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05.02.20

The EPO is Not Changing

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New EPO boss same as the old boss

Summary: The patent microcosm likes to tell us that European Patent Office (EPO) scandals are a thing of the past because Benoît Battistelli put António Campinos in his place (they swapped seats at CEIPI); EPO staff knows better and actions have spoken louder than cheap PR stunts

Media That Contains Lies Because It is Designed to Contain Lies (Including UPC Lies)

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 8:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Spin if not intentional lying is their business model

UPC 2020
Their articles didn’t age well, did they?

Summary: In another desperate effort to give life to a zombie (UPCA), Team UPC relies on paid-for publishers and it is showing that 40 days aren’t enough for litigation zealots to give up on a dream (a nightmare for the rest of us)

THE media and individual journalists have given all sorts of excuses for not covering EPO corruption. I’ve heard all sorts of excuses; sometimes the publishers spike pieces and discourage writers; it’s a top-down ‘thing’…

Putting aside our cynicism and rants about so-called ‘journalism’ (especially in the area of patents), what about blogs? Whose blogs are they? One trend we’re seeing is that scholars’ blogs are being hijacked by litigation firms, whereupon they become marketing (for lawsuits) rather than critical assessors. António Campinos bribes to achieve this, as did his predecessor. They literally bribe media and academia to recite lies.

“They literally bribe media and academia to recite lies.”The founder of IP Kat (before it was hijacked) also founded Managing IP. As a scholar he wasn’t reluctant to blast the EPO for its abuses. But IP Kat of 2020 deletes comments of people who point out EPO abuses. That’s how ridiculous it has become!

We’d note with concern that Managing IP is still taking money to print lies of law firms for a fee, presenting these as “reports” or “articles” (here is a new example) and like Lexology et al (IAM’s parent company) it also publishes as “Opinion” the corporate position of companies. “Laura Gisler,” this one says, “IP head at Volvo-owned startup Polestar, explores the perils of joint IP and suggests better strategies for companies partnering with startups…”

What kind of “press” is this?

Imagine articles about climate being composed by GE and Exxon. This is just wrong. And since we’ve mentioned Lexology, how about this new piece from Team UPC, to which Lexology served as an amplifier (e.g. in Google News) for nearly a decade, printing endless lies?

Tilman Müller-Stoy and Rudolf Teschemacher (Bardehle Pagenberg), who pushed an illegal bill and an unconstitutional coup, refuse to allow facts to get in their way, having just published a truly ridiculous piece pretending the death of the UPC is just an “Operational Accident”. This merits a quick response as it contains many falsehoods. For instance, they say this:

The contentious point within the FCC was whether an obligation in an international treaty exposing German citizens to acts of an international authority can be the basis of a constitutional complaint by an individual before the act conferring the competence has entered into force. The majority of 5:3 judges said yes, taking the position that any conferral of judicial functions on an international court modified the allocation of jurisdiction to the courts as foreseen in the GG and, in this respect, constituted an amendment of the German Constitution in substantive terms. In this context, the FCC accepted a claim of a citizen for having the formal aspects of conferral reviewed, arguing that competences conferred on another entity under international law were usually “lost” and could not easily be regained by the legislator.

According to the majority of the judges of the FCC, the legal basis of this approach is the democratic principle laid down in Article 38 GG allowing a citizen to claim that sovereign rights are only conferred in the ways provided for by the German Constitution.

The refusal and nullification dealt with a procedural issue rather than substance; they didn’t even need to deal with the substance of the complaint because of obvious mischief at 1-2AM in the morning. So the UPC — not the complaint — was tossed out.

On they go with the laughable idea that few little amendments can miraculously salvage the UPCA:

[...]

The process determining whether a Plan B will be pursued, may start now. However, it must not only involve the legal questions addressed above. It should also address those left undecided in their substance by the FCC. It would certainly not be a responsible political approach to establish a court system which will be under foreseeable and avoidable legal attacks before national courts and before the CJEU.

A further necessary element of discussion will be to keep the system attractive for industry. The amounts of renewal fees fixed after years of discussion at the “true top four” level is no longer justified considering that an average applicant desiring protection in three or four EPC member states will have to pay additional renewal fees for the UK. Thus, the restricted scope of the unitary patent should be reflected in a lower level of renewal fees. Otherwise, the unitary patent will only be used by applicants maintaining protection at a large level, e.g. the pharmaceutical industry. Why not use this opportunity to also reconsider the consensus reached among the contracting states that no state should get less from the revenue of renewal fees than under the system of the EP bundle patent (which– frankly – is a consensus at the expense of the users)?

Finally, it could be worthwhile to use the necessary discussions to repair shortcomings of the UPCA recognized in the meantime. The opt-out / opt-in regulations have been criticized as failed in terms of legislative formalities. Further, there are no sound reasons for the compulsory inclusion of European bundle patents in the jurisdiction of the UPC – free competition between the UPC and the national courts would probably be a better solution, and the UPC would prevail if the efficiency of its proceedings and the expertise of its judges are convincing. Otherwise, users would be forced to use (available) indirect ways of maintaining access to national courts. The draft of the rules of procedure could be made leaner by eliminating elements which are based on UK concepts rather than on continental European ones. This might result in a simplification of the procedure and, thus, in cost reductions. It is worth noting that the (high) caps on reimbursable attorney fees have been criticized in particular as they are hardly acceptable for SMEs.

So, in short, they admit that the very substance of this complaint also dooms the UPC/A and will likely necessitate very considerable changes. With Brexit on the horizon (the pandemic lets the limbo linger on further), this is truly impractical. Politicians aren’t working at the moment, the status of the UK in the EU is mostly unclear, additional objections to the UPC have been raised in a number of countries and so on.

Deep inside even the authors of the above text know that the UPC is finished. It’s dead. But 40 days later (after the decision) they still refuse to let go.

How Many More Lives Will the European Patent Office Destroy?

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 7:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO’s severe violations of the (Rule of) Law are harming the health of innocent, law-abiding people such as Laurent Prunier, who represented his colleagues

Laurent Prunier (EPO) talking about the scandal at the EPO with Suzette Saint-Marc (Council of Europe)

Summary: Europe’s largest patent office, the European Patent Office, continues to bully its staff and it carries on breaking the law under António Campinos‘s Battistelli-like leadership, which EPO staff representatives rightly bemoan

THE old days are old, the newer days are rather gloomy. And not just because of the pandemic; it seems rather apparent that the EPO takes full advantage of this pandemic to wage further attacks on staff and on the law. This is done openly and shamelessly. They’re simply not afraid of any consequences. Who’s going to enforce the law? Even politicians are in quarantine.

A decade ago when we wrote about the EPO it was mostly about illegal software patents (same issue at the USPTO prior to 35 U.S.C. § 101/Alice) and rarely if ever about treatment of staff, which had already protested outside the EPO.

“Over the years we wrote about half a dozen articles about Mr. Prunier, whom EPO staff in Dutch territories loved (based on what we heard).”The EPO and the USPTO continue granting these illegal software patents, even if courts repeatedly reject those. Over at Watchtroll (“IPWatchdog”), for example, Jose Nunez has just published “The Long Reach of the Mathematics Patentability Exception is Overbroad and Absurd – Part II” and yes, they literally advocate monopoly on maths! So does the EPO; they’re not even pretending otherwise.

We recently saw in Kluwer Patent Blog a comment that said what we had been saying for a long time. A few days ago someone said that EPO staff had been put in a tough position: break the law (or participate in breaking of the law) or lose the job! It’s causing all sorts of mental issues; imagine being forced to harm people for a living; sooner or later consciousness kicks in and then the financial instinct (“gotta pay the mortgage!”) conflicts with morality. No worker should ever be put in such a position/dilemma.

Over the years we wrote about half a dozen articles about Mr. Prunier, whom EPO staff in Dutch territories loved (based on what we heard). We were disturbed to learn about health implications Battistelli’s bullying had on him; he wasn’t the first though and other victims include Judge Corcoran. The bullying is very much intentional; it’s psychopathic. Remember what led to the “Suicide Wave” in the largest French telecommunication company. Management styles play a major role in the wellbeing of staff and executives can be held criminally liable for an over-aggressive approach. But not at the EPO… it’s immune!

Yesterday we learned, based on insiders, tweets and this “Kluwer Patent Blogger” (anonymous) blog post, that Mr. Prunier chose to leave the EPO. SUEPO circulated information about it and here are some key bits (no comments yet and SUEPO has not linked to it):

Prunier was fired in of a period of deep turmoil, protests and conflicts at the EPO during the precidency [sic] of Benoit Battistelli, who was accused of creating a climate of fear, putting workers under intolerable pressure and ignoring the organization’s own rules. His controversial leadership lead to parliamentary debates in the Netherlands, France and Germany, to a conflict with the Dutch government and dozens of court cases at the ILOAT, among others (see, for instance, here and here). Several cases of suicide of staff members were linked to the working conditions at the EPO.

According to Battistelli, Prunier had been harassing a colleague. But the dismissal was widely linked immediately to his activities for the trade union and the CSC. Two other SUEPO leaders were fired in 2016 as well, another was downgraded. Prunier has always denied any wrongdoing and asked for transparency: ‘The easiest solution for the public to assess the truth vs. story-telling is for Mr Battistelli to lift the confidentiality he imposes on me and I will gladly publish all the documents’, he wrote at the time in an open letter.

Although the settlement probably means the EPO has acknowledged Prunier should not have been fired, he will not return at the office, according to the SUEPO’s announcement: “The ordeal, which has lasted more than 3 years, has severely impacted Laurent’s life and health. In light of this impact, and in spite of having been a truly committed and valuable EPO colleague, Laurent chose not to return to the Office to be able to properly recover.”

Since his start in office, almost two years ago, there has been pressure on Battistelli’s successor António Campinos to settle the previous administration’s sanctions against prominent SUEPO leaders. There is widespread disappointment (read this blogpost for instance) that it has taken so long to achieve this in cases like Prunier’s and that some have still not been resolved. “We take this opportunity to recall that two former Staff Committee experts remain abusively sanctioned: Aurélien Pétiaud in Munich and Michael Lund (now on pension) in The Hague. We hope that the President will finally provide relief to them, too”, SUEPO wrote.

Also on other fronts the relation between the presidency and staff has not at all normalized, as was initially hoped after the leadership change in July 2018. Late last year, hundreds of staff members in The Hague and Munich protested against working conditions, for the first time since Campinos took office. According to them, he had failed to restore the social dialogue. They were particularly concerned about plans of the EPO to cut costs.

The EPO needs to cut corruption, not costs. There’s profound EPO corruption that harms Europe, as well as EPO staff.

Will the above settlement help distract from the latest attacks on EPO staff? These attacks intensified during the pandemic. Kluwer has said nothing about these (it covered other angles).

Looking through Kluwer comments in another thread, we find further information on EPO abuses against staff, forcing them to violate the EPC while EPI looks the other way:

It’s a Small World, these days. Tendencies one notes in one jurisdiction are there to see, in many others, when you think of looking for them.

Imagine you are a scientist, occupying a vital post of Chief Scientific (or Medical) Adviser to The President (of the USA) or the Prime Minister (of the UK). The health and welfare of the population of your country depend on your retaining the attention of the President. If you disagree with him, the next thing that happens is “You’re fired”. How shall you then continue to damp down the President’s wilder flights of fancy

Likewise the EPI. Disagree with the EPO’s President and you lose his ear. Is this why the EPI behaves like a rabbit caught in the beam of the headlights?

Or is it that the Institute is frightened of offending its biggest clients, the world’s largest corporations.

When lawyers cease to defend The Rule of Law, what is the consequence i) for democracy ii) individual freedom? EPI officers should mull that over. Perhaps it would help them to find their feet and stiffen their backbone.

“Roufousse T. Fairfly” then added more information, including the (mis)use of Microsoft Skype for legal procedures:

Even when looking beyond the current situation, I firmly believe that video-conferencing can contribute to a more efficient, modern and sustainable European patent system, in line with the goals of the EPO’s Strategic Plan 2023.

“Efficient”, “modern”, “strategic”, “firmly believe”, yadda, yadda, yadda… I call BINGO! This hollow management speak (a.k.a. “xyloglossie” or “Betonsprache”), which has infected the EPO decades before the current regime, drives one to despair.

– Why are you doing this?
– Because.
– Because why?
– Because we can.

The reference to a “line manager” in the quoted text isn’t very clear. I understand that in the last years the responsibility of directors was extended to units of something like 50-100 examiners, where it had been 20-30 in earlier times. To compensate (?) for this, a network of “team leaders” (I believe this is their title) came into existence as a new “management” layer, to which is delegated the implementation of whatever unrealistic target is set from above. In other words: deputy cattle-prods. Needless to say, those examiners who volunteer — or are volunteered — for this job aren’t exactly popular, I heard them referred to with anfour-letter German word beginning with “K”…

Specifying that OPs are to take place by video might upend in some way the case-law denying applicants their choice of location for holding OPs (Den Haag or Munich). What happens if an applicant is adamant to have an in-person OP?

I expect this measure to backfire in another way. Even though conditional requests for OPs are fairly systematic in the European procedures, these are actually infrequently conducted once they are summoned. At that point, applicants often withdraw, or become serious and file new requests, and/or announce they won’t attend. There are only few applicants who will pay travel and board for their EPAs, even if they are next door to the EPO. OPs are therefore often quick, mostly formal affairs.

Since about EPA from Lisbon to Tallin would be roughly on an equal footing with those located closer to EPO locations, I believe that many more OPs would actually take place. I therefore expect the general availability Vicos to increase the real work load of examiners. In my day I already had some examining division colleagues dragging their heels considering that they were doing me a favour by providing “unpaid” work (in production points).

Technology therefore doesn’t necessarily mean progress…

With this new measure, virtually all interactions (filing of documents, requests and replies, payments) between applicants and the EPO are now performed in the electronic space, and official notifications by registered mail can be considered as a backup.

The question arises in my opinion as to the continued relevance of Article 133(2) and (3) EPC, which makes representation compulsory for EPC-foreign applicants. Even though a “Vertretungszwang” is compatible with the reservation of Article 2(3) of the Paris Union, how can you keep justifying it morally, or perhaps even legally in the view of other trade-related treaties?

I would expect new problems to arise. For example, should parties from overseas be allowed to participate in an OP, even under the control of the EPA? Would it be allowable to just pipe the ViCo to the applicant in Beijing or Chicago? After all, many EPAs want to show that they properly defended their clients’ interests. But then, can everyone resist the temptation of making a discreet private recording? After all, it’s 2 AM in the windy city when it’s 9 AM in Munich. An EPA might possibly be expected to respect the prohibition on recording, but is his customer bound by these rules? Or an irate pro-se applicant?

I very rarely use privately Skype, Zoom et al. In general, I find hands-free communications unnatural, and wouldn’t want to be forced to use it. Too many discussions sound like the infamous “cone of silence in “Get Smart”, even on quality facilities like those at the EPO.

The “Business” version of Skype appears to be offered for Windows, Android and Apple, but not for any *nix flavour. Skype has a bad reputation since at least Edward Snowden, and wouldn’t be accepted in some jurisdictions:

[Lexology, CH, 24.04.2020] COVID-19: Einsatz von Video- und Telefonkonferenzen in Zivilverfahren

Bei Video- und Telefonkonferenzen muss der Datenschutz bzw. die Datensicherheit stets gewährleistet werden. Die Übertragung von Bild und Ton muss “end-to-end” verschlüsselt erfolgen. Die benutzten Server müssen sich zwingend in der Schweiz oder der Europäischen Union befinden, was die Wahl der möglichen Provider erheblich einschränken dürfte. Eine unbefugte Datenweitergabe an Dritte muss verhindert werden. Im Rahmen dieser Grundsätze sind die Gerichte bei der Auswahl der entsprechenden Infrastruktur grundsätzlich frei. Es wird jedoch empfohlen, die Vorgaben und Empfehlungen der Datenschutzbeauftragten zu berücksichtigen.

Why should a EPC member state accept a lesser standard from the EPOrg?

But others are apparently less picky: [lto, 02.01.2020, DE] Richter, Anwalt und Zeuge beim Skype-Chat. German justice is however having a rough time currently…

[...]

For OPPO, I just realised there is another problem: language interpreters. How do you fit them in the process?

And how do you prepare them before an OP?

The interpreters are normally supplied with a copy of the paper file, and briefed about the case, important documents, special terminology of the field, and what to expect about the conduct of the proceedings. This isn’t trivial work.

A full two-way translation requires 2 pairs of interpreters (eg: 2x EN-FR, 2x FR-EN), with each pair working closely and taking over. How do you coordinate this when everyone of them sits elsewhere? The setup for the Vico would have to provide different channels depending on the party. Transmission delays would probably be horrendous. Does Skype-for-whatever even provide for this?

“German justice is however having a rough time currently,” the above says, which leads us nicely into our next article (about the UPC).

Links 2/5/2020: Release of Elementary 5.1, Endless OS 3.8.0, Redis 6.0

Posted in News Roundup at 11:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • Top 10 Best Linux Distro 2020 a Beginners Guide to Start using Linux

      I hope you feel better when you are using Windows or MAC operating system. But both are costly. You must pay for OS as well as for software.

      I have been using Windows since 2000, I have used windows 95, 98, XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. I also used Windows server 2003, 2008 and 2012.

      I was comfortable till windows 7 but I am not feeling better to use Windows 10 because of the regular automatic updating process, high resource-consuming and more. I will explain in another post.

      For example, I can’t use window 10 if my computer RAM is less than 2 GB. but you can use Linux without any interruption.

      So my Dear sister and brother, if you are bothered with your current operating system and want to switch with Linux. This post best Linux distro 2020 will help you to choose a better Linux distro in 2020.

    • Kernel Space

      • AMDGPU TMZ Support Wired Up For Linux 5.8

        In addition to Intel sending in new feature code to DRM-Next, AMD developers on Thursday also sent in their AMDGPU/AMDKFD feature updates for Linux 5.8.

        This is AMD’s second round of kernel graphics driver updates for Linux 5.8 by way of DRM-Next. Last week they sent in their first batch of 5.8 material including support for reading the FRU chip, SR-IOV updates, enabling VCN 2.5 DPG for Arcturus, GPU scheduler improvements, various GFX10/Navi fixes, and other updates.

      • Linux 5.8 Seeing Support For New Marvell/Aquantia Atlantic “A2″ NICs

        The patches published a few days ago and already queued into net-next for Linux 5.8 is support for the Atlantic A2 NICs. These seemingly yet-to-be-launched NICs are a new generation and building off their existing Atlantic support. Marvell acquired Aquantia towards the end of last year and this activity is all happening within the Aquantia open-source driver.

        The enablement doesn’t reveal too much about the new A2 Atlantic generation but are 10Gbit adapters and as with most high-end network hardware it’s great to see the upstream Linux support getting squared away quickly.

      • Thanks Oracle! New Patches Pending Can Reduce Linux Boot Times Up To ~49%

        While many don’t look upon Oracle’s open-source software contributions too eagerly, some new patches out by their team can dramatically benefit Linux kernel boot times and they are working on getting it upstream. The numbers are already very promising and further work is also underway to make the improvement even more tantalizing.

        Back in 2017 the Oracle Linux Kernel Team announced KTask for in-kernel multi-threading for CPU intensive tasks. The KTask framework never made it into the mainline Linux kernel but has been in use with Oracle Linux’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel. But now a newer iteration of the patch series has been published that is focused just on being able to handle multi-threaded jobs with PADATA.

      • Unix Vs Linux: What is Difference Between UNIX and Linux

        By now you would have got a fair idea about Unix. Let’s now explore Linux in detail.

        People do confuse a lot between the terms Unix and Linux and they generally ask questions like “Is Unix Different from Linux?” / “Are Linux and Unix the same thing?” / “Is Linux like Unix?”/ “Is Linux built on Unix?”.

        Here is the answer to all such questions. First, let me clear your confusion in a one-liner. Linux and Unix are different but they do have a relationship with each other as Linux is derived from Unix.

        Linux is not Unix, but it is a Unix-like operating system. Linux system is derived from Unix and it is a continuation of the basis of Unix design. Linux distributions are the most famous and healthiest example of the direct Unix derivatives. BSD (Berkley Software Distribution) is also an example of a Unix derivative.

      • Graphics Stack

        • Open-Source OpenXR Runtime Monado Seeing Better Performance, New Functionality

          Monado, the open-source OpenXR run-time implementation for Linux, has been advancing quite well since we last reported on it back in February with its inaugural v0.1 release.

          The Monado OpenXR implementation recently gained support for out-of-process compositing for being able to deliver consistent performance and opening up other use-cases in the future like running multiple clients. Monado has also been improving its direct mode support on NVIDIA and there have been performance improvements. In some cases the performance boost is even 2x the earlier performance.

    • Applications

      • SimpleScreenRecorder Updated With Automatic Desktop Recording Based On Schedule, High-DPI Support

        SimpleScreenRecorder is a Qt application for Linux that can record the desktop (Xorg only) and OpenGL applications directly. It had a major new release (0.4.0) about 3 weeks ago, but because I was waiting for its changelog to be updated (which wasn’t until today), I forgot about it until today when a bug-fix 0.4.1 version was released.

        The latest ScreenRecorder 0.4.0 / 0.4.1 brings high-DPI monitor support, a recording schedule, command-line control over stdin, and other improvements.

        But first let me tell you a bit about SimpleScreenRecorder. The application uses libav/ffmpeg for encoding and it can record (with optional sound) OpenGL applications directly, the entire screen, a rectangle you draw on the screen or a window with properly synchronized audio and video, which is a common issue for other such tools. The video can be paused and resumed at any time, either with a click or with a keyboard shortcut. It also supports live-streaming, though this feature is experimental.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Monster-catching, dungeon-crawling RPG ‘Siralim Ultimate’ hits Kickstarter – funded in 1 hour

        Thylacine Studios have launched the Kickstarter for Siralim Ultimate, a monster-catching RPG mixed with dungeon crawling and it’s been quite a hit. Like with their previous games Siralim 1 / 2 / 3 it will be supporting Linux and they’ve been very clear on that.

        Siralim Ultimate is a monster-catching, dungeon-crawling RPG with a ridiculous amount of depth. Summon over 1000 different creatures and battle your way through randomly generated dungeons to acquire resources, new creatures, and loot.
        After launching on Kickstarter yesterday with a $10,000 goal it was hit in just about an hour. Showing that 2D pixel-art games continue to be loved by a lot of people. They’re now going through stretch-goals, to add new features when extra funding levels are hit, with the first already done.

      • What are you clicking on this weekend? Come have a chat in the comments

        Personally, I’ve been very surprised by Iratus: Lord of the Dead which recently left Early Access with added Linux support.

      • Valve has delayed The International tournament for Dota 2 and it may not happen until 2021

        As health concerns continue worldwide, Valve has done the expected and delayed the next championship tournament The International for Dota 2.

        The International was due to launch on August 18th and run until the 23rd, on April 30 they announced their decision to delay it due to “the global health emergency stemming from COVID-19″. They also mentioned how it’s now not likely to happen until 2021.

        As for the upcoming Battle Pass, they confirmed the 10th International prize pool will still get 25% of funding from the sales of it and they will still be releasing it soon instead of waiting on The International. This way, at least players of Dota 2 won’t be missing out directly. No date set for the Battle Pass though, as Valve are working from home it’s all taking a bit longer.

      • Team Fortress 2 gets a nice tribute to Rick May, plus a few minor fixes

        Rick May, voice of The Soldier in Team Fortress 2 died earlier this year and now Valve has added a small dedication to May in Team Fortress 2. After suffering a stroke, May was moved to a nursing home to recover and unfortunately catching the Covid-19 Coronavirus as announced by Rekindle School.

        Right inside Team Fortress 2 you will now be able to find a tribute Valve added in. Their update note on it is short and sweet, “Added a tribute to Rick May, voice of the Soldier”. That doesn’t really explain the scale of the tribute itself. The main menu has been adjusted to play TAPS memorial music, with a Solider saluting and you can find various statues across different maps that plays some of May’s lines when you’re near.

      • New Games You Can Play With Proton Since April 2020

        A new month has begun! I don’t know if all of you guys are in lockdown but this shit is getting a little tiring, even with a truckload of games to play. Talking about new games, Proton does not disappoint and keeps bringing some of the jewels we can only find on Windows.

        Let’s look at the list of the most popular reports on ProtonDB for the month of April… as usual “Gold+” refers to the number of reports in April that were either “Gold” or “Platinum” in rating, meaning that you could either play them out of the box or with a minor tweak to make them launch. Such ratings don’t exist anymore per se on ProtonDB but they can be recreated based on the provided user data.

      • Who Knew Mac Could Even Do VR?

        Today’s news struck me as surprising. Apparently Valve is dropping SteamVR support for Mac. I had no idea this was even a thing! I mean, to be completely honest, even VR support on Linux is far from optimal – I usually say that if you are really into VR, the only OS you can consider is Windows and pretty much nothing else – at least for now.

        [...]

        It’s kind of amazing that Mac still has 2-3 times the size of Linux gaming despite being so obviously bad for development and support. I could be wrong, but it’s probably a developer fetish: a lot of artists and programmers work on Macs, and want to see their games working on the same machines too, regardless if it’s even a good use of their time or not.

        Anyway, let’s hope Valve put some real, sweating effort into SteamVR for Linux, because if VR ever takes off one day past a few inches of market share, we’d probably want to have it on our sweet OS as well.

      • Play video game ROMs on Raspberry Pi 4 with Debian Linux-based RetroPie 4.6

        Video games may be more popular than ever these days, but the truth is, they simply aren’t as fun as they used to be. Sadly, game developers focus too heavily on graphics and in-game purchases than actual gameplay. And so, in 2020, a true gamer is better served by playing video game ROMs from yesteryear, from systems like NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64.

        Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways to play classic video game ROMs nowadays. You can even use inexpensive hardware like the Raspberry Pi line of computers to easily get them onto your TV screen. If you have the latest such device, the Raspberry Pi 4, I have some great news — you can finally use the Linux-based RetroPie for your classic gaming fun.

      • The Godot Game Engine’s Vulkan Support Is Getting In Increasingly Great Shape

        Over the past three months many improvements were made to the Godot 4.0 engine code-base where this Vulkan renderer support will debut. With the latest code there is new screen-space reflection code, new subsurface scattering capabilities, reworked shadow bias settings, support for soft shadows in all light types, accurate frame render time reporting, MSAA anti-aliasing support has been restored, FXAA is also supported, and other renderer improvements.

      • Godot Engine has more impressive progress towards Vulkan API support

        Godot Engine is free, open source, cross-platform in both editor and exports and the next major update will bring in Vulkan API support and progress sounds great.

        It’s been a couple months since the last full report from Godot lead developer, Juan Linietsky, who was previously working on a code refactoring process. Now that’s done, they’ve been back to work on the graphics stack. Not just that though, other parts are being tweaked like node naming to be more consistent and clear between 2D and 3D.

        On the rendering side this includes improvements to screen-space reflectionso that’s not as limited as the one in Godot 3.x. Linietsky mentioned that the new version will use a special screen-space filter to properly simulate roughness.

      • Vulkan Progress Report #7

        It’s been three months since a Vulkan progress report! I know you guys missed them, so I made sure to work extra hard to have something nice to make up. It feels great to be back to doing graphics programming after two months refactoring the core engine.

        So, here are the things that were worked on during April!

    • Desktop Environments/WMs

      • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

        • This week in KDE: Features you’ve been waiting for

          This week we have some big stuff for you, including a rewritten global shortcuts settings page, an option to remember Dolphin’s window state across launches, a fix for longstanding kerning issues with centered text in QML-based software, and much more!

        • KDE Starts May With Dolphin Improvements, Various Bug Fixes

          KDE developers remain as busy as ever during the global lockdown around the coronavirus.

          KDE developer Nate Graham has published his usual weekly summary highlighting all of the development happenings for this open-source desktop environment. Some of the activity for ending out April and starting May on the KDE front includes:

          - The Dolphin file manager by default now remembers the last open tabs, location, and settings like split-views when closing and reopening it.

        • Airport Locations in KDE Itinerary

          In order to navigate you to and from an airport KDE Itinerary needs to know where that airport actually is. That is a seemingly easy question, but surprisingly hard to answer with the level of precision we need. Since the recent work on public transportation line metadata left me with a local OpenStreetMap database, I tried to see if we can improve our airport coordinates a bit.

    • Distributions

      • New Releases

        • Release of Elementary 5.1.4: Hera Updates for April, 2020

          As always, you can get these updates on elementary OS 5.1 Hera alongside updated translations, bug fixes, and performance improvements by opening AppCenter and hitting Update All.

          If you’re new to elementary OS or would just like a fresh ISO, these updates are also included in a new elementary OS 5.1.4 Hera download on our homepage.

        • Elementary OS or other Linux as option
        • Release | Endless OS 3.8.0

          Endless OS 3.8.0 was released for existing users today, April 27th, 2020.

          [...]

          In this release the desktop and most of its components were updated to the versions from GNOME 5 3.36, bringing new features, performance improvements and bug fixes.

      • SUSE/OpenSUSE

        • MicroOS – The OS that does “just one job”

          The openSUSE Summit 2020 kicked off yesterday. Like many others this summit was a virtual one too. It ran on a platform managed by openSUSE fan and user P. Fitzgerald.

          I was busy with work stuff and couldn’t watch the presentations live. I hopped on and off on the platform. I didn’t want to miss Richard’s presentation about MicroOS but yet I missed it. Luckily he was quick to record his session and upload it on YouTube. I got a chance to watch it afterwards. Surely, all other presentations will be available on openSUSE TV soon and I’ll be able to catch-up.

          If you didn’t rush to watch Richard’s presentation on YouTube right-away, here are a few hints that may encourage you to watch it.

      • IBM/Red Hat/Fedora

        • Fedora program update: 2020-18

          Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora this week. Fedora 32 was released on Tuesday. Fedora 30 will reach end-of-life on 26 May.

          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.

        • Inkscape 1.0!

          Headed to rawhide, f32 and f31. Please test and give karma while maintaining proper social distancing.

        • Open Source Robotics | Brian Gerkey | Red Hat Summit

          In this special edition of TFiR Newsroom, we are offering exclusive interviews from the Red Hat Summit. In this interview, Brian Gerkey, CEO of Open Robotics talks about open source in the Robotics world.

      • Debian Family

        • Free Software Activities for 2020-04

          This month contained the first week and a half or so of my term as Debian Project Leader. So far my focus has been getting up to speed and keeping the gears turning with day to day DPL tasks. The updates listed here will also be available on the DPL blog, where I aim to make more frequent updates.

          During May, Debian Brazil will host Debian talks throughout the month which they will stream to their YouTube channel. You can find the schedule in this git repository, most of the talks will be in Portuguese, but on the 4th of May at 21:00 UTC, I’ll be covering some Debian project topics for an hour or so and take some questions if there’s time left.

        • Sylvain Beucler: Debian LTS and ELTS – April 2020

          Here is my transparent report for my work on the Debian Long Term Support (LTS) and Debian Extended Long Term Support (ELTS), which extend the security support for past Debian releases, as a paid contributor.

          In April, the monthly sponsored hours were split evenly among contributors depending on their max availability – I was assigned 28.75h for LTS (out of 30 max; all done) and 7.75h for ELTS (out of 20 max; I did 2.75).

          Escalation procedures were (internally) documented with a focus on discussing issues with team coordinator(s) first.

          Debian LTS had its first team meeting through IRC and lots of workflow question were discussed. This should help discuss questions that are a bit hard to bring up, and ensure everybody participates. There were lots of topics and it was a bit rushed, but this is something we want to repeat monthly now, possibly with audio/video in a couple months.

        • Utkarsh Gupta: FOSS Activites in April 2020

          It’s been 14 months since I’ve started contributing to Debian. And 4 months since I’ve been a Debian Developer. And in this beautiful time, I had this opprotunity to do and learn lots of new and interesting things. And most importantly, meet and interact with lots of lovely people!

      • Canonical/Ubuntu Family

        • Voyager 20.04 LTS: a heavily themed XFCE-based Linux distro



          The Voyager Live operating system has received a long-term update, so new users won’t have to worry about updating their systems for another three years.

          However, it makes sense to introduce our readers to the aesthetic Linux distro known as Voyager Live before we begin talking about its latest version. Based on Xubuntu, this operating system comes with a heavily themed Xfce desktop environment. However, there are two other variants of this OS, where the first one accompanies the GNOME shell desktop, and the other is aimed at gamers as it is bundled with Steam, Wine-staging, and Lutris. The creators brand this distro as an efficient, fluid, modern, fast, and light system. Additionally, it also sports a bunch of pre-installed software, which include the Kupfer app launcher, Smtube Youtube MPV video player, Xfdashboard, and a CLI-based music app in moc.

        • Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo: S13E06 – The bride before the wedding

          This week we’ve been playing DOOM 64 and discuss what’s new in Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 LTS. We bring you some command line lurve and go over all your wonderful feedback.

          It’s Season 13 Episode 06 of the Ubuntu Podcast! Alan Pope, Mark Johnson and Martin Wimpress are connected and speaking to your brain.

        • [Older] Ubuntu ‘Focal Fossa’ Homes In on Enterprise Security

          Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu, on Thursday announced the general availability of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, codenamed “Focal Fossa.” This major upgrade places particular emphasis on security and performance.

          Released once every two years, the new long-term support version provides a platform for enterprise IT infrastructures and workloads across all sectors for five years. Enterprise users can extend that support for up to 10 years with a commercial support plan.

          Ubuntu has reached the top of independent rankings of enterprise Linux security, according to Canonical. Ubuntu 20.04 LTS applies Kernel Self Protection measures, ensures control flow integrity, and adds stack-clash protection for systemic forward-looking enterprise security.

          Ubuntu 20.04 LTS includes Secure Boot to protect against low-level attacks and rootkits, often employed by Advanced Persistent Threat groups. This feature limits attack proliferation or blast radius with strict snap confinement of key exposed applications on the desktop and server, such as the local Kubernetes package MicroK8s.

          To mitigate social engineering attacks, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS introduces Fast ID Online (FIDO) for universal multifactor and passwordless authentication. The new Ubuntu release also includes WireGuard, a new, simplified Virtual Private Network (VPN) with modern cryptography defaults.

          In Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, WireGuard is built in at the kernel level. It will be backported to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS to support widespread enterprise adoption, according to Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical.

        • The problem of Ubuntu 20.04, Snaps, and where your home directory is

          Although the messages do not say this, the Snap system ignores any $HOME environment variable that you might have set; what it cares about is where /etc/passwd says your home directory is (after any symlinks are resolved). The official documentation says ‘a workaround is to bind mount the home directory outside /home into /home’. We currently have roughly 2600 user home directories that are not under /home; instead they are under an assortment of filesystems that are NFS mounted from our Linux ZFS fileservers. Bind mounting all of their filesystems into /home or changing all of them to be NFS mounted there is what we can politely call not feasible, and certainly massively disruptive even if it was feasible.

          Given this, I have to say that Canonical’s Snappy system does not appear to be designed for anything except small environments, such as desktops and laptops used by one or a few people. It’s certainly not viable in our larger (but still small scale) multi-user Unix environment. At the moment, we can probably live without Chromium in 20.04, although some of our users are going to be upset. If Canonical packages more important things as Snaps instead of actual packages, we will probably be forced to do something much more drastic.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • How to manage thriving company-led open source communities



        When I first got involved in community management, I was working at the Linux Foundation, involved in the relatively new Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project. Over the next few years, I started to notice a lot of companies building their business around open source software and talking about building communities around their products.

        Being involved in a foundation-based project with dozens of member companies, I wasn’t sure how a single company-led project would work and also who would join and contribute to those communities. I was especially curious about what contributors and wider community members would gain from getting involved in company led-projects.
        Fast-forward several years, and I made a career transition to one of the company-led projects and got first-hand experience working with the wider community at GitLab.

      • Redis 6.0 Released As A Big Update For This In-Memory Key-Value Database

        Redis 6.0 is out to end out April as this widely-used, open-source in-memory key-value database solution.

        Redis 6.0 brings ACL support, client-side caching support, threaded I/O, RESP3 support, SSL, improved PSYNC2 replication protocol handling, much faster RDB file loading, and many other features.

        Lead Redis developer Salvatore Sanfilippo calls version 6.0 “the biggest release of Redis *ever*”, in today’s release announcement.

      • Text file driven applications

        I know I talked about charm, but there are some concrete reasons why I prefer the text file driven mode for many things. The primary one is that I can focus on the fundamental content of the diagram or task instead of being distracted by font sizes, or milimeter level adjustments of components. This was true of LaTeX, and it is true of PlantUML. In most cases the tool taking in the text file as input makes some layout decisions automatically. In most cases, this is good enough, and in many cases is actually better than what I could achieve manually.

        The next advantage is that I can version control my source file and can make semantically meaningful diffs. I can’t do this with the save files of GUI programs which are often just memory dumps of RAM.

        I can copy and paste components much more easily that I can with purely GUI driven tools. I can add comments. I can comment out sections and then uncomment them later.

        Often, I can type and create a diagram faster than I can drag and draw with my mouse. If I have a live preview, I’m a whole lot more productive with text file based software than I am with GUI based software.

        What tools would YOU like to add to this list of awesome text file based applications?

      • Web Browsers

        • Mozilla

          • Niko Matsakis: Async interviews: my take thus far

            The point of the async interview series, in the end, was to help figure out what we should be doing next when it comes to Async I/O. I thought it would be good then to step back and, rather than interviewing someone else, give my opinion on some of the immediate next steps, and a bit about the medium to longer term. I’m also going to talk a bit about what I see as some of the practical challenges.

          • Mozilla GFX: moz://gfx newsletter #52

            Hello everyone! I know you have been missing your favorite and only newsletter about software engineers staying at home, washing their hands often and fixing strange rendering glitches in Firefox’s graphics engine. In the last two months there has been a heap of fixes and improvements.

          • TenFourFox FPR22 available

            TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 22 final is now available for testing (downloads, hashes, release notes). There is no difference from the beta except for outstanding security fixes and updated timezone locales. As usual, if all goes well, it becomes live Monday evening Pacific time.

      • Programming/Development

        • Steinar H. Gunderson: What’s behind the STL containers?

          Every C++ programmer will spend a fair amount of time interacting with the containers in the Standard Template Library (STL). But it’s not always obvious exactly what data type is behind every container—I thought I knew most of them, but every now and then, some detail pops up. So I thought I’d summarize.

          For the purposes of this discussion, I care about the data type and what it means for reference stability; ie., if you get a reference (or pointer, or iterator) to a key or value within the container and the modify the container, for how long can you expect your reference to be valid. (Obviously, if you delete an element, that reference always gets invalidated, so I’ll never mention that. I’ll also assume the standard std::allocator throughout, so when I say “heap”, it could in theory be memory from an arena or whatever.) All information is, to the best of my knowledge, correct as of GCC 10.

        • GCC 10 Has Been Branched, GCC 10.1 Stable Looking To Release In Early May

          The GNU Compiler Collection 10 stable release (GCC 10.1) is on track for releasing in early May.

          Today the milestone was achieved of having no more P1 regressions (code regressions of the highest priority) and thus the GCC developers were able to branch GCC-10 from Git master. GCC 10.1-RC1 will now be out in the coming hours as the first test release ahead of this annual stable release.

          If all goes well in the release candidate testing, the GNU toolchain folks are looking at releasing GCC 10.1 towards the end of next week or shortly thereafter. Still before then will be GCC 10.1-RC2 next week too.

        • Announcing the SourceHut project hub

          I’m happy to announce that the SourceHut project hub is now available for general use! This is one of the most important developments in the progress of the SourceHut alpha thus far. If you want to see how it works interactively, try checking out the SourceHut project, add your own projects, or browse the public project index. For a more wordy introduction, read on.

        • on the usability of editable software

          There are two forces at work leading to an unfortunate feedback loop in which software is difficult to modify, and then seeks to avoid modification, further complicating it. First, we don’t consider modification as a positive outcome for the user. We seek to package everything up to avoid local changes. Second, the way software is deployed causes local changes to be very expensive, creating pressure to push everything upstream. Neither of these must be the case however.

          What if we made software with the expectation that end users would make at least a few changes? This would greatly simplify things. We don’t need to worry about every use case. Or even most use cases, really. Just provide the essential features. But isn’t that creating more work for end users? Not if the program is easy enough to work with. As anyone familiar with software development knows, the difficulty of adding new features or modifying existing ones grows very quickly, much faster than linearly, with the total number of features. They interfere with one another. By reducing the number of shipped features, we reduce the difficulty of modification. Anybody can do it (or have somebody do it for them).

        • April 2020: worked on a webmail and a bit of OpenSMTPD too

          I started using console clients to read my mail back when I was a student in early 2000s, and I’ve been using mutt for as long as I can recall now. I installed various mail clients along the years, some with graphical interfaces such as thunderbird or sylpheed, others with a web interface such as nullWebmail, SquirrelMail, Roundcube, Mailpile or currently Rainloop. No matter which, I always end up falling back to mutt for most tasks.

        • New book: The Official Raspberry Pi Camera Guide
        • Perl/Raku

          • Jussi Pakkanen: You have to kill your perlings

            The 90s and early 2000s a lot of code was written. As was fashionable at the time, a lot of it was done using Perl. As open source projects are chronically underfunded, a lot of that code is still running. In fact a lot of the core infrastructure of Debian, the BSDs and other such foundational projects is written in Perl. When told about this, many people give the “project manager” reply and say that since the code exists, works and is doing what it should, everything is fine. But it’s really not, and to find out why, let’s look at the following graph.

            [...]

            As we can see the pool of people willing to work on Perl projects is shrinking fast. This is a major problem for open source, since a healthy project requires a steady influx of new contributors, developers and volunteers. As a first order approximation, nobody under the age of 35 knows how to code in Perl, let alone would be willing to sacrifice their free time doing it.

            One could go into long debates and discussions about why this is, how millennials are killing open source and how everyone should just “man up” and start writing sigils in their variable names. It would be pointless, though. The reasons people don’t want to do Perl are irrelevant, the only thing that matters is that the use of Perl is actively driving away potential project contributors. That is the zeitgeist. The only thing you can do is to adapt to it. That means migrating your project from Perl to something else.

          • PWC 058: Task #1, Compare Version & Task #2, Ordered Lineup

            I usually am bored with string twisting (as opposed to bit twiddling) because there is a certain level of grunt work, even with such classics as ELIZA and FESTOON and I can easily fall down the rabbit hole of trying to get pluralization perfect. So when the exciting topic of version numbers came up, I would have passed, but we perfectionists have to finish one to get to two….

            Plus there was one thing that I liked, the problem was set up as a comparison operator, like <=> and cmp, suitable for use in a sort routine. Whomever you are out there, with a need to sort thousands of version strings via perl, this script is for you ;-)

          • Coders In Cars Getting Chatty

            The last time I spoke at Craft Conference, I also took part in what is probably the most fun and unusual interview of my career: Ivette Ördög’s Morning Commute.

            Bear in mind, however, that this discussion took place back in 2018, so you’ll need to mentally s/Perl 6/Raku/ in a couple of places.

            Even if you’re not interested in my random thoughts on the importance of linguistic diversity, Ivette’s other interviews are well worth watching.

          • PWC 058: Task #1, Compare Version & Task #2, Ordered Lineup

            I usually am bored with string twisting (as opposed to bit twiddling) because there is a certain level of grunt work, even with such classics as ELIZA and FESTOON and I can easily fall down the rabbit hole of trying to get pluralization perfect. So when the exciting topic of version numbers came up, I would have passed, but we perfectionists have to finish one to get to two….

            Plus there was one thing that I liked, the problem was set up as a comparison operator, like <=> and cmp, suitable for use in a sort routine. Whomever you are out there, with a need to sort thousands of version strings via perl, this script is for you ;-)

        • Python

          • My Favorite Career Development Book

            Cal’s book will inspire you. It will challenge you to take action.

            Once you start developing what he calls a “craftsman mindset” and start building up “career capital” there is no return.

            But there is no shortcut here. And you have to be patient. It will take years of constant (and strategic) effort and focus.

            Showing up and working hard will only get you that far. It’s not only the amount of work (e.g. the 10,000-Hour Rule), it’s also about what you do in that time, your (unique) approach.

            It often requires you to become uncomfortable. Deliberate practice isn’t always fun as Pythonistas on our platform can attest, but you come out stronger, better prepared.

            To speak in fitness terms: muscles grow under stress. And so does your career if you constantly look for new opportunities, going beyond what you already know (and is comfortable), learning new things, exploring adjacent fields of expertise.

          • Should All Strings Become f-strings? – Python Language Summit 2020

            The first language change proposed this year was the most radical: to make f-strings the default. Eric V. Smith, who wrote the PEP for f-strings in 2015, said they are the killer feature of Python 3.6, and they are the motivation for many of his clients to move to Python 3. However, they are error-prone. It’s common to forget the “f” prefix:
            x = 1
            # Forgot the f prefix.
            print(“The value is {x}”)

          • Talk Python to Me: #262 Build a career in data science

            Has anyone told you that you should get into data science? Have you heard it’s a great career? In fact, data scientist is the best job in America according to Glassdoor’s 2018 rankings.

            That’s great. But how do you get a career in data science? Once you land that first job, how do you find the right fit? How do you find the right company? And how do you get more deeply involved in the community?

            I have brought two great guests, both highly successful data scientists, on the show today who have been thinking deeply about this. Jacqueline Nolis and Emily Robinson are here to give you real-world, actionable advice on getting into this rewarding career.

          • The 2020 Python Language Summit

            The Python Language Summit is a small gathering of Python language implementers (both the core developers of CPython and alternative Pythons), as well third-party library authors and other Python community members. The summit features short presentations followed by group discussions. In 2020, the Summit was held over two days by videoconference; questions were asked by a combination of voice and chat.

            Summaries of all presentations will be posted here as they are completed.

            Thanks to MongoDB for sponsoring the Python Language Summit.

          • The real impact of canceling PyCon due to COVID-19

            I asked Jodlowska “how have you had to adjust your work in light of COVID-19?”

            In her response, the day-to-day didn’t sound like much of a change. PSF staff “have always worked remotely.” The organization practices a fully remote work culture and doesn’t have an office. The small staff of seven employees is well versed in collaborating outside of an office.

            Familiarity aside, the emotional impact of needing to cancel an event they put a year’s worth of planning into hurt.

          • Weekly Python StackOverflow Report: (ccxxvi) stackoverflow python report
  • Leftovers

    • ‘The Merry Month of May:’ a Summons to Grasp the Spirit of the Time

      Death by plague is personified in this quote: “Men, women, & children dropt downe before him: houses were rifled, streetes ransack, beautifull maidens throwne on their beds and ravisht by sickness: rich mens cofers broken open, and shared amongst prodigall heirs and unthrifty servants: poore men used poorely, but not pittifully; he did much hurt, yet some say he did very much good.”

    • Ancestor Dreams

      Even though the nights have been quieter, I have been dreaming more vividly. Across the self-isolated populace there are reports of widespread nightmares—stress, fear, change of routine cited as likely causes. Maybe the lack of planes and decreased traffic—already relatively scant in this part of central New York state—has been disturbing in its silence. The “natural” now seems “artificial”—a sure sign that a blithe return to old order must be resisted after Corona Time ticks down.

    • A Masterful History of Victorian Anti-Speciesism

      I recently finished Chien-hui Li’s Mobilizing Traditions in the First Wave of the British Animal Defense Movement. The book is a masterful history of Victorian anti-speciesism, which highlights the various sources of inspiration for campaigners of that era. These included, but were not limited to, Christianity, socialism, natural history, Darwinism, and literature.

    • The Uplifting Magic of Mother’s Day in These Perilous Days

      As Mother’s Day approaches, the celebration of our Mothers is overshadowed by the mounting Covid-19 casualties. Donald Trump is incapable and unwilling to provide the leadership needed to deal with the deadly pandemic attacking our communities. While we cannot afford to slow efforts to challenge the President and our Members of Congress, it is important to take a bit of time and reflect on what our parents, and in particular our mothers, have done and continue to do for their families.

    • Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Shut It Down 2020
    • Welcome to the Era of the Great Disillusionment

      This is a column I have been mulling over for a while but, for reasons that should be immediately obvious, I have been hesitant to write. It is about 5G, vaccines, 9/11, aliens and lizard overlords. Or rather, it isn’t.

    • Probabilities of Change

      By the time this weekend article is posted, our president’s advice to internalize light as a remedy and/or inject or swallow disinfectant to eradicate the virus as effectively inside your body as on household surfaces may have begun a long slide to his departure from the American stage. He may reappear as a Fox friend.

    • The Leading Edge in Virtual Cinema

      When New York movie theaters closed down on March 15th, so did invitations to the press screenings needed for my reviews. Unlike other film critics, I don’t cover Hollywood films. My beat consists of documentaries, foreign-language and American independent films that get screened in places like the Film Forum and Cinema Village in New York, the Laemmle in Los Angeles, et al.

    • To Be or Not to Be, That’s the Goddamn Question

      John Freeman has been busy in the last decade trying to rouse people from their somnambulant lives by means of narrative wake-up calls. “Part of writing, the best part of it,” he tells us in the introduction to his new collection, Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World, “is to wake a reader up into the present, by transporting them into a dream—one vivid enough to reorient how they see things upon waking.”

    • Was Elon’s Tesla Twitter meltdown illegal? An investigation

      True, May only started today and Musk has been melting down all week. For instance, there was the unhinged ranting on his earnings call about the “fascist” stay-home orders California implemented to slow the coronavirus spread. “We are a bit worried about not being able to resume production in the Bay Area, and that should be identified as a serious risk,” Musk began on the call. (Six Bay Area counties jointly extended the shelter-in-place orders affecting Tesla’s Fremont factory through May 31st, with only some minor relaxing of restrictions.) Then he went on: “The expansion of shelter-in-place, or as we call it, forcibly imprisoning people in their homes, against all their constitutional rights, is, in my opinion, breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong, and not why people came to America and built this country. What the fuck!”

  • Science

    • Remdesivir: Gilead wins with unimpressive results announced by press release

      I’ve been writing a lot about the unjustified and premature hype over hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with mild immunosuppressive activity that is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases and how the drug probably doesn’t work against COVID-19, despite its being hyped by President Trump and his sycophants, toadies, and lackeys on Fox News, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Phil, Dr. Didier Raoult, and a bevy of irresponsible fame seeking doctors who have no idea how to do a proper clinical study. There are, however, other drugs being hyped out there, drugs that might actually have a better chance of turning out to be effective treatments for COVID-19. Chief among these is remdesivir, the experimental antiviral drug being tested by Gilead Sciences. Remdesivir is an adenosine (a nucleotide) analog that inhibits viral RNA polymerases. It is incorporated into RNA made by the virus, causing the premature termination of the RNA molecule, thus interfering with viral replication. The drug was originally developed to treat Ebola and Marburg but was ultimately found to be ineffective against these viruses. Because it inhibits the replication of a number of RNA viruses, it was only natural that it would be considered as a possible treatment for COVID-19, and Gilead has been relentlessly promoting it as such as the company has been working to carry out clinical trials.

    • Implants Will Survive Up to 6 Times More Effectively

      Scientists from NUST MISIS and Gamalei Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology found a way to increase the survival efficiency of skull polymer implants by an average of 4-6 times doping it with proteins. This means that the patient would recover faster, and in the future the newly grown bone would be able to withstand the same loads as before the operation. An article about the development is published in Polymer Testing.

      One of the most widely used materials for polymer bone implants is polyether ether ketone (PEEK), as it is strong, resistant to aggressive chemical environments, wear-resistant, and biocompatible. PEEK is used mainly in spinal surgery for prosthetics of intervertebral discs. However, it is also promising as a material tubular and flat bones implants. In this case, it is necessary to ensure a strong fusion of the PEEK with the patient’s bone. This requires additional processing of the material to create a porous structure in which the bone tissue would grow. However, until now, none of the methods used (for example, foaming with gas or phase separation) did not give sufficient structural similarity to natural bone.

    • Genes involved in T cell response are down regulated in COVID-19

      Genes involved in T cell activation and differentiation and cytokine-mediated signaling are down-regulated in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, researchers from China report.

      “These findings may help elucidate the COVID-19 infection and provide a basis for future novel immune therapeutic strategies,” Dr. Dexi Chen from Beijing YouAn Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China, told Reuters Health by email.

  • Education

    • I went to grad school in the last recession. Here’s my advice to people considering it now

      Certainly the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is a beautiful and worthy thing. Unfortunately, at least in the US, the cost of education means it can wind up narrowing grad students’ options for the future rather than expanding them.

    • Your Classes Are on Zoom and Your Teaching Staff Is Being Cut

      This has also meant a change in the social role played by the university. Students are now conceived of as consumers buying a service, universities as firms competing with one another, and getting an education as the most typically neoliberal investment in human capital.

      This process was accelerated after 2010, when students’ fees were almost tripled and the sector’s funding model shifted from block grants to subsidized student loans. These changes have made external and internal competition even stronger, with different universities and even single departments competing to increase their number of students, and therefore their funding. Within departments, the share of permanent positions has decreased, with a growing amount of teaching and research being carried out by temporary, often underpaid staff. Not surprisingly, a system based on academic workers’ exploitation and students’ indebtedness has been marked by a raise in mental health issues among both faculty and students.

    • UK: Indian Students Starving and Unable to Return Home

      With the borders closed, “the young people cannot return home to their families, do not know how to access benefits, nor can they support themselves economically,” the NAIS recalled and added that it has even received alerts from students who value suicide as an option.

      “They don’t know what to do and can’t afford to eat. They are starving.”

    • Distance Learning During Coronavirus Worsens Race, Class Inequality in Education

      Students told Teen Vogue they’re growing anxious as relatives are laid off and bills mount. Mixed-status families are being left out of relief packages. Children of essential workers are taking on responsibilities at home that prevent them from engaging in online classes. All of the historic inequities in education access that students of color already faced are compounded by a pandemic that is particularly devastating for black and Latinx communities.

    • DeVos sued for seizing student borrowers’ paychecks

      Wage garnishment for student borrows allowed the Department of Education to withhold up to 15 percent of wages from those who owe student debt.

      The $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress last month called for the automatic suspension of principal and interest payments on federally held student loans, including garnishment of wages, through Sept. 30.

      The class action lawsuit filed by Student Defense and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) alleges that the Education Department has continued garnishing student wages. It demands that the department stop doing so and refund any money taken from student borrowers.

      The lead plaintiff is Elizabeth Barber, a home health aide, who earns $12.36 an hour and has seen her hours reduced since the start of the pandemic.

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

  • Integrity/Availability

    • Stressing the network when it’s already down

      It would appear that every time that Virgin Media dropped off, people en masse flocked to speedtest services to confirm that their internet connection was having problems.

      If you go down to the NetFlow level, you can even see very clearly when services were restored for customers: [...]

      This kind of collective behaviour is fascinating to me, and also presents an interesting customer driven positive feedback loop for networks that might be having temporary congestion problems, where people that are verifying that the network is congested, are themselves adding more congestion to the network.

    • Proprietary

      • Slack CEO: Microsoft Teams is not a competitor to Slack

        Slack’s CEO might claim Microsoft Teams isn’t a competitor, but it says the opposite in its SEC filings. “Our primary competitor is currently Microsoft Corporation,” says Slack in a recent 10-Q filing.

      • Security

        • Privacy/Surveillance

          • Prisons Replace Ankle Bracelets With An Expensive Smartphone App That Doesn’t Work

            Tired: monitoring parolees with ankle bracelets. Wired: monitoring parolees with smartphone apps.

          • Filings In Facebook’s Lawsuit Against NSO Show FBI Director Chris Wray Was For Encryption Before He Was Against It

            I have opined that FBI Director Chris Wray needs to shut the fuck up about encryption. Wray has presented a completely skewed perspective on the issue, following in the footsteps of Jim Comey. Wray claims encryption is leading to a criminal apocalypse, even as crime rates remain at historic lows. He also claims encryption is making it impossible to follow through with investigations, but has presented no evidence to back this claim.

          • A path to safety (or identity theft) As more and more Russian regions use apps to enforce self-isolation, digital experts are finding glitches that could cause mass data leaks down the line

            On April 22, it became public knowledge that 21 of Russia’s federal subjects are setting up digital permit systems to enforce self-isolation rules: with a few exceptions, anyone who wants to leave their home in those regions will have to get official permission. All 21 regional governments are using one and the same interface: “Gosuslugi Stop Coronavirus.” That’s the application already in use in the Moscow region. The city of Moscow has its own, independent permit system, and several other major cities are following its lead: they have also developed their own so-called “digital collar” software to issue permits for going outside as well as “digital guardsman” software for police to check the permits. “Digital Guardsman” is actually the official name of the program under use in Tatarstan, the first of Russia’s federal subjects to require digital codes for those planning to venture outside their homes. Meduza asked journalists Anna Vilisova and Ilya Shevelev to investigate the permit systems in several regions, consulting with digital security experts to figure out whether the apps might make Russians vulnerable to hacking or personal data leaks.

          • Apple and Google create contact tracing API that preserves privacy to fight COVID-19

            Apple and Google have been working together for the last few months on a not-so-secret project to combat the COVID-19 pandemic which uses LE Bluetooth for contact tracing while still preserving privacy. The project has been codenamed Project Bubble. According to an article on this monumental project released by CNBC citing sources from within both companies, this project has been largely pushed forward by Yul Kwon and Ronald Ho at Google and Myoung Cha, Dr. Guy Tribble, and Ron Huang of Apple – along with other like minded individuals at both companies. As a result of their hard work Google and Apple have simply created an API that will be used by apps released by healthcare departments of governments around the world. These contact tracing apps will likely hit the app stores in mid May. The contact tracing API may have been created with privacy in mind but it remains to be seen just how privacy conscious the contact tracing apps that utilize it will be.

          • Court Filings Show NSO Group Ran Malware Attacks Through Servers Located In California

            Things are getting even more interesting in Facebook’s lawsuit against Israeli malware merchant, NSO Group. Facebook was getting pretty tired of NSO using WhatsApp as an attack vector for malware delivery, which resulted in the company having to do a lot more upkeep to ensure users were protected when utilizing the app.

          • GCHQ granted powers over NHS IT systems during Covid-19 outbreak

            Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) was granted additional powers by health secretary Matt Hancock in April, allowing them to request from the NHS anything “relating to the security of any network and information system”.

            The extra powers will remain in place until 31 December 2020, according to a government document published last month.

          • Update: Stripe’s Response Regarding User Tracking

            Less than a week after my article came out, Stripe published a blog post outlining the changes they had made to better disclose their data collection practices and guarantees around user privacy.

          • Amazon Buys Thermal Cameras to Scan Workers for Fevers

            In order to try and spot coronavirus infections among its workforce, Amazon bought 1,500 heat-sensing security cameras that it plans to install in its facilities.

            The thermal cameras, manufactured by the Chinese corporation Dahua, are reportedly able to track workers’ temperature from a distance, allowing Amazon to flag anyone who develops a fever, Reuters reports. But it’s a controversial purchase: Dahua has been blacklisted by the U.S. government because its surveillance tech has been used in the “re-education camps” China uses to detain its minority Uighur population.

          • Me on COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps

            I haven’t blogged about this because I thought it was obvious. But from the tweets and emails I have received, it seems not.

            This is a classic identification problem, and efficacy depends on two things: false positives and false negatives.

          • We Need An “Army” Of Contact Tracers To Safely Reopen The Country. We Might Get Apps Instead.

            In the coming days, Apple and Google are expected to roll out a highly anticipated new system intended to solve that problem. Yet, in an effort to assuage privacy concerns, it will only notify people they have been exposed but will not pass on important epidemiological information, such as who the infected person is and where they are, to public health departments. It does some of the work of contact tracing, but not all.

            This has led to concerns that the US — which has already fumbled testing people and supplying health care workers with personal protective equipment — could wind up with yet another debacle. In a best-case scenario, digital contact tracing would be paired with and inform traditional efforts from public health departments, and it could stop the spread of the coronavirus in its tracks and save lives. But in a worst-case scenario, the US could become a wild west of incompatible contact tracing apps that vary from state to state and city to city, managed by companies with no public health experience that rake in cash via government contracts while providing the people who use them with a false sense of security.

            “My problem with contact tracing apps is that they have absolutely no value,” Bruce Schneier, a privacy expert and fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, told BuzzFeed News. “I’m not even talking about the privacy concerns, I mean the efficacy. Does anybody think this will do something useful? … This is just something governments want to do for the hell of it. To me, it’s just techies doing techie things because they don’t know what else to do.”

          • Is the GDPR failing? If it is, how can it be saved?

            The coronavirus pandemic rightly dominates the headlines, including those of the privacy world, but in the background, life goes on. For example, companies operating in the EU are still subject to the GDPR, two years after it first came into operation. But as this blog noted a few months back, there are increasing fears that the law is turning into a paper tiger: impressive in theory, but rather less so in practice. The question is being raised again, prompted by some interesting research carried out by Johnny Ryan, the chief policy officer at the browser company Brave, which places a particular emphasis on privacy. He contacted 28 EU Member State national data protection agencies (DPAs), 17 DPAs in the German states, and 3 other national DPAs, and asked about their staffing levels – particularly how many people they had with technical knowledge. It provides some troubling details on the state of GDPR enforcement in the EU: [...]

          • Private Internet Access announces third year of WireGuard® sponsorship

            Private Internet Access is happy to announce that we are sponsoring the WireGuard® project as a bronze company donor. Private Internet Access first sponsored WireGuard in 2018, and with our 2020 sponsorship has now been a WireGuard sponsor for three years. Private Internet Access believes in sponsorship as a way of giving back to the community and is proud to sponsor WireGuard.

          • Not Just Red Zones; MHA Extension Order Makes Aarogya Setu Mandatory For All
          • NL-Alert warning app has data leak and should be deleted: ministry

            The NL-Alert app which the government introduced in March so that people can be warned about disasters in their neighbourhood has a data leak and should be deleted from phones, the justice ministry has said.

            Some 58,000 people have installed the app on their phones since it was launched as a supplement to the existing NL-Alert push message service which started in 2012.

            The ministry discovered the leak this week. The app is based on personal location software but also collects information about the phone software and other apps, some of which is ending up in the hands of company in America involved in the development, local broadcaster RTV Noord said.

            The ministry has requested that the un-named company destroy the information. The app makers, a company based in Groningen, are working on an update. Until then, officials say, users should delete the app from their phones.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Sanitizing the Kent State Massacre

      May 4, 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the massacre at Kent State University (KSU). We were peacefully protesting the US invasion of Cambodia when the Ohio National Guard launched a teargas attack and then opened fire at us.

    • The White House and Pentagon are Making the World Seasick

      In 1878 the British composers Gilbert and Sullivan created one of their best comic operas, HMS Pinafore, a send-up of the Royal Navy that enjoyed great success.  In one of the main scenes the civilian head of the Navy, Sir Joseph Porter, known as the First Lord of the Admiralty, explained how he had risen to such eminence by singing

    • Michigan Lawmaker Dayna Polehanki Speaks Out About the Armed “Reopen” Protesters

      Polehanki told Teen Vogue that she believes Whitmer’s willingness to follow expert advice has saved lives and that no men with guns will deter her from working to alleviate suffering in Michigan, which is among the states that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, especially in Detroit’s urban Black population.

      Here’s what Polehanki had to say about the disturbing messaging from protesters and what it’s like working in a contentious state legislature (edited for length and clarity).

    • Millions Of Neo-Nazi Discord Messages Dumped Online

      An online leaking collective has dumped close to 10 million internal messages from over 100 Discord servers run by neo-Nazis and QAnon conspiracy theorists in a new searchable database.

      Dubbed “Project Whispers,” the massive cache of data made available by Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoS)—a group of journalists, activists and technologists dedicated to providing a secure platform to leak sensitive data in service of the public interest—is the newest in a wave of dumps involving neo-Nazi and far-right servers.

    • EU announces 194 million euros in additional support to the Sahel

      The new financial commitments comprise of €112 million to help strengthen the security and defence capabilities of the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), while ensuring respect for human rights and international humanitarian law as well as re-establishing the presence of the state and basic services throughout the territory. The remaining €82 million will be mobilised to intensify development efforts and help improving living conditions, resilience and social cohesion of vulnerable populations.

    • Danish police thwart plans for terror attack

      Drejer said the man was planning “one of several attacks” and that police believe he was acting alone. The man had “a militant Islamic motive,” Drejer added.

      Both Dreyer and Bergen Skov said the incident was not related to a case in December where Danish authorities arrested around 20 people suspected of having ties to Islamic terrorism.

    • Terror suspect scrawled ISIS support, hid escape kit in prison, feds say

      An Ypsilanti man arrested by the FBI’s counterterrorism team wants out of federal prison during the COVID-19 pandemic despite being caught with an escape kit and scrawling a message of support for the Islamic State in his cell, according to prosecutors.

    • Jihadist rebels confiscate Christian properties in Idlib

      According to the SOHR report, the jihadist rebels, primarily Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), are forcing Christian property owners to renew contracts at their officers, which often result in raising rent on their houses and shops.

      “HTS has clamped down on the Christians of Idlib city, pursuing the landlords and occupants of their properties. The office of ‘Christians’ properties’ of HTS, which considers as spoils, has notified tenants to check with the administrative offices, to renew the contracts and set new terms, including raising the rents of houses and shops,” SOHR said.

    • The Muslim Genocide of 2.5 Million Christians

      Last Friday, April 24, marked the “Great Crime,” that is, the genocide of Christians—primarily Armenians Assyrians and Greeks—that took place under the Islamic Ottoman Empire, throughout World War I. Then, in an attempt to wipe out as many Christians as possible, the Turks massacred approximately 1.5 million Armenians, 300,000 Assyrians, and 750,000 Greeks.

      Most objective American historians who have studied the question unequivocally agree that it was a deliberate, calculated genocide: [...]

    • Isis supporters jailed for sending terrorists £2,700 via man connected to ‘central figures’

      Judge Rebecca Poulet QC said Wassim appeared to be associated with “central figures” within Isis, and the money was intended to assist activities to endanger life.

      Sentencing Nurhussein and Mohammed on Friday, she said both men “have deeply held radicalised beliefs and that they were, and possibly still are, committed to the cause of the proscribed organisation Islamic State”. Read more

      “It is quite clear that both men were wholehearted supporters of this terrorist cause and that both wished the funds to go to support the fighters of that organisation,” she added, saying the “most grave and alarming” aspect of Nurhussein’s case was his possession of bomb manuals.”

    • Two IS supporters jailed for sending money to fighters in Iraq

      Two supporters of the so-called Islamic State group have been handed substantial jail sentences after sending money to help fighters in Iraq.

      Ayub Nurhussein, 29, and Said Mohammed, 30, admitted funding terrorism by transferring £2,700 in three instalments.

      The money was sent via Denmark between April and July last year.

    • Trudeau announces ban on 1,500 types of ‘assault-style’ firearms — effective immediately

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced a ban on some 1,500 makes and models of military-grade “assault-style” weapons in Canada, effective immediately.

      Starting today, licensed gun owners will no longer be allowed to sell, transport, import or use these sorts of weapons in this country.

      “As of today, the market for assault weapons in Canada is closed,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said. “Enough is enough. Banning these firearms will save Canadian lives.”

    • 2 Weeks After Nova Scotia Massacre, Canada Bans Assault Weapons. 7 Years After Sandy Hook in the US—And Still Nothing

      “Republicans in the U.S. Congress—what are you waiting for?”

  • Environment

    • The Recent History of GDP Growth, CO2 Emissions, and Climate Policy Paralysis, All in One Table-Runner

      Note: I began designing this table-runner just before the COVID-19 pandemic blew up in the United States. In the time I have been embroidering it, rates of death and misery have soared while wealth generation and carbon emissions (the two subjects of this work) have ended their decades-long rise and have plummeted. A deadly virus is a terrible means of slowing greenhouse warming. Whenever we come out the other side of the pandemic, we must pursue a rapid, humane, ecologically sound, and guaranteed-effective course of action to drive greenhouse emissions down to zero. Here’s how.

    • Energy

      • ‘A Complete Waste of Money’: Fossil Fuel Industry Takes At Least $50 Million in Covid Aid Despite Financial Struggles Long Before Outbreak

        “We need to be getting checks directly to workers, including in the fossil fuel industry—not hoping money ‘trickles down’ through corrupt companies that consistently prioritize their CEOs.”

      • Global fossil fuel demand’s ‘staggering’ fall

        The world’s energy markets are in upheaval, as experts report an historic fall in global fossil fuel demand.

      • EPA Has Been Captured by Fossil Fuel Interests, Democratic Senators Tell Court

        Trump’s EPA replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with what it calls the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which requires only minimal emissions reductions by individual power plants rather than a systemic approach to cleaning up climate pollution from the power sector. The American Lung Association, which recently reported nearly half of Americans are breathing unhealthy air, is leading the legal challenge to the rule, with support from a coalition of states and cities, environmental and public health organizations, and over 70 Democratic members of Congress.

      • Fossil Fuel-Backed Climate Deniers Rush to Promote Michael Moore Documentary ‘Planet of The Humans’

        Planet of the Humans investigates the environmental footprint of renewable technologies such as wind, solar and biomass, and argues that the green movement has sold out to corporate interests. The documentary has been viewed over five million times on YouTube since its release last week to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

      • Why the Oil and Gas Industry Will Never be the Same

        When a staple commodity collapses to negative value it signals that something is clearly amiss in the global economy. When it is a global energy source like crude oil, it does not just signal pain in the oil patch, but an economic dislocation evocative of the Great Depression. Rare is the time when a commodity over which nations have fought wars in the past presents itself as something that traders would literally pay you to take it off their collective hands.

      • So We’re All in This Together…Really? What About Big Oil?

        One thing I’ve learned over the years of investigating Big Oil and its hold over the futures of whole nations — including the US — is this: Never count on “straight talk” from its lobbyists, its PR people, and its protagonists in Congress and the White House

      • ALEC Leading Right-Wing Campaign to Reopen the Economy Despite COVID-19

        ALEC is attempting to use the national crisis to leverage movement on its pro-corporate policy agenda. 

      • Planet of the Huh?

        Much to my surprise, I make a cameo appearance in Michael Moore’s latest film, Planet of the Humans, directed by Jeff Gibbs. The clip is from my original TV show at the time, Climate Challenge TV, where I challenged Bill McKibben on the question of who funds his organization 350.org. As a result, I feel compelled to share my views on the documentary, starting with my belief that McKibben, while less than forthcoming about his donors in my interview, has made extensive contributions to the advancement of the climate movement, for which he deserves great credit.

      • Meet the New Flack for Oil and Gas: Michael Moore

        But after watching Planet of the Humans for about 10 minutes, I wanted to turn it off. Instead, I took notes.

        Because the film is so dangerous, so wildly off-track and full of misinformation, fossil fuel industry taking points, and unfounded, wacky statements you could be forgiven for thinking it was created by Breitbart News or Steve Bannon and not the erstwhile bastion of progressive bombast that is Michael Moore. (As if to prove that the world is upside down, when world-renowned author and climate scientist Michael Mann, Naomi Klein, and I came out with a sign-on letter protesting the film’s inaccuracies and falsehoods, Breitbart actually piped up in defense of Michael Moore!) What’s wrong with Planet of the Humans? To begin with, the film utterly ignores the new emboldened environmental movement. Even more baffling, it totally ignores Trump.

        Instead, it directs its attack on renewable energy and on the basic premise of all climate action and modern environmentalism: that humanity must end our addiction to fossil fuels. The film even attacks and tries to demonize Bill McKibben, one of the most selfless and influential fighters for the climate over three decades.

    • Wildlife/Nature

    • Overpopulation

      • Covid-19’s Third Shock Wave: The Global Food Crisis

        Major world disasters produce multiple ripple effects. Like a powerful tsunami, they trigger one shock wave after another, each producing injury and mayhem. In the case of Covid-19, the first wave was the global health crisis, still spreading around the world. Next came the stay-at-home requirements and the resulting shutdown of the world economy, resulting in massive job layoffs everywhere. These, in turn, are producing a third wave, possibly even more catastrophic in its outcome: the collapse of global food-supply systems and widespread human starvation.

  • Finance

    • The Biomass Fiasco

      Stop cutting down trees for biomass… STOP WOODY BIOMASS!

    • Should South Africa Follow the Law of the Jungle … or the Doctrine of Odious Debt?

      South Africa’s fierce debates over the costs and benefits of a proposed International Monetary Fund (IMF) bail out of $4.2 billion unveil the country’s massive weaknesses and potential strengths, at a time food protests have moved from the slums of Cape Town to the Johannesburg Central Business District.

    • On This May Day, The Corporate-Dominated World Faces Not One, But Three Pandemics

      All three pandemics have their roots in an economic model based on profits, greed and extractivism, which has accelerated ecological destruction, aggravated loss of livelihoods, increased economic inequality, and polarised and divided society into the 1% and 99%.

    • On May Day, Pro-Worker Groups Demand Protections for Frontline Whistleblowers Who Expose Corporate Disregard for Labor Safety

      “The current crisis has elevated workplace whistleblowing and collective action to a matter of national health.”

    • Economic Decline and the Threat of Fascism

      With the recent addition of twenty-six million people to U.S. unemployment rolls, and millions more in the informal economy cast adrift by actions taken to address the coronavirus pandemic, a political response of sorts is sure to be underway. While superficial economic comparisons to the Great Depression are already being put forward, the U.S. has now had three-plus years of political comparisons to the rise of European fascism without the economic conditions of the Great Depression. Both are off-base for reasons specified below.

    • Postal Bankruptcy Would Hit Rural America Hardest

      The 15 most rural states would face heavy blows to jobs, revenue, mail and package deliveries, and voting rights.

    • Why Driving Your Car to Work Kills You

      In Beijing there is a permit lottery for eligibility to own a car. This naturally random experiment has allowed researchers to track the behavior of lottery winners and their counterparts (Science, Jan. 31, 2020, p. 503).

    • The Small Business Loan Racket

      A scandal blew up over the small business loan fund recently. The first, $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created to help small business – walloped by Covid-19 lockdowns – keep paying employees. But the banks were in charge of disbursing these loans. And it turned out these banks doled out $365 million in forgivable loans to big, publicly traded chains like Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Shake Shack and Quantum Corp. Amid the outcry, Shake Shack returned its $10 million loan. Potbelly and Sweetgreen said they would do so too. As of April 27, 13 big corporations promised to return the money they had illegitimately received, with reportedly $2 billion returned to or declined from the program. But the banks were exposed as having aided 94 or more publicly traded companies in snatching government handouts from mom and pop businesses. Many of those 94 plus firms, including cruise ships, have evinced little shame. They do not intend to return their loans. They helped empty the fund. Not a good look. They should be compelled to return the money.

    • Roaming Charges: American Thanatos, Inc.

      + How much is the future trading for on the future’s market these days?

    • “Reopening the Economy” Isn’t the Way to Save Restaurants. What Is?

      In the early days of shelter-in-place, I cooperated with some friends in Sacramento’s city government on a concept designed to channel money to local restaurants so that they could keep dollars flowing to at least some employees.

    • “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay”: Tens of Thousands Take Part in Covid-19 Rent Strike Across US on May Day

      “People aren’t striking because they don’t feel like paying rent. They’re striking because they can’t pay rent.”

    • As Covid-19 Shoots US Unemployment to Great Depression Levels, Europe’s Worker Safety Net Stems Mass Layoffs

      “The European response guarantees that most full-time employees will see only limited drops in their income.”

    • Current Economic Policies Have Capitalism on Life Support: Effective Actions to Rescue It

      I. Evolution of Current Economic Depression and Ineffective Policy Responses

    • If a Budding Socialist Movement Can Defeat Amazon, Imagine What Else It Can Do

      For socialists, New York has been the site of the most important electoral campaign win yet: Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent run for the House in 2018. Her victory led to an explosion of membership in DSA nationally, the biggest jump in membership after the Sanders campaign and Donald Trump’s victory. It also led to a sea change in American politics, putting critical issues like a Green New Deal on the public agenda. Less examined, however, is how Ocasio-Cortez’s win was part of a massive shift in the politics of New York City and New York State.

    • The Myth of the V-Shaped US Economic Recovery

      The spin is in! Trump administration economic ‘message bearers’, Steve Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, and Kevin Hasset, senior economic adviser to Trump, this past Sunday on the Washington TV talking heads circuit launched a coordinated effort to calm the growing public concern that the current economic contraction may be as bad (or worse) than the great depression of the 1930s.

    • The Youth and the Looming Economic Crisis: Prospects for Radical Change

      The estimated 73 million Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) among others, will painfully endure the severest financial setback from the COVID019 pandemic and they’re already worse off in every major economic indicator than the three preceding generations. The journalist, author and activist Ramir Mazaheri, has a recent succinct piece on the increasing precarity and immiseration that the already beleaguered Millennial cohort will be facing. After enumerating these factors, he asserts that Millennials “will be in no mood to take any risks.”

    • Target, Amazon, Instacart Workers Demand Safe Conditions and Pandemic Relief

      This May Day, an unprecedented coalition of essential workers from Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target and FedEx are calling out sick or walking out during their lunch break to demand better health and safety conditions, along with hazard pay. Others are joining them for May Day actions that include rent strikes, car caravan protests and online organizing calling for a “People’s Bailout” and economic recovery plan that prioritizes workers. We speak with Kali Akuno, co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, which issued a call for a people’s strike starting May 1. “The corporations and the government are willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of us,” Akuno says. “We have to put people before profits.”

    • COVID-19 Underscores Why We Need to Make May Day Radical Again

      Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and health care in the midst of the pandemic lockdown and people are, reasonably, looking for someone or something to blame for their hardship. Meanwhile, right-wing media, Republican politicians and their Tea Party-funded “grassroots” allies are directing fury and desperation toward various scapegoats: Chinese people, the World Health Organization, state governments. Anything that will distract people from blaming capitalist greed and power relations themselves or the decades of austerity measures that have disintegrated social safety nets. Rallies “against excessive quarantine,” attended by “alt-right” (white nationalist) militias, conspiracy theorists and seemingly middle-class people who feel inconvenienced have ensued.

    • Stop Hospitals From Hounding Poor Patients

      The $2 trillion dollar bailout passed by Congress — the CARES Act — is supposed to protect families and businesses struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • Corona Capitalism and its Coming Collapse

      In its rapid and ruthless rise from early laissez-faire stages, capitalism appears to have inadvertently reached its last hurrah with the COVID-19 pandemic. Corona capitalism carries with it a host of chronic social diseases accumulated over many decades of brutal exploitation, but also adds a fatal one not previously experienced or expected. Well over 22 million Americans are now suddenly unemployed, and the swollen ranks of the jobless here and abroad grow with each passing day due to the pandemic. This imposed mass unemployment is increasingly sucking the life blood, surplus value, out of capital in general and threatens to collapse the whole house of cards constructed by private profit maximization. Without labor creating more wealth through enhanced productivity at the workplace than needed for its own survival, there are diminishing or no profits for most private owners and corporate investors. Hence, the current rush to prematurely “open America” despite the enormous risks to public health. Private wealth has always trumped public health in the capitalist game book. Yet the enormity of the crisis and explosive potential for transformation contained within it are changing the rules and views for the common good. The collapse of capitalism, at least as we know it, is on the horizon.

    • The Black Death Killed Feudalism. What Does COVID-19 Mean for Capitalism?

      How will the coronavirus transform the relationship between state and market? A look at oil, food, and finance.

    • ‘A New Low’: Betsy DeVos Sued for Garnishing Wages of Nearly 300,000 Student Loan Borrowers During Pandemic

      “The Trump administration is taking money from borrowers who are living on the edge of poverty, in the middle of a pandemic, and in violation of the law.”

    • As Millions Stripped of Health Coverage Amid Covid-19, House Dems Unveil Bill for Emergency Expansion of Medicare and Medicaid

      “Our nation’s for-profit, employment-based healthcare system did not make sense before Covid-19 struck, and it is proving dangerous and deadly during the crisis.”

    • Corporate Looting as ‘Rescue Plan,’ Robber Barons as ‘Saviors’

      For a perfect illustration of how corporate media function as ruling class propaganda, watch how they spin a titanic upward redistribution of wealth as a “rescue plan” for the US economy, and paint a robber baron like US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as a “savior” of the American public.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Bernd!

      Chuck Todd delivered a rare gem on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, saying that had the Covid-19 pandemic occurred several months earlier Bernie Sanders would be the Democratic Party nominee. He didn’t elaborate but it was hardly necessary. Virtually every flaw in our system that Bernie’s rhetoric has exposed since entering the presidential fray has been thrown into relief.

    • The Warped Ethics of Voting for the Lesser Evil

      Centrist Democrats and even some prominent, erstwhile, progressives are using the infamous “lesser evil” argument against the “Never Biden” advocates on the left. Essentially the argument runs something like this: “not voting for Biden is equivalent to voting for Trump”.

    • Bwok bwok The spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry challenged Putin’s biggest critic to a debate. Hours later, she backed out.

      On April 30, in what would have been a highly unusual public exchange, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova challenged opposition leader Alexey Navalny to a debate, after he criticized her recent remarks about Russian tourists stranded abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic. The debate was supposed to take place on May 1, but the arrangement soon collapsed. Both Zakharova and Navalny have offered different accounts of how this happened.

    • Russian Orthodox Church opposes Stalin mosaic in Moscow’s new military church, Putin mosaic will not be featured either

      The main cathedral of the Russian armed forces should not feature depictions of Joseph Stalin, says Vladimir Legoida, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Department for the Cooperation of Church and Society. This statement was reported by Interfax.

    • If Trump is a Pathological Liar, What Type of Liar is Biden?

      Bernie Sanders has routinely called Trump a “pathological liar.” The term pathological liar, a controversial one for psychiatrists, in common usage coveys someone who is an extraordinarily unrestrained liar. And so, Bernie knows that it is in no way radical to use this term to describe the unrelentingly self-serving Trump who unhesitatingly lies if he judges it to be in his self-interest. While Bernie’s diagnosis of Trump is a politically safe one, a more uncomfortable assessment for him would be: What type of liar is Joe Biden?

    • How To Make the Best of the Mess Our Ruling Class Has Made

      It seems like eons ago, though, according to the calendar, it has been barely more than two months, since social distancing, compulsive hand washing, and other manifestations of acute germaphobia stopped being colorful eccentricities or, in extreme cases, signs of mental illness, rather than unavoidable underpinnings of daily life; and since, on the political scene, modest but nevertheless fundamental changes for the better were in the air, this time, unlike in 2008, for real.

    • The Kremlin will not reschedule upcoming nationwide elections in September, but it might postpone Russia’s constitutional plebiscite (again)

      Authorities won’t push back the date for Russia’s nationwide elections, set for September 13, when residents of 18 regions will elect governors, 11 regions plan to vote on deputies for their legislative assemblies, and four single-mandate districts will pick their deputies for the State Duma in special elections. Media outlets reported that the elections might be postponed until December, or even fall 2021, but the Kremlin thinks the coronavirus situation by September will allow the voting to go ahead on schedule. Meanwhile, the plebiscite on Putin’s proposed constitutional reforms, originally slated for April 22, might get pushed back to the fall, or as late as December, when state officials hope voters will start feeling an economic rebound.

    • Virtual Liberation in Italy

      For most years in Italy, April 25th would be a day of commemoration and sociability. It marks the 1945 call from the anti-Nazi Committee of National Liberation (CLN) for the final uprising against the German occupiers and Mussolini’s puppet regime, and is thus Liberation Day, with special emphasis on the Italian Resistance of 1943-45. It is a legal holiday; in the morning, normally one would go to the solemn laying of wreaths at monuments to Mussolini’s victims and to the partisan fighters against the Germans of 1943-45 who died in the struggle. In larger cities, one would then go to the big demonstrations in Milan or Rome, with speeches, music, and commemoration, cheering for the few surviving partisans today who would faithfully come every year. After all that, there would be time for friends and family, a day marked by reflection and commitment to continue today’s versions of the partisans’ struggle.

    • Anti-corruption activists say Russian TV doctor celebrity owns some of New Jersey’s most expensive real estate

      The family of Elena Malysheva, a physician and Russian television celebrity, owns real estate worth roughly $11 million in the United States, according to a new investigative report by Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). 

    • Biden Must Do Better, Say Women’s Groups as Former Vice President Denies Sexual Assault Allegation

      “He spoke for the first time about the allegations by Tara Reade, and issued yet another blanket denial of the assault, without any reflections on how women, and survivors of all genders, are treated in our society.”

    • Echoing Praise for Charlottesville Neo-Nazis, Trump Calls Armed Anti-Lockdown Fanatics ‘Very Good People’

      “Trump is using a tactic of authoritarians who pretend that they have no influence over the actions of private militias or thug squads. This is failed state stuff right here.”

    • “I’ll Never Lie to You,” Vows Trump’s New Press Secretary at First Regular Briefing in Over a Year—Then Starts Lying

      “To start with these words is a 100% guarantee that you WILL be lied to on an EPIC scale.”

    • Bolivia’s Socialist Presidential Candidate Luis Arce Catacora Speaks About the Fascist Situation in His Country

      Four months after the coup in Bolivia, Luis Arce is a presidential candidate for Evo Morales’s Movement for Socialism (MAS). Journalist Oliver Vargas interviewed him about the post-coup regime, its handling of coronavirus—and what the delayed election means for the Left’s chances of returning to power.

    • What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting: A Response to Howie Hawkins

      My old friend Howie Hawkins is running for president as a Green, and I wish him luck. According to his piece here in CounterPunch (28 April 2020), he seems to think that ranked choice voting (RCV), also called cumulative or preferential voting, is a key issue that his campaign is dedicated to getting across to voters.

    • Armed Gunmen Enter Michigan Capitol Demanding End to COVID-19 Lockdown

      The right-wing movement against public health measures designed to stave off the coronavirus pandemic escalated on Thursday as armed gunmen were among those who stormed the Michigan state house and tried to enter the legislative chamber.

    • Baby Boomers for Biden Recant Left Legacy

      Former members of the leading Vietnam War-era peace organization in the US, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), recently circulated an open letter warning today’s young activists to – as the adage goes – do as I say and not as I did. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, these former leaders led the way in opposing the ravages of US imperialism and exposing what they called the “death culture.” Today, they are admonishing the new generation not to follow in their footsteps, but to go all out for what they call the “capitalist democrat” Joe Biden.

    • Trumpism Is the Real Virus

      It’s painfully obvious that even before the outbreak of COVID-19 this country was suffering from a deadly plague—the plague of ignorance and incompetence spreading from the White House, its allied media, and an all-too-familiar Twitter account.

    • Dear Sen. Romney: Call for Trump’s Removal, Now

      “Do what is right; let the consequence follow.”

    • Government must act now to protect deprived areas with “community shields”

      Responding to the latest Office for National Statistics figures, which shows Covid-19 deaths are twice as high in the most deprived parts of England and Wales [1], the Greens have said it is vital to develop a network of community-based protection schemes, or “community shields”, to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact. [2]

    • So much for the “safe” choice: Hey, Democrats — you could have picked a woman

      While there was a lot of chin-scratching and debate over how and why, exactly, that happened, for those who actually talked to ordinary Democratic voters on a regular basis, there was no mystery: Voters believed that only a man, especially a straight white man, was “electable.”

      Indeed, that was by far the most pervasive narrative, especially among ordinary voters, in the 2020 Democratic race. Large numbers of Democratic voters were deeply traumatized after the uniquely unfit Donald Trump beat the eminently qualified Hillary Clinton in 2020. (Even though Clinton got more votes and Trump’s victory could be understood as an improbable statistical anomaly.) They concluded that the only candidate who could beat Trump had to be a dude, ideally of the most white-bread, inoffensive variety.

      Now the supposedly “safe” candidate, Joe Biden, is the prospective Democratic nominee. And now those voters who backed him by an overwhelming margin are watching that “safe” candidate on cable news, struggling to respond to allegations that he sexually assaulted a member of his U.S. Senate staff in 1993.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • If You’re Complaining About COVID-19 Misinformation Online AND About Section 230, You’re Doing It Wrong

      I remain perplexed by people who insist that internet platforms “need to do more” to fight disinformation and at the same time insist that we need to “get rid of Section 230.” This almost always comes from people who don’t understand content moderation or Section 230 — or who think that because of Section 230′s liability protections that sites have no incentive to moderate content on their platforms. Of course platforms have tons of incentive to moderate: much of it social pressure, but also the fact that if they’re just filled with garbage they’ll lose users (and advertisers).

    • We’re Saved! Company Claims It’s Patented ‘Containing the Spread of Disinformation’ And Will Stop COVID-19 Disinfo

      A friend sent over a press release announcement from a company called CREOpoint that claims it has patented “Containing the Spread of Disinformation” and that it was now using it to “help contain the spread of COVID-19 disinformation.” Would that it were so, but that’s not how any of this works. Tellingly, the press release does not provide the patent number of any of the details about the patent — which should probably be your first sign that it’s utterly bogus. However, with a little sleuthing I was able to turn up the patent application… and it confirms that this is a ridiculous patent that never should have been approved. The official title is “Containing Disinformation Spread Using Customizable Intelligence Channels.”

    • Words Will Live, Censorship Won’t: Gowhar Geelani

      The J&K Police has slapped the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on Kashmir-based journalists Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq and Gowhar Geelani, triggering condemnation from media and human rights bodies across the world. Geelani tells Naseer Ganai that such moves may “either silence us or make more people speak out”. Excerpts from the interview: [...]

    • The Russian Doll of Putin’s Internet Clampdown

      It’s first important to have historical context. Predating modern questions of 1s and 0s in Russia is a notable history of the state controlling information creation and dissemination.

  • Freedom of Information/Freedom of the Press

    • Global: Crackdown on journalists weakens efforts to tackle COVID-19

      Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, Amnesty International is highlighting cases where authorities may have put the right to health at risk by cracking down on freedom of expression and access to information.

    • Turkish journalist Fatih Portakal charged for tweet about president’s speech

      The charges stem from a tweet that Portakal posted on his professional account on April 7, commenting on a speech by Erdoğan the previous night, stating that the president’s reference to a tax law in his speech meant that the government may impose a tax to raise funds amid the coronavirus pandemic. Portakal has more than 7 million followers on Twitter, where he often posts political commentary.

      If found guilty, the journalist may face up to three years in prison and judicial fines under Article 74 of the Banking Law. CPJ could not determine when he is next due in court; many hearings in Turkey have been delayed due to the pandemic, according to reports.

    • World Press Freedom Day: Imprisoned journalists’ lives at risk due to COVID-19

      She emphasized how, at a time when journalists could be reporting and helping stop the spread of COVID-19, many now languish in prison. There were at least 250 imprisoned journalists globally at the time of CPJ’s 2019 census.

    • Media Washes Hands of—and With—Boris Johnson

      As the UK quickly becomes a world leader in death and infections from the Covid-19 pandemic, corporate media are transforming British Prime Minister Boris Johnson into an international Coronavirus bugaboo.

    • China Jails Journalist For 15 Years Ahead of World Press Freedom Day

      Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan handed down a 15-year jail term to a journalist who made critical comments on social media, just days ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

      Guiyang County People’s Court sentenced journalist Chen Jieren to 15 years’ imprisonment on April 30 after finding him guilty of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” “extortion and blackmail,” “illegal business activity,” and “bribery.”

      The outspoken Chen had been fired from various state newspapers including Southern Weekend, China Youth Daily, Beijing Daily, and People’s Daily.

    • Chinese journalist jailed for 15 years for ‘vilifying the Communist Party and government’

      China is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and tightly controls the press at home while censoring most foreign media outlets via the Great Firewall, its vast online censorship and surveillance apparatus.

      In March, China expelled journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, in an unprecedented move against the foreign press. Beijing said the move was a response for recent restrictions by Washington on how Chinese state media operates in the US.

      While Chen’s case is unrelated to the country’s coronavirus outbreak, his jailing comes as its censors reassert their control over the Chinese media and internet following criticism over the initial handling of the situation in Wuhan.

    • Why Julian Assange must urgently be freed

      The life of my partner, Julian Assange, is at severe risk. He is on remand at HMP Belmarsh, and Covid-19 is spreading within its walls.

      Julian and I have two little boys. Since becoming a mother, I have been reflecting on my own childhood.

      My parents are European, but when I was little we lived in Botswana, five miles from the border with Apartheid South Africa. Many of my parents’ friends came from across the border: writers, painters, conscientious objectors. It was an unlikely centre for artistic creativity and intellectual exchange.

      The history books describe Apartheid as institutional segregation, but it was much more than that. Segregation occurred in broad daylight. The abductions, torture and killings occurred at night.

      [...]

      The investigation has revealed that the company had been moonlighting for a US company closely associated with the current US administration and US intelligence agencies and that the increasingly disturbing instructions, such as following my mother or the baby DNA directive, had come from their US client, not Ecuador. Around the same time that I had been approached about the targeting of our baby, the company was thrashing out even more sinister plans concerning Julian’s life. Their alleged plots to poison or abduct Julian have been raised in UK extradition proceedings. A police raid at the security company director’s home turned up two handguns with their serial numbers filed off.

      None of this information is surprising to me but as a parent I ponder how to manage it.

      I want our children to grow up with the clarity of conviction that I had as a little girl. Peril lay beyond the South African border. I want them to believe that inequitable treatment is not tolerated in mature democracies. At university in Oxford, I was proud to be at the intellectual heart of the most mature democracy of them all.

      It is not just our family who suffers from the infringement of Julian’s rights. If our family and Julian’s lawyers are not off-limits, then nothing is. The person responsible for allegedly ordering the theft of Gabriel’s DNA is Mike Pompeo, who last month threatened the family members of lawyers working at the International Criminal Court. Why? Because the court had had the temerity to investigate alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. The same crimes that Julian exposed through WikiLeaks, and which the US wants to imprison him over.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • “I Do Not Want to Die in Here”: Letters From the Houston Jail

      The Harris County Jail complex is in downtown Houston, but not of it. From many vantages inside, an inmate can get a pretty good look at the city center, its expanse of glass towers, theaters, arenas, bars and restaurants interrupted here and there by little green parks. But the jail is separated from downtown by Buffalo Bayou, a muddy river that serves as a kind of municipal moat, bending around three sides of the jail complex. It’s a constant reminder of the gulf between those inside and society outside.

      The jail complex is an isolated, dispiriting place, all the more so for its central location. Sequestration in the heart of a metropolis can’t be easy in ordinary times. But it’s at least as difficult to gaze out on a nearly abandoned part of the city, knowing that the same virus that emptied the streets threatens the facility — and if you’re an inmate, you can’t leave.

    • Compassion, Empathy, and Charity in the Time of COVID-19

      My Ph.D. dissertation was on attitudes and perceptions towards forgiveness. I was motivated by a desire to increase the peace in the world in light of every human’s inevitable mistakes.

    • Coronavirus and the Increase in Domestic Violence

      Americans are paying dearly as they suffer through the coronavirus epidemic. The costs of inadequate testing, poor medical care and even death in isolation are only compounded by the nation’s staggering economy, mounting unemployment rate and uncertainty of recovery. Making matters worse, there has been an increase in domestic violence.

    • Episode 81 – The Biden Veepstakes and The Media’s COVID War Rhetoric and Bernie Coverage with Dr. Robin Andersen – Along The Line Podcast
    • New York Is Denying Incarcerated Women Food, Says Grassroots Coalition

      Incarcerated individuals at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the state of New York’s only maximum-security facility for women, say they are being denied food, according to Survived and Punished New York, a grassroots coalition.

      Multiple sources within the facility have shared information with Survived and Punished New York on this development and conditions are deteriorating as staff continue a lockdown that is supposedly aimed at protecting prisoners from the spread of the coronavirus.

    • This ICE Detainee Caught Coronavirus After Asking to Be Released. A Judge Says He Still Shouldn’t Be Let Go.

      As the coronavirus spread this spring, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials shuttled Sirous Asgari between detention sites and eventually housed him in a central Louisiana prison, where he recently tested positive for the virus. Now, a federal magistrate judge has recommended that he be kept behind bars because he has already contracted the illness.

      Asgari, 59, has a history of lung disease and pneumonia, factors that put him at higher risk of serious complications. ICE intends to deport him to Iran but has been unable to do so because of international travel complications from the pandemic. Asgari and 15 other immigration detainees filed a suit in Louisiana last month asking for their release because their medical conditions make them more vulnerable to the virus.

    • The Persistence of White Supremacy: A Conversation with Margaret Kimberley

      On, April 24th, I interviewed Margaret Kimberley by phone. Kimberley is an Editor and Senior Columnist at the Black Agenda Report, author of the book, “Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents,” a contributor to the anthology, “In Defense of Julian Assange,” and serves on the coordinating committee of the Black Alliance for Peace.

    • Turkish police detain union leaders attempting to stage May Day rally

      Police in Istanbul detained at least 15 people Friday, including trade union leaders who tried to stage a May Day march in defiance of a coronavirus lockdown and a ban on demonstrations at the flashpoint Taksim Square.

    • Anti-apartheid veteran Denis Goldberg: His last interview with DW

      Do I regret it? I would have liked to have had a nice life. I would have liked to have been a great engineer, rich as anything. But I don’t have any sadness about it. I did what I believed was necessary. And it was necessary.

      Nelson Mandela asked you to come and join Umnkonto we Sizwe (the armed wing of the ANC), because of your technical expertise. Did it take you a long time to make the decision?

      About 30 seconds! I had grown up knowing that when I was called on to act, I would do so. It was an easy decision for me but tough for my family and my children – not just my children, all of our children, they really paid the price.

    • Apostate ‘animal’ Mubarak Bala arrested in Nigeria

      Just over five years ago Bala, than 29, was forcibly committed by his family to a psychiatric unit when he renounced Islam. He was diagnosed as being perfectly sane, and discharged, but after his release he started getting death threats for blaspheming against Islam.

    • Mubarak Bala, Humanists’ leader arrested for alleged blasphemy in Kaduna

      Igwe confirmed that police officers, who were not in uniform, took him from his residence.

      Bala is being detained at the Gbabasawa police station in Kaduna.

      His arrest has been linked to “blasphemy”.

    • Dutch police arrest 24 in ‘friend in trouble’ Whatsapp fraud case

      Dutch police have arrested 24 people in connection with an investigation into Whatsapp-based confidence tricks in which victims have lost some €75,000 in total.

      The group aged between 15 and 40 used the ‘friend in trouble’ fraud system – posing as the friend of someone and contacting them to say they needed cash in an emergency.

      The 40 victims, all of whom came from Deventer and its surroundings, were then asked to pay the cash into a bank account either set up specifically for the con or made available to the conmen by a third person.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Comcast Graciously Extends Suspension Of Completely Unnecessary Data Caps

      After pressure from consumer groups, major ISPs last month announced that they would be suspending all usage caps and overage fees for 60 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, US consumers already pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world, and imposing draconian usage restrictions and overage fees created added hardships for consumers already facing unemployment and additional financial headaches due to the pandemic. Being the sweetheart it is, Comcast also stated it would temporarily stop kicking poor folks offline during the pandemic.

    • Victory! ICANN Rejects .ORG Sale to Private Equity Firm Ethos Capital

      The sale threatened to bring censorship and increased operating costs to the nonprofit world.

    • Civil Society Groups Celebrate ‘Stunning Victory’ in Effort to #SaveDotOrg From Private Equity Takeover

      “Privatizing resources established for the public good has a poor track record… and privatizing control of the .org domain would have been catastrophic.”

    • The .Org Domain Will No Longer Be Sold to Private Equity Vultures

      After a massive backlash among experts, activists, and internet users, a controversial plan to sell management of the .org domain system has been cancelled.

      Late last year the Public Interest Registry (PIR), the agency that has managed the .org domain since 2003, announced it would be selling itself to Ethos Capital, a private equity fund with links to Republican billionaire families like the Perots and Romneys.

      The move was quickly criticized by activists and experts alike, who insisted it would undermine the entire purpose of the .org domain and drive up costs for nonprofits.

    • ICANN Board Blocks The Sale Of The .Org Registry

      Last fall, we wrote about what appeared to be many of the sketchy details between the non-profit Internet Society (ISOC) agreeing to sell off the non-profit Public Interesty Registry (PIR), which runs the .org top level domain registry, to the very much for-profit private equity firm, Ethos Capital, which had recently been formed, and involved a bunch ex-ICANN execs and other internet registry folks. Even if the deal made perfect sense, there was a lot of questionable issues raised concerning who was involved, whether or not there was self-dealing, and how transparent the whole thing was. On the flipside, a number of very smart people I know and respect — including some who worked for ISOC, insisted that the deal not only made sense, but was good for the future of the .org domain and the wider internet. In January, we had a long podcast with Mike Godwin, who is on the board of ISOC and voted for the deal, debating whether or not the deal made sense.

    • Victory! ICANN Rejects .ORG Sale to Private Equity Firm Ethos Capital

      In a stunning victory for nonprofits and NGOs around the world working in the public interest, ICANN today roundly rejected Ethos Capital’s plan to transform the .ORG domain registry into a heavily indebted for-profit entity. This is an important victory that recognizes the registry’s long legacy as a mission-based, non-for-profit entity protecting the interests of thousands of organizations and the people they serve.

      We’re glad ICANN listened to the many voices in the nonprofit world urging it not to support the sale of Public Interest Registry, which runs .ORG, to private equity firm Ethos Capital. The proposed buyout was an attempt by domain name industry insiders to profit off of thousands of nonprofits and NGOs around the world. Saying the sale would fundamentally change PIR into an “entity bound to serve the interests of its corporate stakeholders” with “no meaningful plan to protect or serve the .ORG community,” ICANN made clear that it saw the proposal for what it was, regardless of Ethos’ claims that nonprofits would continue to have a say in their future.  “ICANN entrusted to PIR the responsibility to serve the public interest in its operation of the .ORG registry,” they wrote, “and now ICANN is being asked to transfer that trust to a new entity without a public interest mandate.”

    • .ORG Domain Registry Sale to Ethos Capital Rejected in Stunning Victory for Public Interest Internet

      San Francisco—In an important victory for thousands of public interest groups around the world, a proposal to sell the .ORG domain registry to private equity firm Ethos Capital and convert it to a for-profit entity was rejected late yesterday by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which worked hand in hand with Access Now, NTEN, National Council of Nonprofits, Americans for Financial Reform, and many other organizations to oppose the sale, applauds ICANN’s well-reasoned decision to stop the $1.1 billion transaction from moving forward. In a statement, ICANN said rejecting the deal was the right thing to do because it lacked a meaningful plan to protect the interests of nonprofits and NGOs that rely on the .ORG registry to exist on the Internet and connect with the people they serve.The sale would change Public Interest Registry (PIR), the nonprofit operator of .ORG, into an entity bound to serve the interests of its corporate stakeholders, not the nonprofit world. ORG is the third-largest Internet domain name registry, with over 10 million domain names held by a diverse group of charities, public interest organizations, and nonprofits, from the Girl Scouts of America and American Bible Society to Farm Aid and Meals On Wheels.“We’re gratified that ICANN listened to the .ORG community, which was united in its opposition to the sale,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz.

    • ICANN Board Withholds Consent for a Change of Control of the Public Interest Registry (PIR)

      Today, the ICANN Board made the decision to reject the proposed change of control and entity conversion request that Public Interest Registry (PIR) submitted to ICANN.

      After completing extensive due diligence, the ICANN Board finds that withholding consent of the transfer of PIR from the Internet Society (ISOC) to Ethos Capital is reasonable, and the right thing to do.

  • Monopolies

    • Patents

      • What to expect from the European Commission’s Group of Experts on Standard Essential Patents?

        The fact that the declarations are often based on self-assessment by the patent owner, and not scrutinised as far as essentiality is concerned, leaves open the possibility of mistake, and even deliberate over-broad claiming of a standard. Several studies on important technologies (mentioned by the Commission in its 2017 Communication) have revealed that, when strictly assessed, only between 10% and 50% of declared patents are really essential. This is something the Group of Experts should take into serious consideration. Indeed, such an uncertainty leaves new entrants to the markets in a weak and uncertain position. And in licensing negotiations, the de facto presumption of essentiality gives patentees an advantage and places a significant burden on the licensee to check essentiality.

        What the Commission seeks is therefore a more reliable system involving more scrutiny of essentiality declarations. A review by an independent entity with technical capabilities, for example, would be welcome – and the cost of such assessment could be equally split between SEPs owners and implementers, with a percentage of the overall cost being also borne by the relevant SSOs. The Commission also calls for greater cooperation between SSOs and patent offices, e.g. in terms of providing links to patent office databases, including EPO and national offices in EU Member States: which would be crucial to highlight visibility and exposure of SEPs and improve the quality and accessibility of SSOs databases for patent owners, implementers and third parties. Agreements between SSOs and patent offices in Europe, facilitated by the Commission and the European Parliament, would here be welcome, as they would guarantee that the links to such important information are smoothly and efficiently managed. In particular, information regarding the status and ‘life’ of the patent, including claims amended/reduced as a consequence of an opposition or a litigation, should be given visibility on SSOs platforms, thus clarifying the overall breadth of the SEP, and implementers’ potential exposure.

      • CJEU clarifies the conditions for SPC grant in Royalty Pharma (C-650/17): The “core inventive advance” of the basic patent has no relevance for Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation

        With the rendering of the judgment in Royalty Pharma (C-650/17) by the Court of Justice of the European Union today on 30 April 2020, a series of referrals relating to the interpretation of Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation, which requires that the product of an SPC must be “protected” by the basic patent, finally comes to a close.

        The interpretation of Article 3(a) was only recently scrutinized in the CJEU’s decision in Teva v. Gilead (C-121/17) of 25 July 2018, which is the first SPC judgment rendered by the Grand Chamber of the CJEU and was presumably meant to set a definitive standard for the assessment of the highly contentious Article 3(a) requirement. While, unsurprisingly, the test endorsed by the CJEU in Teva v. Gilead has now been confirmed in Royalty Pharma, the CJEU has taken this opportunity to provide welcome clarification on important details.

        [...]

        Lastly, the CJEU’s judgment in Royalty Pharma also confirms that the test established by the Court in Teva v. Gilead is applicable not only to combinations of active ingredients (as in the specific case underlying the Teva v. Gilead judgment) but likewise to single active ingredients. While this question has stirred very little controversy, any potentially remaining doubts in this respect have been dispelled by today’s judgment in Royalty Pharma.

        At present, there are no more pending CJEU referrals relating to the interpretation of Article 3(a) of the SPC Regulation. Yet, experience suggests that this provision might never stop prompting new questions and new CJEU referrals (although possibly in lesser frequency, following the UK’s exit from the European Union). One such question relating to a generic chemical Markush formula was raised in the Sandoz v. Searle (C-114/18) referral, which was joined with the Royalty Pharma referral in May 2019 but was withdrawn after the issuance of the Advocate General’s preliminary opinion (discussed here), so that the referred question was left unanswered in the CJEU’s order in Sandoz v. Searle (C-114/18) of 17 January 2020. It remains to be seen whether Markush formulae will become the subject of a new CJEU referral in the future.

        With today’s publication of the Royalty Pharma judgment, it is reassuring to see that the CJEU continues to resolve SPC referrals under the current constraints of the coronavirus crisis. For now, the excitement regarding Article 3(a) may have passed, but there are still highly significant CJEU referrals dealing with other aspects of SPC law in the pipeline, notably Santen (C-673/18) and Novartis (C-354/19), both of which are concerned with second medical use SPCs. Following the conduction of an oral hearing in the Santen referral in November 2019 and the publication of the Advocate General’s opinion in January 2020 (as previously reported on this blog), it would appear that the corresponding judgment will not be a long time coming. Stay tuned.

      • Nokia’s patent assertion tactics conflict with von der Leyen’s environmental and Vestager’s industrial policy goals

        Daimler brought its EU antitrust complaint against Nokia in 2018, and the Euporean Commission is still dragging its feet while another court decision (Nokia v. Daimler, scheduled for May 20) is around the corner. Just for a few seconds, let’s imagine an alternative universe in which the target of the complaints would have been a cellular SEP holder like Qualcomm, InterDigital, Huawei, or LG–as opposed to Nokia. Those organizations, especially the American ones, might already have been fined by now, or at a minimum they’d have received a strong Statement of Objections (SO). But Nokia and, by extension, Ericsson benefit from such an obvious and indefensible kind of protectionism that this situation threatens to wreak havoc to the EU Commission’s credibility as a competition watchdog on the global stage.

        So Daimler’s and its suppliers’ tough luck here is that shrinking Nordic companies are above EU law in the eyes of some people in Brussels–according to what I’ve heard from a variety of sources, Nokia can also count on French commissioner Thierry Breton, who has a telecoms background that appears to be infinitely more important to him and his cabinet than the importance of the automotive industry to Europe as a whole and his native France. As an EU commissioner, he’s supposed to focus on the European interest, which he is apparently not doing; and as a French appointee, there is a natural expectation in his country that he would keep French industrial interests in mind as opposed to personal preferences or loyalty conflicts.

        [...]

        That said, it would of course be desirable for Europe to slow down Nokia’s and Ericsson’s demise, or to enable them to grow again. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Condoning SEP abuse is a bad deal for Europe on the bottom line.

      • Sorry AI, only humans can officially invent things [Ed: This misses the point USPTO will continue granting ridiculous patents, even computer-generated stuff, provided one puts a real name on the application]

        AI can do the unthinkable. It can make a pizza, sing random prayers out of a disembodied mouth, power a cyborg arm, and even reverse paralysis. The one thing it can’t do is invent. At least not according to the U.S. patent office.

        This all started with an AI system named DABUS eating up tons of information and concepts about design and practicality, among other things, and then inventing two things that have never been seen before. So a patent was filed by the Artificial Inventor Project, an international group of legal experts that wants AI to be recognized as a viable inventor by patent authorities. Not only did both the U.K. and E.U. patent offices reject the DABUS patent applications, but now the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has too.

        [...]

        The second genius thing DABUS invented was what Thaler calls a “neural flame.” This light flickers to mimic brain activity. It functions with an algorithm that can adapt to different situations and, in case of emergency, be more likely to grab someone’s attention.

        If the cup designed by DABUS is a certain shape, and all its pieces fit together perfectly because all of them are the same shape, and the even smaller sub-pieces also fit that way, it has much more potential to conform to a grip than something that cannot reshape itself when held. The light could be used in medical applications and even save lives. So this artificial brain apparently used some logic. The question is, who is really the inventor here? It was a human who invented DABUS to begin with. That same human chose and fed it the information it needed to produce a certain result, even if that result was unexpected and unprecedented.

      • USPTO Announces Further Extension of Certain Patent Deadlines

        In a notice posted on its website on Tuesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that it was further extending the time to file certain patent-related documents and to pay certain required fees. As with the initial extensions announced by the Office on March 31, 2020 (see “USPTO Announces Extension of Certain Patent Deadlines”), the additional extensions are the result of the temporary authority provided to the USPTO by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020. The additional extensions apply to deadlines for the filing of certain patent-related documents or payment of certain required fees that would have been otherwise due between March 27 and May 31, 2020, and which can now be extended to June 1, 2020. In announcing the additional extensions, the Office noted that it would continue to evaluate the evolving situation around COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on its operations and stakeholders.

        [...]

        As in the March 31 Notice, the Office’s April 28 Notice also provides additional relief before the PTAB. In particular, upon a request to the USPTO affirming that a filing that was due on March 27, 2020 to April 30, 2020 which was or may be delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak as defined in the Notice (see above), the PTAB shall provide a 30-day extension of time for a patent owner preliminary response in a trial proceeding under 37 C.F.R. §§ 42.107 or 42.207, or any related responsive filings. The April 28 Notice also indicates that for relief sought after April 30, 2020 — and for any other situations not covered in the Notice — relief should be requested by contacting the PTAB at 571-272-9797 or by e-mail at Trials@uspto.gov (for AIA trials), PTAB_Appeals_Suggestions@uspto.gov (for PTAB appeals), or InterferenceTrialSection@uspto.gov (for interferences). With respect to the PTAB, the Notice also indicates that in the event that the USPTO extends a deadline for a patent owner preliminary response or any related responsive filings, the PTAB may also extend the deadlines provided in 35 U.S.C. §§ 314(b) and 324(c).

        The April 28 Notice also states that the Office will continue to provide relief in the form of a waiver of the petition fee for the revival of applications (and reexamination proceedings), as initially set forth in the Office’s March 16 Notice, but will limit this relief to applications and reexamination proceedings that became abandoned (or terminated or limited) on or before May 31, 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

      • Patent Office Closures

        The EPO had extended virtually all deadlines to April 17, and has now announced a further extension of time limits to 4 May 2020.

        The EPO “has decided to postpone until further notice all oral proceedings in examination and opposition proceedings scheduled until 30 April 2020 (previously until 17 April 2020) unless they have already been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing or in examination are converted into oral proceedings by videoconference with the applicant’s consent.” The Boards of Appeal similarly postponed all oral proceedings taking place until April 30. We are waiting on a further update to indicate whether oral proceedings already scheduled for a date after April 30 are to take place, and if so how this will take place given the widespread travel advisories and lockdowns in place across Europe.

        For any new examination oral proceedings to be scheduled in future, these are to take place by videoconference. Exceptions will be very limited, and in particular the EPO will not hold in-person hearings on their premises simply because an applicant submits that the equipment for videoconferences is unavailable. For opposition oral proceedings (which currently cannot be held by videoconference), the EPO indicates that a videoconference pilot is taking place. Such hearings present greater difficulties due to the number of parties involved and the potential for interpreters to be required. For appeal oral proceedings, no indication has been given as to how these are to be held in future.

      • Updates from European Intellectual Property Offices in relation to COVID-19

        The EPO customer services helpdesk remains fully operational; however, all of its customer service agents are now working from home. They intend to provide the same level of service with dedicated key account managers reaching out to customers to keep them up to date on developments. There are various ways to contact the EPO: through its website, by phone or by email.

        All time limits which expired on or after March 15 are extended until May 4, 2020. If, however, the disruption caused by the outbreak continues, the EPO may publish a further extension. This extension also applies to the payment of fees (including renewal fees).

        Oral proceedings before the Board of Appeal will not be heard until May 15, 2020 while Examinations and Opposition Proceedings are delayed until April 30, 2020 (unless they are already scheduled to take place via videoconference).

      • COVID-19: What Deadlines Apply for the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights Now

        Pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the USPTO has extended the time to file certain specified documents or pay certain specified fees with respect to patents and trademarks, to June 1, 2020, subject to the following conditions. First, the initial due date must fall on or between March 27, 2020, and May 31, 2020. Second, the filing must be accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to a person associated with the filing or fee being personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, such that the outbreak materially interfered with timely filing or payment. According to the USPTO, circumstances that qualify as materially interfering with timely filing or payment include, without limitation, office closures, cash flow interruptions, lack of access to files or other materials, travel delays, personal or family illness, or similar circumstances. With respect to patents, relief is limited to small and micro entities for some deadlines. Further, deadlines for patent application filing fees, patent priority filings, and national stage entry of a PCT international application are not eligible for extension.

        [...]

        The EPO administers patent applications filed under the European Patent Convention. The EPO has issued a notice that periods for filing of documents with office of the EPO that expire on or after March 15, 2020, are extended for all parties and their representatives to May 4, 2020. The EPO notes that this extension of time also applies to periods for paying fees, including renewal fees. The EPO has indicated that this period may be further extended on publication of a further notice.

        Further, the EPO has provided a reminder that the rules of The European Patent Convention provide a safeguard against non-observance of a time limit due to disruption in mail delivery or transmission due to an exceptional occurrence affecting the location where the party or its representative resides or has a place of business. (To paraphrase, this rule allows a document that is received late to be deemed to have been received on time, if the party effects the mailing or transmission within the fifth day after the disruption, and the party provides evidence that on any of the ten days preceding the day of the day of the time limit, it was not possible to observe the time limit due to the exceptional occurrence.) In this regard, the EPO has recognized that there is a global risk of acquiring COVID-19 due to the pandemic spread, and is no longer classifying specific countries and regions as international risk areas.

      • US patent office rules that artificial intelligence cannot be a legal inventor [Ed: So you send the same application again with a real person's name; that's hardly a barrier]

        The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has ruled that artificial intelligence systems cannot be credited as an inventor in a patent, the agency announced earlier this week. The decision came in response to two patents — one for a food container and the other for a flashing light — that were created by an AI system called DABUS.

        Among the USPTO’s arguments is the fact that US patent law repeatedly refers to inventors using humanlike terms such as “whoever” and pronouns like “himself” and “herself.” The group behind the applications had argued that the law’s references to an inventor as an “individual” could be applied to a machine, but the USPTO said this interpretation was too broad. “Under current law, only natural persons may be named as an inventor in a patent application,” the agency concluded.

      • “I’m Sorry, Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Invent That” USPTO Holds That an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Cannot Be an Inventor

        In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, a manned exploratory mission to Jupiter is sabotaged by an artificial intelligence (AI) named HAL, which became famous for its line, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Arguably that film first brought the concept of AI into mainstream public awareness. More recently, news of AI algorithms purportedly inventing things on their own has prompted discourse about whether a machine can be or should be named as an inventor on a patent.

        The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has just made clear its position on that question. In a decision published on April 27, 2020, the PTO stated that an “inventor” under U.S. patent law can only be a “natural person,” i.e., a human. The PTO’s decision echoes similar recent decisions by the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO).

      • USPTO: AI Cannot Be Named as Inventor on Patent

        On April 27, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a petition decision stating that under current law, only natural persons may be named as an inventor in a patent application. The agency’s decision stems from the USPTO’s rejection of a U.S. patent application that listed an autonomous entity, named DABUS, as the inventor. DABUS stands for “Device Autonomously Bootstrapping Uniform Sensibility” and is a “Creativity Machine” that uses neural networks to generate new inventions. The decision is available on the Artificial Intelligence page and the Final Decisions by the Commissioner for Patents page of the USPTO website.

        [...]

        On February 5, 2020, the Canadian Technology Law Association (CAN-TECH) presented The Artificial Inventor? A panel discussion on patenting AI-generated inventions with World-Renowned Professor Ryan Abbott, which was hosted by Bereskin & Parr’s AI practice group. Dr. Ryan Abbott is part of the team that made headlines for its patent applications that designated DABUS as the inventor. During the panel discussion, he drew an analogy to people, in that there may be many people involved in the inventive process, such as lab assistants carrying out experiments. However, running experiments does not make them inventors. Rather, it is the conceptual part that makes one an inventor.

        AI is rapidly evolving, and it will be interesting to see how the law develops, particularly as it relates to authorship and inventorship. For more information on developing AI-based technology projects, licensing, or enforcing intellectual property, please contact Isi Caulder or Bhupinder Randhawa, co-leaders of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) practice group.

      • Dr. Michael Factor: a further remembrance

        Dealing with Michael Factor was one of the most exciting aspects of my time in IP. Truly a personality who was larger than life, his vast and shambling frame concealed a sharp, anarchic wit, a keen analytical mind, a phenomenal memory and a magnanimous, hospitable heart.

        Many years before Michael set up his blog, he started sending me drafts of IP case notes and articles he had written, in search of an honest opinion as to whether he should submit them for publication. They were hilariously funny, packed with lethal jibes at incompetent judges, bungling lawyers and hapless clients, scurrilous puns and even scholastic annotations and comments on his own text.

        Many of these pieces, shorn of their libellous content and generally sobered up, later appeared as respectable contributions to highly regarded journals. One of my worst nightmares as editor of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (JIPLP) was the prospect of sometimes having to deal with referees who did not share Michael’s surreal and often Pythonesque approach to intellectual property issues.

      • Can you Select England as the Forum for US Patent Litigation?

        British Telecom (BT) and Fortinet have a written agreement associated with their global commercial relationship that establishes the courts of England as the “exclusive jurisdiction” for resolving both “contractual and/or non-contractual obligations” between the parties. Despite that agreement, BT sued Fortinet in U.S. Federal Court (D.Del.) alleging infringement of its U.S. patent.

        The district court refused to dismiss the case on forum-non-conveniens — holding that it was not clear that BT would have an alternative forum. In particular, it is not clear that an English court would entertain allegations of infringement of a U.S. patent that occurred U.S. soil.

        [...]

        The leading precedent in Fortinet’s favor is Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. United States District Court for Western District of Texas, 571 U.S. 49 (2013). In Atlantic Marine, the Supreme Court explained that “a valid forum-selection clause should be given controlling weight in all but the most exceptional cases.” A major difference here is that this involves a request to move litigation to a foreign venue while Atlantic Marine involved transfer between U.S. districts courts that both had proper subject matter jurisdiction. As such, the Supreme Court in Atlantic Marine did not consider “whether courts are precluded from considering the availability of

      • PTAB Sets Date for Oral Argument in CRISPR Interference

        The hearing will be conducted by telephone and (at least at present) all motions will be the subject of the hearing. For those keeping track, CVC has pending Substantive Motions 1 and 2 (see “PTAB Redeclares CRISPR Interference and Grants Leave for Some (But Not All) of Parties’ Proposed Motions”) and Miscellaneous Motion No. 2 (to exclude certain Broad evidence), while the Broad has pending Substantive Motions No. 1 (no interference-in-fact), No. 2 (to Substitute the Count), No. 3 (to de-designate claims as not corresponding to Count 1), and No. 4 (for priority to Zhang B1 provisional application).

      • Software Patents

        • Prior Art found on “Earphones holder” patent

          Unified is pleased to announce the PATROLL crowdsourcing contest winner, Ritesh Jain, who received a cash prize of $1,200 for his prior art submission for US 9,167,329. The ’329 patent, generally directed to a magnetic earphones holder, is owned by Snik LLC (an NPE) and has been asserted in district court. To help the industry fight bad patents, we have published the winning prior art below.

          We would also like to thank the dozens of other high-quality submissions that were made on this patent. The ongoing contests are open to anyone, and include tens of thousands of dollars in rewards available for helping the industry to challenge NPE patents of questionable validity by finding and submitting prior art in the contests. Visit PATROLL today to learn more about how to participate.

    • Trademarks

      • The non-systematic relevance of earlier IP rights: from Gömböc to Brompton Bicycle

        Indeed, as discussed at greater length here, pre-Gömböc case law did not exhaustively clarify to what extent a combination of different objective elements (starting from the graphic representation and the accompanying description) and subjective elements (including the consumers’ perception and the reputation enjoyed by the product), should be considered and what the hierarchy (if any) between them is or should be.

        With particular regard to the latter, the question of how both the role/perception of the average consumer and the relevance of reputation are to be assessed has remained uncertain for a long time, with some relevant insights being provided recently more by Advocates General (notably in the Opinions in Hauck and the two Louboutin Opinions) than the CJEU.

        In Gömböc, the CJEU answered that the relevant public’s own perception of the sign matters, though it may matter differently when appreciating technical functionality vis-à-vis aesthetic functionality, and also clarified – substantially in line with, e.g., the First Opinion of Advocate General (AG) Szpunar in Louboutin – that account must not be taken of the attractiveness of the goods as flowing from the reputation of the mark or its proprietor.

      • The CJEU (again) on 3D trademarks: the Gömböc judgment

        The request for a preliminary ruling was made in proceedings between Gömböc Ktf and the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO, Szellemi Tulajdon Nemzeti Hivatala) regarding the registration refusal of a national three-dimensional trademark application for the sign pictured below in relation to goods in classes 14 (decorative items), 21 (decorative crystalware and chinaware) and 28 (toys).

        [...]

        The HIPO denied the registration for goods in class 28 on the ground of the second indent of Article 2(2)(b) of the Hungarian Trade Mark Law, which prohibits the registration of signs consisting exclusively of a shape which is necessary to obtain a technical result. Whereas, the registration was refused for goods in classes 14 and 21 based on the third indent of the same provision, which prevents the registration of signs consisting exclusively of a shape which gives substantial value to the goods. The Hungarian provisions had been adopted to transpose Article 3(1)(e)(ii) and (iii) of the previous Trade Marks Directive 2008/95 into Hungarian law.

      • SkyKicked: High Court confirms trade mark infringement

        The SkyKick saga continues. Decision number three by Mr/Lord Justice Arnold in the High Court [2020] EWHC 990 (Ch), this time to apply the law (as clarified by the CJEU’s January 2020 judgment – KatPosts here, here and here) to the facts (as found by the judge at first instance – KatPost here; not forgetting a clarification of the terms of reference to the CJEU here and a failed application for permission to appeal in relation to this). [Whew. Doesn't seem as long-running as a pandemic-related lockdown, but we are getting there.]

        To avoid burying the lede (or dragging things out when we all think we know the result): the court confirmed that SkyKick infringed Sky’s trade marks.

        Sorry – spoiler alert. But a brief judgment from Arnold LJ [yes, you read correctly - a succinct 62 paragraphs] contains some further catnip for the interested reader…

        [...]

        It is interesting to see the application of the CJEU’s judgment in practice. The advantage of the CJEU’s decision, which was less shocking than the AG’s preceding Opinion may have suggested, is that it does not immediately render many existing trade mark registrations invalid. The disadvantage is that it does not provide much of a disincentive for brand owners to continue to file broad specifications (especially given that making a section 32(3) declaration in relation to an application made partially in bad faith does not seem to “infect” the entire filing with bad faith), at least unless and until the trade mark offices start to take more interest in the commercial rationale for protecting certain goods/services. (Presumably this would be challenging for them to do, given limited resources). Whether the CJEU’s judgment achieves a fair balance – between the interests of trade mark owners, potential applicants for trade marks and potential infringers – is very much up for debate.

      • Star Wars hashtag controversy; Puma and Nike spar over FOOTWARE; EU geographical indications denounced – news digest

        Every Tuesday and Friday, WTR presents a round-up of news, developments and insights from across the trademark sphere. In our latest edition, we look at Amazon verifying sellers using online video, fashion brands taking a community angle, exhausting the covid-19 price gougers, a joint message from the USPTO and EPO, and much more. Coverage this time from Trevor Little (TL), Bridget Diakun (BD), Jonathan Walfisz (JW) and Tim Lince (TJL).

        [...]

        Joint message of support from USPTO and EPO – USPTO director Andrei Iancu and European Patent Office (EPO) president António Campinos have jointly penned a message of support to the IP community in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The message notes the economic downturn felt worldwide but highlights the importance of innovation in the recovery of economies. It notes that the USPTO and EPO are offering assistance through time extensions and delayed deadlines, as well as flexibility on hearings. It writes: “Our Offices will spare no effort to give users the support they need. We will develop our capacity to respond to the difficult circumstances that applicants face. At a time when dissemination of knowledge is crucial, we will persevere in developing the tools that can help scientists all over the world.” (JW)

        In memoriam:

        Vale Dr. Michael Factor – WTR is saddened to learn of the news that Dr. Michael Factor passed away earlier this week. UK-born Factor practiced IP in Israel, where he contributed regularly to his blog ‘THE IP FA©TOR’. Through his writing, he brought the Hebrew speaking world of Israeli IP to a wider audience. Over on the IPKat, bloggers Neil Wilkof and Jeremy Phillips have written touching obituaries. (JW)

      • EUIPO Grand Board of Appeal invalidates ‘LA IRLANDESA’ EUTM on deceptiveness and bad faith grounds

        The case is relevant since the Grand Board – in establishing bad faith – considered several objective circumstances and provided guidance for future cases. In this case, the deceptiveness of the mark and the business relationship with one of the invalidity applicants were key.

        [...]

        In January 2014, Hijos de Moisés Rodríguez González S.A successfully registered the above mark for goods in Class 29 (meat, fish, poultry and game, meat extracts, preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables, jellies, jams, compotes, eggs, milk and milk products, edible oils and fats) of the Nice Classification.

        In 2015, the Irish Ministry for Jobs, Enterprise and the Irish Dairy Board jointly filed a request for a declaration of invalidity, submitting that the trade mark was deceptive and had been filed in bad faith.

        The applicants argued that the mark deceptively suggests that the goods covered by it would originate from Ireland. In particular (1) the combination of the word element ‘LA IRLANDESA’ (meaning ‘the Irish woman’ or ‘Irish’ (feminine)), (2) the Celtic symbolism of the knot device, and (3) the colours used, which evoke Ireland’s national colours and flag, all unduly suggest that the products would have an Irish origin.

        Furthermore, the EUTM proprietor previously had a commercial relationship with the Irish Dairy Board. This would suggest a dishonest intention on its side at the time of filing the contested mark. Also, the EUTM owner had previously attempted to register “LA IRLANDESA” as a trade mark in Spain. Despite the Spanish Trade Mark Office’s refusal, the EUTM proprietor nonetheless obtained successful registration of a series of four new marks incorporating the words ‘LA IRLANDESA’, including the contested mark.

      • Trade marks and mobile apps: the PlanetArt v Photobox saga draws to a close (in PlanetArt’s favour)

        This case seemed to be stacked against claimants PlanetArt LLC from the start. Beginning as a passing off claim, PlanetArt were denied an interim injunction pending trial in July 2019 (IPKat analysis here), and failed to adduce pilot survey evidence in August 2019. However, the introduction of a trade mark infringement claim allowed PlanetArt to emerge (partially) successful, on the basis that the ‘Photobox Free Prints’ app icon had infringed their trade mark (which, interestingly, had been filed a day before defendants Photobox Ltd were served). This judgment – [2020] EWHC 713 (Ch) – was handed down remotely by Mr Daniel Alexander QC, sitting as a Deputy Judge in the England and Wales High Court, under the new Covid-19 protocol.

        Providing an interesting insight into the interaction between trade marks and mobile apps, as well as a detailed overview of UK approach to trade mark infringement and passing off (see paragraphs [15] to [46] and [47] to [80] respectively), this post will consider the main focuses of the case – namely, the claims of trade mark infringement under ss10(2) and 10(3) of the Trade Marks Act (TMA) 1994 and passing off.

        [...]

        When considering the ‘Photobox Free Prints’ app icon, this time under s10(3) TMA, it was apparent that the Claimant’s registered trade mark had sufficient reputation, and that the average consumer would establish a link. However, when considering if there would be detriment to the distinctive character of the mark, the Deputy Judge found that, marginally, there would be material damage. He noted that a claimant in such a position would face difficulties if they felt obliged to make their marks more different from that of newcomers in order to maintain the same level of recognition in the specific combination of features of the registered trade mark. Even in light of an absence of specific evidence, the Deputy Judge found, in these circumstances, that there was a sufficiently serious impairment of the claimant’s trade mark here. The same (marginal) conclusion was also reached when considering unfair advantage: it was once again stressed that this was as a result of the Defendant’s use of a specific combination of features, even though it was not the specific intention of the Defendants. The Defendants were also found to be unable to show “due cause” in the case of the ‘Photobox Free Prints’ app icon, since their specific combination of other elements did not necessarily have to be chosen and there was no use of Photobox branding in the app icon.

        This was not the case for the Photobox App Store search App name and branding, and the stylised Photobox Free Prints, for the same reasons as that which stated that there would not be an infringement under s10(2) TMA – the prominent use of ‘PHOTOBOX’ rendered the latter ‘FREE PRINTS’ descriptive, so as to render the use as a whole justifiable. The colour and icon design were not found to detract from these conclusions.

    • Copyrights

      • Watch Tower Sues Journalists For Millions in Copyright Infringement Damages

        The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the supervising body and publisher for the Jehovah’s Witness religious group, has filed a major copyright infringement lawsuit against two journalists. The men, who allegedly posted 74 leaked convention videos to their site, face a claim for statutory damages that could run to millions of dollars.

      • Pirated ‘DVD Screeners’ Will be History After Next Year’s Oscars

        The Academy announced this week that DVD and Blu-Ray screeners will be banned after the next Oscars ceremony. This marks the end of a long-standing tradition. Not just in the movie business, but also on pirate sites where the DVDscr tag is closely watched. Although Oscar DVD Screeners may soon be history, this doesn’t mean that screener leaks will be thing of the past.

      • Quibi Is What Happens When Hollywood Overvalues Content And Undervalues Community

        As you may have heard (and may still being bombarded by ads for) recently, a new video streaming service called Quibi launched to much fanfare. The fanfare was not around the technology or the content, mind you, but around the fact that there were some famous people involved (namely: former Disney/Dreamworks exec Jeffrey Katzenberg and, to a lesser extent, former eBay/HP CEO Meg Whitman — who had been a Disney and Dreamworks exec earlier) and the ridiculous fact that the company raised nearly $2 billion before it even had launched. There was some buzz about it leading up to launch… but mostly from the media which always falls for the story of the company that raises a ton of money and has some famous person in charge.

IRC Proceedings: Friday, May 01, 2020

Posted in IRC Logs at 2:54 am by Needs Sunlight

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