of three administration officials, including current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who signed a memo to now-former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen which paved the way for the family separation policy. The memo stated that DHS could “permissibly direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted.” It also recommended that the department “pursue prosecution of all amenable adults who cross our border illegally, including those presenting with a family unit, between ports of entry.” Thousands of parents and children continue to suffer the consequences of this viciously cruel decree.

      While Homan was the one who recommended the policy of family separation, he tried to blame everybody but himself. He claimed that “you’d have to put the blame on the parents” for family separation and echoed Trump’s false talking point that Democrats in Congress were the ones responsible for the policy. In reality, it was a decision made and put into practice by none other than the Trump administration itself.

    • ‘Civilizing’ Perpetual Foreigners

      The horrendous experiences of Chinese immigrant women and children who were smuggled into prostitution and child slavery in the United States during the late 1800s are, for the most part, widely unknown. Julia Flynn Siler’s book on the subject, “The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown,” begins promisingly: “A ghost story led me to the edge of Chinatown. On a crisp morning in 2013, I dodged the crowds in Union Square and walked past a pair of stone lions up a hill. I had an address—920 Sacramento Street—and a description. I was looking for a five-story structure built with misshapen red bricks—some salvaged from the earthquakes and firestorms that razed most of the city in 1906.” But the allure of her introduction almost immediately evaporates into a litany of horror stories told without empathy.

      Siler’s central story circles the lives of two women who enjoyed an intense friendship that endured for over half a century. One was Donaldina Cameron, whose life work was as a Christian missionary in San Francisco, rescuing Chinese prostitutes and child slaves brought from China and thrown into lives of unspeakable terror. The other woman was Cameron’s assistant, Tien Fu Wu, a former household slave sold by her father to pay his gambling debts. The women and children Cameron and Wu worked to save were usually stolen or sold by their fathers, a practice not outlawed in China until 1928. Prostitution was not illegal in the United States at this time. The smugglers often held auctions of Chinese women openly on the docks. As San Francisco began to lose some of its roughness and more white women began to settle there, these meat market auctions were moved to private locations.

      The feats attempted by these two women were spectacular. Cameron and Wu often tangled with the police who frequently stood to benefit from the trafficking, fought the courts for custody of the rescued women and girls, and were continually threatened by the Chinese “tongs,” gangs of violent underworld thugs who ran human trafficking rings while warring over territory and power.

    • Oppose Inequality, Not Cops

      Even people doing their best to improve the world make mistakes. This was evident in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last month during a public clash on the town’s Peace and Justice Plaza between defenders of Confederate statuary and anti-racist activists.

      Before the police arrived to insulate the two groups, mutual yelling had begun to escalate into pushing and shoving. After the police erected a plastic barrier, the outnumbered neoConfederates stepped back and took an ear-beating as their opponents chanted, “Go home, racists!” and “Nat Turner, John Brown, anti-racists run this town.”

      The chanters had it right. Most Chapel Hillians, a more-liberal-than-average bunch, would have gladly echoed their message: Racists go home, and take your benighted statues with you. It’s a hopeful message being sent by progressives in communities across the South. But there were other chants, ones that cost the anti-racist activists the moral high ground. These were chants aimed at the cops on the scene.

      The antipathy that local activists feel for the police is understandable. Police here, as elsewhere, are seen as too ready to use violence to assert their authority, especially against people of color. They’re seen as acting without sufficient public accountability. They’re seen as protecting society’s unjust hierarchies of wealth, status, and power. This is hardly a fringe analysis; anyone who has been paying attention in recent decades will recognize the truth in these perceptions.

    • Bigoted Cops Show True Colors in Online Hate Groups

      Hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook, a Reveal investigation has found.

      These cops have worked at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff’s departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments. They work in jails and schools and airports, on boats and trains and in patrol cars. And, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, they also read and contribute to groups such as “White Lives Matter” and “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.”

      The groups cover a range of extremist ideologies. Some present themselves publicly as being dedicated to benign historical discussion of the Confederacy, but are replete with racism inside. Some trade in anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes. Some are openly Islamophobic. And almost 150 of the officers we found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.

      More than 50 departments launched internal investigations after being presented with our findings, in some cases saying they would examine officers’ past conduct to see if their online activity mirrored their policing in real life. And some departments have taken action, with at least one officer being fired for violating department policies.

      U.S. law enforcement agencies, many of which have deeply troubled histories of discrimination, have long been accused of connections between officers and extremist groups. At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, marchers flew a “Blue Lives Matter” flag alongside anti-Semitic and white supremacist messages. In Portland, Oregon, police officers were found to have been texting with a far-right group that regularly hosts white supremacists and white nationalists at its rallies. A classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept, warned that white supremacists and other far-right groups had infiltrated American law enforcement.

      It can be difficult to determine how deep or widespread these connections run. Researchers recently found numerous examples of police officers posting violent and racist content on their public Facebook pages. Reveal’s investigation shows for the first time that officers in agencies across the country have actively joined private hate groups, participating in the spread of extremism on Facebook.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • There Are Lots Of Ways To Punish Big Tech Companies, But Only A Few Will Actually Help Improve The Internet

      I’ve pointed out a few times now that most calls to break up or regulate these companies fail to explain how these plansactually solve the problems people highlight. Companies are callous about our privacy? Will regulating them or breaking them up actually stop that? The GDPR has proven otherwise already. The companies algorithms recommend bad things? How will breaking them up stop that?

      Too much of the thinking seems to just be focused on “company bad, must punish” and don’t get much beyond that.

      And that’s a pretty big problem, because many of the ideas being passed around could ultimately end up harming the wider internet much more than they end up damaging the few big companies anyway. We’ve already seen that with the GDPR, which has served to further entrench the giants. The same will almost certainly be true when the EU Copyright Directive goes into effect, since the entire plan is designed to entrench the giants so that the big entertainment companies can negotiate new licensing deals with them.

      In a new piece for the Economist, Cory Doctorow warns that many of these attempts to “harm” the big internet companies through regulation will actually do much more harm to the wider internet, while making the biggest companies stronger.

    • For the interoperability of the Web’s giants: an open letter from 70 organisations

      La Quadrature du Net, along with 70 civil liberties organisations, professional bodies, ISPs and hosting providers, demands that the government and legislative take action to require that the big online platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter…) become interoperable with other Internet services.

    • Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts

      On June 11th, the House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into the market dominance of the four leading “big-tech” companies — Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who oversees the subcommittee hearing, proclaimed, “these are monopolies,” warning that they dominate the digital marketplace and it might be time for new legislation to increase competition. “We know the problems; they’re easy to diagnose,” Cicilline said. “Shaping the solutions is going to be more difficult.”

      Congress’s action parallels actions by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade of Commission (FTC) to conduct investigations into, respectively, Apple and Google, and Facebook and Amazon. In addition, attorney generals in Louisiana, Arizona, Mississippi, Washington, Colorado and Washington, DC, are taking aim at one or more of the big-tech companies.

      These actions follow a May 13th Supreme Court decision to allow an eight-year-long antitrust case against Apple to proceed. The case, Apple Inc. v. Pepper, was originally brought in 2011 by Robert Pepper and three other iPhone users. They accused Apple of causing harm to them and other Apple users by requiring them to buy apps from the Apple App Store. Apple argued that Pepper and his associates had no standing to sue Apple because customers buy from a third-party seller and “have no direct purchasing relationship with Apple. …”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Huawei Seeks More Than $1 billion from Verizon for Over 230 Patents – Reports

      Huawei Technologies has reportedly told Verizon Communications Inc that the carrier should pay licensing fees for more than 230 of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker’s patents, seeking more than $1 billion.

      Verizon should pay to “solve the patent licensing issue,” a Huawei intellectual property licensing executive wrote in February, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier. The patents cover network equipment for more than 20 of the company’s vendors, including major US tech firms, but those vendors would indemnify Verizon, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. Some of those firms reportedly have already been approached by Huawei directly.

    • Huawei asks Verizon to pay over $1 billion for over 230 patents: source

      Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has told Verizon Communications Inc that the U.S. carrier should pay licensing fees for more than 230 of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker’s patents and in aggregate is seeking more than $1 billion, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

    • Huawei Moves Ahead With Aggressive Licensing Posture

      Reports emerged today that Huawei has demanded over $1 billion in patent license payments from Verizon for its cellular network patents.

      As I wrote in April, Huawei has the potential to abuse its strong position in cellular network patents. As required by international agreements, the U.S. patent system doesn’t discriminate between domestic and foreign patent holders, meaning that anything a U.S. patent holder can do, a foreign holder—like Huawei—is equally permitted to do.

      Rules that make it easy to obtain and assert overbroad patents also enable their assertion by foreign companies. This is why it’s important to make sure that U.S. patent laws are balanced, producing the kind of well-defined, clear patents that protect innovation without enabling abusive litigation.

      Witnesses at the recent § 101 hearings discussed concerns about research and development fleeing to China, but that concern is overblown. A Chinese company is already equally capable of and incentivized to obtain U.S. patents and access the U.S. market, and there’s no current advantage generated by the U.S. patent system for research conducted in the U.S. This point is well-evidenced by the fact that patents assigned to foreign applicants have been a significant portion of all U.S. patents for quite some time [1][2][3].

    • Pre-Institution Merger Foils Inter Partes Review Challenge

      The statute here is clearly drafted, with the basic ambiguity questions being (1) what counts as a “real party in interest or privy of the petitioner” and (2) whether “served with a complaint” requires a summons under FRCP R. 4 – and what if service is waived? This case focuses on a third question — (3) real party in interest as of when?

      Back in 2009, Power Integrations sued Fairchild Semiconductor for infringing the patents at issue and has won two separate $100+ million jury verdicts (both of which have been rejected). A third trial on damages is now likely for later this year (since the patent claims are no longer cancelled).

      [...]

      Throughout the institution phase, the patentee challenged institution on time-bar grounds — arguing that Fairchild was served with a complaint more than one-year before the IPR petition filing; and that Fairchild is a Privy of petitioner ON. Q.E.D.

      The Board, however, sided with petitioner holding (1) the focal point is the status of the parties at the time the petition was filed (thus the subsequent merger does not deny institution); and (2) that “there was insufficient evidence of record to establish control and therefore insufficient evidence to establish privity between Fairchild and ON at the time the petition was filed.” The Board also denied additional discovery into the admittedly confidential relationship.

    • SPC Exceptions: a new trade front with president Trump?

      Over the last few months, SPC aficionados have been expecting the birth of what is known as the “SPC Manufacturing Exception” proposed by the European Commission. Readers will remember that in May 2018, the European Commission proposed an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products (“the SPC Regulation”), whereby the manufacture for export of medicinal products still protected by SPCs in force would be excluded from patent infringement. Surprise surprise, the text finally approved by the EU Legislator, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 11 June 2019, has brought two babies into the world instead of one. In addition to the “Manufacturing Exception”, the text finally approved has also introduced the “Stockpiling Exception” that will allow “the making, no earlier than six months before the expiry of the certificate, of a product, or a medicinal product containing that product, for the purpose of storing it in the Member State of making, in order to place that product, or medicinal product containing that product, on the market after the expiry of the corresponding certificate.”

    • SPC Waiver: lawyers predict litigation changes after publication

      Lawyers say patent owners should consider applying for supplementary protection certificates soon now that a date has been set for the waiver to come into force, and that litigation tactics could change further down the line

    • The 4th amendment of PRC Patent Law is coming

      After several rounds of revisions, the latest draft of the 4th amendment of the Patent Law was released by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (“NPC”) after its first reading in December 2018. This version is expected to be very close to the final amendment. As a response to the “Opinions on strengthening reform and innovation in the field of intellectual property trial” issued by General Office of the CPC Central Committee and of the State Council last year, this latest draft includes provisions to boost crackdown on infringement of patent rights, raise damage award against infringement and patent counterfeiting, clarify the burden of proof on the alleged infringing party, and impose joint and several liability on internet service providers (“ISP”) for failing to cease services for infringement-related activities. The draft also aims at specifying an incentive mechanism for inventors or designers to share profits from the patents they are involved as well as at further stimulating the country’s patent licensing system. We provide more details and comments as below.

    • U.S. Water Services, Inc. v. Novozymes A/S (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Earlier this year, in U.S. Water Services, Inc. v. Novozymes A/S, the Federal Circuit reversed a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, partially granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of Defendants-Appellees Novozymes A/S and Novozymes North America, Inc. that claims 1, 6, and 12 of U.S. Patent No. 8,415,137 and claims 1, 2, 5, 7–9, and 18–20 of U.S. Patent No. 8,609,399 were invalid as inherently anticipated. In reversing and remanding the District Court, the Federal Circuit determined that Novozymes did not meet its burden at trial of showing that the prior art inherently anticipates the asserted claims.

      The dispute between the parties began when Plaintiffs-Appellants U.S. Water Services, Inc. and Roy Johnson filed suit against Novozymes for infringement of the asserted claims of the ’137 and ’399 patents. A jury determined that the asserted claims were not inherently anticipated by International Publication No. WO 01/62947 A1 (“Veit”). Novozymes responded by moving for judgment as a matter of law, which the District Court granted, and U.S. Water Services then appealed.

      The ’137 and ’399 patents, which share a common specification as continuations of an earlier-filed application, are directed to methods for reducing the formation of deposits of phytic acid salts and phytates on equipment used during ethanol production.

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit therefore found that Novozymes did not meet its burden at trial of showing by clear and convincing evidence that Example 1 would always eliminate phytic acid deposits under the conditions required by the asserted claims, that a jury could have reasonably found that Veit does not inherently anticipate the asserted claims, and that the District Court erred in overturning the jury’s verdict. The Federal Circuit thus reversed and remanded the District Court’s decision partially granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of Novozymes.

    • Copyrights

      • Book review: Copy This Book – An Artist’s Guide to Copyright

        A welcome feature of the book is that the author devotes much attention to the public domain, what it means to artists and what it looks like in practice for artists.

      • 9 Best Sites To Watch Hindi Movies Online For Free In 2019 [Legal Streaming]

        Bollywood releases the highest number of movies per year among all the entertainment industries across the world. So it isn’t a surprise that the majority of Indians are movie buffs. While many of us head towards movie theaters and television to watch Hindi movies, the rest of us are left with online options. However, not all of them are legal as they offer pirated content or torrents that stream Bollywood movies illegally.

      • ExtraTorrents Proxy List For 2019 [100% Working Proxies To Unblock Extratorrents]

        xtraTorrents is a popular name in the torrent ecosystem and often counted amongst some of the best torrent sites like Kickass and Pirate Bay. It was established in 2006 and was hugely popular amongst those prefer downloading files, movies and games via P2P file sharing method. ExtraTorrents hosted a huge collection of magnet links and torrent links for a variety of content. One of the highlighting features of the torrent site was its advanced search functionality. There was nothing you couldn’t find by typing in the Extratorrents search box.

      • Pepe The Frog Creator, Infowars Both Claim Victory After $15k Copyright Settlement

        A little over a year ago, we discussed Matt Furie, the creator of the Pepe the Frog character that became an alt-right meme sensation, suing Infowars for selling posters featuring his character. That post was fraught with subtle takes, frankly, largely the result of Furie’s wishy-washy history over how he protected his creation, or not, and the fact that the other side of the story was Infowars. Infowars is of course a conspiracy-mongering lie-factory run by play-acting assclowns that make gobs of money by getting followers to harass the parents of dead children and then selling those same followers merchandise and diet pills.

        A better description of the hellscape that is 2019 cannot be found.

        Still, Furie’s decision to sue Infowars despite his previously being cool with people making memes out of the Pepe character made it clear that his reason for suing was a moral one, in that he didn’t want Pepe to be used alongside hateful content. Copyright, meanwhile, is meant to be deployed on economic grounds, making this all quite murky. On top of that, meme culture could be threatened by these types of actions, all over a moral dispute that really has no place in terms of copyright enforcement.

      • Appeals Court To Rehear Case On ‘Stairway To Heaven’ Copyright Infringement Questions

        Almost exactly three years ago, we were pleasantly surprised to find that a jury unanimously ruled that Led Zeppelin did not infringe on a song by the band Taurus called “Spirit” with “Stairway to Heaven.” We noted that, similar to the Blurred Lines case, if you just listen to bits and pieces of each song, you can hear a similarity, but that does not, and should not, mean it was infringing.

      • La Liga Fined 250K Euros For Using Mobile App To Try To Catch 3rd Party Pirates

        Roughly one year ago, we wrote about La Liga, the Spanish soccer league, pushing out an app to soccer fans that allowed the software to repurpose a mobile device’s microphone and GPS to try to catch unauthorized broadcasts of La Liga matches. The league publicized this information, which had previously been buried in obscure language in its TOS, as mandated by the GDPR. At the same time, the league attempted to brush the whole thing off as above board, claiming that what was in the TOS informed users of the app enough that their own mobile devices were being compromised and turned into copyright snoop networks.

      • Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley named as Harvard Berkman Klein Center affiliate

        We’re happy to announce that Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley has been named as a Harvard Berkman Klein Center affiliate for the 2019-2020 academic year. His research and writing will focus on models for sustainability and growth that support the digital commons, and will explore communities working in the gallery, library, archive, and museum space; those working in, and advocating for, access to knowledge and education; and individual artists and content creators.

        The Berkman Klein fellowship program aims to “create a protocol, a culture, a spirit that puts the emphasis on being open, being kind, being good listeners, being engaged, being willing to learn from one another.” The program is made up of a diverse community of members working across an array of university, government, private, and nonprofit institutions. For more information about the program and for the full list of new and returning fellows, affiliates, and faculty associates, visit the center’s website.

      • BREIN Criticizes Bullet-Proof Hosts, Forces Pirate Webcasters to Get Licenses

        In a relatively unusual action, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN says it has forced three unlicensed Internet radio broadcasters to obtain licensing. A fourth has shut down. Other stations targeted by BREIN state that they’re owned by their streaming platform, a matter that is complicated by its status as a so-called bullet-proof host set up to protect its customers’ privacy.

Code of Conduct Explained: Partial Transcript – August 10th, 2018 – Episode 80, The Truth About Southeast Linuxfest

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Law at 2:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ask-NoahSummary: “Ask Noah” and the debate on how a ‘Code of Conduct’ is forcibly imposed on events

This a partial transcript from the August 10th, 2018 interview on Ask Noah (Episode 80), with Jeremy Sands entitled, The Truth About Southeast Linuxfest. Below is a partial transcript, lightly edited.

This transcript was prepared by a longtime contributor to the site, who deemed it relevant.

[01:16:10]
JS [Jeremy Sands]: Let’s get to all the things you don’t want to hear about … politics.

The Code of Conduct, it’s been a thing for the last couple of years it’s been pushed pretty aggressively in the open source sphere and other areas totally unrelated to open source as well but the Code of Conduct is kind of a series of guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable behavior at an event and what the repercussions are for transgressing those rules et cetera.

Part of the way SELF reorganized after it hit that bankruptcy wall from the party debacle was it’s actually and I’ll get to this in a little bit later it’s not as easy as it might sound to be a 501(c)(3)

“The people pushing Codes of Conduct that have several examples and depending on who it is and their own personal view and there are several out there floating around I want to say one of the bigger ones that’s pushed is the contributor covenant I think I have that right.”[01:17:00]

as a Free Software organization. In fact the IRS is deeply, deeply distrustful of 501(c)(3)s that are Free Software filings. Not my words, the words of Cat Almon [sp?] and I’ll get to that in detail later. But essentially as part of reorganizing, it became abundantly clear that since I was already self-employed, it was dramatically, radically cheaper. like orders of magnitude cheaper, for SELF to simply be a quote-unquote for-profit tucked under my existing LLC that I already knew and already operate and already have to do books for. But deliberately operated in such a way where profit is not part of the equation. I like to say, for profit but deliberately bad at making profit. Because as it turns out because of the way the IRS deals with 501(c)(3)s from Free Software filings, it’s way cheaper to be for profit and deliberately bad at making profit than it is to be non-profit and really, really good at not making profit. Government. So my first reaction, so that was basically my way of saying I have some skin in in the game here. Like if something goes horribly wrong that lands on me. So my first reaction wasn’t well let me read this over my first reaction was I’m going to hand this to a lawyer, and so I did. The people pushing Codes of Conduct that have several examples and depending on who it is and their own personal view and there are several out there floating around I want to say one of the bigger ones that’s pushed is the contributor covenant I think I have that right. I think that was the one I took and had a lawyer review. His words to me were if I were a judge I would ask you just who the hell you thought you were trying to rewrite the law for your little fiefdom and just where you obtained the wisdom of how things should be run around here greater than the collective wisdom of the electorate and the officials that represent them. I didn’t really have a good answer for that. His advice was to be an arbitrator and to resist the temptation to be a judge, and a jury and executioner because when you do that you have essentially entered yourself into the legal fray. He said what you really want to be is a peace broker. You want to resolve the conflict without a determination of guilt either way. Even if it seems painfully obvious who is guilty. You just want to achieve peace. If you can’t do that his recommendation for the safest legal course was simply to eject all parties involved from the event. He said I know as I say that that’s a terrible thing because statistically speaking at least half the people you just ejected were totally innocent. That’s a terrible thing to have to do. But it’s also, legally speaking, from my point of view as a lawyer advising you as counsel, the wise thing to do. He also said you’re running around running an event, how much of your mental capacity can you really bring to bear to slow things down and seriously consider everything unfolding. Not a bad point you’ve got there. My response to the Code of Conduct and it being pushed upon me was to simply ignore it. I ignored it, didn’t put anything up there but eventually the shouts become loud enough that you have to do something. Because it becomes something if you do not have one you will be asked repeatedly about it. And eventually, the act of answering those questions becomes so tedious that you might as well have a policy even if your policy is we don’t have a policy. Because in the absence people are just going to ask questions and insert their own fears into that vacuum. For not having, I think our first official code of conduct policy was kind of a pithy one liner it was kind of a, I won’t, I’ll get it wrong, you can go, I’m sure it’s on archive.org somewhere , but it was more or less don’t be a butthead. If I want to paraphrase it that was more or less our code of conduct.

“My response to the Code of Conduct and it being pushed upon me was to simply ignore it. I ignored it, didn’t put anything up there but eventually the shouts become loud enough that you have to do something.”NC: Then if you need help learning what a butthead is then if you think something might be in question of concern just don’t do that thing and you’re probably pretty safe.

JS: Yeah, so, unbelievably I was actually threatened in private at other events for this for not having a code of conduct that some people deemed acceptable. And not from random people the very first person to threaten me has been a speaker at SELF I think every year and because I accept talks blindly they keep getting talks because I’m not holding that against them because I don’t know who they are when I select the talks. So if nothing else you can’t accuse me of bias in selecting speakers given that I keep selecting a speaker who threatened me. There’s the downside by the way of selecting blind. But because of this when I go to other events to promote SELF or to speak I simply do not have private conversations with strangers any more even people who I somewhat know I will keep other people around me to be witnesses now and it’s terribly tragic that I even have to say that and it’s even more tragic that if you go looking around online I am not the only one who does that any more and that’s even more sad. Given that I got a nasty backlash simply for not having a Code of Conduct that a lawyer told me you would be a fool to have, I started asking why are people pushing this what’s the real message here? And if you start looking around online Googling for Codes of Conduct and insert your own pejorative here, cons, downsides, alternative views, it’s hard not to eventually stumble into a guy named Paul M Jones. He is apparently somewhat infamous as someone who is a vociferous advocate against some Codes of Conduct. If you want to read up about him he is in the PHP-FIG framework interoperability group I think I got that right

“Yeah, so, unbelievably I was actually threatened in private at other events for this for not having a code of conduct that some people deemed acceptable.”NC: We’ve actually had Paul on the show and interviewed him about his views on the Code of Conduct and part of his presentation and all that and we’ll have that linked in the show notes as well.

[01:24:00]

JS: So if you want to read up on some of that nasty past that made him infamous just go read the PHP-FIG it’s all there it’s a mailing list. But my personal take after having skimmed through it was infantile, petty, and a poo-flinging fest that is how I would describe a lot of the just childish battles that occurred over that. So I got put into contact with him and to get his take and given how he has this reputation you might be expecting the worst but not only was he not Hitler and I say that only somewhat tongue in cheek given the nastiness of our political discourse these days but I actually found him to be reasonable and measured and well spoken and that the next year when I was selecting talks there was one on the darker side of the Code of Conduct and blindly I selected it and it was Paul who submitted it. So he gave a talk at SELF on Codes of Conduct and some of the downsides of some of those Codes of Conduct. Boy if you thought it was political before simply by not having an acceptable Code of Conduct the act of having someone speak out against the concept of a Code of Conduct in some cases caused enormous backlash. The fact that it was Paul M Jones giving that talk ramped it up a couple notches. So just for having him speak his personal opinion at SELF there was a targeted smear campaign on social media directly going after SELF’s biggest sponsors telling them to no longer support our event. And it worked. They successfully chased off multiple sponsors. I know of at least two for sure because they they contacted me disagreeing with the decision of their own superiors to no longer support SELF. One of which came back to me with a demand, not their own, but of their superiors, that for them to sponsor the next year, one third of all speakers would have to be female. How can I possibly guarantee you one third of anything, gender, color, nationality, religion, whatever shallow collectivist thing you’re fixated on when I select the talks blindly based upon merit. I can’t even tell you whether or not I can qualify for your demand until after I’ve selected talks because I don’t even know who I’m selecting. In the words of the person who made those demands to me

[01:27:00]

“Given that I got a nasty backlash simply for not having a Code of Conduct that a lawyer told me you would be a fool to have, I started asking why are people pushing this what’s the real message here?”this doesn’t seem to do anything more than merely check a box. That was their own words to me, when delivering these demands. And everyone immediately asked me in private after they hear this talk who is it what’s the company could you tell me? I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want to attract the poo-flinging the other direction at the company. Because it isn’t necessarily the views of the company. It might just be one person in a position of power or as I like to say a cat bird in HR or in marketing who has purchase authority power and they’re using those levers of power to achieve their own means. And to kind of prove this point of how counter-productive it would be to attack the company that made the demand more than a dozen employees from that company that very year decided to come to SELF on their own dime as supporting attendees on their own dime and enjoy the event freely as much as they could without their own company’s backing. So the company formally wasn’t there. All the employees were still there. For me what was insightful was the one time when the rubber really met the road. when it comes to Codes of Conduct. And there are no winners in this story. There are only losers. I had an employee of a sponsor who was at the event it was at the Sheraton so it is in the more recent history of the event but I can’t name off the top of my head which year. This person had diversity in their official job title and they approached me, at SELF, face to face. to say that if our even did not have

[01:29:00]

“So somebody is insulted and this person who was previously so concerned about the safety and well-being of these attendees and your lack of concern for their safety is more concerned about the PR ramifications than the actual event or the actual safety?”an acceptable Code of Conduct to their standards and at the time we had already put in our pithy don’t be a butthead equivalent Code of Conduct. He said that is not acceptable to our standards. And if you do not have one that is acceptable to our standards and he offered again the contributor covenant, the one the lawyer said don’t do that that, they would not be back as a sponsor. And that would be a permanent decision until we acquiesced to that demand. The very next day one of their employees put a business card down the shirt of a female attendee on his way out of the venue. I had an eye witness report from another sponsor and not just any random person but a really smart one a person who is a rising FOSS celebrity who goes on major national shows to talk about FOSS. And I had an actual physical business card in my hand. So with the smoking gun of the business card and an eye witness report I went to be the ax man that the job required of me at the time. I went and pulled in the gentleman with diversity in his official title. I informed him of what happened and I informed him that that person was banned from the event until further notice and specifically by that I mean indefinitely and what was the first thing to spout out of his mouth in response? It wasn’t how is she, how can we help, how can we resolve this. The first response was quote and I quote, “why did it have to be us?”

NC: So somebody is insulted and this person who was previously so concerned about the safety and well-being of these attendees and your lack of concern for their safety is more concerned about the PR ramifications than the actual event or the actual safety?

JS: Shocking. Somebody who claims to care about others really only cares about themselves. Sounds like they would make a great politician. Saddening. Yeah. That response says more than I probably ever could. Now I ended with a bit of a wry, “that didn’t take a Code of Conduct, did it?”

NC: So you said this to the employee?

JS: That was my last word as he left the building. I had him turn around and said that didn’t take a Code of Conduct, did it?

NC: Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

JS. He had no response to that. And I was absolutely thrilled to spike the football in his face like that. Because I felt he was duplicitous in the nature of his actions versus his proclaimed beliefs. I enjoyed spiking the football there immensely.

[01:32:00]

Until not even an hour later when I realized I just banned the wrong employee. The business card that was put down the female attendee’s shirt was not the person who did it. It was a co-worker of that person.

NC: It still does not excuse his response though.

JS: Accurate. Very accurate. On top of that this means that the eye witness report from that very intelligent very amazing person was wrong. And they had no explanation for that. And as it turns out this is something any judge or cop could tell you eye witness reports are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate. This is why by the way it is a good idea to put cameras on cops because even trained police officers have a hard time getting eye witness reports correct.

NC: Sure.

[01:33:00]

JS: Insert delete expletive with many, many exclamation points here. fsck let’s to a file system check

NC: Ok. I think everybody gets that joke.

JS: So that is one of the greatest mistakes I’ve ever made. Because I nearly destroyed an innocent person’s career and the lawyer was as right as ever. I was too busy managing an event. I wanted the problem to go away. I didn’t slow down and think skeptically every step of the way and try to be an arbitrator, not a judge. I got swept away in the moment and I nearly ruined that man’s career. If it wasn’t the woman who had the card put down her shirt coming back and saying, “I don’t think that’s him. Could you show me photos?” And then by this time corporate HR is involved from the company in question. When corporate HR is involved you know you’ve entered a new level of Hades and thankfully we eventually got it right but I can’t imagine the horror that that person must have lived in for a day or so while they were in limbo being summarily lynched while being innocent. So yeah. Points to the lawyer and no points to me for following his advice I won’t make the same mistake twice though. So another thing that comes along with this weird politicalized Code of Conduct thing and again I despise labels because people remove nuance and insert group think when you apply a label but speaking as a generalization because I think as a generalization it does apply. The kind of person who would push these contributor covenant style code of conduct would also be a person who would tend to be more likely to self describe themselves as say a social justice warrior or a progressive. So I’m not saying that agenda is right or wrong but I am saying it is an agenda. The bizarreness is the dichotomy of response you get along these lines. So, for example, the Geek Feminism Wiki started an article tracking females speakers in FOSS events and praising the SouthEast LinuxFest for having so many.

[01:36:00]

“So, for example, the Geek Feminism Wiki started an article tracking females speakers in FOSS events and praising the SouthEast LinuxFest for having so many.”One of the members who was a speaker at SELF that year asked us what we did to have so many female speakers. They were quite shocked when we replied “nothing”. We, ok, almost nothing. Technically we did invite / voluntold Wendy Seltzer to come back and talk. She’s an amazing person. She works with the EFF She may still be on the board of directors for Tor at the time she was and because she’s not as thoroughly embedded in the Linux community as others because for her it is a legal thing, she’s a legal mind not a Linux mind. And that’s where she’s coming into Linux space from, from the law side. And so she’s not normally tapped into this community so we reached out because she might not normally keep herself in this sort of community but we want to hear what she has to say. So that was the only thing we did. We solicited her specific talk. That was it. Now this may have contributed in some part

[01:37:00]

to other FOSS events in the immediacy. Like in the immediate year after that thing went up some other community based events went all out like all female keynotes, all female talk days, all female talk tracks. Like it started becoming a thing within some subsets of the FOSS community events. As though this, I like to call them genitalia based bragging rights. And yes I deliberately say that to be demeaning because I just don’t see the relevance of genitalia to content. Maybe that’s just me. Put more blatantly. At SELF, at least while I’m selecting speakers, genitalia is irrelevant, not part of the form to submit a talk, and if you do submit it, it’s probably in a field which I’ve truncated when I select the talks so I can select them blindly. More into the dichotomy stuff. I was asked by a prominent Google employee, at SELF, how we were able to have so many black people at SELF. Now they said African-American but there’s people in South Africa who apply that label but that label does not fit in the context you are expecting it to be. White’s not a bad term. Black shouldn’t be a bad term either. It’s a simple adjective. So they wanted to know how I quote-unquote did it having so many black people at self and to me this was a segfault. The perspective was so foreign, it was a thought I had literally never even entertained, not even anything tangentially related entertained. For me the thought was, promote the event as best I can, and as wide as I can and whoever shows up shows up. So I looked around and if anything I thought the number of black people there would be less than I would expect from a random sampling for the area. But whatever. I guess I’ll try to help you. So I asked him, well where are you holding the events that you’re holding that you’re not getting this many black people to attend. And the response was “Portland”.

NC: Well, sure, what was your response?

JS: Have you considered holding your event somewhere where black people actually live?

NC: That’s fantastic.

JS: So I went ahead and pulled up the most recent census data. Black people are approximately 35% of metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. They are 6% of metropolitan Portland, Oregon. Diversity indeed. I believe Chris Rock had a joke to this effect about Minnesota, Prince, and Kirby Puckett. And I’m going to have a

[01:40:00]

moment of silence here for my broken heart from Kirby Puckett beating the Braves in game seven of the world series. And if you’re looking at the slide deck, I’ve included a link to the direct current comparison between those two metropolitan area’s ethnicity breakdown. Here’s my real life code of conduct conclusions. The rules aren’t nearly as important as the people in charge of enforcing them. Bad behavior is already illegal. Serious transgressions should be met with legal responses. Do the people in charge have the wisdom to avoid being judge and or jury and or executioner. Will you keep your wits about you under intense pressure even when as an organizer you are on day two, day two and a half, maybe day three with little to no sleep. Will you pursue what is right and fair

[01:41:00]

“It’s weird, but you get a large sample size eventually weird things happen.”as event organizer and not what is merely expeditious to make the problem go away. That was a lot of negative that I just unloaded over the previous fifteen minutes or so. So I don’t want you to get the wrong conclusion. Let’s put this in its proper statistical context. Based upon my own data itself you’re approximately five to eight times more likely not to make it to SELF because of a serious car wreck or a serious plane issue, plane maintenance, a missed connection, whatever, than you are to be harassed. And the car one is kind of unreal. We have had at least one or two speakers or staff members either not make it or make it late because of an auto wreck every year. And this past year one of our core team actually had their car totaled on the way to SELF with a carload of SELF equipment and that by the way was part of what set everything organizationally back because that was a carload of equipment we needed. And that set us back almost half to two thirds of a day. You’d be surprised. If you’re worried about your safety at SELF for heaven’s sake drive slow and look around when you’re driving. Because that’s the thing that’s going to get you. Ok. And now for something completely different. And I would like to say that I hope this is the first, last, and only time that I have to be political in the context of this event and organizing it. But I do hope that other event organizers found that valuable. Because that is the kind of information I tried to pull out of other organizers to find out what had happened to them how they had dealt with it what policies worked

[01:43:00]

what policies didn’t and if you try to broach that subject with other event organizers they clam right up. It’s information that does not flow as freely as you might expect from a Free Software group and what I’d like to say is people say that’s terrible the particular woman who had the business card shoved down her shirt, any sufficiently large sample size eventually yields highly implausible results. It’s the whole sampling problem. It’s kind of how it only takes something like 15 to 20 people in a room before two people have the same birthday. It’s weird, but you get a large sample size eventually weird things happen.

Jeremy Sands and his experience may relate to what we published a couple of days ago and earlier this year.

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