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06.06.20

GNU is Open Source

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 5:17 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Borgwashing

Summary: “The GNU Project is no longer ethical. RMS may care, but he’s outnumbered enough by liars and traitors.”

This article will argue that GNU is Open Source, not “Free Software”, though that is only the conclusion. The point is that they should fight to be Free Software again.

Since this is sort of a purity argument, and purity is extremely, ridiculously rare in the real world, I’m going to start by defining the scope of that purity. It will be argued that using free software to develop free software is vital — but it will sidestep the issue of whether you’re using free software on a machine with non-free firmware.

“If enough people representing Free Software are vigilant, then everyone else does not need to be constantly vigilant, they can simply wait for an update from the sentries.”The truth about software freedom is that like other forms of freedom, the price is “eternal vigilance”. If enough people representing Free Software are vigilant, then everyone else does not need to be constantly vigilant, they can simply wait for an update from the sentries. If the sentries fail, then it is up to everyone else to establish a new watch — otherwise, freedom dies.

With eternal vigilance comes awareness of new threats. Techrights has documented many threats to free software, both before they were demonstrated (in prediction of events) and after — these predictions are not magical or mystical, and they are determined based on the fact that when GIAFAM attacks a project, person or organisation, they do not abandon tactics that continue to work. If they succeed with a tactic today, we know they will likely attack again in a similar or identical way sometime in the future. It’s simply what they do.

“Most advocates (thankfully not all) are in denial both before and after the tragedy.”Occasionally old tactics are adapted to new circumstances, and this is a situation where most of the sentries fail. The FSF is so conservative about such threats, that most advocates deny that these problems are even problems. When we talked about the importance of free speech months prior to rms being ousted as leader, many advocates argued we were making something of nothing. When we talk about the problem of GitHub taking over GNU, there are plenty of arguments that such a thing isn’t even possible, because reasons. Most advocates (thankfully not all) are in denial both before and after the tragedy.

One thing that is treated as impossible, is for GPL-licensed software to be made into proprietary software. That’s the goal of the GPL, of course — to prevent it from becoming non-free software. But like every tool that exists, it fails at a certain threshold of abuse. Nothing on Earth is unhackable, invincible or immortal.

The GPL works when defended, but not when treated as a magical talisman that repels all evil. Even magical talismans (within the context of whomever takes such things seriously — as a fiction or otherwise) have weaknesses and can fail. There is no substitute for eternal vigilance, other than rebuilding after the tragedy. Only people can truly stand for freedom — a license is merely a tool in their hands.

“The very existence of GPL3 addresses the partial (yet somehow impossible) failure of GPL2. “This isn’t to downplay the usefulness of the GPL — if it were not useful, there would be no point in attacking it. Through proxies, lobbyists and P.R. experts (and a bribed tech press, bribed universities, even bribed non-profits) Microsoft has attacked the GPL and attacked adoption of GPL3. The very existence of GPL3 addresses the partial (yet somehow impossible) failure of GPL2.

Licenses, like digital technology, have vulnerabilities and sometimes exploits. GPL3 is a patched version of GPL2, and although it is not perfect, it is better. It is enough of an improvement that those wishing to attack Free Software and the GPL needed to discourage its use. This argument in favour of GPL3 isn’t intended to stand on its own; this is a summary of what we know about the GPL.

The FSF and most advocates downplay threats that are later demonstrated to be serious problems. If it did not, rms would still head the FSF — and GNU would still be Free Software.

“Our goal is to create a world where all software is free.”Continuing to define the scope of freedom, I agree with rms that every step towards freedom helps. The onus of “purity” (and purity is really the most cynical way of putting it — “freedom-respecting” isn’t a euphemism, it is far more meaningful) is on developers. It isn’t (primarily) an ethical problem to use non-free software, it is an ethical problem (primarily) to create it and thus impose it on users. You’re free at least to do yourself harm — we aren’t taking that away if we advise you not to.

This also roughly means that people who write software have a greater responsibility to set a good example than people who don’t. We should encourage people to learn how to code, so that more people can help us pull all software into the free ecosystem. We should teach software freedom and how to code, we should teach these subjects together — others won’t. And if we don’t, who will?

And we know that even rms does not use only free software. Instead, he uses non-free software as a very minor exception. If he needs to look up something online, he generally won’t use non-free software. If all that’s around is a Windows machine and Google, he will not avoid touching it for fear that his finger (or the keyboard) will burn.

“When the FSF was founded, people didn’t store entire personal libraries of books, music, entire lists of offline friends and contacts, text messages and emails from medical professionals, spouses and their own children — on computers that were portable, easily confiscatable and powered and connected 24/7.”But although it is tongue-in-cheek, the concept of Sainthood in the Church of Emacs (a mostly fictional institution created by a strong atheist) is that you will “exorcise” all non-free software from the computers under your control. Computers not under your control? Those are exempt. If you care about freedom, yes, you will avoid them on average — as rms does. Our goal is to create a world where all software is free. Only in a world where all software is free, will all users ever be free.

In some instances, it is important (vital) to try to create fully-free software distributions. If we don’t do this, people will say it can’t be done. And even if they don’t say that, if we don’t do it then we aren’t living up to the promises we can live up to. We will have surrendered part of the fight for freedom.

Cynical people who think this is just about purity and even just about software don’t get (or ignore) the reasons Free Software exists. When the FSF was founded, people didn’t store entire personal libraries of books, music, entire lists of offline friends and contacts, text messages and emails from medical professionals, spouses and their own children — on computers that were portable, easily confiscatable and powered and connected 24/7. Computers were not the perfect tools for surveillance, censorship and blackmail that they’ve become today. But the potential was clearly there.

To say that this is just about software, or just about “purity” is crap. The big picture here is about people having control over their devices, and control over their lives. If they don’t have control over their devices, then their control over their lives is compromised in a demonstrably meaningful way. RMS foresaw this, and it was a logical prediction. Today we are getting slack with this.

Two things I disagree with the FSF on are the importance of a user-controlled init system and the importance of non-free firmware. I’m not saying non-free firmware isn’t important — of course it is. I would go even further than that (not just for the sake of argument either, but because the possibility of freedom threats moving from software to hardware are real, and become more real as hardware gets cheaper). Free firmware matters, and free hardware will someday become imperative. Of course it is a lot more complicated — especially in terms of production. But the hardware switches on Purism devices are a great example of how much hardware matters. (Free hardware would also be easier to create firmware and drivers for).

“Saying that init freedom advocates don’t care about non-free firmware is a smear.”I am kind of pissed about the misrepresentation of people talking about init freedom, which includes many free software advocates. It’s true that certain projects take steps backwards from even Debian. Debian does a pretty good job separating non-free firmware and modules from the rest, so it is trivial to avoid them — Just don’t install them! Don’t add the repo to your sources list! And the init-freedom community is not as good about this. That’s not a misrepresentation, it’s a fact. But it is misrepresentation to say that nobody arguing for init freedom cares about this. One of the leaders of this movement used to create one of the FSF-approved fully free distros. The Hyperbola community also maintains an FSF-approved distro. Saying that init freedom advocates don’t care about non-free firmware is a smear.

To say that no GNU developers care about your freedom would also be a smear, which is exactly why it’s important to go into specifics — and correct anything that is in error. A serious problem is going on, but this problem is not about the people doing the right thing — it’s about the people getting it wrong.

With regards to non-free firmware, I think free firmware matters (I really don’t want a bit of it on my own system, I’ve spent many years going far out of my way to avoid it, up until very recently) though I think maybe the FSF puts more weight on it in than is reasonable. I look at it this way — here’s a scenario that will never come from the FSF:

“A free BIOS is the most important thing for your computer. Even if you spend all your time on FACEBOOK and install WINDOWS, and don’t use GNU/Linux, at least your BIOS is free! That’s the first and most important step”.

We know this isn’t true. And maybe a few things will change. But from the history of free software, we know the user space was the first priority — compilers, editors, file management, data manipulation. This may not be because of any a priori justification — it’s possible they took priority just because they were the easiest thing to work on. Regardless, this is how free software was established. And it was/is possible for different aspects of freedom to be established simultaneously, if at different rates of success.

“As to the direction this is headed in, it is clearly headed away from Linux altogether. The Linux kernel is dropping support for things that it should keep as options, rhetoric about upgrading hardware (the battle cry of digital capitalism and planned obsolescence) has shifted a little bit away from Linux being the perfect kernel for eliminating e-waste and this is bound to get worse, and worst of all, DRM is coming.”Priorities are not always mutually exclusive; if you have more than one priority, both matter, just not always at the same level. I don’t want non-free firmware. I’m not comfortable with it, or happy with it. I want it gone, I’ve long used kernels that have it separate so I don’t have to worry about it. Non-free firmware is a threat.

But a monopoly-emulating, monopoly-reinforcing, operating-system-co-opting project to replace all free init systems and put a smaller group of developers in control is a much more significant threat to me as a user — and I strongly believe, to many users. No one should have to run non-free firmware, nobody should be stuck with a kernel that includes it, and this is why I’ve spent years hoping (and asking) the people responsible for liberating the Linux kernel if they could make a free version of the kernel for certain distros that give the user more control over user space.

They used to do this — and they have proven themselves capable and trustworthy with kernel modification.

As to the direction this is headed in, it is clearly headed away from Linux altogether. The Linux kernel is dropping support for things that it should keep as options, rhetoric about upgrading hardware (the battle cry of digital capitalism and planned obsolescence) has shifted a little bit away from Linux being the perfect kernel for eliminating e-waste and this is bound to get worse, and worst of all, DRM is coming. So anybody talking about how init freedom advocates don’t care about non-free firmware in Linux — hey, Linux is already dead. We will ultimately be using BSD, because NOBODY is going to fight against DRM in Linux.

DRM in the kernel is arguably worse than non-free firmware! (Unless there is DRM in the firmware, obviously). Even if there are exceptions to this, they are still exceptions.

So if we are talking about the user having control over their software, yes, firmware freedom is important and hardware freedom will become necessary (“I’ve got malware on my computer.” “Reinstall Trisquel”. “The BIOS keeps installing the malware.”) The user space is still a reasonable first priority for a liberated user. We can rewrite the BIOS, and if enough of us do then perhaps they’ll create BIOS-management firmware that we can’t rewrite (if you think that sounds nutty, take a time machine to the 1980s and explain everything you know about UEFI to them).

Otherwise, you can just have Libreboot and run Facebook on Windows, and AT LEAST the most important thing is free… (But seriously, that’s absurd). Do I want a free BIOS though? Yes! I even want free (as in freedom) hardware.

Linux-libre matters, though when we switch to BSD because Linux-libre isn’t really libre anymore (as the scope of the project will not undo all the bad things they will do to the Linux kernel) then Linux-libre will become something we used to need, to be more free. And I really don’t think this is too speculative, I’ve talked to the author of Linux-libre about it (he may or may not agree).

So with no plans to use Linux in the future, and an urgent need to have control over the “init”/EVERYTHING that systemd co-opts, I find it curious that the FSF is VERY apathetic about this threat that comes directly from THEIR BIGGEST SPONSOR. Even after half a decade of users (including broadly respected, FSF-approved distro developers) saying “Please help us, FSF! This is a huge threat to our freedom!”

Damn!

And thank you Hyperbola, for hearing us and remaining vigilant. Now, let’s talk about what the FSF historically considers non-free.

When the FSF was fairly new, and I had never heard of it, I was using DOS and really wanted to share my software (with the source code and permission to change and reuse it). Something of the pre-Microsoft, pre-FSF hobbyist philosophy must have found its way to me — rms was obviously not converted to the idea of Free Software by the FSF, even if we can (and ought to) credit him with founding the movement.

What I basically wanted was FreeDOS, although at the time I was really content (as I figured I could actually do it) with creating a command shell that worked exactly like the one DOS had. I was a kid, so it felt pretty ambitious.

FreeDOS became an actual thing, and my ambition to create a Free-as-in-freedom shell for DOS became moot. Eventually I learned Bash, and my need for a Free-as-in-freedom shell for DOS became doubly moot. But it’s still very cool that FreeDOS exists.

The funny thing (when you find out or simply guess where this article is going) is that the FSF considers FreeDOS to be non-free, or not fully free. Why? Because you can’t compile all of it with a free compiler. And nobody cares about this enough to create the necessary compiler, but some care about it enough to not use FreeDOS (I find that DOSBox is good enough, but many of us realise that it’s not the same thing).

Non-free software is necessary to have all 4 freedoms (Use, Study, Share, CHANGE) with FreeDOS, that requirement (of non-free software) is a contradiction, therefore FreeDOS is non-free. This is one of those “gotcha” moments in software freedom that I think we can agree — sucks.

But the fact that it sucks doesn’t make non-free software into freedom-respecting software. We don’t magically have the freedom to use, study, share, change the compiler needed to compile FreeDOS, simply because we really want to. And there is nothing going on (that I know of) towards that direction. FreeDOS may never be completely free. And they’re okay with that, because on this detail the freedom doesn’t matter to them.

It seems like a nitpick, doesn’t it? Hey — go demonstrate your freedom with the non-free compiler. Show us how to use, study, share and CHANGE it for any purpose, with the source code. You can’t — because that freedom does not exist.

“Now, GNU maintainers know that GitHub (what’d you really expect?) is non-free.”Does anybody have a problem with the Free Software Definition? That’s the definition of “free” we are using there.

Now, GNU maintainers know that GitHub (what’d you really expect?) is non-free. They tend to say it’s non-free. The FSF gives it an “F” rating in terms of freedom. (The ‘F’ does not stand for “Freedom”). There are absolutely some uses of non-free software that I consider completely legitimate. When they first started working on GNU, what compiler compiled GCC? A C compiler. Maybe it was a free one, maybe it wasn’t. But the sole purpose of using it was to replace it, not to continue using it. When they started creating the GNU Operating System, what OS did they use? UNIX. But the purpose was to replace it.

RMS doesn’t think we need more distros. I disagree — I think the ideal would be for more distros to have fully-free versions, but that’s a different debate. If you’re working on a non-free distro specifically to remove the non-free parts, I don’t think that’s a problem. If it were, accepting Hyperbola was a mistake (I think it’s our best hope. I don’t think it needs to be our only hope). It is very important however, to balance “acquisitions” of non-free software and semi-non-free collections with the overall “sum” of the freedom involved. We may have minor setbacks, and there may not be any way around them. The important thing is to keep moving forward, and to NOT keep moving the other way.

“…”Contributions” from people actively trying to drag GNU into Microsoft’s clutches are a mixed blessing, at best!”GNU Maintainers act like they’re opposed to GitHub — and some of them are being honest. Others may not be intentionally lying, but they are beginning to fool themselves. As a result, the GNU project is quickly becoming (or has already become) just as non-free as FreeDOS. Collectively (even if you don’t include rms) They say all of the following things:

“GitHub is non-free, so of course we don’t use it”.

“A mirror isn’t a problem”.

I agree, if it’s really publish-only and they don’t allow it to be used for issues or pull requests. Note that this is about actions, not words; if you say it’s just a mirror and you’re making decisions about the future project there, you’re pushing other GNU developers to use GitHub if they want to fully participate. Sadly, this scenario is not hypothetical.

“We can’t stop you from forking our work on GitHub, developing there and submitting patches to Savannah via email”.

That is absolutely true, but it should be respectfully discouraged and encouraged against even if it really can’t be stopped — what they’re doing is next to promoting it as a valid option because they can’t stop it).

People come to the mailing lists regularly to say why GitHub is technically better and will encourage contributions.

“Contributions” from people actively trying to drag GNU into Microsoft’s clutches are a mixed blessing, at best!

And please note if you will, these are not all innocents who don’t know better. Even if we “assume good faith” (it’s a bit late for that in my opinion) it’s a fact that Red Hat uses GitHub, Red Hat employees contributing to GNU use GitHub, GNU maintainers who participated in Guix’s effort to oust rms from the GNU project — nearly 2/3 of them use GitHub, and several GNU Maintainers (GNUstep, GNU Radio, GNU Bison) have moved development to GitHub (Bison’s Savannah repo is a mirror! — Not GitHub is the mirror — GitHub is where developed has moved and continues to move!) even while saying that it’s non-free “so of course you’ll never have to use it!”

“It contains non-free JS”.

“It still works with the JS turned off”. (So Microsoft GitHub is free if you don’t use the non-free features? Is this REALLY the GNU Project?)

The most slippery excuse however, is that you can just email your patches to Savannah. Slippery because it seems so plausible. More and more people are working on GitHub and things move to Savannah later and later. Yes, it’s different with each project, and ultimately this sort of decision is left up to the maintainers.

Really the FSF reserves very little say in this matter. That doesn’t actually preclude being paid to look the other way, or being mislead by a slippery maintainer who says one thing and does another.

We can assume good faith all day long, but the actions do the same damage if ignored whether they’re in good faith or not. I hardly think “good faith” constitutes a reason to ignore the damage being done, but I’m certain it will be used that way (exactly as it was used when Red Hat commandeered Debian development).

And always there’s the excuse that developers don’t have to do what you tell them. No! They have to do what IBM tells them.

IBM pushes developers to accept developers (sometimes mispronounced “volunteers”, which is true enough to be relevant but also NOT the case, often enough to be relevant) regardless of who they work for, so you can’t say “We don’t want to be infiltrated by Microsoft, they’ll only push Mono and then sue for Patent Agreements that give them control of the project later” — no, that’s discrimination, so developers have to do what IBM says (or no bribe money. But, but, but!)

And not only do you have to take on whomever they say you do, but you have to get rid of whomever they say as well — we can’t lose rms, he’s — OH FUCK! We lost the founder. Just like with Linus and the “foundation” named after his own freaking kernel, named after his own freaking name.

But it’s not a coup! It’s just a fascist corporate takeover. It’s just business.

It’s a giant corporate business, where everyone is pushed towards an increasing number of proprietary solutions, and SPEAKING OUT against this is calling for slavery. Though most of the work is UNPAID (per worker) and IBM runs it — and that’s NOT slavery.

THIS IS A WHOLE LOT MORE LIKE SLAVERY THAN FREEDOM!

And it’s from a multinational corporation that talks about “diversity” (Translation: hire and fire whomever we want) that still hasn’t apologised for its ACTIVE ROLE IN THE HOLOCAUST!

So maybe we shouldn’t call this Free Software, we should call it FORCED WORK CAMP SOFTWARE instead.

But you’re not really forced, right? You can leave!

Oh Thank you, Herr IBM Officer, I will go right now! I suspect your Patent Gestapo won’t be far behind!

The Nazi work camps had guards and fences and guns, and the software work camps have lawyers, bogus patents and lawsuits. Viva la progress!

They both have plenty of world-eating level (multi-million-dollar) propaganda against us and against our freedom. Why do we let them dictate anything at all? Why do we let them lie and undo what we spent A Third Of A Century building?

The idea that this is “Freedom” is about as cynical as you can get. If the development continues to move towards GitHub (it hasn’t slowed down, let alone reversed) and you want the “option” of collaborating in the context of a free-as-in-freedom repository, you’ll have to wait for “Patch Release Tuesday” (which does not yet exist, except sort of) where all the development happening on GitHub that you DON’T have access to, is finally shared with the peons on GNU Savannah.

A development routine that

1. Has plenty of free alternatives

2. Is chosen instead due to some “nice features”

3. Drags people farther from, not closer to, software freedom

4. Is unapologetically corporate and ignores pleas from users to for the love of rms, STOP!

A phrase for this already exists.

It’s not called “Free Software” — Free Software cares about the user and gives them freedom.

What you bastards have done is take GNU and (not hypothetically — not tomorrow, not someday) made it Open Source.

What’s Open Source? It’s a SCAM to draw people AWAY from free software, and Towards the same corporations who dominated users in the very decade when the FSF was founded!

That’s what you’ve turned GNU development into. And you should be thrown out! But we know there’s nothing that can be done, because the coup is ongoing and (just like Torvalds…) rms has to be nice, and tactful, and essentially not run his own project, which you fraudulently hacked his website to try to take charge of!

NICE!

And what do we get with all this “diversity” and “freedom” and “contributions” that are promised (dishonestly) in exchange for all this corporate-overthrow-style infiltration and upheaval?

We get:

* Unpaid labour (that’s alright if it’s for volunteers, by volunteers)
* Which is controlled by corporations, NOT by users in general or even by lead developers
* For companies that unconstitutionally spy on citizens
* Who prop up the oppression and murder of Chinese dissidents
* Who break up impoverished families coming in from the southern border and Middle East seeking freedom
* We get openly hostile discrimination against people with different neurological makeups (which some of you call “Neckbeards”)
* We get LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of lies, which destroy all credibility when we talk about freedom
* All for a company that is Historically Key to Nazi Success in Systematic Human Genocide!

THAT’S WHAT YOU CALL “FREEDOM”!

GNU’s not free, it’s OPEN, on the path of Free > Open > Dead. I’m already thinking ahead to Reborn, but these people are still killing it, it’s dying on the end of a VERY LONG STRING of recent deaths, and YOU’RE the ones letting them do this. And you claim to care about OUR freedom?

LIES!

This isn’t a just purity argument. It’s a handing over control to the people actively destroying Y/OUR freedom or not argument. As that other (crappy, but at least GPL-compatible) free software license says, Do WTF you want with this argument — that’s pretty much what software freedom amounts to these days —

Do WTF you want. You want to exploit, co-opt, misrepresent, take over Free Software projects? Do what you want! You can’t get more Permissive than that! You get to destroy GNU, and if we say anything about it — THAT’s what a Nazi Corporation calls “Hate”. How is that different than some other anti-diversity leader, implying HE’s the victim while those people IBM created an algorithm to track based on their skin colour protest outside?

And people actually line up, in the name of “diversity” no less, to act as a political, metaphorical human shield for all this Corporate, Historically Nazi Bullshit.

Brilliant! Give yourself a pat on the back and straight, one-arm salute.

You’re not working for freedom anymore. You’re unpaid employees (slaves) of Microsoft and IBM — you work for our fascist enemies. Not just fascist enemies of software freedom (though they certainly are that) — you work for (and the FSF takes money from) fascist enemies of ALL HUMAN FREEDOM on Earth!

The only reason we have no recourse but to switch to BSD, is because it takes fewer people to do so, and you sat on your thumbs while they took over the Linux kernel. Now you’ll do it again, as they take over GNU itself. And not just hypothetically — you’re doing it! Right Now!

You don’t care about our freedom — you traded vigilance and freedom for mere features.

The GNU Project is no longer ethical. RMS may care, but he’s outnumbered enough by liars and traitors. If you have any hacks left up your maroon-coloured sleeve, now would be the time, Chief.

Long live rms, and to Hell with bribes and lies from Nazi megacorporations!

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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    The Curl project, a high-profile prisoner of GitHub, is again being 'embraced' by Microsoft (which already controls the project through GitHub)



  21. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, July 12, 2020

    IRC logs for Sunday, July 12, 2020



  22. [Humour/Meme] Half a Decade Has Passed and EPO Management Was Never Held Accountable for Illegal Surveillance

    A lot of people may no longer remember it, but the EPO can break privacy laws — as it still routinely does — with no consequences whatsoever



  23. Cleaning the Code

    War must go on; but it'll be more diverse and inclusive



  24. Why We Care About (Mis)Use of Language in Technology

    Software development communities are being divided over issues that would likely not tackle actual racism in any meaningful and profound way (just a symbolic way)



  25. Links 12/7/2020: KF6 Progress Report, GNUnet 0.13.1, Nano Becomes Default Terminal Text Editor in Fedora

    Links for the day



  26. They Always Worked for Microsoft (Directly and Indirectly) and Were Financially Rewarded for That

    Nat and Miguel, now put in charge of new weapons against software freedom (e.g. GitHub and NPM), have long worked for Microsoft (Nat was also an intern there); Techrights was right all along about this pair



  27. Red Hat Betrayed the Free Software Community With Its Software Patents' Stockpiling Drive and Then a Sale to the Biggest Software Patents Lobbyist

    In 2020 Red Hat is little but a shadow of IBM, whose patent policy continues to threaten software freedom and whose lobbying for software patents (under the guise of "HEY HI") persists uninterrupted; this growing problem oughtn't be unspeakable



  28. Politically Correct Tech

    This new video entitled “Politically Correct Tech” covers a topic we’ve spoken a great deal about



  29. [Humour/Meme] High on Production, Stoned on Pseudoscience

    All-time high ‘production’ levels at the European Patent Office (EPO) do not mean what they want people to think and what they try hard to hide



  30. Missing From EPO Management: Actual Scientists

    Political figures and opportunists with connections occupy top positions at top European agencies; this assures self-destructive policies that diminish progress and cushion corruption


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