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01.20.19

Links 20/1/2019: Exo 0.12.4 and Libhandy 0.0.7 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 12:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Should You Run Linux Apps on Your Chromebook?

      The Linux apps’ performance on Chromebook in its current Beta phase seems to be much more reliable and stable than the Android apps integration initially was. Linux apps on Chromebook will get even better as Crostini gets more developed.

      Chrome OS 71 brings considerably more improvements, according to various reports. One of those changes will let the Linux virtual machine be visible in Chrome OS’ Task Manager.

      Another expected improvement is the ability to shut down the Linux virtual machine easily.

      An even better expected improvement is folder-sharing between the Linux VM and Chrome OS. That should resolve the inconvenience of the isolated Linux files folder.

      Is it justifiable to get a new “qualified” Chromebook in order to run Linux apps on it? If you are primarily a Linux distro user and have settled for using a Linux-less Chromebook as a companion portable computer, I can only say, “Go for it!”

      I do not think you will regret the splurge.

    • Elementary OS Challenge Day 2: We Need To Talk About Minimizing Windows

      Several years ago elementary OS founder Daniel Foré visited his grandparents in California, and noticed a habit that probably inspired this radical way of viewing windows and workflows. His grandfather, who had a Windows XP computer hooked up to their TV, would open a browser, minimize it when he was finished, and then open a new instance of the browser by double clicking on the desktop icon.

      “He had upwards of 12 separate web browser windows open and had no idea,” Foré writes. “For most of us, it can be fairly obvious when multiple windows are open and sucking up system resources, but this information was lost on a user who only understood that clicking the ‘-’ made the app go away and double clicking the app icon on the desktop is what made the app show up again.”

      Foré says that ultimately, the minimize button is just another way of making users do manual memory management. He also says that hey, this concept isn’t much different than what Android and iOS have been doing for years.

    • How did you get started with Linux?

      The Linux mascot is a penguin named Tux, so we thought it appropriate to celebrate Penguin Awareness Day for the conservation of penguin habitats and talk a little bit (more) about Linux.

      A few fun penguin facts: These furry creatures are flightless yet part of the bird family. Some are large, like the Emperor penguin, and some are small, like those found in New Zealand. And, the Gentoo penguin is known to swim up to a speed of 21 miles per hour!

      Now, for the Linux bit. I asked our writer community to describe the moment they learned about Linux or the moment they got it up on running on their machine. Here’s what they shared.

  • Server

    • ON Semiconductor Increases Support for Idaho State University Department of Electrical Engineering

      ON Semiconductor continues its support of, and collaboration with, the Idaho State University Department of Electrical Engineering by recently donating an industrial-grade Linux server, eight state-of-the-art computer workstations and associated design software.

      The new workstations will be used to train ISU electrical engineering students, and eventually to provide professional graduate-level education to ON Semiconductor employees.

      “We have already started using the donated equipment for current coursework related to semiconductor design. In addition to the equipment and software donation, ON Semiconductor design engineers are working with us to create a new course that they will also help teach this spring.” said Steve Chiu, director of the ISU electrical engineering program.

    • How running websites has changed in the last two decades (for an Ars IT guru)

      I was a true nerd growing up in the 1980s—not in the hipster way but in the 10-pound-issue-of-Computer-Shopper-under-my-arm way (these things were seriously huge). I was thoroughly addicted to BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) by the time I was 10. Maybe it’s no surprise I ended up as a technical director for a science and tech site.

      In fact, I’d actually draw a direct line between the job of managing your own BBS (aka SysOping) to managing a modern Web infrastructure. And with everyone around Ars looking back given the site’s 20th anniversary, let’s make that line a bit clearer. It won’t be an exhaustive history of websites, but here’s how my own experiences with managing websites have evolved in the past two decades—plus how the tools and thinking have changed over time, too.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • XGI Display Driver Finally On The Linux Kernel Chopping Block

      XGI Tech, the nearly two decade old spin off from SiS that was short-lived and once aimed to be a competitor to ATI and NVIDIA, still has a Linux driver within the mainline kernel. But this frame-buffer driver is slated to soon be removed.

      There’s long been the “xgifb” driver within the mainline Linux kernel staging area. This has served for display purposes with XGI hardware without any hardware acceleration, but the driver was limited in scope and hasn’t received any real maintenance in years. Plus with being an FBDEV driver while all modern Linux display drivers make use of the Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) infrastructure, it’s really outdated.

    • Livepatching With Linux 5.1 To Support Atomic Replace & Cumulative Patches

      With the Linux 5.1 kernel cycle that should get underway in just over one month’s time, there will now be the long in development work (it’s been through 15+ rounds of public code review!) for supporting atomic replace and cumulative patches.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Wayland’s Weston Moving Towards Its Next Release Soon

        Longtime Wayland developer Derek Foreman is working on coordinating the next release of the Weston reference compositor. Here are those early details and his hope to ship this next feature release in March.

        Derek is tentatively proposing a February feature freeze and for this next Weston update to debut in March. At this time there are no plans for an updated Wayland release with there being no pressing changes on the horizon.

    • Benchmarks

      • AMDGPU-PRO 18.50 vs. ROCm 2.0 OpenCL Performance

        When recently publishing the PlaidML deep learning benchmarks and lczero chess neural network OpenCL tests, some Phoronix readers mentioned they were seeing vastly different results with using the PAL OpenCL driver in AMDGPU-PRO (Radeon Software) compared to using the ROCm compute stack. So for seeing how those two separate AMD OpenCL drivers compare, here are some benchmark results with a Vega GPU while testing ROCm 2.0 and AMDGPU-PRO 18.50.

  • Applications

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Wine 4.0 To Be Released In The Next Few Days

        With yesterday’s release of Wine 4.0-RC7, the regression/bug count is low enough and the situation looking good that the stable Wine 4.0.0 release should be tagged in the next few days.

        Wine 4.0-RC7 should be the final release candidate and the stable 4.0 release tagged and issued in a short period of time. Wine founder Alexandre Julliard who manages the releases commented today, “Things are looking good for 4.0, we’ve made quite a bit of progress on the regressions, thank you to everybody who helped! rc7 should be the last release candidate, please give it a good last check. If no last minute issues are found, I’ll release final 4.0 in a couple of days, and lift code freeze :-)”

    • Games

      • Valve put out another Steam Beta Client with minor Steam Play changes

        Valve are pushing out updates rather often to the Steam client lately, with the fourth this month now out.

        On top of removing Steam Play options for Mac and Windows, along with a Steam Input bug fix we also saw these updated to the Steam Play integration on Linux…

      • itch A Gaming Platform For Indie Games Lovers

        itch is another gaming platform that is similar to Steam and is available for multiple operating systems including Linux. This platform provides users with the latest indie games instead of AAA games. If you are open to creativity and likes playing/trying out different games, I guarantee you’ll love itch platform too. Similar to steam, itch also provides both free and non-free games, indicates game system requirements (except without the specifications), and some other common features. Read on below to learn more about this app.

      • Render game scene with Panda 3D

        Today we will continue to explore Panda 3D, after a day of searching online for the method to export the whole mesh created with Blender which can then be used in Panda 3D’s game I have found two of them. 1) Exporting the mesh in the Direct (x) format 2) Using YABEE to export the mesh in the egg file format

      • Mesa 19.0 Can Cut In Half The Amount Of Memory For Team Fortress 2

        Timothy Arceri of Valve’s open-source Linux graphics driver team has landed patches in Mesa 19.0 that drastically reduce the amount of system memory used when firing up the Team Fortress 2 game.

        Arceri started off with a patch on Friday to ensure GLSL IR optimizations are run during the initial shader compilation process. That patch partially reverts work done a year ago that delayed some of these optimizations since it would speed-up Deus Ex: Mankind Divided start times by about twenty seconds. So games with a ton of shaders like Deus Ex will go back to starting up slower on initial shader compiles until optimized and cached, but applying these optimizations reduced the memory use in Team Fortress 2 from 1.5GB to 1.3GB.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 54

        This week in KDE’s Usability & Productivity initiative, something big landed: virtual desktop support on Wayland, accompanied by a shiny new user interface for the X11 version too. Eike Hein has been working on this literally for months and I think he deserves a round of applause! It was a truly enormous amount of work, but now we can benefit for years to come.

      • KDE Now Has Virtual Desktop Support On Wayland

        KDE landing virtual desktop support on Wayland this week is certainly quite exciting while also a new UI was added for the X11 virtual desktop support too. Some of the other KDE improvements that landed this week and relayed by Nate Graham include the digital clock widget now allowing adjustments to the date formatting, the KDE Information Center’s USB devices section will now actually display all USB devices, wallpaper chooser view improvements, and various other improvements.

    • GNOME/Xfce/GTK

      • Starting on a new map rendering library

        Currently in Maps, we use the libchamplain library to display the bitmap map titles (based on OpenStreetMap data and aerial photography) that we get from our tile provider, currently MapBox. This library is based on Clutter and used via the GTK+ embed support within libchamplain, which in turn makes use of the Clutter GTK embed support. Since this will not be supported when moving along to GTK+ 4.x and the Clutter library is not maintained anymore (besides the copy of it that is included in the GNOME Shell window manager/Wayland compositor, Mutter) eventually Maps will have to find a replacement. There’s also some wonky bugs especially with regards to the mixing of event handling on the Clutter side vs. the GTK+ side.

        So to at least get the ball rolling a bit, I recently decided to see how hard it would be to take the code from libchamplain and keep the grotty deep-down internals dealing with tile downloading and caching and such and refocus the top-level parts onto new GTK+ 4 technologies such as the Snapshot, GSK (scene graph), and render node APIs.

      • Exo 0.12.4 Released

        Exo 0.12.4 is now available with an improved icon view, better icon rendering, and reduced disk usage.

      • My Name is Handy, Lib Handy

        Libhandy 0.0.7 just got released!

        [...]

        A common pattern in GNOME applications is lists, which are typically implemented via GtkListBox. More specific patterns arose, where rows have a title at the start, an optional subtitle below it, actions at the end and an icon or some other widget like a radio button as a prefix. These rows can also be expanded to reveal nested rows or anything else that fits the need.

        So far every application using these patterns implemented the rows by hand for each and every row. It made using these a bit cumbersome and it led to inconsistencies in sizing, even inside a single application. To make these patterns easier to use, we implemented HdyActionRow, HdyComboRow and HdyExpanderRow.

      • Libhandy 0.0.7 Released For Building Adaptive/Mobile GTK Applications

        Libhandy is the library backed by Purism for use on their Librem 5 among other potential use-cases for allowing adaptive GTK+ widgets depending upon screen real estate. It’s still a ways out from version 1.0, but libhandy 0.0.7 was released this weekend as the latest achievement.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • LibreELEC (Leia) v8.95.3 BETA

        LibreELEC 9.0 (Leia) Beta 3 has finally arrived after a long gestation period. Based upon Kodi v18 RC5.2, the 9.0 Beta 3 release contains many changes and refinements to user experience and a complete overhaul of the underlying OS core to improve stability and extend hardware support. Kodi v18 also brings new features like Kodi Retroplayer and DRM support that (equipped with an appropriate add-on) allows Kodi to unofficially stream content from services like Netflix and Amazon.

      • IPFire 2.21 – Core Update 127 is available for testing

        New year, new update ready for testing! We have been busy over the holidays and are bringing you an update that is packed with new features and many many performance improvements.

        This is quite a long change log, but please read through it. It is worth it!

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Introducing the Lubuntu Council

              The Lubuntu community has grown exponentially since our switch to LXQt. With new users, contributors, and Lubuntu enthusiasts among many other people who have decided to join our community, we are finding the need to scale the project further than the unwritten technically-led oligarchy that we currently have in the Lubuntu project. Therefore, we are pleased to announce the Lubuntu Council.

              Not much will change; the same people will be working to put together a high-quality Lubuntu release every six months. However, this ensures that Lubuntu’s processes stay structured and resilient for years to come.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Get started with HomeBank, an open source personal finance app

    There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Here’s the eighth of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.

  • LibreOffice

    • Help to spread the word about LibreOffice!

      Millions of people around the world use LibreOffice every day – but there are still some people who haven’t heard about our free, powerful, open source, Microsoft-compatible office suite.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD Journal column

      As of the January issue, the FreeBSD Journal will be free. You can access it, and all back issues, through a browser. You’ll need to register for it–the Foundation is still using it for fund-raising, but in a less direct manner.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Kernel sources for the Nokia 8 Sirocco and Xiaomi Redmi Note 2/2 Pro/Note 3 (MediaTek) are now available

      Xiaomi’s kernel source release policy, as per my conversation with senior officials as well as official statements made by them, is that the company would aim to release the kernel source of a device within three months after its launch. This policy decision was to apply prospectively and not retrospectively, though the company did show interest in providing kernel sources for older devices as well as it was still bound by the GPL.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Keeping casual open source contributors happy and more news

      In this edition of our open source news roundup, we look at how scholars are bringing medieval literature into the digital age using open source software, keeping casual contributors to open source projects happy, the release of the Fifth Internet Edition of The Linux Command Line, and more.

  • Programming/Development

    • Best 10 Git GUI Clients for Ubuntu

      I know most of the people reading this article are developers on Linux or Linux enthusiasts and don’t need any introduction to the Git. But for the noobs out there, Git is one of the most popular and most widely used version control systems available for software development and other similar kind of work. Basically Git is tool which can be managed and used through command line and it is one of the most easy to use command line version control tools available for Linux developers and users.With most of the developers nowadays using graphical tools for programming and development, there is no surprise they are also seeking for GUI tools which could prove to be efficient alternatives to Git command line tool. There are many Git GUI clients available for Linux and its distros like Ubuntu which offer most of the features of Git command line tool with more efficiency and reliability.

    • GNU Binutils 2.32 Branched Ahead Of Release With New Features

      A new release of the GNU Binutils programming tools will soon be available. The upcoming Binutils 2.32 release is primarily made up of new CPU ports.

      GNU Binutils 2.32 is bringing a MIPS port to the Loongson 2K1000 processor and the Loongson 3A1000/3A2000/3A3000 processors, all of which are based on the MIPS64r2 ISA but with different instruction set extensions. These new GPUs are exposed via -march=gs264e, -march=gs464, and -march=gs464e flags. With Binutils 2.32, the utilities like objdump and c++filt now have a maximum amount of recursion that is allowed while demangling strings with the current default being 2048. There is also a –no-recurse-limit for bypassing that limit. Objdump meanwhile allows –disassemble to specify a starting symbol for disassembly.

    • Building Qt apps with Travis CI and Docker

      I recently configured Travis CI to build Nanonote, my minimalist note-taking application. We use Jenkins a lot at work, and despite the fact that I dislike the tool itself, it has proven invaluable in helping us catch errors early. So I strongly believe in the values of Continuous Integration.

      When it comes to CI setup, I believe it is important to keep your distances with the tool you are using by keeping as much setup as possible in tool-agnostic scripts, versioned in your repository, and making the CI server use these scripts.

    • PyPI Security and Accessibility Q1 2019 Request for Proposals Update

      Earlier this year we launched a Request for Information (RFI) followed by the launch of a Request for Proposals (RFP) in November to fulfill a contract for the Open Technology Fund (OTF) Core Infrastructure Fund.

      The initial deadline for our RFP was December 14th. We had hoped to begin work with the selected proposers in January 2019, but ultimately fell short of the ability to do so.

    • GStreamer 1.15.1 Released With Work On AV1, V4L HEVC Encode/Decode

      GStreamer 1.15.1 was announced on Friday as the first development release in the trek towards GStreamer 1.16 for this powerful open-source multimedia framework.

    • GStreamer 1.15.1 development release

      The GStreamer team is pleased to announce the first development release
      in the unstable 1.15 release series.

      The unstable 1.15 release series adds new features on top of the
      current stable 1.14 series and is part of the API and ABI-stable 1.x
      release series of the GStreamer multimedia framework.

      The unstable 1.15 release series is for testing and development
      purposes in the lead-up to the stable 1.16 series which is scheduled
      for release in a few weeks time. Any newly-added API can still change
      until that point, although it is rare for that to happen.

    • Is C++ fast?

      A library that I work on often these days, meshoptimizer, has changed over time to use fewer and fewer C++ library features, up until the current state where the code closely resembles C even though it uses some C++ features. There have been many reasons behind the changes – dropping C++11 requirement allowed me to make sure anybody can compile the library on any platform, removing std::vector substantially improved performance of unoptimized builds, removing algorithm includes sped up compilation. However, I’ve never quite taken the leap all the way to C with this codebase. Today we’ll explore the gamut of possible C++ implementations for one specific algorithm, mesh simplifier, henceforth known as simplifier.cpp, and see if going all the way to C is worthwhile.

    • Python Counters @PyDiff
    • Report: (clxi) stackoverflow python report
    • Regular Expressions in Python
    • Create equalizer feature for video editing program

Leftovers

  • Netflix Calls Fortnite a Bigger Competitor Than HBO

    In the report, Netflix discussed its penetration into overall screen time, which includes TVs and mobile devices that are used for television and movie viewing, video games, and more. Netflix said, “We earn consumer screen time, both mobile and television, away from a very broad set of competitors. We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO.”

  • Organized crime is laundering money through Fortnite’s in-game currency

    Criminals are using stolen credit cards to buy Fortnite V-bucks, then selling the in-game currency for bitcoin at a discount on the [black market] as a way to launder money.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The Shutdown Will Harm the Health and Safety of Americans, Even After It’s Ended

      With the US federal government shutdown now the longest in history, it’s important to understand what a shutdown means for the health and safety of Americans.

      The good news is that in the short run, the consequences are relatively few. But, as a researcher who studies natural disaster planning, I believe that Americans should be worried about the federal government’s long-term ability to ensure good public health and protect the public from disasters.

      As the shutdown draws on, it increasingly weakens the government’s ability to protect Americans down the road, long after federal workers are allowed to go back to work. Many of these effects are largely invisible and may feel intangible because they don’t currently affect specific individuals.

      However, the shutdown poses a very real threat to preparedness for future emergencies, such as natural disasters and disease outbreaks. It also damages the government’s ability to recruit and retain the experts needed to work at the cutting edge of public health.

    • Computer program that could bypass patents to produce synthetic drugs

      Researchers in Poland and South Korea have developed a computerised method that could be used to synthetically produce essential drugs, bypassing patent-protection.

      In the global industry, some of the best kept secrets are those necessary to make life-saving medication and other pharmaceutical products.

      “When we started this project, I was somewhat skeptical that the machine would find any viable synthetic alternatives – after all, these are blockbuster drugs worth gazillions of dollars, and I was sure that the respective companies had covered the patent space so densely that no loopholes remained,” said Professor of Chemistry at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (South Korea) and the Polish Academy of Sciences, Dr Bartosz Grzybowski.

      “It turns out that the loopholes are there, and we can find new retrosynthetic pathways that circumvent the patents entirely.”

    • Study: This computer program makes pharma patents airtight — (Details)

      Those pharmaceutical patents protect the company’s intellectual property while also preventing competitor companies from using certain key synthetic solutions — developed painstakingly by experiment to maximize yield, increase purity, and reduce costs — when attempting to produce desired compounds. To get to viable unpatented options, the researchers “froze” challenging portions of each target molecule, forcing the computer to substitute unconventional yet chemically plausible approaches on the basis of mechanistic rules. They tested their system out on three notable commercial medicines with different chemical hurdles: linezolid, a last-resort antibiotic; sitagliptin, an antidiabetic drug; and panobinostat, a multiple myeloma treatment.

    • Synthetic Biology Rewrites the Rules of the Genome

      Synthetic biology (SB) is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of scientific applications. In this article, we focus on the DNA alphabet; Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine (C), Thymine (T) and newly synthesized letters – the X-Y base pair (bp) that hope to expand the genetic alphabet. We also focus on newly implemented methods to both write a new gene faster than ever before, and store information in DNA. We interviewed two prominent scientist/entrepreneurs in the field; Emily Leproust PhD, CEO of Twist Bioscience and Floyd Romesberg PhD, a Professor of Chemistry at the Scripps Institute. The discussions provided us first-hand insights on cutting-edge advancements in SB relative to genetics and chemistry. The transcripts were edited and condensed for clarity.

  • Security

    • Bo Weaver on Cloud security, skills gap, and software development in 2019

      Bo Weaver, a Kali Linux expert shares his thoughts on the security landscape in the cloud. He also talks about the skills gap in the current industry and why hiring is a tedious process. He explains the pitfalls in software development and where the tech is heading currently.

      Bo, along with another Kali Linux expert Wolf Halton were also interviewed on why Kali Linux is the premier platform for testing and maintaining Windows security. They talked about advantages and disadvantages for using Kali Linux for pentesting. We also asked them about what they think about pentesting in cybersecurity, in general. They have also talked about their stance about the role of pentesting in cybersecurity in their interview titled, “Security experts, Wolf Halton and Bo Weaver, discuss pentesting and cybersecurity”

      [...]

      I laugh and cry at this term. I have a sticker on my laptop that says “There is no Cloud…. Only other people’s computers.” Your data is sitting on someone else’s system along with other people’s data. These other people also have access to this system. Sure security controls are in place but the security of “physical access” has been bypassed.

      You’re “in the box”. One layer of security is now gone.
      Also, your vendor has “FULL ACCESS” to your data in some cases. How can you be sure what is going on with your data when it is in an unknown box in an unknown data center? The first rule of security is “Trust No One”. Do you really trust Microsoft, Amazon, or Google? I sure don’t!!! Having your data physically out of your company’s control is not a good idea. Yes, it is cheaper but what are your company and its digital property worth?

      [...]

      In software development, I see a dumbing down of user interfaces. This may be good for my 6-year-old grandson, but someone like me may want more access to the system. I see developers change things just for the reason of “change”. Take Microsoft’s Ribbon in Office. Even after all these years, I find the ribbon confusing and hard to use. At least, with Libre Office, they give you a choice between a ribbon and an old school menu bar. The changes in Gnome 3 from Gnome 2. This dumbing down and attempting to make a desktop usable for a tablet and a mouse totally destroyed the usability of their desktop. What used to take 1 click now takes 4 clicks to do.

    • Security experts, Wolf Halton and Bo Weaver, discuss pentesting and cybersecurity [Interview]
    • Cloud security products uninstalled by mutating malware [Ed: Affects already-compromised servers]

      Linux is more prevalent than one might think, Microsoft Azure is now predominantly run on Linux servers – it’s not just the Chinese cloud environments being hosted via Linux, it’s likely that your business is running at least one cloud service on a Linux server too.

    • Google Play still has a clone problem in 2019 with no end in sight

      A fake app tries to clone another app in name, looks, and functionality, often also adding something like malware. Despite Google’s best efforts, both types of apps were fairly common in 2018.

    • Designing the future of cybersecurity in Europe

      I have been appointed the European Parliament’s rapporteur, so I will be leading the negotiations on the Parliament position. Read my draft report here.

      Cybersecurity is the process of enhancing the security of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It is important to understand that security cannot be improved by buying a product, like a virus scanner or a firewall, for example.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Colombia Blames ELN for Bomb, Presses Cuba to Arrest Leaders

      Colombia called on Cuba to arrest 10 National Liberation Army commanders currently in Havana for stalled peace talks after a car bombing blamed on the leftist rebels killed 21 people and injured dozens at a police academy in Bogota.

      President Ivan Duque said late Friday that he had revoked a decree suspending arrest orders against leaders of Colombia’s last remaining rebel group, known as the ELN for its Spanish initials, who have been living on the communist-run island.

      “It’s clear to all of Colombia that the ELN has no true desire for peace,” Duque said in a televised address, citing a long list of 400 terrorist attacks attributed to the guerrillas since peace talks began in 2017.

    • At Least 66 Killed as Pipeline Explosion Rocks Central Mexico

      Local residents were advised to take precautions from a lingering toxic cloud on Saturday as authorities in the central Mexican state of Hildalgo said the death toll from a gasoline pipeline explosion had risen to 66.

      The deadly fireball on Friday night in the town of Tlahuelilpan left another 76 wounded, seven of whom were less than 18 years old, said Gov. Omar Fayad.

      The cause of the explosion, said state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), was a rupture caused by illegal tapping of the pipeline.

    • What Trump’s Syrian Withdrawal Really Reveals

      President Trump was wrong in asserting that the United States destroyed the Islamic State’s territorial statehood in a large part of Syria—Russia and its allies accomplished that—but he is right in proposing to withdraw some 2,000 American forces from that tragically war-ravaged country. The small American contingent serves no positive combat or strategic purpose unless it is to thwart the Russian-led peace negotiations now underway or to serve as a beachhead for a US war against Iran. Still worse, its presence represents a constant risk that American military personnel could be killed by Russian forces also operating in that relatively small area, thereby turning the new Cold War into a very hot conflict, even if inadvertently. Whether or not Trump understood this danger, his decision, if actually implemented—it is being fiercely resisted in Washington—will make US-Russian relations, and thus the world, somewhat safer.

      Nonetheless, Trump’s decision on Syria, coupled with his order to reduce US forces in Afghanistan by half, has been “condemned,” as The New York Times approvingly reported, “across the ideological spectrum,” by “the left and right.” Analyzing these condemnations, particularly in the opinion-shaping New York Times and Washington Post and on interminable (and substantially uninformed) MSNBC and CNN segments, again reveals the alarming thinking that is deeply embedded in the US bipartisan policy-media establishment.

      First, no foreign-policy initiative undertaken by President Trump, however wise it may be in regard to US national interests, will be accepted by that establishment. Any prominent political figure who does so will promptly and falsely be branded, in the malign spirit of Russiagate, as “pro-Putin,” or, as was Senator Rand Paul, arguably the only foreign-policy statesman in the senate today, “an isolationist.” This is unprecedented in modern American history. Not even Richard Nixon was subject to such establishment constraints on his ability to conduct national-security policy during the Watergate scandals.

      Second, not surprisingly, the condemnations of Trump’s decision are infused with escalating, but still unproven, Russiagate allegations of the president’s “collusion” with the Kremlin. Thus, equally predictably, the Times finds a Moscow source to say, of the withdrawals, “Trump is God’s gift that keeps on giving” to Putin. (In fact, it is not clear that the Kremlin is eager to see the United States withdraw from either Syria or Afghanistan, as this would leave Russia alone with what it regards as common terrorist enemies.) Closer to home, there is the newly reelected Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who, when asked about Trump’s policies and Russian President Putin, told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “I think that the president’s relationship with thugs all over the world is appalling. Vladimir Putin, really? Really? I think it’s dangerous.” By this “leadership” reasoning, Trump should be the first US president since FDR to have no “relationship” whatsoever with a Kremlin leader. And to the extent that Pelosi speaks for the Democratic Party, it can no longer be considered a party of American national security.

    • That Time a CIA Spyplane Had to Dodge a Spear During the Cold War

      As drones become more common in the sky, so to do the ways to knock them down.

    • The “Congolese SAM” and other lesser-known dangers of aerial reconnaissance

      As we’ve written about before, the Central Intelligence Agency’s archives abound with examples of the more unorthodox challenges of aerial espionage. One such incident, discussed in a SECRET article by Dino Brugioni in the Fall 1979 issue of the Agency’s Studies in Intelligence quarterly magazine, describes an unusual example of small arms fire: the “Congolese SAM” …

    • Previously secret CIA report documents spear attack against surveillance plane

      In the 1960s, during the civil wars and political upheaval that rocked what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States Air Force flew frequent low-level reconnaissance missions over missionary outposts to check on their condition and safety. One flyover in 1964 drew an attack from the ground that was captured in part by an aerial photograph: a thrown spear.

    • Hmong Exiles Reach End of Road in Suit Against Laos

      The Ninth Circuit on Monday tossed a Hmong woman’s proposed class action accusing Laos and several of its highest-ranking government officials of trying to exterminate Hmong people who fought in the Vietnam War as part of the CIA’s “secret army.”

      In an unsigned memorandum, the three-judge panel affirmed findings that the unidentified woman failed to establish subject-matter jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute because her allegations weren’t connected with events in the United States.

    • Bidding war for US government cloud contract heats up

      Sometime soon, the US Department of Defense (DoD) will make its decision on where to award the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract.

      The successful bidder will walk away with the biggest cloud customer in the world, as 3.4 million government users and four million devices are due to be migrated from private servers into the cloud.

    • Has the Government Legalized Secret Defense Spending?

      October 4th, 2018, was a busy news day. The fight over Brett Kavanuagh’s Supreme Court nomination dominated the cycle. The Trump White House received a supplemental FBI report it said cleared its would-be nominee of wrongdoing. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens meanwhile said Kavanaugh was compromised enough that he was “unable to sit as a judge.”
      #NationalTacoDay trended on Twitter. Chris Evans told the world production wrapped on Avengers 4.
      The only thing that did not make the news was an announcement by a little-known government body called the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board — FASAB — that essentially legalized secret national security spending. The new guidance, “SFFAS 56 – CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES” permits government agencies to “modify” public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. It also expressly allows federal agencies to refrain from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered.

    • The Soviet scientist who disappeared in 1980s Madrid

      It’s March 31, 1985 and the countercultural scene known as “La Movida” is in full swing in Madrid. One of the most important scientists from the Soviet Union, Vladimir Alexandrov, has just arrived from Córdoba after participating in the Assembly of Non-Nuclear Cities on the invitation of the city’s mayor, Julio Anguita of the Spanish Communist Party.

      Alexandrov, 47, had been in Spain for three days and was reportedly drunk throughout that time. But the night that he arrived back in Madrid from Córdoba, he disappeared and nobody has seen him alive ever since.

    • ‘The End of Truth’: Politics, mercenaries and conspiracies

      At the world premiere of his new political thriller “The End of Truth,” DW spoke with director Philipp Leinemann about mercenaries, foreign intervention and secret CIA operations in Germany.

    • Yemen: The Very Phony Ceasefire

      The government is at a disadvantage here because the rebels have been stealing and stockpiling (on their northwestern Yemen homeland) or selling much of the food and other aid. Their core supporters were taken care of but the majority of Yemenis in need of that foreign aid were not. Major damage to Hodeida port facilities would mean delays in getting aid in from the two major southern ports (which do not have the capacity Hodeida has). Rebuilding Hodeida port facilities would take over a year although some unloading could begin within a month or so of an end to the violence around the port that would allow repair equipment and personnel to get in. The rebels could be really nasty and leave Iranian naval mines in the waterways the port depends on. That would make it more times consuming to restore use of the port. The rebels have already planted thousands of landmines and explosive traps in and around the port area. The government forces have been clearing those as they advanced and that did slow the advance. But the rebels could not stop the advance and the rebels know they will eventually lose and all these obstructions are mainly to encourage the government and neighboring Saudi Arabia to leave the Shia tribes with some autonomy and little retaliation for all the mess this failed rebellion has caused.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • BuzzFeed’s stumble is highest-profile misstep at a time when press is under greatest scrutiny

      BuzzFeed News’ apparently mistaken story about Michael Cohen and President Donald Trump is the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny…

    • CIA Historical Review Panel Put on Hiatus

      The Historical Review Panel that advises the Central Intelligence Agency on declassification of historical intelligence records said this week that its planned December 2018 meeting was canceled by CIA, and that no future meetings were scheduled.

      But CIA said yesterday that the Panel would be reconvened following some administrative changes.

      “We have recently been informed that the Panel is being restructured and will not meet again until this has been done,” said the Panel of independent historians, chaired by Prof. Robert Jervis of Columbia University, in a January 14 statement published on H-DIPLO. “The reasons for this remain unclear to us, and no schedule for resumed meetings has been announced.”

      Upon further investigation, it appears that changes may be made regarding composition of Panel membership, term limits, and similar issues but that the scope of the Panel’s activities will be unaffected. The reconstituted Panel is expected to meet again sometime this year.

    • Alleged Football Leaks Hacker Seeks “Whistleblower” Protection After Arrest In Hungary

      Since its inception in 2015, Football Leaks, a website that publishes documents obtained from the hacking of various powerful soccer clubs and organizations, has been the bane of European soccer. The website has helped surface scandals ranging from Cristiano Ronaldo’s rape case and Jose Mourinho’s tax evasion, to more mundane leaks like the transfer agreement between Manchester United and Monaco for Anthony Martial. It also leaked the plans by top European clubs to create an exclusive “super league,” a proposal that has been met with much resistance throughout the continent.

      As for who was behind Football Leaks, there wasn’t a Julian Assange-level personality in the public eye, but rumors dating back to 2016 pegged then-27-year-old Rui Pinto, a Portuguese national, as the website’s owner.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Earth’s #10YearChallenge Is Grim

      And on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, people are now using the hashtag to share side-by-side comparisons of Amazon deforestation, melting glaciers, polluted waterways, and other environmental woes.

  • Finance

    • Google announces first ever price hikes for G Suite

      The price rises aren’t small – 20 per cent in some cases, but this only applies to the Basic and Business editions. Enterprise customers will be subject to more bespoke arrangements, it was ever thus.

      Monthly prices will go up from $5 to $6 per seat on the basic plan and from $10 to $12 per seat on the business tier. Google says that there will be “equivalent” rises in local currencies which will mean that UK users can expect prices to rise from the current £6.60 to around £7.50 for business users, and £3 to £4 for basics.

    • What’s Next for Public Education in 2019

      Day after day this week, the streets of Los Angeles hosted an increasingly familiar sight: a wave of striking teachers and their supporters clad in red, marching to strengthen public education by demanding smaller classes, reductions in high-stakes testing, better pay and more support staff. Defying the rain for multiple days of their strike, they held signs declaring themselves “ON STRIKE FOR OUR STUDENTS,” implicitly affirming that the #RedForEd movement revived by striking teachers in 2018 remains alive and well in 2019, too.

      From surges in teacher organizing to Trump administration attacks on students’ safety and dignity, 2018 offered examples of both the best and worst in public education. On the hopeful side, last year, teachers – particularly in states long beset by anti-union policies, chronic underfunding and low pay – launched powerful and effective strikes. Although in its Janus v. AFSCME decision the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority rewarded decades of corporate attacks on public sector unions, teachers and other public employees in many places are sticking to the union. Nevertheless, the Trump administration continued to weaponize the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the very youth whose rights OCR exists to protect, bringing the culture war to schools by serving up marginalized students’ rights and dignity at school as red meat for Trump’s political supporters. Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the administration has also given cover to predatory for-profit colleges and had to be sued in order to begin forgiving student loans held by borrowers who’d been scammed by such institutions.

      But important opportunities exist amid the cruelty and chaos imposed by Trump, DeVos and like-minded people around the country. It’s worth remembering that the Trump administration does not wield absolute control over our country’s schools, and they’ll be out of power in the less-distant-than-it-feels future. Though we’re still in the earliest days of 2019, Election 2020 is already heating up, which offers a chance to make sure federal candidates know we demand their full support for education justice. Our next president must not only pledge to respect America’s diverse student body but prove it by appointing a well-qualified and compassionate education secretary who’s ready to shred every page of DeVos’s bad policies as soon as humanly possible. We need to elect senators who will confirm that person, too.

    • Washington Post Forgets to Mention, Scott Walker Misled Fifth Graders About Taxes

      Ocasio-Cortez is right on this point and Walker is wrong. He either does not understand how our income tax system works or is deliberately lying to advance his agenda. Either way, the Post should have pointed out that Walker was wrong.

      Many people are confused about the concept of a marginal tax rate (the higher tax rate only applies to the income above a cutoff). Opponents of high marginal taxes on the rich try to take advantage of this confusion in the way Scott Walker did with his class of fifth graders. It is the media’s responsibility to try to inform people about how the tax system works and to expose politicians who misrepresent the issue.

    • Let’s Honor MLK’s Fight for Economic Justice by Expanding Social Security

      We live in a divisive time, where the president of the United States focuses on our differences instead of our common humanity. Though Dr. Martin Luther King was controversial, he sought to unite us, to appeal to our better angels. Dr. King believed strongly in the dignity of all of us. He understood that we are all created equal.

      Because of these beliefs, he pushed not just for racial justice, but for economic justice, understanding that they are inextricably linked. He worked tirelessly for worker security, economic equality, and social justice.

      Indeed, when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, he was there to support sanitation workers who were on strike for decent wages, safer working conditions and the recognition of their union. For weeks before his death, he spent time planning a Poor People’s March on Washington.

    • How relatives of Moscow’s deputy mayor earned billions on city contracts, amassing a fortune in real estate

      Moscow Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov’s relatives bought a massive penthouse in the “Legend of Tsvetnoy” complex. These apartments typically sell for about 1.5 billion rubles ($22.7 million).
      December 22, 2015, was a good day for the sales managers at the elite “Legend of Tsvetnoy” residential complex in Moscow. That day, somebody bought nine of the ten apartments on the top two floors of the central tower — enormous homes with panoramic glass windows and a view of the Kremlin that (in the developer’s words) “erases the boundaries between man and city, opening up the possibility of enjoying an unlimited view of the capital.” The total value of the apartments, according to Russia’s public registry, is more than 820 million rubles ($12.4 million). Based on the prices of similar penthouses in the Legend of Tsvetnoy, their market value could be as high as 1.6 billion rubles ($24.2 million).

      Meduza has learned that all nine of the penthouses were purchased by family members of Moscow Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov, who has managed the city’s municipal services system for more than a decade. According to Federal State Registration Service records, four of the apartments belong to Biryukov’s oldest daughter, 46-year-old Irina Biryukova; two are registered in the name of his 41-year-old son, Alexander Biryukov; and another three belong to Alexander’s wife, 31-year-old Ekaterina Biryukova. Put together, the Biryukovs’ penthouses cover more than 17,220 square feet (twice as much as the palatial Eliseevsky store on Tverskaya Street in Moscow).

    • Why I Stand With UTLA’s Fight for Teachers, Families and Children

      I walked the line in ’89. I was a teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District when the teachers’ union (UTLA) led the last teachers’ strike. Now I’m a professor of education, seeing things from a different angle. I’m happy to report one big difference between 1989 and now: LA teachers are asking for much more than a modest and well-deserved pay raise for themselves. They are advocating for the rights of children and families in a public education system that has been severely eroded over the years since I left the classroom.

      In 1989 conditions in schools were challenging too, but those problems weren’t up front and center in the strike rhetoric. Then, one of the biggest issues was overcrowding. I worked in a multi-track, “year-round” school, where three classes shared two classroom spaces, rotating between them – and shuffling all our materials – as each class came on for two months and then off for one throughout the year. Then, as now, we were short-staffed on support services. Once a week we had access to a school psychologist, whose main job was to conduct testing, not secure services for kids who had experienced multiple traumas in the new-immigrant, high poverty school where I worked. There was only one part-time nurse on duty to serve a school of 2700 kids. Students were not allowed to run on the asphalt playground for fear of the scraped knees that could result. (And in schools with high levels of trauma, nurses play important roles in terms of providing kids some respite from psychosomatic illnesses.)

      Thirty years later, overcrowded schools are not the biggest problem LA schools face. That is in large part due to gentrification and the exodus of students from public to private or charter schools – the continuation of a long process of “white flight” and a growing abandonment of everything public by those with the means to buy services. But overcrowded classrooms are a real and growing problem, with upwards of 45 students squeezing into many classrooms. And support staff has shrunk even more.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • ‘No Wall. No Deals.’ Rights Groups Urge Congress to Reject Trump Plan for Trump-Created Crisis

      Confirming earlier reports, President Donald Trump on Saturday announced a proposal to end his shutdown that includes $5.7 billion for his “border wall” in exchange for temporary protections for DACA and TPS recipients—a proposal one advocacy group deemed a “cynical ploy” issued by “a president who makes false claims about violence at the border and demonizes immigrants, regardless of status, at every opportunity.”

      In his address from the White House, which began just after 4pm ET, Trump said the nearly $6 billion would allow for “steel barriers” in “high priority areas,” and asserted that “walls are the opposite of immoral.” In addition to the three-year reprieve for TPS recipients and uncertainty extension for Dreamers, his proposal includes over $800 million in “drug detection technology” and over 2,700 agents to further militarize the southern border.

      “Trump’s cynical ploy to get his $5.7 billion for his vanity wall in exchange for temporary relief for DACA and TPS recipients is a non-starter and should be immediately rejected by congressional leaders,” Richard Morales, policy and program director for Faith in Action’s immigrant rights campaign.

      The partial government shutdown, Morales argued, “exists because of Trump’s white supremacist agenda.” Moreover, “Even if the shutdown were to suddenly end, the deeper crises created by Trump at the border and in the interior would still need to be addressed by Congress.”

    • President Donald Trump and Political Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

      Back in August 2016, Angel M. Castillo, based on what was being said and done on the campaign trail, proposed as an analogy from psychiatry that Donald Trump and his supporters were suffering from a collective case of political Munchausen Syndrome. Boiled down, this means that although they were leading reasonably good lives, they acted in the political sphere like they were somehow marginalized victims being done harm by other social groups.

      This political diagnosis is close, but it misses a key point of President Trump’s behavior as a leader that recent developments have made clear. Trump and his followers are not the victims here, nor are they any longer pretending to be. The victims are the American people as a whole. The correct analogy is to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (hereafter MSP), also known as Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA).

    • Facebook employees busted leaving 5-star reviews for Portal on Amazon

      Facebook’s Portal smart displays have had an uphill battle, trying to convince people to willingly give the notoriously security-lax social media company another avenue into their homes. But it seems some people are pretty happy with their Portals: Facebook employees, who were just caught leaving five-star reviews for their own product on Amazon.

    • Digital First Media is reportedly planning to make an offer to buy USA Today publisher Gannett

      MNG and its hedge fund backer and largest shareholder Alden Global Capital LLC have a reputation for slashing costs at its media investments leaning on a strategy of layoffs and zero-based budgeting, demanding that operators justify their annual expenses.

    • Netflix Sees Fortnite as a Bigger Rival Than HBO

      AT&T plans to make HBO an anchor for a set of new streaming services, Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson has said. A trio of platforms is due to arrive later this year, with different prices and features. The question then is whether HBO will be as easy to downplay.

    • Belonging and Social Change: A Critique of the Politics of Wokeness

      We are in an amazing and dangerous time, where the chronic social problems which have caused so much trauma over so many years are coming to be seen as urgent and in need of attention by a rapidly increasing number of people. As so many people become “woke” to these problems, it is important that we develop a culture of social change that is ready to hold those people in a positive and supportive community.

      And yet, in many social justice circles, and especially online, the world of social justice is in danger of becoming a circular firing squad, where people fight to see who is the most woke, and where they see activism as primarily about challenging the lack of wokeness in others. If we want to make real progress in fighting the forms of domination that are destroying our lives and the habitability of the planet, we need to find ways to support each other in learning how to work together for social change. Some of that has to do with having empathy for people who are just coming to consciousness. Some of it has to do with seeing what we are facing as related to institutional structures that need challenging, as opposed to simply being about identity and interpersonal interactions.

      As people get woke about what is wrong with the world they begin to see the hidden patterns and structures of power underlying social reality. Hopefully, after that they find a way to take that understanding and turn it into action to build a better world. And when all is really going well, that engagement becomes a positive aspect of a person’s life. Challenging the mainstream, having the audacity to believe that one can make a difference, and committing time to challenging power are not easy. People stay in that game and are successful in making a difference when they feel that they are part of a larger team of millions of people who are building a world that worlds for us all.

      That’s what happened for me. I got politicized in 1980 around opposing U.S. support for the dictatorship in El Salvador. I became engaged right away, and through that engagement, discussed, read, and analyzed. I ended up simultaneously doing work to change the world, deepening my consciousness, and coming into contact with amazing people who became close friends and allies, and who enriched my life.

    • What You Need to Know About the 2020 Democratic Primary Changes

      The 2020 Democratic primaries are upon us now that Elizabeth Warren, Obama administration alum Julian Castro and Tulsi Gabbard have announced. And there are rumors that Kristen Gillibrand is also a likely contender, among others.

      It looks like it’s going to be the year of the woman, but it’s also going to be a very different election than 2016 — especially because Democrats have made some changes to the way their run their primaries. Here’s what you need to know about those changes and how they might influence the shape of the election.

      California, Texas and a number of other states are switching up their primary schedules, holding these elections much earlier in the year. This could dramatically change the game for candidates hoping to stick it out through the early stages of the primaries. Now they’ll need to spend more money on political advertising and make more trips to big-ticket states like California. And that means those states will play a more active role in selecting the 2020 Democratic ticket.

    • Can the Swamp Drain Itself? Key Challenges for Anti-Corruption Reform

      Voters across the political spectrum want policymakers to enact anti-corruption legislation, and Democrats responded by making corruption a signature issue in the 2018 election. This month, they followed through on that promise by introducing the For the People Act, an ethics and government reform package. The bill is the first real movement in Congress on government corruption since the Watergate era, and it includes important reforms to voting rights and campaign finance law that will help reclaim elections from the wealthy and powerful and give them back to the American people. However, the bill falls short in one key area: curbing corruption in government via the influence of money in policymaking.

      Money’s influence in our elections typically receives far more attention than its sway on the legislative and administrative policy processes that follow once elected officials take office. Last year, Rohit Chopra and I released a report examining how our country’s current patchwork of ethics laws guard against corruption and conflicts of interest. We found that the wealthy and well-connected are able to buy influence over the policymaking process in many ways, including providing financial incentives to public servants, hiring lobbyists who maintain cozy relationships with government officials, and even buying up think tanks to produce favorable research. Though subtle, this stacking of the deck tilts policy decisions toward the interests of those who can afford to buy influence: big corporations and the very affluent. As a result, corruption in policymaking stands in the way of addressing nearly every issue on the progressive agenda, from wealth inequality to climate change.

    • Feds Confirm Jailed Iranian TV Anchor Not Charged With Crime

      Federal officials confirmed Friday that a prominent American-born anchorwoman on Iranian state television was jailed in the U.S. as a material witness and has not been charged with any crime, according to court papers.

      Marzieh Hashemi has appeared twice before a U.S. district judge in Washington and has been appointed an attorney. U.S. government officials expect her to be released immediately after her testimony before a grand jury.

      The order to unseal some parts of her case came days after she was first detained. It did not include details on the criminal case in which she was named a witness. Her son Hossein Hashemi did not comment on details of the case outside court on Friday.

    • Unauthorized Washington Post offers a fantasy grounded in movement wisdom

      On Wednesday morning, as commuters in Washington D.C. made their way to work, the front page of what appeared to be the Washington Post had people stopping in their tracks. The headline read: “UNPRESIDENTED: Trump hastily departs White House, ending crisis.”

      Upon closer inspection, a few things about this free “special edition” didn’t seem quite right. For starters, the paper was dated May 1, 2019, and the tagline read “Democracy awakens in action” instead of the Post’s usual “Democracy dies in darkness.” Meanwhile, the paper itself was filled with stories about a tidal wave of creative resistance — led mainly by women — that had ousted Donald Trump from office.

      “Can I get some more copies?” asked one man passing by distributors near the White House. “I’m a federal employee, and my colleagues will love this.”

      From a colorful quinceañera dress blockade opposing the border wall to parents and young children engaging in “sippy cup sit-ins” at Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office to protests of Twitter forcing the deactivation of Trump’s account, the stories paint a picture of a potential future without Trump — and the strategic, creative ways to make that happen.

    • Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 Campaign May Be Over Before It Starts

      Though Gabbard has fashioned herself as an anti-Trump progressive, this past weekend was filled with revelations that could set her back in a crowded 2020 race that won’t afford candidates much margin for error. The latest came Sunday night when CNN reported that in the early 2000s Gabbard touted working for her father’s anti-gay organization, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage. The group supported legislation against same-sex marriage and promoted conversion therapy. Gabbard cited how she worked for the ATM — which described homosexuality as “unhealthy, abnormal behavior that should not be promoted or accepted in society” — as she was running for a seat in the Hawaii state legislature. She was 21 at the time.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Zimbabwe Government explains reason for blocking social media

      The government says following the well planned violent demonstrations that rocked the country early this week, it was necessary to close the internet to reduce further harm that has so far cost the nation millions of dollars.

      Deputy Chief Secretary – Communications in the President’s Office, Mr George Charamba, who is accompanying President Mnangagwa on EURASIA tour, said the internet, particularly social media was used to coordinate the violence and the government had to step in.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Don’t underestimate Americans’ knowledge of Facebook’s business model

      All of these stories are accurate — but I tend to view this data more optimistically. A high school career spent staying up late and catching “Jaywalking” segments on The Tonight Show (don’t @ me) instilled a healthy skepticism that a large group of Americans could ever be assumed to know anything. As recently as 2017, a majority of Americans could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment. If these fellow countrymen of mine are still catching up to the vicissitudes of online ad platforms, I can forgive them.

    • Playing Fortnite? Be careful as the game allows [crackers] steal your data

      If exploited, the vulnerability would have given an attacker full access to a user’s account and their personal information as well as enabling them to purchase virtual in-game currency using the victim’s payment card details. The vulnerability would also have allowed for a massive invasion of privacy as an attacker could listen to in-game chatter as well as surrounding sounds and conversations within the victim’s home or other location of play. While Fortnite players had previously been targeted by scams that deceived them into logging into fake websites that promised to generate Fortnite’s ‘V-Buck’ in-game currency, these new vulnerabilities could have been exploited without the player handing over any login details.

    • Woman sues T-Mobile after employees allegedly snoop on racy private video

      A New Jersey woman has sued T-Mobile in state court last week for sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, and other counts. She claims that, when she went to trade in her iPhone 7 at a store, two male employees rifled through her photos without her consent.

    • A Twitter bug exposed some Android users’ protected tweets for years

      If you’ve used Twitter on your Android phone anytime since 2014, you might want to double-check your settings. Twitter disclosed on its Help Center page today that some Android users had their private tweets revealed for years due to a security flaw. The issue caused the Twitter for Android app to disable the “Protect your Tweets” setting for some Android users who made changes to their account settings, such as changing the email address associated with their account, between November 3rd, 2014 and January 14th, 2019.

    • In defense of smart TV snooping

      Speaking to The Verge’s Nilay Patel, Baxter acknowledged that Vizio can monitor everything users are watching, then anonymize that data and sell it to marketers or use it to show targeted ads. Those methods, along with the occasional movie rental or TV show purchase, help Vizio make money long after selling the television itself. A dumb TV without internet features, Baxter said, would probably cost more than a comparable smart TV due to the hardware’s slim profit margins and inability to pull in extra revenue down the road.

      If you have a few minutes, try to find another example of a TV vendor executive describing “post-purchase monetization” in such a straightforward way to a consumer publication. You won’t, because the truth doesn’t sound pretty. Vizio itself was slapped with an FTC fine two years ago for obscuring its data collection practices, and still faces a class-action lawsuit over the issue, which might explain why Baxter is now being so forthright.

    • Judge unseals trove of internal Facebook documents following our legal action

      A glimpse into the soon-to-be-released records shows Facebook’s own employees worried they were bamboozling children who racked up hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of dollars in game charges. And the company failed to provide an effective way for unsuspecting parents to dispute the massive charges, according to internal Facebook records.

      The documents are part of a 2012 class-action lawsuit against the social media giant that claimed it inappropriately profited from business transactions with children.

    • U.S. regulators have met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook for privacy violations
    • Facebook Could Be Slapped With A ‘Record-Setting’ Fine By FTC

      A report by The Washington Post has indicated that the Federal Trade Commission is planning on punishing Facebook with a “record-setting” fine for failing to protect users’ data. The information to the post came from three anonymous people who are familiar with the proceedings of FTC.

    • FTC reportedly considering record fine for Facebook

      The Washington Post reported Friday that the five FTC commissioners have met in recent weeks to discuss the potentially record-setting fine and its findings on whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent agreement requiring it to be transparent about its handling of user data.

    • Facebook may be hit with “record-setting fine” by FTC, report says

      Ashkan Soltani, a former FTC chief technologist, and current independent privacy researcher, reminded Ars that the agency does have the ability to impose an injunction that would mandate certain practices.

    • Privacy activist files EU complaints against Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube

      Max Schrems, a noted privacy advocate who leads the group None of Your Business (NOYB), filed 10 complaints on Friday with the Austrian Data Protection Authority against eight companies for allegedly not following the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

    • Sen. Marco Rubio wants to ban states from protecting consumer privacy

      Rubio’s announcement Wednesday said that his American Data Dissemination (ADD) Act “provides overdue transparency and accountability from the tech industry while ensuring that small businesses and startups are still able to innovate and compete in the digital marketplace.”

      But Rubio’s bill establishes a process for creating rules instead of issuing specific rules right away, and it allows up to 27 months for Congress or the Federal Trade Commission to write the actual rules.

    • The FBI ‘Can Neither Confirm nor Deny’ That It Monitors Your Social Media Posts`

      The six other federal agencies we submitted the FOIA request to haven’t produced a single document. The request, filed last May, seeks information on how the agencies collect and analyze posts from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

      Today we sued the agencies to get some answers, because the public has a right to know about the exact nature of social media surveillance — especially whether agencies are monitoring and retaining social media posts, or using surveillance products that label activists and people of color as threats to public safety based on their First Amendment-protected activities.

    • EU Member States willing to retain illegal data retention

      This puts the European data retention situation at a stalemate. Member States refuse to even think of alternatives to their current blanket data retention regimes, but they cannot have blanket data retention, at least not legally, because the CJEU has ruled that it is illegal under EU law. The European Commission is the “guardian of the Treaties”, but appears unwilling to start infringement proceedings against Member States even if it is “monitoring” them. Legal action at the national level against data retention laws is, of course, a potential way out of the stalemate. Litigation is currently being pursued in some Member States, and in the past has been successful in a number of Member States.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • No End in Sight: The Perils of Trump’s Guantánamo

      From the Muslim ban to the continuing proxy war in Yemen, the new era of the “war on terror” under the Trump administration has kept Guantánamo largely invisible. But two years since Donald Trump’s inauguration, there has been a host of cruel measures implemented under his leadership, despite his emphasis on other problematic policies.

      Rather than becoming a relic of the war on terror, Trump has instead attempted to revive Guantánamo as a legitimate facility to incarcerate Muslim prisoners. As an institution that has long set the precedent for the mistreatment of Muslims suspected of terrorism, the urgency of addressing the perils of Guantánamo cannot be overstated. Moreover, 17 years after the first prisoners were brought to Guantánamo, it now risks becoming a permanent fixture of the endless war on terror, where human rights abuses remain unabated and where accountability is nonexistent.

      Having detained a total of about 780 prisoners from when it opened to incarcerate terror suspects, the number has now dwindled to 40 after prior administrations released many of Guantánamo’s prisoners. Under Trump, however, rather than closing, Guantánamo may very well be expanding.

    • A Global Battle of Values and Ideals

      With each day that passes the conflict and animosity between the conservative reactionary forces and the global movement for progressive change becomes more acute, uglier and increasingly dangerous; wherever one looks in the world the battleground between groups on either side of the divide rages. In essence it is a battle of values and ideas, of what kind of society we want to live in, but as the extremes, particularly those on what is commonly called the ‘right’, assert themselves, the space for rational, open debate is being crushed and a febrile intolerant atmosphere fueled.

      Decades of systemic failure, environmental vandalism and social injustice have caused widespread discontent and anger among people in many countries, injustice made more severe by policies of crippling austerity following the 2008 banking crash. Among the 38 members of the wealthy OECD nations it is said that 50% of the population feel disenchanted with the political-economic system.

      Consistent with the times we are living in – times in which the forces of the past are receding and the energies of the new are increasing in potency, the reaction to such discontent has been polarized. While large numbers of people recognize systemic change is needed and are calling for greater levels of cooperation between people and nations, others, in many cases equally great in numbers, blame external forces and immigration, and retreat into a narrow form of nationalism, seeking security.

      Antagonisms have been enflamed by politicians who either fail to understand the impact of their poisonous rhetoric or simply don’t care what effect they have. The resulting political divisions are acute and, in many cases, compromise between groups on either side of the debate appears impossible as, for example, the government shut down in America and the Brexit deadlock demonstrate. Brexit has become the burning issue of conflict in the UK, fueling fractious, volatile political debate and entrenched national divisions. As one pro-EU protestor told The Observer, “this is civil war without the muskets…it is appalling.”

      Throughout Europe and America a huge increase in hate crimes against immigrants and other groups is one of the consequences of these tensions, as is distrust of the mainstream media and the abuse of MPs, particularly of women: a report (surveying 55 female MPs from 39 countries) from the Inter-Parliamentary Union reveals that 44.4% of all women elected to office have received threats of either “death, rape, beatings and/or abductions.” In Britain, the BBC relates that, “Labour MP Jess Phillips said in one night she received 600 rape threats and was threatened with violence and aggression every day.” Other female members of parliament in the UK, especially those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, have consistently been the victims of such disturbing attacks, and on the 7th January online abuse spilled on to the streets when MP Anna Soubry, a pro-Europe member of the Conservative party, was verbally attacked and physically intimidated by a group of far right activists who support the UK leaving the European Union. The men surrounded her outside the House of Commons, called her a ‘Fascist’ and a ‘Nazi’, and blocked her way as she tried to enter Parliament; these men are “not protestors” said Soubry, “they are thugs.” And, as the murder of the MP Jo Cox on 16th June 2016 so tragically showed, in the hands of such people, vile words can easily become violent actions.

    • The racial injustice of the government shutdown

      Rank of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown ordered by President Trump — an effort to get congressional funding for an unpopular $5.7 billion wall along the Mexican border — among the longest in U.S. history: 1

      Total number of federal workers who are either furloughed or working without pay because of the shutdown: 800,000

      Number of these workers who earn less than $50,000 a year: almost 111,000

      Amount in pay the average affected federal worker has already missed as a result of the shutdown: $5,000

      Number of shutdown-affected federal workers in the 13 Southern states*: 153,200

      Percent of the U.S. population that’s black: 12

    • Ocasio-Cortez Delivers Powerful Call for Justice as Third Women’s March Kicks Off

      “Justice is about the water we drink. Justice is about the air we breathe. Justice is about how easy it is to vote. Justice is about how much ladies get paid. Justice is about if we can stay with our children after we have them for a just amount of time.”

      So declared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday, as the third annual Women’s March brought thousands of women to the streets of cities across the globe, though tensions within the movement have created rifts.

      The freshman lawmaker was among the speakers at a march in New York City.

    • Those Nazi Rallies Are Not for the Left. They’re for Centrist Journalists.

      In November, the largest neo-Nazi organization in the United States made an appearance in Little Rock, Arkansas. But if you heard any details about the rally and counterprotest, it probably wasn’t from any mainstream media outlets.

      About 20-30 members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a neo-Nazi group, rallied on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol. Nearly every one of them was from out of town. They chose this location because, in their own words, “There’s a lot of support here.”

      For locals who are familiar with some of the far-right extremist movements in this state, that statement certainly doesn’t seem unreasonable. After all, the town of Harrison is still known as a hub of white supremacist activity in Arkansas: It is home to the national headquarters of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and its director, Thomas Robb. Billy Roper, an outspoken neo-Nazi and former member of a skinhead gang, organized a similar rally for “South African rights” in Little Rock in 2012. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “Hate Map” reports several other far-right and white supremacist extremist groups in central Arkansas alone.

      “We’re not here for you,” said the NSM’s then-outreach coordinator, Matthew Heimbach, to an audience of more than 100 counterprotesters as they tried to drown him out with noise-makers and chants.

      It seems clear that the NSM traveled here not to change the hearts and minds of leftists and liberals, but to show solidarity with other white supremacists and far-right extremists, or so it seems

    • Portraits From the Women’s Wave

      Thousands of protesters persevered through finger-numbing weather at Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza for the third annual Women’s March. Adorned with pink “pussy hats” and handcrafted picket signs, an estimated 10,000 gathered to march, rally and lend their ears to select speakers. This year’s protest, deemed the #WomensWave, takes strong issue with the Trump administration while encouraging women to exercise their political rights.

      The movement, which prides itself on inclusivity, recently came under scrutiny after accusations of anti-Semitic remarks and connections to black nationalist Louis Farrakhan by some of the Women’s March leaders were brought forward. Despite these allegations, the movement continued to speak on the importance of diversity and inclusivity when it comes to religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. Such ideals remained a key aspiration espoused by speakers and march-goers alike. Nevertheless, protesters had varying opinions on how close the Women’s March was to achieving this goal.

    • A Scaled-Down, but Still Angry, Women’s March Returns

      Amid internal controversies and a capital city deeply distracted by the partial government shutdown, the third Women’s March returned to Washington on Saturday with an enduring message of anger and defiance aimed directly at President Donald Trump’s White House.

      The original march in 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, flooded the city with pink-hatted protesters. The exact size of the turnout remains subject to a politically charged debate, but it’s generally regarded as the largest Washington protest since the Vietnam era.

      This year was a more modest affair for multiple reasons. An estimated 100,000 protesters packed several blocks around Freedom Plaza, just east of the White House, holding a daylong rally. The march itself took about an hour and only moved about four blocks west along Pennsylvania Avenue past the Trump International Hotel before looping back to Freedom Plaza.

      Organizers submitted a permit application estimating up to 500,000 participants even though it was widely expected that the turnout would be smaller. The original plan was to gather on the National Mall. But with the forecast calling for snow and freezing rain and the National Park Service no longer plowing snow because of the shutdown, organizers on Thursday changed the march’s location and route.

    • Students in ‘MAGA’ Hats Mock Native American After Rally

      A diocese in Kentucky has apologized after videos emerged showing students from an all-male Catholic high school mocking Native Americans outside the Lincoln Memorial after a rally in Washington.

      The Indigenous Peoples March in Washington on Friday coincided with the March for Life, which drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, including a group from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills.

      Videos circulating online show a youth staring at and standing extremely close to Nathan Phillips, an elderly Native American man singing and playing a drum.

    • McClatchy: CIA Chief Gina Haspel Ran Guantánamo Black Site

      This comes as McClatchy is reporting that CIA Director Gina Haspel ran a secret agency black site for prisoners at Guantánamo. The claim is based on a partially redacted transcript of a secret hearing at Guantánamo last November. Haspel was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, where at least one prisoner was waterboarded and tortured in other ways during her tenure. Haspel also oversaw the destruction of videotapes showing torture at the black site. But she was previously not known to have operated out of Guantánamo.

    • The Mystery of the Disappearing Security Clearance

      President Trump tried to unilaterally strip a CIA director’s security clearance, but it’s still unclear whether he actually did.

    • The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan: Getting History Right

      President Trump’s justification of his foreign policy often draws on bizarre theories and bad history.

    • Pompeo Refuses To Say If He Knew About FBI Investigation of Trump As Russian Agent

      Awkward. Trump’s Secretary of State won’t say if he knew about the investigation, which began while he was CIA Director.

    • CIA Director Gina Haspel may have run ‘black site’ at Guantánamo Bay, court docs reveal

      CIA Director Gina Haspel, confirmed by the Senate last year amid accusations of involvement in torture, may have run a so-called ‘black site’ at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Haspel did not mention this role in her confirmation hearing.

      Haspel’s apparent involvement in the site was revealed in the partially redacted transcript of a secret hearing held at Guantánamo last November. Haspel’s name was mentioned in court by a terror suspect’s defense lawyer, who argued that the CIA Director must testify before the court on classification guidelines for reports from the apparent black site.

    • Mike Pompeo Lied About the U.S. and the Middle East. Here’s the Truth.

      So said Mike Pompeo in Cairo on Thursday. Donald Trump’s hawkish secretary of state delivered a speech at the site of Barack Obama’s famous 2009 address to the Muslim world, but Pompeo denounced the former president for “wishful thinking,” partnering “with enemies,” and a reluctance “to wield our influence” in the region.

      Pompeo claimed that the United States was “a force for good in the Middle East” and referred to “America’s innate goodness.” His 3,500-word address at the American University in Cairo contained only one passing reference to “democracy” and zero references to “equality” or “human rights.” There were more than 20 references, however, to “malevolent” and “oppressive” Iran.

      Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, described it “as one of the worst foreign policy speeches I’ve witnessed from a senior U.S. official,” calling it “cynical, petty, incoherent, small, and, well, silly.” Paul Danahar, former BBC Middle East bureau chief, referred to the speech as “simplistic,” noting that “its theme was the goodness of Israel and evil of Iran.”

      The pompous Pompeo told his audience in Cairo that he was going to be “very blunt and direct” and that he wanted to speak about “a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world.” He went on to offer a litany of lies, delusions, and exaggerations. Below, however, is the (fantasy) speech that I wish the secretary of state could have delivered on Thursday, if he truly wanted to be “blunt” and “honest” about U.S. involvement in the Middle East since 1945.

    • Ex-CIA Chief Brennan: ‘Mike Pompeo Should Be Ashamed’ of Comments in Cairo Speech

      “Remember it was here, here in this city that another American stood before you,” Pompeo said in a speech, clearly alluding to Obama.

    • On his 2nd day in office, George H.W. Bush told the CIA he wanted more jokes in his secret intelligence briefings

      President George H.W. Bush occupied the White House during tumultuous times, conducting military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf and grappling with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in just four years.

    • Some of the best jokes the CIA wrote for President H.W. Bush

      President George H.W. Bush occupied the White House during tumultuous times, conducting military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf and grappling with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in just four years.

    • Women This Week: Saudi Arabia Stops “Secret Divorces”
    • Amnesty International’s Troubling Collaboration with UK & US Intelligence

      Amnesty International, the eminent human-rights non-governmental organization, is widely known for its advocacy in that realm. It produces reports critical of the Israeli occupation in Palestine and the Saudi-led war on Yemen. But it also publishes a steady flow of indictments against countries that don’t play ball with Washington — countries like Iran, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, North Korea and more. Those reports amplify the drumbeat for a “humanitarian” intervention in those nations.

      Amnesty’s stellar image as a global defender of human rights runs counter to its early days when the British Foreign Office was believed to be censoring reports critical of the British empire. Peter Benenson, the co-founder of Amnesty, had deep ties to the British Foreign Office and Colonial Office while another co-founder, Luis Kutner, informed the FBI of a gun cache at Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s home weeks before he was killed by the Bureau in a gun raid.

      These troubling connections contradict Amnesty’s image as a benevolent defender of human rights and reveal key figures at the organization during its early years to be less concerned with human dignity and more concerned with the dignity of the United States and United Kingdom’s image in the world.

    • Controversial torture of 9/11 terror suspects explored in radical new Edinburgh theatre project

      A SCOTTISH theatre company are exploring the secret abuses and torture carried out by the US government in their rendition programme in the aftermath of 9/11.

      The rendition programme was one of the most controversial and highly secret acts of recent times, and involved the CIA’s kidnap, detention and torture of terror suspects from across the globe.

      The play, aptly named Rendition, is presented by Edinburgh-based visual theatre company, Tragic Carpet and produced through the visualisation of research findings from The Rendition Project – a unique collaboration of academics and human rights proponents exposing the human rights violations of the US in their ‘War on Terror’ years.

      Using an innovative mix of puppetry, soundscapes and visual theatre, Rendition will feature prisoner testimonies, declassified documents, flight records and court documents, to create an immersive work that tells the story of one man’s nightmare experience as the first suspect to be taken into the CIA’s detention programme.

    • How Not to Smooth Things Over With the CIA

      The president’s strained relationship with the intelligence community goes back to his visit to Langley just a day after his inauguration.

    • Sen Burr should release the full torture report

      I left North Carolina for Washington, D.C ., roughly 16 years ago as a naive 20-something, determined to change the world. I set out to play a small role in making policies that would improve American communities and defend American values. I never imagined I would have to debate whether torture should be used in the name of those values. And yet throughout the 15 years I worked in Congress and the Pentagon, that exact debate has raged.

      Four years ago, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a landmark report detailing the CIA’s post-9/11 use of torture against detainees, its misrepresentations of those activities to Congress and the public, and the utter ineffectiveness of torture. I count myself privileged to have had the opportunity, while serving then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to contribute to the report. Yet four years later, key elements of the CIA remain unaccountable — and the debate rages on.

    • CIA agent turned Batman writer will give away comics to government workers amid shutdown
    • Senator Lindsey Graham Says Saudi Prince Must Be ‘Dealt With’ for U.S- Saudi Ties to Progress

      U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has made a veiled criticism of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

      After he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Graham said in Ankara on Saturday that the U.S. Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those implicated in the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    • Report: 2 killed, 40 detained in new gay purge in Chechnya
  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Leaked Emails Reveal New Reason Apple, Qualcomm Parted Ways

      The exchange suggests that Qualcomm and Apple were arguing over software, rather than the licenses at the center of their bruising legal battle. Still, the emails only offer a small window into the negotiations. It’s common for dueling litigants to carefully select slices of evidence that support their arguments. Although this email exchange hasn’t been submitted in the FTC trial so far. And Williams said in court this week that he spoke with Mollenkopf about the chip supply issue over the phone. The details of that conversation aren’t known.

    • Apple must pay patent troll $440m after losing appeal in FaceTime lawsuit

      What’s more, the fine has since risen to $440m due to interest, enhanced damages and unspecified “other costs”, Reuters reports.

    • Apple loses bid to undo $440 million judgment in VirnetX patent case

      A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld a judgment worth $440 million that was won by intellectual property [sic] licensing firm VirnetX Inc against Apple Inc in a patent infringement case.

    • Qualcomm temporarily switched into settlement mode on Day 7 of FTC trial with unhelpful arbitration proposal

      Yesterday (Friday, January 18) was the first full day of Qualcomm’s case-in-chief as it is seeking to defend itself against the FTC’s apparently very strong antitrust case. Of course, Qualcomm’s legal team consisting of one of the most prestigious firms of the United States (Cravath Swaine & Moore), a firm very well-respected for its representation in Bay Area jury trials (Keker, van Nest & Peters), and a firm with a particular strength in patent matters (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius), previously had other opportunities to make its point: in an opening statement, through cross-examination, and the first few hours of Qualcomm’s case-in-chief (on Tuesday).

      Good lawyers–and these are partly absolutely great lawyers–can sow the seeds of doubt about pretty much anything; if necessary, even about the Earth being round. It’s not that they don’t score any points or have nothing to say that might give the court some pause, but let’s always remember the legal standard as well as who the fact finder is. In a criminal defense trial with a layperson jury and the beyond-reasonable-doubt standard, Qualcomm would have a decent chance of finding at least some jurors who would vote for acquittal, even if only because it’s easy to create smokescreens in a context that requires a certain degree of expertise to understand.

      But the fact finder here is none other than Judge Koh. On the first six trial days, she didn’t ask questions during testimony except in one case where it wasn’t clear to her how Qualcomm was seeking to impeach a witness with a certain cross-examination strategy. Yesterday, however, Qualcomm was at some point basically trying to relitigate through testimony some subissues of her summary judgment on rival chipset licensing (though, to be fair, the related subissues are technically relevant again in connection with the FTC’s position that any FRAND licensing obligation for SEPs gives rival chipset makers a right to a license). It was the first point–and so far still the only one–in this trial where Judge Koh indicated she didn’t see the point in something that was said.

    • Copyrights

      • Facebook Sued For Refusing to Remove Copyrighted Photo

        Photographer Kristen Pierson Reilly has filed a lawsuit against Facebook for failing to respond properly to a DMCA notice. The social network refused to remove a copy of her photo, stating that it wasn’t clear whether its use was infringing. In a complaint filed in a federal court in New York, Pierson now demands compensation for the damage she suffered.

      • Singapore Prepares Ban on Piracy-Configured Media Devices & Software

        New laws set to be tabled in Singapore this year will target the sale of piracy-configured media devices and software. The proposals also seek to prevent individuals from installing piracy software on devices for a fee, post-sale.

      • Brazilian Police Shut Down Private Torrent Site in ‘Operation Copyright’

        Officers from Brazil’s Federal Police have launched a broad anti-piracy operation targeting the illegal distribution of music, movies, TV shows, and games. Operation Copyright saw the execution of several warrants in five key regions. Several torrent sites are reportedly down.

      • Now EVERYBODY hates the new EU Copyright Directive

        After all, this is the first refresh on EU copyright since 2001, and so the Directive is mostly a laundry list of overdue, uncontroversial technical tweaks with many stakeholders; the last thing anyone wanted was a spoiler in the midst.

        Anyone, that is, except for German newspaper families (who loved Article 11, who could charge Big Tech for the privilege of sending readers to their sites) and the largest record labels (who had long dreamed of Article 13, which would force the platforms to implement filters to check everything users posted, and block anything that resembled a known copyrighted work, or anything someone claimed was a known copyrighted work).

        These were the clauses that Voss reinserted, and in so doing, triggered a firestorm of opposition to the Directive from all sides: [...]

      • Anti-Piracy Group BREIN ‘Dealt With’ 339 Pirate Sites Last Year

        Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is among the most active civil copyright enforcement groups in the world. This week the group announced its 2018 achievements, which includes the shutdown of pirate sites and IPTV vendors, as well as settlements with uploaders. These efforts will continue in the year to come, when BREIN also plans to ramp up its efforts against uploaders.

JUVE Creates English Site, Promotes Unified Patent Court (UPC)

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 11:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mathieu Klos‏

Summary: The generally good press outlet has taken a turn for the worse; it looks like it’s doing more lobbying than reporting nowadays

BACK in October we complained that JUVE was rewarding proponents and advocates of patent trolls, such as Intellectual Ventures. We don’t generally focus on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and that’s intentional for reasons we explained before. But when JUVE spoke about Intellectual Ventures it was referring to its presence in Europe; Team UPC is boosted by Intellectual Ventures and the likes of it, salivating over the possibilities UPC would open up to them.

“They very rarely mention us as if our views are illegitimate; having said that, many so-called ‘IP’ blogs are like that and we can almost take that as a compliment.”We generally find JUVE informative (e.g. polls within their echo chambers and occasional insights from courts). They do some solid journalism, especially Mathieu Klos (in the photograph above) and his colleague Christina Schulze, who wrote a lot about the scandals (Schulze is very good too!). The main issue is that they completely ignore actual industry or people who aren’t in litigation. They very rarely mention us as if our views are illegitimate; having said that, many so-called 'IP' blogs are like that and we can almost take that as a compliment.

A new person’s name has emerged under the name/brand “JUVE” and it’s in this UPC puff piece pinned in or penned for a site called juve-patent.com. I hadn’t seen it until Benjamin Henrion (FFII) mentioned it this morning, linking to Team UPC tweets. The site, as it turns out, is quite new. Running whois from my GNU Bash shell I get:

   Domain Name: JUVE-PATENT.COM
   Registry Domain ID: 2285031549_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
   Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.psi-usa.info
   Registrar URL: http://www.psi-usa.info
   Updated Date: 2018-07-13T10:14:39Z
   Creation Date: 2018-07-13T10:14:39Z
   Registry Expiry Date: 2019-07-13T10:14:39Z
   Registrar: PSI-USA, Inc. dba Domain Robot
   Registrar IANA ID: 151
   Registrar Abuse Contact Email: domain-abuse@psi-usa.info
   Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +49.94159559482
   Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
   Name Server: A.NS14.NET
   Name Server: B.NS14.NET
   Name Server: C.NS14.NET
   Name Server: D.NS14.NET
   DNSSEC: unsigned

The article in question is classic Team UPC fluff. We never saw the author’s name before, so maybe she isn’t familiar with the antics and lies of Team UPC. There’s so much wrong with this article. Missing the greater barriers to UPC and still repeating the infamous lies (the article at least parrots these lies, directly sourced from and attributed to Team UPC) would be harmful to the reputation of JUVE. Thus far it hasn’t been a mere megaphone that relays popular (among Team UPC) lies… instead it investigated, e.g. by contacting the courts. The errant reader is led to believe that UPC would be desirable to the UK and ‘unitary’ patents being a matter of time (as if the German court is just a bunch of jokers).

“It is a tad worrying that JUVE has expanded to English coverage in an English domain. More so if the writers for that site of JUVE are with litigation firms.”As we said at the start, the main problem with JUVE is that it will never speak to actual UPC sceptics or — GASPbusinesses that actually make something. Legal ‘representatives’ and their front groups are quoted to make up paragraphs, painted as “media” or “press” or “journalism” (Schulze was closest to actual reporting).

It is a tad worrying that JUVE has expanded to English coverage in an English domain. More so if the writers for that site of JUVE are with litigation firms. Whenever JUVE gives a platform to liars from Bristows and other UPC liars it reduces itself to the same level as Kluwer, which hardly even pretends to be objective (if even deletes comments that talk down the UPC). Bristows isn’t merely misguided; it’s intentionally lying; these people engage in UPC 'necrophilia' and typically they don’t manage to interject their lies into bigger media/publishers. Until JUVE comes along…

It was already bad enough that much of today’s media that covers patents is basically composed directly by law firms, not real reporters or investigative journalists. Whose side is JUVE on? Lobbying or information?

“…there’s lots of dirty stuff going on and instead we have JUVE, presenting itself as a press outlet, engaging in pure lobbying for Team UPC.”Speaking of law firms writing ‘the news’, watch Keith O’Donnell, Oliver R. Hoor and Samantha Schmitz-Merle (“ATOZ Tax Advisers”), who only days ago sought to attract patent trolls and other shells pretending to be stationed in Luxembourg for tax evasion purposes. This is pure marketing (shameless self-promotion disguised as ‘news)’. This is how the European Patent Office (EPO) attracts patent trolls and other parasites (thorough Luxembourg, akin to Eastern Texas in the US). To quote this ‘advert: “On 4 August 2017, the text of the draft law introducing the new Luxembourg BEPS-compliant Intellectual Property (IP) regime was released. As from 1 January 2018, Luxembourg taxpayers will be able to benefit, under certain conditions, from an 80% exemption regime applicable to income related to patents and copyrighted software. In addition, IP assets which qualify for the 80% (corporate) income tax exemption will be fully exempt from net wealth tax.”

‘Legalised’ tax evasion in Luxembourg is a widely-covered topic (same for Monaco and Switzerland, sometimes the Netherlands and London as well). The point is, there’s lots of dirty stuff going on and instead we have JUVE, presenting itself as a press outlet, engaging in pure lobbying for Team UPC.

The Indian Ministry of Commerce Tries to Bend Patent Law in Favour of Foreign Monopolies

Posted in Asia, Patents at 3:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Monopolies and monopolists have long attempted to accomplish this

India hand

Summary: There’s an attempt to tilt patent law against the interests of India; but vigilant few are observing and reporting it, even in English

THE ISSUE or the subject of software patents in India — like software patents in the EPO, the USPTO and China — is central to this site. We’ve long written on the matter, seeing that the EPO increasingly grants such bogus patents, the USPTO drifts further away from courts (35 U.S.C. § 101 caselaw) [1, 2] and patent trolls’ front groups try to compel India to allow such patents. The patent microcosm and the patent ‘industry’ (patent offices included) is eager to grant yet more fake patents which would be invalidated if challenged in courts such as the Federal Circuit or the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The way they see it, that’s not their problem and the price will be paid by scientists and technologists, who are basically being ‘taxed’ by law firms.

“The monopoly of patents is often justified as an incentive to promote R&D. But in practice, patents are used to control competition and give fewer options to consumers.”
      –The Wire
“The government’s new proposals on patents may increase frivolous patents,” warned this new article (from last week), noting a recent proposal:

The Ministry of Commerce has floated proposed changes to the rules of the Indian patent Act.

Two of the proposed changes are very concerning. It proposes a new mechanism which will expedite decisions on patent applications. This proposed fast-track process seems to come with various other compromises on the functioning of India’s patent architecture and for protecting access to medicines, for example.

The monopoly of patents is often justified as an incentive to promote R&D. But in practice, patents are used to control competition and give fewer options to consumers. Towards this purpose, big corporations are known for obtaining multiple patents claiming minor changes on the same technology or molecule. This practice of creating patent-fences adversely impacts the industrial and technological development of countries like India, by preventing their firms from catching up with the latest technology.

India is a relatively poor country (if measured per capita), so patent maximalism never made sense for it. Some patents may be fine, but those which price medicine out of reach (for those in most desperate need) would be fatal. Since one of India’s biggest exports is software (code), software patents make no economic sense, either. Let alone purely practical sense…

The EFF Must Return That ‘Internship’ Money to Google or It Would Disgrace the Patent Reform Movement (by Association)

Posted in America, EFF, Google, Patents at 1:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Poisoning and harming the perception of impartiality

Wallet with money

Summary: Whether real or perceived, the EFF’s alleged bias is at stake now that Google money — not just money from a billionaire (Cuban) — lands on its lap; it can, by extension or association, serve to discredit patent reformers

PATENT maximalists like to pretend that Google is being everything and that everyone who challenges the status quo at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a Google ‘shill’. This is totally untrue, however, but late on Friday I pointed out that EFF had taken money from Google, whereupon somewhat of a Web storm erupted (here’s one example among many). This has started a long discussion and some discord (even some members of the EFF’s Board are now dissenting) and there’s risk that Federal Circuit and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) bashers will exploit it. Rather than dwell/focus on the details of what the EFF did (that would be rather counterproductive), let’s just say that the EFF now needs to do the right thing and revoke/return that money of Google. It not only undermines the perception that the EFF fights for privacy; it also emboldens those who accuse EFF — and by extension patent reform — of working for Google.

That’s not to say that the EFF is rogue; but there’s room for corruption and even the perception of corruption needs to be avoided. Here’s what the EFF posted just before the weekend on the issue of patents; key EFF staff, as we’ve noted before in the latest on Uniloc, challenged this patent troll and reported on the latest outcome:

A federal judge has ordered that prolific patent troll Uniloc cannot hide its shell games from the public. After EFF filed a motion to intervene seeking access to sealed court records, Judge William H. Alsup of the Northern District of California has ordered [PDF] that the relevant documents should be made public. Judge Alsup stayed his order for two weeks, however, to give Uniloc an opportunity to appeal to the Federal Circuit. We are pleased by the court’s ruling and will defend it if appealed.

The sealed documents have an importance far beyond this case. As Judge Alsup suggested in court, Uniloc appeared to be using complex machinations to hide its patents or its assets, possibly to avoid being hit with sanctions. The public has a right to know who owns patents, especially patents like the ones Uniloc claims to own, since the company has claimed its patents entitle it to payments from a vast array of technology companies.

In the underlying cases, Uniloc has sued Apple alleging that its iPhones and iPads infringe a number of its patents. For example, Uniloc claims that Apple infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,092,671, because “iPads incorporate software that causes an iPad, in response to a user’s selection, to transfer a telephone number wirelessly to a nearby iPhone which dials the selected number.”

In a heavily redacted motion to dismiss, Apple appears to argue that Uniloc entities and Fortress Investment Group LLC divided rights in the asserted patents in a way that means the Uniloc entities no longer had a legal right to sue for infringement. We say “appears” because the public cannot see most of the briefing and evidence. Because the redactions (requested by Uniloc) make it impossible to understand the dispute, we moved to intervene to seek public access.

A colleague, Alex Moss, wrote about PTAB as follows:

The exclusive rights granted by a U.S. patent create monopolies that can threaten innovation. We all benefit from the pro-innovation effects that come from cancelling monopolies that should not exist. That’s why the 2012 America Invents Act broadly allows “[a]ny person other than the patent owner” to challenge a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

But what if the government itself was banned from asking for this type of patent challenge? That would mean patent holders can demand big payments from government agencies, with access to taxpayer funds—yet those same agencies wouldn’t be able to efficiently test whether the patents are valid.

Now, the Supreme Court is poised to consider the question. EFF has filed an amicus brief, explaining that the government should be able to bring challenges in the Patent Office, based on century-old legal principles, as well as public policy concerns today. Limiting the government’s ability to challenge invalid patents efficiently deprives the public of these benefits for no good reason.

Many inter partes reviews (IPRs) leverage 35 U.S.C. § 101 to eliminate software patents; having said that, if courts get the feeling that the above amicus brief is indirectly funded by large firms rather than a public interest/s group, matters can backfire. I’ve already strongly urged the EFF, on numerous occasions so far this weekend, to walk away from Google. It’s pretty obvious that when it comes to the privacy stance of the EFF (maybe not copyrights) Google is completely and utterly incompatible with the EFF’s values. The EFF’s founder died not so long ago; what would he say if he saw this?

EPO Defying Patent Restrictions/Limits From the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Countries It Claims to Represent

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The European Patent Convention (EPC) does not matter to the European Patent Office (EPO) anymore

European Parliament

Summary: The departure from the EPC (and from the rule of law) at the EPO still means that patents are being granted on things that, as per the constitutions, should never have been patentable

THERE is that boring old saying/canard, “the revolution won’t be televised…” (or similar; along those lines)

At the moment, so-called ‘IP’ blogs (patents are not property) aren’t saying much, if anything, about the EPO. IP Kat continues to intentionally overlook the rapidly-declining quality or lowered patentability bar at the EPO. Instead, in writing about the EPO/EPC a couple of days ago, it said this: “In order to satisfy the sufficiency requirement of the European Patent Convention (EPC), it is necessary for the applicant of a European patent application directed to a medical use to show that the claimed therapeutic effect is credible. However, when an patent application is filed, human clinical trial data are often not available. The claimed effect must therefore be demonstrated by data from in vitro experiments and animal models that are representative of the human disease. This practice reflects that of academic science, in which potential treatments are first tested and published using animal models before they are translated to the clinic. However, an applicant can face an uphill battle in convincing the European Patent Office (EPO) examiner that animal model data credibly demonstrate the claimed effect.”

“Many patents are nowadays being painted as “medical” or “clinical” even though they’re not…”There were similar articles (similar to the above) lately and usually the comments are a lot more informative. Many patents are nowadays being painted as “medical” or “clinical” even though they’re not; it’s that same old strategy of pretending denial of a patent would “cost lives…”

The EPO meanwhile angers everyone by granting patent monopolies on fruit and vegetables, plants and seeds, or basically nature itself. A few days ago an article was published to bemoan this; it turns out that the backlash foreseen before Christmas is already materialising, however slowly:

In June 2017, the European Patent Office (EPO) decided that no more patents would be granted on vegetables and fruit that originate from classical breeding techniques. However, the Technical Chamber of Appeal of the EPO concluded that this prohibition is in conflict with the European Patent Convention. According to current regulations, patents may still be granted on plant properties.

This is a huge setback, according to Dutch MEP Jan Huitema, since the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European countries have spoken out against this in order to prevent fruits and vegetables from falling into the hands of a small number of large companies and stifling innovation.

We’ve long opposed patents on such things; even many EPO insiders recognise the dangers of such patents. Then there’s the threat of patents on algorithms or on mathematics — something that wasn’t envisioned in the days of the EPO’s inception. How far down can the patent bar go?

“Courts’ rejection of such patents will, in the long run, devalue European Patents and harm the reputation of this whole system.”“You can watch the recordings of the EPO’s #PatentingBlockchain conference,” the EPO wrote at the end of the week, citing an event that advocated software patents in Europe; invited to the panel/keynotes were literal patent trolls, notably the patent troll most notorious in this domain. This seems to be happening a lot under António Campinos, whose management team converges with trolls' front groups.

Remember that patents on computer vision (my research area) are also software patents and the EPO promoted these as recently as days ago, citing an “EPO study”…

It’s worrying to see the EPO getting away with this intentional and reckless degradation of patent quality. Courts’ rejection of such patents will, in the long run, devalue European Patents and harm the reputation of this whole system. This is exactly what happened to patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

01.19.19

The UPC is Dead. But Bristows is Now Fully Engaged in Necrophilia.

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 12:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UPC boat sinks

Summary: In an effort to float a dead project the deceiving folks from Team UPC pretend that everything is ready to go (commence) because they’ve managed to find some gowns and robes

THE Unitary Patent lobby has been a rather embarrassing exercise, highly corrosive to the reputation of the EU and the European Patent Office (EPO). With UPC in the middle, for instance, there was nepotism and cross pollination between the EPO and EUIPO, an EU agency. It even looks like outright corruption.

“With UPC in the middle, for instance, there was nepotism and cross pollination between the EPO and EUIPO, an EU agency. It even looks like outright corruption.”The news sites that focus on patents, copyrights and trademarks have more lately been speaking of a mistaken trademark grant by EUIPO. That’s still in the news (belatedly revoked, harming McDonalds) and IP Watch speaks of “Sudden Vacancies At Some International Agencies, Industry Sees New Top Officials, Lawyers Engage In Firm-Hopping” (Catherine Saez says that “[t]he European Patent Office got two new vice-chairs,” but neglects to point out the glaring problem).

If that’s not bad enough, a day or two after that Bristows nonsense about UPC they’re now verging on legal necrophilia. Responding to the article and its promotion in Twitter, one EPO watcher then wrote [1, 2]:

Here it is, your expected spin from Team UPC, looking to profit from more litigation…! It did not take long, did it? UPC dressed up? Uhmm no, it’s still naked! #patents #EuropeanUnion

And:

Meme published by http://Techrights.org ! Well done Techrights, since it perfectly illustrates the behaviour of Team UPC. A fantasy world based on their own agendas’. Lies, Lies and more Lies

So for the second time in a week Bristows pulls this horrifying stunt; they are giving lawyers a really bad reputation — the sort of odor that makes one forget about lawyers who protect the innocent and instead focus on those who lie, mislead and manipulate for a living. They’re giving a really bad name for a profession otherwise associated with protecting the wrongly-accused, the innocent, from false charges/allegations, sometimes pro bono, like the kind lawyer who protected me from the EPO’s SLAPPing (they threatened to sue me several times for publishing true information).

“The UPC is basically a dead project. Even its biggest proponents (paid for it!) have given up. But not Bristows. These people have always lied the most. They wish to drown with this Titanic.”Bristows’ liars say that the FCC decision is “expected to happen quite soon.” Citation needed, however none was provided. Team UPC’s propaganda knows no bounds. They lie every week. They’re even censoring comments that refute them, e.g. in IP Kat and the above blog (“Kluwer Patent blogger” now turns out to be “Alan Johnson, Bristows”). Well, no comments have appeared (by now; for almost 1.5 days). It starts as follows: “In answering this question we must look at two major factors. The first is the decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgeright – BVerfG) on the constitutional challenge by Dr Stjerna to the legislation necessary to allow German ratification of the UPC. The second is Brexit. Both are expected to happen quite soon.”

Really? based on what? The final words of the article say this: “Hopefully even if we do not see the start of the UPC in 2019, we shall at least know by then whether next year will actually see the UPC, or whether this is a case of being all dressed up with no place to go.”

They perpetuate that same old lie that the only remaining question is whether UPC can “start [...] in 2019″ (it won’t because it’s dead, irrespective of timing). That’s just a malicious lobbying/influencing tactic from the litigation ‘industry’ and speaking of which, REGIMBEAU’s Cécile Puech, Frédérique Durieux, Soizic Guindeul and Aurélia Vavasseur have just commented on PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway), which is somewhat of a mockery of the patent system because it eliminates neutrality to aid bullies and trolls. They use terms like “simplify the task” — similar to what one might expect from UPC litigation against a lot of companies in a lot of countries, including companies that only operate in a single country outside the court’s jurisdiction.

The UPC is basically a dead project. Even its biggest proponents (paid for it!) have given up. But not Bristows. These people have always lied the most. They wish to drown with this Titanic.

Links 19/1/2019: Wikipedia Cofounder Moves to GNU/Linux, Wine 4.0 RC7 Released, Godot 3.1 Beta 2, NomadBSD 1.2 RC1

Posted in News Roundup at 11:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Wikipedia cofounder: How and why I transitioned to Linux—how you can, too

    My first introduction to the command line was in the 80s when I first started learning about computers and, like many geeky kids of the time, wrote my first BASIC computer programs. But it wasn’t until my job starting Nupedia (and then Wikipedia) that I spent much time on the Bash command line.
    (Let me explain. “Bash” means “Bourne-again shell,” a rewrite of the class Unix shell “sh.” A “shell” is a program for interacting with the computer by processing terse commands to do basic stuff like find and manipulate files; a terminal, or terminal emulator, is a program that runs a shell. The terminal is what shows you that command line, where you type your commands like “move this file there” and “download that file from this web address” and “inject this virus into that database”. The default terminal used by Linux Ubuntu, for example, is called Gnome Terminal–which runs Bash, the standard Linux shell.)
    Even then (and in the following years when I got into programming again), I didn’t learn much beyond things like cd (switch directory) and ls (list directory contents).
    It was then, around 2002, that I first decided to install Linux. Back then, maybe the biggest “distro” (flavor of Linux) was Red Hat Linux, so that’s what I installed. I remember making a partition (dividing the hard disk into parts, basically) and dual-booting (installing and making it possible to use both) Linux and Windows. It was OK, but it was also rather clunky and much rougher and much less user-friendly than the Windows of the day. So I didn’t use it much.

  • Desktop

    • Writing With a Linux Laptop

      Open source solutions like Linux provide for greater productivity; check out our screencast highlighting how a Linux Laptop functions.

    • Google Updates: Security in motion, Linux in launcher and Ethereum in the sin bin

      Back to Google proper, and Chrome OS. After wowing us with a promise of Linux compatibility, it has now emerged that the integration could run deeper than we thought. The latest news out of Mountain View is that Linux apps will be treated like any others – that means you’ll be able to launch them from the app launcher, which is cooler than we even expected.

    • Pixelbook and “Nami” Chromebooks the first to get Linux GPU acceleration in Project Crostini

      I don’t have a Pixelbook for testing right now, otherwise, I’d pop it into Developer Mode and jump on the Canary channel. However, I do still have a loaner Acer Chromebook Spin 13, so I’ll give it a go later today and see if the newly added code from early this morning is there in the Canary Channel; if it is, I’ll circle back with observations on how well it does or doesn’t work for the Android emulator in Android Studio and possibly a game or two using Steam.

    • Pixelbook and ‘Nami’ Chromebooks the First To Get Linux GPU Acceleration in Project Crostini

      I’ve been following the bug report that tracks progress on adding GPU acceleration for the Linux container in Chrome OS and there’s good news today. The first two Chrome OS boards should now, or very soon, be able to try GPU hardware acceleration with the new startup parameter found last month. The bug report says the -enable-gpu argument was added to the Eve and Nami boards.

    • Chrome OS to test early GPU support for Linux apps soon

      If you’ve kept up with Chrome OS in the past six months or so, you’ll know that one of the more interesting new features to launch is Linux apps support. While this has potential to introduce all sorts of new applications to Chrome OS, there are some features missing that hold it back, in this early stage. One of the most anticipated features, graphics acceleration (or GPU support), necessary for running Linux games and some other apps, will be available to test soon on Chrome OS.

  • Server

    • Red Hat Advances Container Technology With Podman 1.0

      Red Hat announced the 1.0 release of its open-source Podman project on Jan. 17, which provides a fully featured container engine.

      In Podman 1.0, Red Hat has integrated multiple core security capabilities in an effort to help enable organizations run containers securely. Among the security features are rootless containers and enhanced user namespace support for better container isolation. Containers provide a way for organizations to run applications in a virtualized approach on top of an existing operating system. With the 1.0 release, Red Hat is now also positioning Podman as an alternative to the Docker Engine technology for application container deployment.

      “We felt the sum total of its features, as well as the project’s performance, security and stability, made it reasonable to move to 1.0,” Scott McCarty, product manager, Containers, Red Hat, told eWEEK. “Since Podman is set to be the default container engine for the single-node use case in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, we wanted to make some pledges about its supportability.”

    • Update on Volume Snapshot Alpha for Kubernetes

      Volume snapshotting support was introduced in Kubernetes v1.12 as an alpha feature. In Kubernetes v1.13, it remains an alpha feature, but a few enhancements were added and some breaking changes were made. This post summarizes the changes.

    • Nginx vs Apache: Which Serves You Best in 2019?

      For two decades Apache held sway over the web server market which is shrinking by the day. Not only has Nginx caught up with the oldest kid on the block, but it is currently the toast of many high traffic websites. Apache users might disagree here. That is why one should not jump to conclusions about which web server is better. The truth is that both form the core of complete web stacks (LAMP and LEMP), and the final choice boils down to individual needs.

      For instance, people running Drupal websites often call on Apache, whereas WordPress users seem to favor Nginx as much if not more. Accordingly, our goal is to help you understand your own requirements better rather than providing a one-size recommendation. Having said that, the following comparison between the two gives an accurate picture.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Graphics Stack

      • Linux 4.20 Allows Overclockers To Increase The Radeon TDP Power Limit

        The AMDGPU Linux kernel driver for a while has now offered command-line-driven OverDrive overclocking for recent generations of Radeon GPUs. This has allowed manipulating the core and memory clock speeds as well as tweaking the voltage but has not supported increasing the TDP limit of the graphics card: that’s in place with Linux 4.20

        Up until now with the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver there hasn’t been support for increasing the TDP power limit beyond its default, but has allowed for reducing that limit should you be trying to conserve power / allow your GPU to run cooler. A change was quietly added to the Linux 4.20 kernel to allow increasing the power limit when in the OverDrive mode.

        This change wasn’t prominently advertised but fortunately a Phoronix reader happened to run across it today and tipped us off.

  • Applications

    • MellowPlayer – multi-platform cloud music integration

      With my CD collection spiraling out of control, I’m spending more time listening to music with a number of popular streaming services.

      Linux offers a great range of excellent open source music players. But I’m always on the look out for fresh and innovative streaming players. Step forward MellowPlayer.

      MellowPlayer offers a web view of various music streaming services with integration with your desktop. It was developed to provide a Qt alternative to Nuvola Player.

      The software is written in C++ and QML.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Wine Announcement

        The Wine development release 4.0-rc7 is now available.The Wine development release 4.0-rc7 is now available.

      • Juicy like the good stuff, Wine 4.0 RC7 is out with a delightful aroma

        No need to worry about a sour aftertaste here, we’re of course talking about the wonderful software and not the tasty liquid.

        As usual, they’re in bug-fix mode while they attempt to make the best version of Wine they can and so no super huge features made it in.

      • Wine 4.0-RC7 Released With Fixes For Video Player Crashes, Game Performance Issues

        Wine 4.0 should be officially out soon, but this weekend the latest test release of it is Release Candidate 7 that brings more than one dozen fixes.

        Wine 4.0 remains in a feature freeze until its release, which will likely be within the next two weeks or so. Since last Friday’s Wine 4.0-RC6, the RC7 release has 13 known bug fixes. Catching our interest are some game performance regressions being resolved, including for Hot Pursuit, Project CARS, Gas Guzzlers, and others. There are also video player crash fixes when opening audio or video files.

    • Games

      • Godot 3.1 Beta 2

        We entered the release freeze last week with Godot 3.1 beta 1, and many high priority bug reports have been fixed since then. We’re now publishing a new beta 2 snapshot for testers to work with. This new release fixes various crash scenarios, as well as a performance regression in the GLES backend.

        We’re still aiming for a release by the end of the month, so we’re under a tight schedule. From now on dev focus is on release-critical issues that would seriously hamper Godot 3.1′s usability and features.

        Contrarily to our 3.0.x maintenance releases, which include only thoroughly reviewed and backwards-compatible bug fixes, the 3.1 version includes all the new features (and subsequent bugs!) merged in the master branch since January 2018, and especially all those showcased on our past devblogs. It’s been almost a year since the 3.0 release and close to 6,000 commits, so expect a lot of nice things in the final 3.1 version!

      • Godot 3.1 Beta 2 Released With OpenGL ES Performance Fix

        The developers behind Godot, one of the leading open-source game engines, have announced their second beta release for the upcoming Godot 3.1 feature release.

        Godot 3.1 initially entered beta earlier this month as stepping towards the first major release of this cross-platform game engine since Godot 3.0 last year. Godot 3.1 is preparing OpenGL ES 2.0 rendering support, continued work around virtual reality (VR) support, 3D soft body physics capabilities, constructive solid geometry, BPTC texture compression, a new visual shader editor, WebSockets support, and various game developer/editor improvements.

      • The Beta of Zombie Panic! Source was updated recently, should work better on Linux

        Zombie Panic! Source is currently going through an overhaul, as part of this it’s coming to Linux with a version now in beta and the latest update should make it a better experience.

        [...]

        I personally haven’t been able to make any of the events yet, so I have no real thoughts on the game. Once it’s out of beta and all servers are updated, I will be taking a proper look as it looks fun. No idea when this version will leave beta, might be a while yet.

      • Dicey Dungeons, the new unique roguelike from Terry Cavanagh and co introduces quests

        We have a lot of roguelikes available on Linux (seriously, we do) yet Dicey Dungeons from Terry Cavanagh, Marlowe Dobbe, and Chipzel still remains fresh due to the rather unique game mechanics.

        I still can’t get over how fun the dice mechanic is, as you slot dice into cards to perform actions. It’s different, clever and works really well.

      • Quake 2 now has real-time path tracing with Vulkan

        If you have one of the more recent NVIDIA RTX graphics cards, here’s an interesting project for you to try. Q2VKPT from developer Christoph Schied implements some really quite advanced techniques.

      • Steam Play versus Linux Version, a little performance comparison and more thoughts

        Now that Steam has the ability officially to override a Linux game and run it through Steam Play instead, let’s take a quick look at some differences in performance.

        Before I begin, let’s make something clear. I absolutely value the effort developers put into Linux games, I do think cross-platform development is incredibly important so we don’t end up with more lock-in. However, let’s be realistic for a moment. Technology moves on and it’s not financially worth it to keep updating old games, they just don’t sell as well as newer games (with exceptions of course). As the years go on, there will be more ways to run older games better and better, of that I’ve no doubt.

      • Battle Motion, a really silly massive fantasy battle game will have Linux support

        Sometimes when looking around for new games I come across something that really catches my eye, Battle Motion is one such game as it looks completely silly.

      • Ravva and the Cyclops Curse looks like a rather nice NES-inspired platformer

        Another lovely looking retro-inspired platformer! Ravva and the Cyclops Curse from developer Galope just released this week with Linux support.

      • Become a fish inside a robot in Feudal Alloy, out now with Linux support

        We’ve seen plenty of robots and we’ve seen a fair amount of fish, but have you seen a fish controlling a robot with a sword? Say hello to Feudal Alloy.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Addressing Icons Themes (Again)

        I wrote some time ago on how platforms have a responsibility to respect the identity of applications, but now there’s some rumblings that Ubuntu’s community-built Yaru icon set (which is a derivative of the Suru icon set I maintain) intends to ignore this and infringe upon applications’ brands by modifying their icons…

        [...]

        For instance, the entire point of the GNOME icon refresh initiative is to address visual mismatches between third-party app icons and GNOME icons and we been have reaching out to developers to see about updating their icons to new design—this is the appropriate approach for a platform visual overhaul, by the way—which could always use more help on.

        Now I don’t see this ever happening, but I have hopes that someday Ubuntu will fully embrace GNOME and promote it as its desktop solution—especially given the desktop is out of the scope of the Ubuntu business these days.

      • First look at Gnome’s New GTK Theme

        Today we look at Gnome’s update GTK theme Adwaita.

  • Distributions

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSE releases enterprise Linux for all major ARM processors

        SUSE has released its enterprise Linux distribution, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), for all major ARM server processors. It also announced the general availability of SUSE Manager Lifecycle.

        SUSE is on par with the other major enterprise Linux distributions — Red Hat and Ubuntu — in the x86 space, but it has lagged in its ARM support. It’s not like SLES for ARM is only now coming to market for the first time, either. It has been available for several years, but on a limited basis.

    • Fedora

      • Red Hat/Fedora decide MongoDB’s SSLP doesn’t fit

        MongoDB’s January blues deepened this week as the team behind the Red Hat-backed Fedora Linux distribution confirmed it had added the open source database’s Server Side Public License to its “bad”list.

        The move came as it emerged Red Hat – Fedora’s sponsor – had nixed MongoDB support in RHEL 8.0.

      • AWS Raised Its Hand Lest Of Open Source Platform

        Even though AWS stands by MongoDB as the best the customers find it difficult to build and vastly accessible applications on the open-source platform can range from multiple terabytes to hundreds of thousands of reads and writes per second. Thus, the company built its own document database with an Apache 2.0 open source MongoDB 3.6 API compatibility. The open-sources politics are quite difficult to grasp. AWS has been blamed for taking the top open-source projects and re-branding plus re-using it without providing the communities. The catch here is that MongoDB was the company behind putting a halt to the re-licensing of the open-source tools under a novel license that clearly stated the companies willing to do this will have to purchase a commercial license.

      • Red Hat gets heebie-jeebies over MongoDB’s T&Cs squeeze: NoSQL database dropped from RHEL 8B over license

        MongoDB justified its decision last October to shift the free version of its NoSQL database software, MongoDB Community Server, from the open-source GNU Affero General Public License to the not-quite-so-open Server Side Public License (SSPL) by arguing that cloud providers sell open-source software as a service without giving back.

        The following month, and not widely noticed until this week, Red Hat said it would no longer include MongoDB in version 8 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The removal notice came in the release notes for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Beta 8.0.

        Under section 4.7, the release notes say, “Note that the NoSQL MongoDB database server is not included in RHEL 8.0 Beta because it uses the Server Side Public License (SSPL).”

      • Server Side Public License struggles to gain open-source support

        MongoDB first announced the release of the new software license in October as a way to protect itself and other open-source projects like it from being taken advantage of by larger companies for monetary gain.

        At the time, MongoDB co-founder and CTO Eliot Horowitz explained: “This should be a time of incredible opportunity for open source. The revenue generated by a service can be a great source of funding for open-source projects, far greater than what has historically been available. The reality, however, is that once an open-source project becomes interesting, it is too easy for large cloud vendors to capture most of the value while contributing little or nothing back to the community.”

        Other open-source businesses have developed their own licenses or adopted others in recent months, citing the same issues. However, the problem with these new licenses is that if they are not approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), an organization created to promote and protect the open-source ecosystem, the software behind the license is technically not considered open source, and it will have a hard time getting acceptance from members in the community.

      • Open source has a problem with monetization, not AWS
      • Why you should take notice of the open source in enterprise suckers conundrum

        In the MongoDB case, AWS is widely regarded as responding to a licensing change MongoDB made in October 2018 that has caused something of a stir among the open source cognoscenti.

      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-03

        Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week.

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

    • Debian Family

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • The Serverless Show: The Importance of Open Source & Community Involvement

    “I’m also involved with some open source projects. I started with Node community and helping out with some node libraries a long time ago. Now I’m mostly doing serverless-related things. I joined the Claudia.js team a long time ago, almost at the beginning, and helped Gojko Adzic and Alexander Simovich to build Claudia.js. Claudia was and still is a deployment library for AWS Lambda and API gateway. At the beginning, it was really hard to deploy serverless applications. If you tried to do that manually, you need to zip everything, to set the permissions, and things like that. The idea of Claudia was to extend AWS CLI tools and to help users deploy serverless applications easier. We continued doing Claudia and a few other things. We contributed a bit to AWS SAM and we built some other applications that are open source. We’re trying to build tools that we need and that the serverless community needs.”

  • Expect to Hear More About Open Source’s Role in Security [Ed: Security implemented with proprietary software is almost always fake. The Australian back doors ("encryption") bill is a reminder of it. If something is proprietary, one must assume back doors (even mandated from above, hidden in binaries)]

    Will 2019 be the year there is a big push for consolidation between open source and cybersecurity?

    Yes, said Sanjay Beri, CEO of Netskope, in an email comment. IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat could prove to be the game changer in how organizations approach security.

  • Want to Save Some Money? Check out These Free Software Alternatives

    The list covers drawing and design, animation and film, website building, and others. For example, Ghost Malone presents several free alternatives to drawing, design and post-processing, such as GIMP, Krita, Fire Alpaca, Autodesk Sketchbook, MediBang Paint, and Paint.NET. Another example, for editing vector graphics, is Inkscape, which is free and open source. The list goes on with several choices depending on what you’re looking for.

  • A free and open source Bitcoin trading tool has been developed by two students

    University students Jonathan Shobrook and Aaron Lichtman have created a free and open source automated trading bot to use on the Bitstamp exchange.

  • Thank Stanford researchers for Puffer, a free and open source live TV streaming service that uses AI to improve video-streaming algorithms
  • Open Source To Open Newer Avenues For CIOs In 2019

    Open source plays a crucial role in all the top strategic technology trends that are reshaping the IT world. Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, Country Head, SUSE, looks at the key trends for 2019 that organizations need to explore and in explains how open source technologies and practices open up a window of opportunities for the CIOs in the coming days.

  • The High Profile Team of Handshake Looks to Truly Open the Internet with a New Domain Name System

    Unlike other major blockchain based companies like Ethereum, they chose to avoid ICO funding altogether and went straight for private investors. They were able to obtain major private investment funding from companies such as Polychain Capital, A16Z Crypto, and Founders Fund (purchasing 7.5% coin supply of HNS between them at $10.2M) with the idea that they could be responsible for replacing entire layers of Domain Name System (DNS) layering. This removes the need for those who safeguard these layers, saving future companies large amounts of cash up front.

  • Handshake is attempting to make the Internet more open

    Handshake came out of stealth mode last August. The project, which intends to replace various levels of the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy, was founded by Joseph Poon (co-creator of the Lightning Network & Plasma), Andrew Lee (co-founder & CEO of Purse), Andrew Lee (co-founder & CEO of Private Internet Access), Boyma Fahnbulleh (Bcoin developer), and Christopher Jeffery (Creator of Bcoin & CTO of Purse).

    Sidestepping the ICO route popularized by Ethereum, Handshake raised private funding from a slew of investors including A16Z Crypto, Polychain Capital, and Founders Fund. These investors purchased 7.5% of the initial coin supply of HNS, Handshake’s native token, for $10.2M, valuing the protocol at $136M.

  • Google remains the top open-source contributor to CNCF projects

    According to the latest data from Stackalytics, a project founded by Mirantis and hosted by the OpenStack Foundation that visualizes a company’s contribution to open-source projects, Google remains the dominant force in the CNCF open-source ecosystem. Indeed, according to this data, Google is responsible for almost 53 percent of all code commits to CNCF projects. Red Hat, the second biggest contributor, is far behind, with 7.4 percent.

    The CNCF is the home of Kubernetes, the extremely popular container orchestration service that Google open sourced, so the fact that Google is the top contributor may not seem like a major surprise. But according to this data, Google would still be the top code contributor to all CNCF projects without even taking Kubernetes into account. In part, that’s due to the fact that Google is also the major contributor to GRPC, a queuing project the company donated to the CNCF, and Vitess, the database clustering system it developed for YouTube.

  • Google Remains Top Open-Source Contributor

    According to a scan of code contributions to projects sponsored by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) remains by far the largest contributor of code across all projects. Using a tool called Stackalytics, the survey conducted by open-source infrastructure vendor Mirantis found that Google accounted for 52.9 percent of code commits to CNCF projects.

  • Johnson Controls to Introduce Open-Source Software for Targeting Retrofits
  • Get free programs to edit photos, send email and more

    Even better, LibreOffice can open and edit the documents you made in Office and can save new files in Office formats. LibreOffice is also compatible with the other document formats, like OpenDocument Format (ODF) and PDF.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • MDN Changelog – Looking back at 2018

        December is when Mozilla meets as a company for our biannual All-Hands, and we reflect on the past year and plan for the future. Here are some of the highlights of 2018.

        The browser-compat-data (BCD) project required a sustained effort to convert MDN’s documentation to structured data. The conversion was 39% complete at the start of 2018, and ended the year at 98% complete. Florian Scholz coordinated a large community of staff and volunteers, breaking up the work into human-sized chunks that could be done in parallel. The community converted, verified, and refreshed the data, and converted thousands of MDN pages to use the new data sources. Volunteers also built tools and integrations on top of the data.

        The interactive-examples project had a great year as well. Will Bamberg coordinated the work, including some all-staff efforts to write new examples. Schalk Neethling improved the platform as it grew to handle CSS, JavaScript, and HTML examples.

  • Databases

    • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Scylla

      With data having an impact on almost every part of today’s business, Scylla wants to make sure applications are powered by a database that can handle the influx of data without compromising performance.

      Scylla is a NoSQL database that provides low latency, always-on availability, high throughput, is scalable, easy to use, and community-backed.

      “Scylla is an open source NoSQL database that offers the horizontal scale-out and fault-tolerance of Apache Cassandra, but delivers 10X the throughput and consistent, low single-digit latencies. Implemented from scratch in C++, Scylla’s close-to-the-hardware design significantly reduces the number of database nodes you require and self-optimizes to dynamic workloads and various hardware combinations,” Peter Corless, technical marketing manager for Scylla, wrote in a post.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • NomadBSD 1.2-RC1 released!

      The first release candidate of NomadBSD-1.2 is available! If you notice any problems, please let us know.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Clear Linux’s make-fmv-patch Eases The Creation Of GCC FMV-Enabled Code Paths

      One of the GCC compiler features unfortunately not taken advantage of by most Linux distributions is FMV – Function Multi-Versioning. FMV is what allows for the compilation of different tuned code paths depending upon the processor and for the particular code-path to be chosen at run-time, i.e. optimizing to your heart’s content with AVX, SSE4, and other instruction set extensions and compiling all of that into a single binary and for the preferred code path to be taken depending upon the CPU running the binary so it will still run on older CPUs as well as today’s most powerful processors.

    • Software, apps are surveillance tools: Privacy activist Richard M Stallman

      Richard M Stallman, a US-based free software and privacy activist, said on Friday that modern mobile phones are a dream tool that Joseph Stalin would have loved to have, as they allow indiscriminate surveillance of every user.
      Delivering a public lecture at RV College of Engineering here, Stallman said: “They never go off. There is no button to switch them off. At best, they pretend to turn off but they are always listening and sending back information to servers owned by the manufacturers of the operating systems. They would’ve been (Joseph) Stalin’s dream, but unfortunately for him the technology didn’t exist then, but sadly for us, it does now.”
      He warned students from uploading his photographs or videos from the lecture on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram—all social messaging/networking sites/applications—claiming that they were “the three big mouths of the surveillance monster.”

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Boosting Open Science Hardware in an academic context: opportunities and challenges

        Experimental science is typically dependent on hardware: equipment, sensors and machines. Open Science Hardware means sharing designs for this equipment that anyone can reuse, replicate, build upon or sell so long as they attribute the developers on whose shoulders they stand. Hardware can also be expanded to encompass other non-digital input to research such as chemicals, cell lines and materials and a growing number of open science initiatives are actively sharing these with few or no restrictions on use.

      • The Entire Hardlight VR project is now Open Source

        It’s always a sad day when a successful Kickstarter project has to close due to a lack of continued interest. That’s what befell the Hardlight VR team back in September, with the founders issuing a statement notifying backers that the company was closing due to lack of funds.

  • Programming/Development

    • NetBSD Exploring LLVM’s LLD Linker For Lower Memory Footprint

      The NetBSD project has been making good progress in utilizing the LLVM compiler stack not only for the Clang C/C++ compiler but also for the different sanitizers, the libc++ standard library for C++, and other improvements most of which are working their way into the upstream code-bases. One area of NetBSD’s LLVM support being explored most recently is using the LLD linker.

      NetBSD is exploring the use of the LLVM LLD linker over GNU’s ld linker due to the lower memory footprint. LLD generally goes through far less RAM than the current GNU ld linker.

    • Finding Compiler Bugs With C-Reduce

      Support for a long awaited GNU C extension, asm goto, is in the midst of landing in Clang and LLVM. We want to make sure that we release a high quality implementation, so it’s important to test the new patches on real code and not just small test cases. When we hit compiler bugs in large source files, it can be tricky to find exactly what part of potentially large translation units are problematic. In this post, we’ll take a look at using C-Reduce, a multithreaded code bisection utility for C/C++, to help narrow done a reproducer for a real compiler bug (potentially; in a patch that was posted, and will be fixed before it can ship in production) from a real code base (the Linux kernel). It’s mostly a post to myself in the future, so that I can remind myself how to run C-reduce on the Linux kernel again, since this is now the third real compiler bug it’s helped me track down.

    • Structuring Rust Transactions
    • Tidy up the user interface of the video editing application
    • Intel Vulkan Linux Driver Adds Conditional Rendering, Draw Indirect Count

      First up, the Intel Vulkan driver now supports VK_EXT_conditional_rendering after a lengthy review/revision process. VK_EXT_conditional_rendering was added to Vulkan 1.1.80 last July and allows for rendering commands to be made selective based upon a value in the buffer memory, in order to allow discard rendering commands based upon a result in GPU memory without having to wait on the application/engine. The conditional rendering can be used with Vulkan draws, compute dispatches, and clearing of attachments. VK_EXT_conditional_rendering is supported by Haswell “Gen 7.5″ graphics and newer with the upcoming Mesa 19.0.

    • Episode #113: Python Lands on the Windows 10 App Store
    • Lambda Functions in Python
    • Find Your System’s Biggest CPU Hogs

Leftovers

  • Winds of change? Winds of mediocrity.

    You’d think the world of open-source would escape this cheap reduction of human intellect. But no. The world’s saddest violin is playing mightily loudly in the halls of Tux, too. Linux distributions are, by far and large, less stable, less ergonomic and less capable than they were five or six years ago. Lots of activity, few results.

    And when you do get results, they are made by devs for devs, object-oriented software solutions that intrude into the user space and complicate things without any benefits. Systemd is a good example. Wayland is another. Network tools yet another. Then, we also have the flattification of UI elements, the same kind of stuff that Google’s been doing. And everyone is doing it, because hey, if Google does it, then if they imitate Google, they will be like Google, right. None of these things help, but we can tolerate them because they don’t really make any difference in the overall story of human survival.

    [...]

    Don’t embrace the change. Evaluate the change. Judge it. Be strict. Because we’ve come too far as a race to allow stupidity to become the driving factor. That’s an insult to the billions of humans who have died to mosquitoes and common flu and famine so that we could reach an evolutionary point where people accept low-quality, low-efficiency nonsense into their lives, and then sermonize about that with the obtuse optimism of religiously passionate fanboys.

    But there’s a happy side to this story, too. Not that long ago, I wouldn’t contemplate rejecting the “modern” technology that much or that often. There was almost a thought of discomfort at such a move. But now? It does not seem so bad. Having gone through a few cycles of big tech changes, I don’t see anything special or revolutionary in the Peckham water that companies are dishing out to the masses. It’s an almost liberating thought, sprinkled with illumination, epiphany and other long words. Perhaps I should thank the agile crowds for this unintentional contribution of disdain and apathy. Good stuff, I’d say. Be if you’re still out there, wondering if you can change the world, start by small things. Say no to stupid things. Don’t embrace the change, embrace critical thinking.

  • Science

    • Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North

      But humans are not the only species that use stars for direction. Research on songbirds that navigate at night shows that birds learn the patterns of stars within an arc of about 35 degrees bounding the North Pole including, of course, Ursa Major and Minor. Scientists surmise that birds imprint on several constellations to ensure more robust navigation on nights with partial cloud cover. Migratory birds also rely on the polar axis of the rotation of the stars as a reference system and use a diversity of other navigational cues that are truly mind-blowing.

      Although insects may not have a lot of what we many think of as brains, their navigation systems are far from primitive. Dung beetles, for example, take mental “snapshots” of star locations. They navigate by comparing the positions of stars or other celestial bodies noted in each snapshot. The lowly dung beetle, blessed with a cerebral sextant?

      As far as we know, though, humans are the only species to invent elaborate stories and even entire myth systems about stars in an unending quest to make sense of our individual lives and create durable communities.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Hoping to Transform ‘Momentum Into Policy’, Thousands Expected to Flood Capitol Hill to Demand Medicare for All

      Ahead of the third annual Women’s March this weekend, thousands of Americans are expected to descend on Capitol Hill on Friday for a Medicare for All lobby day organized by progressive campaigners.

      The Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy are among the organizations participating in the push, hoping to convince as many lawmakers as possible to co-sponsor Medicare for All bills in the Senate and House—proposals that represent the majority of American public opinion.

    • Medicaid Patients In Puerto Rico Don’t Get Coverage For Drugs To Cure Hepatitis C

      Drugs that can cure hepatitis C revolutionized care for millions of Americans living with the deadly liver infection. The drugs came with a steep price tag — one that prompted state Medicaid programs to initially limit access to the medications to only the sickest patients. That eased, however, in many states as new drugs were introduced and the prices declined.

      But not in Puerto Rico. Medicaid patients in the American territory get no coverage for these drugs.

      The joint federal-territory health care program for the poor — which covers about half the island’s population — does not pay for hepatitis C medications. They also do not cover liver transplants, a procedure patients need if the virus causes the organ to fail.

      The Puerto Rico Department of Health created a separate pilot project in 2015 to provide hepatitis C medications to those sickened by the liver infection who also have HIV but expanded the program later to those with only hepatitis C. However, according to the Office of Patient Legal Services, an official territorial agency that advocates for consumers, the program ran out of funding and is no longer accepting patients only with hepatitis C.

    • Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”

      As the government shutdown drags on, the image of federal workers lining up at food pantries has dramatized just how many workers live financially close to the edge.

      By one estimate, almost 80 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck. Miss one check and you’re taking a second look at what’s in the back of the pantry cupboard.

      From federal prison guards in small towns to airline safety inspectors in major cities, the partial government shutdown has forced 800,000 federal workers — and many contractors, too — to survive without a paycheck.

      The shutdown is a Trump-made disaster, with an estimated 420,000 “essential workers” required to show up for work without a paycheck. They have full-time responsibilities, which makes finding another part-time job nearly impossible.

    • Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old

      In the new film Isn’t It Romantic, actress Rebel Wilson plays a woman who suffers an injury and wakes up trapped inside a romantic comedy. The trailer shows one incredibly attractive man after another making romantic gestures to her.

      Rebel Wilson, I should note, played “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect. She was the fat girl, the comic relief — not the romantic lead.

      Last year, Amy Schumer’s movie I Feel Pretty is similar: She’s an unattractive-feeling woman who hits her head and wakes up with tremendous self-esteem.

      Both films put women who aren’t exactly Hollywood’s ideal of feminine beauty at the center of romantic comedies. In each, the gag is that a “fat ugly girl” either believes that she’s beautiful or that men do.

      I grew up on a steady diet of romantic comedies in a household dominated by a fat-phobic mother who berated us every time we put food in our mouths.

      It was the 1990s, when fat was public enemy No. 1. My mom would buy low fat and fat free snack products, and even chips with the fake fat Olestra a few times. The Olestra chips tasted great, but by then I had such a link between junk food and guilt that I couldn’t eat them and enjoy them.

      Food has been a struggle almost my entire life, from about the age of 10. As a teen and in my early 20s I tried several strict diets of various sorts. I gave up French fries, I limited myself to one order of my college cafeteria’s chicken tenders a month, I tried to give up chocolate but it didn’t work. I still can’t enjoy certain foods because they are too fattening.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • How Do You Handle Security in Your Smart Devices?

      Look around your daily life and that of your friends and family, and you’ll see that smart devices are beginning to take over our lives. But this also means an increase in a need for security, though not everyone realizes it, as discussed in a recent article on our IoT-related site. Are you aware of the need for security even when it’s IoT-related? How do you handle security in your smart devices?

    • A Vulnerability in ES File Explorer Exposes All of Your Files to Anyone on the Same Network
    • 2018 Roundup: Q1

      One of our major pain points over the years of dealing with injected DLLs has been that the vendor of the DLL is not always apparent to us. In general, our crash reports and telemetry pings only include the leaf name of the various DLLs on a user’s system. This is intentional on our part: we want to preserve user privacy. On the other hand, this severely limits our ability to determine which party is responsible for a particular DLL.

      One avenue for obtaining this information is to look at any digital signature that is embedded in the DLL. By examining the certificate that was used to sign the binary, we can extract the organization of the cert’s owner and include that with our crash reports and telemetry.

      In bug 1430857 I wrote a bunch of code that enables us to extract that information from signed binaries using the Windows Authenticode APIs. Originally, in that bug, all of that signature extraction work happened from within the browser itself, while it was running: It would gather the cert information on a background thread while the browser was running, and include those annotations in a subsequent crash dump, should such a thing occur.

    • Linux-Targeting Cryptojacking Malware Disables Cloud-Based Security Measures: Report [Ed: They make it sound like GNU/Linux is the problem; but it relies on already-compromised GNU/Linux systems]

      A new cryptojacking malware has the ability to disable cloud-based security measures to avoid detection on Linux servers, research by information security company Palo Alto Networks Jan. 17 reveals.

      The malware in question mines Monero (XMR) and is reportedly a modified version of one used by the so-called “Rocke” group, originally discovered by cybersecurity firm Talos in August last year. According to the research, one of the first things that the malware does is check for other cryptocurrency mining processes and add firewall rules to block any other cryptojacking malware.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Reports are still circulating that a deadly apartment collapse in Magnitogorsk was really a terrorist attack, but there are some problems with this story

      ISIS has belatedly claimed responsibility for an explosion that shredded an apartment building in Magnitogorsk on December 31 and killed 39 people. The terrorist group says it was also involved in a deadly minibus fire the following night. Immediately after this announcement, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee reiterated that a gas leak is the leading explanation for what caused the apartment collapse. Since the tragedy, several news outlets have reported unverified rumors that the supposed gas leak was actually the work of terrorists. On January 18, even more details about a potential terrorism link emerged. Meduza summarizes what various sources have claimed about the Magnitogorsk apartment collapse.

    • To Stop Bolton’s Fire and Fury, Fire Bolton

      “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” read the headline of a 2015 New York Times op-ed by now National Security Adviser John Bolton. Writing at the height of nuclear negotiations with Iran, Bolton argued that, “Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.” Almost four years later, all of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb remain blocked by the very deal Bolton would have traded for war. But like nonbiodegradable plastic adrift at sea, undeterred by the damage left in its wake, Bolton’s views haven’t changed.

      On January 13, 2019, news broke that the National Security Council, at Bolton’s direction, asked the Pentagon for military strike options against Iran. The request was reportedly in response to a mortar attack launched in September 2018 by an Iraqi Shiite militia aligned with Iran that landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad, hitting an empty lot and causing no injuries or damage. In other words, Bolton asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for airstrikes over Iran that would start a catastrophic war — all in response to a militia attack with no victims.

      Taken on its own, a thoughtful observer might characterize Bolton’s request as a gross overreaction from an overzealous national security adviser. But in the context of this administration’s policies and statements on Iran, it looks more like part of the plan.

      Let’s review the lowlights. In the first days of Trump’s presidency, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn ominously announced that the administration was “putting Iran on notice.” In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement despite Iran’s verifiable compliance, and reimposed the full suite of US sanctions lifted under the agreement. Last July, Trump authored a late-night tweet threatening Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” In August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formed the Iran Action Group, a special team tasked with coordinating the administration’s policies for countering the “Iranian threat.” Earlier this month, Pompeo started an eight-country tour through the Middle East emphasizing the need to counter “the greatest threat of all the Middle East, the Iranian regime.” Next month, the secretary of state is hosting a summit in Poland focused on “making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

    • Rep. Ro Khanna: U.S. Troops Are a “Sitting Target” in Syria; It’s Time to Bring Them Home

      In Syria, a suicide bomber struck a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij Wednesday, killing 19 people including four Americans. Two of them were U.S. soldiers. The bombing was claimed by ISIS and came just weeks after President Trump declared victory over the group and ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria, prompting the resignation of Pentagon chief Jim Mattis. Just hours after the attack, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated that ISIS has been defeated. Wednesday’s attack drew renewed calls from congressional hawks—both Republicans and Democrats—to reverse Trump’s Syria withdrawal. The U.S. has an estimated 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, even though Congress has never declared war on the country. We speak with Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California. He is a leading critic of U.S. military interventions abroad.

    • The Wall, The Endless War, and the Troops Who Pay

      The suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria which killed up to twenty people, including two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, and a defense contractor, adds to the tragic toll of the war in Syria, said to be in the hundreds of thousands. ISIS has taken credit for the Manbij bombing, but they have provided no proof.

      Some peace activists are expressing suspicion about the timing of the bombing in northern Syria, which came just as U.S. foreign policy hawks, including the entire mainstream media, are pushing back against Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The pro-intervention crowd is saying, “See, we told you that ISIS was not defeated – we need to stay in Syria until they are.”

    • Paul Whelan accused of collecting information on Russian special services

      Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine who was arrested in Moscow on December 28, has been accused by investigators of collecting secret information about one of Russia’s special service agencies, TV Rain reports. The independent station referenced an anonymous source familiar with the investigation. That source also said the FSB began building a file on Whelan in May 2018, well before his arrest, and that the file includes both telephone and online conversations.

    • Shut Down the War Machine!

      The time has come to cut the US military down to size.

      Last November, the Pentagon admitted what critics have known for years: It cannot pass an audit that would let Congress, the media and taxpayers know what it does with the trillions of dollars that have been lavished on war and preparing for war by this country.

      By all accounts, the US accounts for more than a third of all global military spending. The next biggest spender on its military, China, only spends a fifth as much as the US. And remember, as a full-fledged police state and a country whose peripheral provinces have to be kept under tight military control lest they move towards independence from Beijing, much of China’s huge military is actually involved not in threatening other countries or even defending China, but in maintaining government control domestically. Russia’s military spending, which actually declined last year, is actually lower than for tiny Saudi Arabia, which can’t even control tiny neighboring Yemen without vast assistance and military aid from the United States.

      Let’s be honest: The United States faces no significant threat from any nation in the world.

      Sure I know: Russia and even China have nuclear weapons that, if launched en masse at the US could destroy this country. But everyone knows such an action would be to commit national suicide. With its vast nuclear arsenal stowed in patrolling submarines, in protected silos ready to be fired off in minutes, and in bases around the world, including some quite close to China’s and Russia’s borders, the US not only could destroy both countries many times over in response, but is actually able and prepared to attack either country or both countries first, perhaps even preventing them from retaliating successfully (See Michio Kaku’s and Daniel Axelrod’s excellent and terrifying book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans which, using secret US documents, exposes how for decades beginning even before the end of WWII the US prepared and is still preparing for a first-strike, all-out attack to kill hundreds of millions and totally destroy both Russia and China while preventing any significant counter-attack).

      The reality is that it is the US which is the most threatening and destabilizing force in the world today. It is US military spending, and the US role as the world’s largest arms merchant, selling and giving away more than 34% of all weapons and military equipment in the global arms market to a total of 98 countries, that drives global military spending. Russia, at a puny 22% of all arms sales, is distinctly second rate in the world arms market.

    • Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO

      Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

      I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

    • Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over

      Donald Trump wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria as quickly as possible.

      Well, it’s Wednesday, so that’s what the president wants now. Tomorrow, who knows, maybe he’ll insist that Syria pay for the pullout. Maybe Trump will decide to hold a summit with Bashar al-Assad after deciding that the Syrian leader’s not such a bad guy after all, since he also doesn’t like the Islamic State and owes his position to Russian support. Maybe Trump will team up with Turkey to build a wall around Syria because “if we stop them over there, we won’t fight them over here.”

      With Trump, all options seem to be in play, and it all depends on what Fox News covers, what the last autocrat or three-star general whispered in his ear, and whether the president’s spleen is acting up or not. The opinions of his own advisors or the foreign-policy commissariat seem to matter little. If anything, Trump delights in confounding the experts. After all, he believes himself to be the expert-in-chief.

      Foreign policy making in the Trump era is a lot like curling. Trump lets lose the stone and then the other members of the team start sweeping at the ice in an attempt to alter the trajectory. Sometimes Trump throws in the general direction of the target. Sometimes his aim is so errant that there’s nothing the sweepers can do.

      So, after Trump tweeted his new Syria policy, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went into action to alter its trajectory. In an attempt to placate allies aghast at Trump’s decision, Bolton put so many conditions on the pull-out as to seem to render the announcement null and void. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly tried to assure Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and the Gulf States that U.S. policy remains steady: defeat the Islamic State, shut out Iran.

      This cavalcade of caveats accomplished little more than to confuse allies and mystify observers. Bolton angered Recep Tayyip Erdogan so much with his remarks about continued U.S. support for Syrian Kurds that the Turkish president refused to meet with the national security advisor when he visited Ankara this month. A prominent pro-government newspaper decried Bolton’s “soft coup against Trump.”

    • The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam

      This fly-on- the-wall quote is from a US Embassy-Hanoi diplomatic cable that was leaked over a decade ago, i.e., in the pre-Wikileaks era, and quickly found its way into many inboxes in Viet Nam and elsewhere. As I mentioned in a 2011 article, this manifesto lite offers telling examples and revealing insights into the use of education as a tool and even a weapon of soft power.

      The power of leaked internal documents is their refreshing honesty and ability to confirm suspicions based on general information, hunches, and intuition. As the unvarnished truth about a particular perspective or goal, they usually offer little to no rhetorical wiggle room for dissembling by their authors, who never imagined that their thoughts would see the public light of day.

      In this particular call to action and request for additional funding, written by people I worked with at the time in my capacity as country director of a US education nonprofit with close ties to the US State Department, the US is portrayed as a knight in shining armor, with its renowned can-do attitude and munificent spirit, coming to the rescue of millions of desperate Vietnamese students and parents. It is an example of a messiah complex rooted in nationalism. We know best, we are the best, think like US, follow US, become like US, and all will be well.

    • Thief of Baghdad: an investigative report

      THERE is an evil in the mist that has enveloped the air around Helsinki. Something ominous is going on, across our planet… from Baghdad to Helsinki, and beyond. All ripples lead to one epicentre… the United States. What are they up to?
      Two successive articles have been published in Helsinki Times, warning readers, of something sinister that has already been ‘sensed’…. Do you, or anyone, have a clue?
      Will Sillitoe, the Op-Ed columnist from Finland, has taken his readers into confidence. Perhaps, all this had something to do with the guarded warehouses, located near Helsinki’s city airport and the mysterious chain of overseas cargo, which had kept flowing into the premises, in the dark.
      The big question we all seem to ask: why does the US embassy in Helsinki need a huge warehouse near Malmi Airport? And, what are the contents of thousands of kilograms of cargo that were flown into Helsinki from Baghdad in specially marked containers?
      A dilapidated warehouse located in Malmi district of Helsinki, allegedly, was being used by the United States for some unknown operations. A whistleblower, known as the Wikileaks’ releases, has finally taken the curtain away from the mystery location.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • DOJ to question Ecuadorian Embassy staff following Guardian Manafort story – WikiLeaks

      The US Department of Justice is to question six staff from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London following the Guardian’s controversial article alleging Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange, according to WikiLeaks.
      The DOJ issued formal requests on January 7 to “interrogate six former diplomats & staff at Ecuador’s London embassy following Guardian’s fabricated story of Assange-Manafort meetings,” the whistleblowing organization tweeted Thursday.

      The interviews scheduled by Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office are to take place on Friday in Quito, Ecuador.

    • US Questioning Ecuadorian Embassy Staff Over Debunked Assange-Manafort Story

      Earlier, The Guardian, which made the explosive claim that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had met with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, was forced to walk back on the story, heavily editing the piece and saying it could not confirm the authenticity of its sources’ claims.
      US Department of Justice investigators have handed out international subpoenas to six members of the Ecuadorian Embassy staff who were in the London compound with Assange during the timeframe when Manafort was reported to have met with the whistleblower, Assange’s legal defence team has confirmed.

    • US officials to ask Ecuador embassy staff about Julian Assange visitors
    • Staff at Ecuadorean embassy in London where Julian Assange is holed up are questioned by Department of Justice investigators over whether he met Paul Manafort

      US investigators will on Friday begin to question diplomatic staff who were stationed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London during WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s years-long stay about his visitors, according to the whistleblower group.

      It follows international subpoenas from the US Department of Justice, which is probing a report that President Donald Trump’s disgraced former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks there with Assange, Wikileaks said.

      The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the matter, wants to talk to six staff members from the embassy and will start to interview them in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Friday, it added.

    • Ecuadorian embassy asked to grass on Assange
    • Ecuadorian diplomats grilled by U.S. over reported ties between Manafort, Assange: Reports

      Ecuadorian diplomats were slated to be interviewed in the country’s capital Friday by U.S. authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at the nation’s embassy in London, regional media reported.
      Six diplomats currently or previously stationed at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Mr. Assange’s residence since 2012, were expected to field questions from U.S. officials probing a contentious report linking him to Mr. Trump’s incarcerated former campaign manager, according to unnamed judicial sources cited by Agencia EFE, a Spanish-language news agency and one of the world’s largest wire services.
      WikiLeaks stated Thursday through the anti-secrecy group’s Twitter account that the U.S Department of Justice had issued letters rogatory to interrogate a half-dozen individuals, including former diplomats and embassy staff, and that Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs heeded the request and scheduled them to be interviewed in Quito.

    • CN to Broadcast 13th Vigil for Assange Today at 4 pm EST

      The WikiLeaks publisher continues to resist pressure to leave the Ecuador Embassy and be sent to the U.S. for prosecution, even as he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and Donald Trump’s lawyer says he should not be charged with any crime.

      Julian Assange’s is an historic test-case for press freedom.

    • US asked Ecuadorean officials about alleged Assange-Manafort meeting, says source

      US officials spoke with officials from Ecuador’s British embassy yesterday about an alleged meeting there between President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Ecuadorean government source said.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Saving the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

      Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America’s famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland.

      Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

      But as I learned working on a recent research project with the environmental nonprofit WWF, a combination of climate change, new development, expanding agriculture, urban growth and pollution are poised to transform this vast wetland — bringing drastic consequences for the environment, wildlife and millions of people who depend on the Pantanal’s natural hydrology.

    • Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers

      Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say leading academics.

      Among those strategies, say the three researchers from Yale and Brown University, are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups.

      Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Yale University’ professors Justin Farrell and Kathryn McConnell, together with Brown University’s Professor Robert Brulle, say people working on responses to climate change “cannot afford to underestimate the economic influence, institutional complexity, strategic sophistication, financial motivation, and societal impact of the networks” behind climate misinformation campaigns.

      Brulle, who is also an academic at Drexel University, told DeSmog that after conversations with leaders of environment groups and foundations, he had concluded “there is virtually no understanding of the nature or extent of misinformation efforts and organized efforts to stop climate action.”

    • ‘If the Water Is Rising, Then So Must We’: Indigenous Peoples March in Washington Against Global Injustice

      In an event described as “breathtaking, heartbreaking, strong, and beautiful,” representatives from native communities around the world came together in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March.

      Organized as a rebuke to the violence and injustices that Indigenous Peoples often face—from the murder of native girls and women to police brutality to having unceded tribal lands torn away by colonizing governments and fossil fuel corporations—the march kicked off Friday morning outside the U.S. Interior Department.

    • As Workers Suffer From Shutdown, Groups Accuse Trump of ‘Rolling Out the Red Carpet’ for Oil and Gas Drilling

      Because the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cannot post information about the drilling applications due to the shutdown, the groups argued, it is unlawfully blocking the public from participating in the process or raising objections.

      “In short, it is impossible for the public to inspect or otherwise provide meaningful feedback on any pending [applications or environmental reviews] related to these applications,” WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in their filing (pdf), which calls on the Interior Department to completely stop processing drilling permits until the government is reopened.

      In a statement on Thursday, Taylor McKinnon—public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity—declared that the “only thing trashier than our national parks during this shutdown has been the Trump administration’s coddling of the oil industry.”

      “Furloughed federal workers can’t pay their mortgages, but Trump is hellbent on ensuring profits for fossil fuel corporations,” McKinnon said. “Not one new lease or drilling permit should be allowed under these conditions.”

      “We’ve been completely shut out of decisions affecting our public lands, and we won’t stand for it,” added Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy program attorney with WildEarth Guardians.

  • Finance

    • MIT, Stanford Researchers to Fund New ‘Globally Scalable’ Cryptocurrency, ‘Unit-e’

      A group of researchers from top United States universities have announced the launch of a “globally scalable decentralized payments network,” according to a press release published today, Jan. 17.

      The development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed “Unit-e,” is being funded by Distributed Technologies Research (DTR) — a non-profit organization based in Switzerland, whose official launch was also announced today in the press release.

      DTR includes researchers from seven major U.S. universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, as Bloomberg reports.

    • Feeding the Furloughed: Let Them Eat Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches With Ginger Aioli

      Tom-Joad-like, celebrity chef, Spanish immigrant and Trump foe José Andrés has opened a pop-up kitchen in D.C. to feed thousands of federal workers getting stiffed by the petulant Man-Baby-In-Chief. With the shutdown almost a month long and over 70,000 affected in D.C., Andrés’ non-profit World Central Kitchen – which has provided millions of hot meals to hurricane, wildfire, volcano and other global disaster victims, including in post-Maria Puerto Rico – this week opened a #ChefsForFeds kitchen on Pennsylvania Ave. between the Capitol and the White House. Andrés, who owns a mini-empire of restaurants, famously pulled out of a 2015 deal at Trump’s D.C. hotel after he began insulting Mexicans and other immigrants, will serve a rotating menu of free hot gourmet meals from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to federal workers with ID. They can also get take-out for families at home, because here in the richest country on earth, “We believe no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children.”

      Wednesday, as Trump blathered about “Radical Democrats/ Humanitarian Crisis,” the kitchen opened to long lines of tearful, angry, ashamed and grateful victims of his “man-made disaster.” About 4,400 people, double what was expected, queued for toasted ham and cheese sandwich with roasted garlic aioli, quinoa bowl with black beans, fennel and tomato soup. Thursday’s menu – chicken teriyaki sandwich with pickled veggies, teriyaki tofu bowl, mac and cheese – drew over 5,500. Friday’s grilled steak with carmelized onion sandwich and felafel and quinoa will likely draw more thankful for the chance to “just feel like a damn person again” amidst Depression-like lines and signs and anxiety. One aggrieved woman: “We shouldn’t have to have this in America.” Just so, says Andrés, who was already giving out free sandwiches at his restaurants during the shutdown. In a “call to action” from Puerto Rico, he urged pols and especially Trump to come together and “see the true meaning of We the People.” His Twitter mantra: “We all are Citizens of the World. What’s good for you, must be good for all. If you are lost, share a plate of food with a stranger…you will find who you are.” Give this guy a Nobel.

    • Kent Wong on LA Teachers Strike, Rebecca Vallas on the Threat to Medicaid

      Corporate media have been declaring organized labor moribund—sometimes abetting efforts to kill it—for many years now. But more than 30,000 public school teachers in Los Angeles, on strike with overwhelming community support, would suggest you ought not believe everything you read. We’ll hear about the LA teachers strike, and competing visions for public education, from Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center and vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

    • Teachers in Los Angeles are striking for our students, not ourselves

      Huge classes, few counselors, no arts classes are becoming the norm in my city as the board attempts to run the school district like a business.

    • A Swelling Tide of Major Teacher Strikes Is Shifting Our Politics Against the Charter Agenda

      This week, Republican lawmakers held a press conference on Capitol Hill to kick off National School Choice Week, an annual event that began in 2011 under President Obama who proclaimed it as a time to “recognize the role public charter schools play in providing America’s daughters and sons with a chance to reach their fullest potential.” This year, Democratic lawmakers took a pass on the celebration. You can thank striking teachers for that.

      In the latest teacher strike in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, some 30,000 teachers walked off the job saying unchecked growth of charter schools and charters’ lack of transparency and accountability have become an unsustainable drain on the public system’s financials. The teachers have included in their demands a cap on charter school growth, along with other demands, such as increased teacher pay, reduced class sizes, less testing, and more counselors, nurses, librarians, and psychologists.

      The LA teachers’ opposition to charter schools is just the latest voice in a growing chorus of public school teachers calling on politicians to do more to support the public schools we have rather than piling more dollars and accolades onto a competitive charter school industry. And with the backing of nearly 80 percent of Los Angeles County residents, according to one survey, the teachers likely have the clout to change the politics of “school choice” in California, and perhaps the nation.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt

      We live in an era where teachers unions are attacked and scapegoated, our schools are starved of funds, and private charter operators are allowed to choose which students they want to educate and exclude those they don’t–and use desperately needed funds from the public school system to do so.

      It is said that the end of the French monarchy was portended by the fact that boys working in the king’s stables were reading the radical philosopher Voltaire. This week thousands of Los Angeles youth gave up windfall days off to show up at picketlines at 6:30 in the morning and march in the rain all day in defense of public education, teachers, and their union. Could this portend the end of the era of attacks on public education?

      Nearly 100 of our students have joined our picketlines, attended the mass downtown rallies, and provided logistical support. Below are some of their views of the Los Angeles Education Revolt of 2019.

    • Donald Trump Has Never Cared About Workers, and Never Will

      The biggest lie ever told in American politics is the claim that Donald Trump cares about working people.

      He never has. He never will.

      As a bankruptcy-prone business mogul, Trump always financed his lavish lifestyle at the expense of the workers and contractors he screwed over. Now he is doing the same thing as president. That was made abundantly clear last Friday, when the government shutdown that Trump engineered denied 800,000 federal employees their paychecks.

      “Cheating, scamming, and ripping off workers is a Donald Trump tradition that goes back decades. Federal workers are just Trump’s latest victims,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman as the deadline for paying the workers passed. “For decades, Trump repeatedly didn’t pay those who worked for him, and now that he’s in the White House, little has changed. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers and employees of federal contractors are suffering the same fate because of the Trump shutdown.”

      Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, described the shutdown as “completely unnecessary.” And, of course, he was right. “The real problem is that President Trump has shut himself down and he’s refusing to do his job as chief executive,” explained Shearon, whose union represents judges in U.S. immigration courts, scientists, engineers and technical workers at NASA, and highly skilled workers at the EPA and NOAA.

      The human cost has been severe for federal workers who, as American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. has noted, have take-home pay averaging about $500 a week and in many cases “struggle to make ends meet even without a missed paycheck.”

      Yet Trump has no qualms about “holding employees’ paychecks hostage over demands for a border wall,” Weissman said.

      Trump actually claimed that unpaid federal workers could just “make adjustments.” The president also announced that he “can relate” to the difficult circumstance he has imposed upon the workers.

    • Newly Revealed Documents Show Facebook Gleefully Refusing To Refund Money To Kids Who Ran Up Huge Bills On Mommy’s Credit Card

      Because Facebook wasn’t looking awful enough already, some newly unsealed documents from a lawsuit going back a few years are now making the company look even worse, and certainly not doing the company any favors in its efforts to rehabilitate its reputation. Unfortunately, so far, Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, seems to only be revealing snippets of what’s in the documents, rather than the full documents (come on guys…), but what they’re sharing doesn’t look great.

      Specifically, a judge has unsealed previously sealed records from a 2012 class action lawsuit that was settled in 2016, concerning Facebook profiting off of children. The origins of the lawsuit involved a child who got his mother’s credit card to play a game on Facebook, without realizing that the more he played, the more of his mother’s money he was spending — compounded by Facebook then refusing to refund the charges. The latest revelations show that Facebook employees knew that they made this information confusing, in a way that people (kids and adults alike) might not realize they were still spending money off of a credit card, and also having joking conversations about people trying to get their money back. Indeed, the snippet Reveal has released has Facebook employees referring to one teenager as “a whale” — a term used in casinos to refer to big spenders.

    • The Indignity of Work Without Pay

      The Democratic senator, who just won reelection by nearly seven points in the red state of Ohio, explained the concept to reporters: “Dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do… [dignity of work] is a value that unites us all.”

      Well, maybe not everyone. Forty percent of conservative Republicans view the government shutdown as inconsequential. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans believe that furloughing 380,000 federal workers and giving them no idea when they might see another paycheck is no problem. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans say that ordering another 420,000 federal employees to work without pay is nothing. Forty percent of conservative Republicans say that the farmers and students and potential homebuyers who can’t get loans because of the shutdown are no big deal; the restaurants and shops suffering because their usual government employee customers aren’t showing up are meaningless; the thousands of government contract workers laid off with no hope of recouping lost paychecks are trivial collateral damage.

      That repudiates the dignity of work. It disrespects government workers and the services they perform for Americans. It also disrespects the workers routinely helped by government employees, from farmers to factory laborers, who now are denied the government services they need.

    • The European Union May Not Survive the Euro

      The euro is “celebrating” its 20th anniversary this month, but they aren’t popping corks across the continent. Except, perhaps, with the notable exception of delusional Eurocrats such Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, who argued: “The euro has become a symbol of unity, sovereignty and stability. It has delivered prosperity and protection to our citizens…”

      Some prosperity!

      Much of the continent is characterized by double-digit unemployment, rising inequality, political strife, and a virtual lost generation of youth, who have never experienced anything remotely approaching a robust, ebullient economy. Greed-based integration is giving the EU a bad name.

      The worst thing about the Eurozone as a whole is the currency union itself. The euro reinforces structural inequalities between member states as well as between social groups within countries. It is also worth recalling that its creation was supposed to be an intermediate step toward the inevitable formation of a “United States of Europe” of a supranational fiscal authority—i.e., a federal union in which a central government for the whole of Europe becomes responsible for the economic stabilization and income redistribution for the whole of the EU, while the allocation of resources is left in the hands of the nation state governments. That is clearly a long ways away, given existing political tensions between the creditor nations of the Germanic north and the debtor southern periphery nations.

    • No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit

      Theresa May’s prime ministership remains one of torment, drawn out, and weakened daily. But does it really matter? If it is true to claim that people deserve the government they elect, then there is something madly representative of the debacle of May’s leadership, one where problems are sought for any possible solutions.

      Steering through the waters of Brexit has been a nigh impossible task rendered even more problematic by a stubborn myopia nursed by May. She nurses dogmas incapable of learning new tricks. Her latest Brexit plan, as it headed to inevitable defeat, would have rendered Britain bound to the EU in a manner more servile than any sovereign populist would have dreamed. Benefits would have been shed; obligations would have persisted. While there is very little to recommend the views of the rabid Tory Eurosceptics, there is something in the idea that Britain would become a vassal state.

      As it transpired, May lost by a colossal margin, an indication that few could stomach her vision: 432 to 202, the worst defeat by a British administration in over a century. “In all normal circumstances,” observed Robert Peston, that legendary pessimist of matters economic, “a Prime Minister would resign when suffering such a humiliation on their central policy – and a policy Theresa May herself said today would ‘set the future of this country for a generation’.”

      Such is the nature of the climate: gross failure results in bare survival rather than inevitable annihilation. Grand acts of quixotic behaviour are not richly punished but given reprieve before the next charge against windmills. So we are left with the idea of uncharted territory, suggesting, in the face of such chaos and uncertainty, a postponement of the departure date from the EU set for March 29. The Article 50 period, in other words, would have to be extended, but this, again, implies a set of hypothetical variations and ponderings.

    • Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable

      My uncle, who’s now in his early sixties, has been working at Verizon New England for decades. He was there when it was New England Telephone and for Bell Atlantic’s purchase in 2000, when the name changed to Verizon.

      Throughout the years, he’s seen his peers laid off in the dozens. In his department, he is now literally the last employee working in the United States. The rest are employed in India, saving the company billions, where they receive incomparably lower salaries.

      Healthy and able-bodied, he is in no mood to retire. However, as there was every indication that his position would soon be transferred to India, when he was offered an early retirement package, he reluctantly took it. His last day is in mid-spring.

      Cheerleaders of the globalized economy claim that outsourcing does not happen too much anymore; rather, it is artificial intelligence that is the main threat to labor – and this tends be couched in the inevitable forward march of ‘progress’.

      Yet, this past fall, a dozen people were also laid off where I work, as their jobs shifted to India. These were just a few of the 14 million American jobs overseas in recent years. As my now-former coworkers were all remote employees in California, it was easier for our supervisor to let them go from our Massachusetts headquarters; they didn’t have to see the sordid expressions of those laid off.

    • With Students ‘Getting Ripped Off’ by Wells Fargo, Elizabeth Warren Calls for Kicking Big Bank Off Campus

      Nearly a year after angrily grilling Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan over his exorbitant compensation following several scandals at the bank, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took aim at the institution again Thursday with a letter attacking its practice of offering bank accounts to college students and then hitting them with steep fees—which have had what the lawmaker calls “disastrous effects” on students.

      Wells Fargo has for years partnered with dozens of U.S. colleges and universities, opening on-campus branches and offering students accounts and debit cards as well as other financial products. The bank is far from the only institution to do so, with BankMobile offering more student accounts than Wells Fargo—but the bank charges its student customers far more than its competitors in annual fees.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Another Day, Another Disaster. And Another, And Another…

      I’ve been trying to write something about the events of the past few days for the last week and a half, and every time I set out to achieve editorial brilliance, or at least try to keep typos and the splitting of infinitives to a minimum, something else wacky happens and it’s back to square one. I’d say it’s Sisyphean if only I knew what that meant.

      Sometimes, mere minutes pass before the next incredible piece of Trump-induced folly strikes. It’s as if the country’s being run by Beetlejuice.

      As I make this latest attempt, in just the last 24 hours – and not even counting the continuing disaster of the government shutdown – these things happened: The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services reported that thousands more undocumented kids were torn from their parents by HHS than previously reported – “starting early in the Trump administration,” according to The Washington Post, “months before the government announced it would separate children in order to criminally prosecute their parents, through late last spring.”

      What’s more, a 2017 draft memo gotten hold of by NBC News, revealed that “Trump administration officials weighed speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them their legal right to asylum hearings after separating them from their parents.”

    • Lawmakers Urged to ‘Start the Impeachment Proceedings’ After Report Trump Ordered Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

      According to Buzzfeed, Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that “after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie—by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did—in order to obscure Trump’s involvement” in talks to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow.

      “The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” Buzzfeed reported. “On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million.”

      “Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House Intelligence committees,” Buzzfeed noted. “Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to ‘minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1′—widely understood to be Trump—’in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.’”

      Analysts immediately pointed out that instructing witnesses to commit perjury—which legal experts say constitutes obstruction of justice—was part of the articles of impeachment against former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

    • The West Has Islam Dangerously Wrong

      If nothing else, Trump’s political ascent has served as a potent reminder of Islamophobia’s pervasiveness throughout 21st century American society. How then do we dismantle these harmful stereotypes, which threaten Muslim communities both at home and broad? For Juan Cole, author of the riveting new history “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires,” the answer would appear to be a greater understanding of the religion’s founder and formation.

      “One of the features of the Qur’an, which I think is too little appreciated, is that it’s a counterargument,” he tells Robert Scheer. “It’s an argument for tolerance, at least of the monotheistic religions, of Christianity and Judaism. … So I think it’s an extremely ecumenical book, the Qur’an, and the Prophet’s preaching of it. And that is something that’s been lost, not only in Western conceptions of the religion, but often among some believers as well.”

      In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cole explores some of the dangers of letting hatred and bias go unchallenged. “They just did a poll in Germany where they found 44 percent of Germans think that Islam should not be practiced in Germany,” he notes. “Any time you single out a group of people as different from others, and as posing a unique kind of danger to society, that leads in very bad directions. And we have seen over and over again in modern history the directions that it can lead.”

    • Episode 46: Fascism Today with Kelly Hayes by The Lit Review

      What does fascism look like today in the U.S.? Where does the alt-right fit into this? How can it be fought?! We sat down with Chicago-based Native abolitionist organizer, writer and co-struggler Kelly Hayes to discuss Shane Burley’s book Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It. Examining the modern fascist movement’s various strains, Shane Burley has written a super accessible primer about what its adherents believe, how they organize, and what future they have in the U.S. Key Questions: 1. What is fascism? 2. What is the alt-right? 3. What is the role of misogyny in fascism? 4. What do the building stages of a grassroots fascist movement look like? 5. What does the left need to do defeat fascism? Hosts: Monica Trinidad & Page May Guest: Kelly Hayes Date: Monday, January 14, 2019 Length: 50:47 Episode 46 Credits Intro Production: Ari Mejia Music: David Ellis “Welcome Matt”

    • Leaked Memo Reveals Trump Administration’s “Immoral” Plan to “Traumatize” Migrant Children

      The December 2017 draft memo—which Merkley shared with NBC News after receiving it from a government whistleblower—shows that Trump administration officials wanted to deport children more quickly by denying them asylum hearings after taking them away from their parents.

      “It appears that they wanted to have it both ways—to separate children from their parents but deny them the full protections generally awarded to unaccompanied children,” concluded ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who led a class-action lawsuit on behalf of migrant parents.

      President Donald Trump’s “child immigration strategy is immoral and comes from a dark place in the heart of this administration,” Merkley declared, responding to the revelations on Twitter. “Children are NOT expendable commodities in political battles.”

    • Top 6 Things Wrong with Trump denying Pelosi Gov’t Transport

      Trump’s petty cancellation of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip on military transport to Brussels and Afghanistan was clearly his revenge for her cancellation of his State of the Union message until he ends the shutdown of the government.

      Here are the top 5 things wrong with this step:

      1. It is invidious and unfair, since First Lady Melania Trump took off for Mar-a-Lago in a government plane soon thereafter. Given that 800,000 government employees are not getting their paychecks, is this the right time for Melania to vacation in Florida?

    • A Global Battle of Values and Ideals

      With each day that passes the conflict and animosity between the conservative reactionary forces and the global movement for progressive change becomes more acute, uglier and increasingly dangerous; wherever one looks in the world the battleground between groups on either side of the divide rages. In essence it is a battle of values and ideas, of what kind of society we want to live in, but as the extremes, particularly those on what is commonly called the ‘right’, assert themselves, the space for rational, open debate is being crushed and a febrile intolerant atmosphere fueled.

      Decades of systemic failure, environmental vandalism and social injustice have caused widespread discontent and anger among people in many countries, injustice made more severe by policies of crippling austerity following the 2008 banking crash. Among the 38 members of the wealthy OECD nations it is said that 50% of the population feel disenchanted with the political-economic system.

      Consistent with the times we are living in – times in which the forces of the past are receding and the energies of the new are increasing in potency, the reaction to such discontent has been polarized. While large numbers of people recognize systemic change is needed and are calling for greater levels of cooperation between people and nations, others, in many cases equally great in numbers, blame external forces and immigration, and retreat into a narrow form of nationalism, seeking security.

      Antagonisms have been enflamed by politicians who either fail to understand the impact of their poisonous rhetoric or simply don’t care what effect they have. The resulting political divisions are acute and, in many cases, compromise between groups on either side of the debate appears impossible as, for example, the government shut down in America and the Brexit deadlock demonstrate. Brexit has become the burning issue of conflict in the UK, fueling fractious, volatile political debate and entrenched national divisions. As one pro-EU protestor told The Observer, “this is civil war without the muskets…it is appalling.”

    • Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018

      The reportage on the death of Amos Oz has focused less on the loss of a major literary force and more on the late writer’s substantial political significance. On some level, this is not all that surprising; mainstream media is not exactly a go-to source for a literary disquisition. But not to diminish Oz’s (mostly) insightful political commentary, the intertwining of art and politics is–in much of the world– a given. And especially so in Israel, where, Oz wrote, “history is interwoven with biography… Private life is virtually not private here. A woman might say, for example, ‘Our son was born while Joel was in the bunkers during the War of Attrition.’ Or, ‘We moved into this apartment exactly one week before the Six-Day War.’ Or, ‘He came back from the States during Sadat’s visit.’”

      The Amos Oz literary canon—decades long—is subordinated. What is truly fascinating is that Oz was heavily indebted to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, transposing faraway small-town America—close-knit, secretive, gossipy—to the close-knit, secretive, and gossipy kibbutz life he knew so well. I’d actually read much of Oz’s work before reading Winesburg, Ohio; it was Oz’s interest in Anderson that piqued my own curiosity. At a book signing many years ago, I told Oz exactly that. He seemed politely uninterested.

      Oz had the mixed blessing of a prodigious output, which ranged from dull to breathtaking. My Michael, the novel that put Oz on the international map, is a big, fat bore. A Perfect Peace, on the other hand, set on a kibbutz around the time of the 1967 Six-Day War—and told via multiple, shifting perspectives—is stunning in every way.

      Oz mined the Israeli quotidian for his fiction. The paradox is that the Israeli quotidian holds no interest in the United States. Israel occupies a pivotal role on the American political stage and is a lighting rod for devotion or derision, generating reams of political analysis.. Yet with all that, there is a distinct lack of interest in…well, Israel. This is not to minimize the importance of the region’s life-and-death politics or an Israeli government that operates under Mafia ethics, but the idea of a living, breathing country seems beyond the American purview. Oz’s work is studded with the rhythms of a small, cacophonous Mediterranean country: The Champs-Elysèes hair salon—a small-town business with a preposterous name—owned by two bickering sisters-in-law. The kibbutznik who occupies his usual spot in the dining hall, pouring over the sports pages. In Fima, the eponymous protagonist delivers an unwanted, condescending political discourse to his cabdriver; the cabdriver, in response, pokes fun at Fima’s hat.

    • Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need

      + Trump had to reach pretty deep into the recycling bin to extract the rusty figure of William Barr as a loyal replacement for J. Beauregard Sessions at the Justice Department. After he dusted him off, what did Trump see in this relic from the Poppy Bush era, that shiny reign of triumphant globalists which Trump publicly claims to loath? A cursory scan of Barr’s CV, which is about as deep a look as Trump is likely to have given, shows all the field marks of a well-worn grey man of Swamptown, a malted Scotch institutionalist, if not an honorary member of the Deep State itself. Surely Trump hesitated when he read, or more likely was told, of Barr’s stint at the Central Intelligence Agency, though the president must have been at least partly placated upon learning that Barr was an Asia hand, who was eager to promote Red China as a more menacing rival to US imperial ambitions than the decaying Soviet Union. Still, once Barr landed in Washington in the early 70s, he quickly adapted to the local habitat and for the next 40 years didn’t migrant beyond the Beltway. So what attracted Trump to this unlikely character?

      + In a word: Pardons. As Poppy’s attorney General, Barr was the man who tidied up the Iran/contra mess and gut-punched Independence Counsel Lawrence Walsh by crafting a sheaf of midnight pardons for the criminal masterminds of that squalid affair, including Casper Weinberger who had perjured himself before Congress. (See Sy Hersh’s “The Vice President’s Men“) The pardons were issued on Christmas Eve just a few days before Bush was ushered out the backdoor of the White House. A disgusted Lawrence Walsh later wrote in his book, Firewall: the Iran/Contra Conspiracy and Cover Up: “It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” This is, of course, exactly kind of legal mercenary that Trump was searching for when excavating through the strata of resumés of possible lawyers to do his bidding. Sometimes an establishment hack is just what you need.

      + All of these hearings are essentially auditions for the Master and Barr, a seasoned, if aging, player in Washington dramas, hit all of the marks that would delight his audience of one. Asked whether he would considering jailing journalists “for doing their jobs,” William Barr said he could conceive of situations “as a last resort” where a news organization is held accountable for “putting out stuff that they know will harm the country.” This answer must have gone down like a fistful of Viagra for Trump.

    • The Splinters Of Our Discontent: A Review Of Network Propaganda

      Sanchez’s comments didn’t trigger any kind of real schism in conservative or libertarian circles. Sure, there was some heated debate among conservatives, and a few conservative commentators, like David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, and the National Review’s Jim Manzi, acknowledged that there might be some merit to Sanchez’s critique. But for most people, this argument among conservatives about epistemic closure hardly counted as serious news.

      But the publication last fall of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts—more than eight years after the original “epistemic closure” debate erupted—ought to make the issue hot again. This long, complex, yet readable study of the American media ecosystem in the run-up to the 2016 election (as well as the year afterwards) demonstrates that the epistemic-closure problem has generated what the authors call an “epistemic crisis” for Americans in general. The book also shows that our efforts to understand current political division and disruptions simplistically—either in terms of negligent and arrogant platforms like Facebook, or in terms of Bond-villain malefactors like Cambridge Analytica or Russia’s Internet Research Agency—are missing the forest for the trees. It’s not that the social media platforms are wholly innocent, and it’s not that the would-be warpers of voter behavior did nothing wrong (or had no effect). But the seeds of the unexpected outcomes in the 2016 U.S. elections, Network Propaganda argues, were planted decades earlier, with the rise of a right-wing media ecosystem that valued loyalty and confirmation of conservative (or “conservative”) values and narratives over truth.

    • Congress to Probe Report That Trump Directed Cohen to Lie

      The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

      House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

      The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

      “The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

    • The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?

      The 2020 election horse race is beginning to take shape. Unless something unexpected happens (e.g., impeachment, resignation), Trump will likely seek reelection as the Republican candidate. A number of independents will seek third-party (e.g., Greens, Socialists) candidacy. And then there are the Democrats.

      Numerous Democratic politicos are beginning to cluster behind the starting gate considering a primary run for the 2020 presidential nomination. The UK’s Independent lists 40 possible candidates that fall into four broad categories – former elected officials, current Senators and Congress-persons, celebrities and billionaires. To date, Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-MA), Julian Castro (Obama’s housing secretary) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have announced their candidacy.

      However, the Independent, like other media outlets, identifies Joe Biden as the current front runner. “The former two-term vice president consistently receives a majority of support among Democratic voters to run in 2020 against any other potential candidates in recent polling,” it reports.

      Liberal outlets like Vanity Fair and The Atlantic are touting Biden’s candidacy. Vanity Fair sputters, “Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaff-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster.” And The Atlantic champions,“These are odd times for Biden. He gets dismissed as too old, or he gets held up as the only adult who can actually come in to lead the Democrats to beat Trump in 2020. He is to many in his party the perfect answer to how to win back the white working-class voters that he helped bring in for Barack Obama, but to others he’s a relic of a Democratic Party of the past.”

    • The Tulsi Gabbard Factor

      Too much light blinds us,” Pascal wrote; “if the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise,” wrote William Blake.

      The idea that, when pushed to extremes, things turn into their opposites seems to have arisen in one form or another many times and in many cultures. It is epitomized in the Western philosophical tradition in Hegel’s account of the dialectical structure of the real.

      Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement that she would run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 2020 brought this to mind.

      What on earth could her candidacy have to do with dialectical logic? Bear with me on that.

      There is a more immediate question to deal with first: Tulsi who? Before long, if all goes well, that won’t be the first question in most Americans’ minds.

      Since 2013, Gabbard has represented Hawaii’s second Congressional district. For all but those who follow Congressional and/or Democratic Party politics closely, she is known mainly, if at all, for having resigned from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in order to endorse Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the Party’s nominee.

      If only for bucking the Clinton tide three years ago, something no other leading Democrat dared do, her candidacy deserves to be taken seriously indeed.

    • Elections and Movement-Building Through 2020 and Beyond

      From my vantage point, one “positive” effect of the election of Mafioso Don is the marginalization of the position taken by some on the political left that elections in the US are a sham, and the correct approach to them is to non-participate.

      Elections do have consequences, potentially very big, very negative consequences, like a neo-fascist government.

      Young people in general are most likely to view elections as a sham, for understandable reasons. Young people tend to be more idealistic so that they are turned off by the often-cynical and dishonest political maneuvering from both Republicans and Democrats.

      That’s why the 2015-16 Bernie Sanders campaign generated so much active support from young people. Here was someone who spoke truth to power, who didn’t accept Super PAC money or mega-donations from rich people, who articulated a strong, positive program consistent with positions he had been taking for literally decades, who had a history of winning elections and using his elected office positively, and who consciously reached out to young people and working-class people.

    • Surveys: half of Russian citizens disapprove of their government’s actions, and only a third trust Putin

      In a new survey of Russian citizens conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), 54 percent of respondents indicated that the Russian government’s actions in the past month left them feeling dissatisfied or resentful. The survey was conducted on January 12 and 13 and included 1500 respondents from 104 municipalities and 53 Russian regions.

      40 percent of those surveyed said they did not experience these feelings. That number has decreased by 5 percent over the past month, while the number of dissatisfied respondents has increased by 6 percent.

      70 percent of respondents said they had heard people around them criticize Russian authorities within the past month. According to FOM, this is the highest that number has been since 2013.

    • To Get Beyond “If True” Caveat, Democrats Vow to Investigate Trump’s “Potentially Impeachable Offense”

      House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also vowed to launch an investigation into the claims in the Buzzfeed report, which the White House denied.

      “The allegation that the president of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” declared Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

      According to Buzzfeed, which cited two anonymous law enforcement officials, Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that “the president personally instructed him to lie—by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did—in order to obscure Trump’s involvement” in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

      While analysts approached Buzzfeed’s report with caution given that it is based primarily on the claims of two unnamed officials, legal experts and progressive commentators argued that if the story is true, it is grounds for impeachment.

    • As the Cabinet Churns: Who’s Still Standing Among Trump’s Top Advisers
    • GOP Lawmaker Really Doesn’t Want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to Let Lawmakers Know What Life Is Like in Occupied West Bank

      Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the “sugar-coated” junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an “exceedingly dangerous” plan that must be stopped.

      In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his “extreme concern” with Tlaib’s proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December.

      Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the “Jewish Disneyland trip”—sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF)—the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on “Israel’s detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,” the news outlet reported at the time.

      Her delegation could spotlight Israel’s “segregation” and show “how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region,” Tlaib told The Intercept.

      “I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue,” she addded, as it glosses over “the side that I know is real, which is what’s happening to my grandmother and what’s happening to my family there.”

    • Mueller Disputes Report That Trump Directed Lawyer to Lie

      Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday issued a rare public statement disputing the accuracy of BuzzFeed News’ report that said President Donald Trump’s attorney told Mueller that the president directed him to lie to Congress.

      BuzzFeed, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials, reported that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate project and that Cohen told Mueller that Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project. The report said Mueller’s investigators learned about Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Alaska Governor’s Mass-Firing of State Workers Violated the First Amendment

      Gov. Dunleavy’s actions are a throwback to a corrupt spoils system that our system strived to eradicate for generations.
      Days after being elected governor of Alaska, Michael Dunleavy requested resignations from more than 1,200 at-will state employees. Those who didn’t resign were later fired. This kind of political retaliation against non-political state workers is an attack on the very foundations of free speech and good government.

      It is not unusual for newly elected chief executives at the federal, state, and local levels to replace political appointees. But such political tests can only reach so far down into the public workforce before they violate the First Amendment rights of government employees. In this case, it definitely crossed the line, and we’re suing Gov. Dunleavy for his unconstitutional purge on behalf of three state employees who wrongly lost their jobs.

      At the heart of this case are public comments made by Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Tuckerman Babcock, after his call for resignations was criticized by local media, state legislators, and the soon-to-be-replaced governor. They rightly said that it was inappropriate for hundreds of non-political employees who had never been included in such requests by previous administrations — such as doctors, state tax code specialists, investment managers, petroleum geologists, IT professionals, loan officers, and veterans affairs coordinators — to be forced out of their jobs.

      Babcock made the illegality of the policy clear as day when he responded in the media by saying that for those at-will state employees to keep their jobs, they not only needed to resign, but also reapply through the governor-elect’s transition team. During this re-application process, the employees were made to answer this two-part question: “Do you want to work on this agenda, do you want to work in this administration?” Babcock went on to say that those who didn’t answer in the affirmative signaled their “wish to be terminated.”

    • Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites

      Public high school students in Billings, Montana tell CounterPunch that as of Monday, January 14, they have been denied access to numerous sites, including those associated with pro-LGBTQ issues, as part of a new web filtering program initiated by the school administration. Anti-gay sites, however, appear to be accessible.

      In an email to staff, Brandon Newpher, Chief Information/Executive Director of Technology for Billings Public Schools, explained that “stricter web/internet filtering will be implemented as a way to improve network security and help protect students and staff.”

    • In Which We Warn The Wisconsin Supreme Court Not To Destroy Section 230

      One of the ideas that we keep trying to drive home is that the Internet works only because Section 230 has allowed it to work. Mess with Section 230, and you mess with the Internet. FOSTA messed with it statutorily, but it isn’t just Congress that can undermine all the speech and services that depend on Section 230′s protection for the platforms that enable them. Courts can mess with it too.

      While it’s bad enough when courts get questions of whether Section 230 applies wrong at the trial court level, the higher the court, the more potentially destructive the decision if the court decides to curtail its protection. On the other hand, the higher the court, the more durable Section 230′s protective language becomes when the decision gets it right. This post is about one of those cases where the future utility of Section 230 hangs in the balance, and where we hope that the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the highest court in the state, gets it right and finds it applies to the platform being sued — and therefore all other platforms that depend on its protection.

      We’ve written before about this case, Daniel v. Armslist. As with a lot of the litigation challenging Section 230 it was one of those “bad facts make bad law” sorts of cases. In this case an estranged husband, against whom there was a restraining order, bought a gun from an unlicensed seller who had advertised through the Armslist site. Notably it does not appear that the sale was necessarily illegal – in Wisconsin unlicensed dealers apparently do not have to run background checks – nor was the sale fully transacted on the site (the actual purchase was made in a McDonalds parking lot). Of course, even if the sale had been illegal, or fully brokered via the site, Section 230 should still have insulated the platform, but here the Section 230 inquiry should be much more straight forward: the lawsuit alleging that Armslist negligently designed a site that facilitated a third party’s speech – in this case, the speech offering the gun for sale – should have been barred by Section 230.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • UK Spy Agency Continues Effort to Groom Young Girls for Careers in Cybersecurity

      The effort was launched specifically to counter the popular image of security services as “male, pale and stale” — and it’s not the only way such agencies have attempted to target women and young people. MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have all used popular online forum Mumsnet to recruit female spies, and some have even targeted older women working in social care.

      [...]

      The ads, which appeared in ‘hip’ London neighborhoods, read “GCH-Who? Technical opportunities”, followed by the agency’s webs address — but Hackney council claimed permission was not sought for the “reverse graffiti” and GCHQ had acted illegally as a result.

    • Exclusive: They Spy With Their Little Eye

      I’ve spent six years alternately begging major NZ journalists to investigate state-sponsored spying on activists including me, and, out of sheer necessity, reporting extensively on it myself from within the vacuum created by their inaction. So it is somewhat bemusing to now observe the belated unfolding of what ex-Member of Parliament and Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Russel Norman is describing as New Zealand’s “Watergate moment“.

      In the wake of the bombshell release of a State Services Commission report into the affair, Norman wrote: “My key takeaway is that under the previous government, no one was safe from being spied on if they disagreed with government policy.”

      This is a remarkable statement from Norman, who once sat on the very government committee tasked with oversight of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies.

    • Episode 13: Surveillance Marketing

      Doc Searls and Katherine Druckman talk to Dr. Augustine Fou about surveillance marketing, ad tech, and privacy.

    • The Justice Department Shouldn’t Be Snooping on Journalists

      Rolling back Justice Department rules that protect journalists’ privacy would undermine freedom of the press.
      At a time when President Trump regularly attacks the news media, the Department of Justice may be preparing to make it easier for the government to obtain journalists’ private communications data.

      The public relies on both journalists and whistleblowers for vital information about our government’s most controversial activities. Weakening the current rules that protect reporters — as well as their sources — would undermine freedom of the press and endanger activities at the heart of the First Amendment.

      This week, The Hill reported that DOJ has been working for months on potential revisions to its rules about when prosecutors can demand reporters’ phone records and other sensitive information like notes or emails. These records can reveal a journalist’s confidential sources, including the individuals who entrust journalists with information the public needs to know. The new report comes after statements by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, under his watch, DOJ was pursuing three times as many leak investigations as it did under the Obama administration — which itself set records for leak prosecutions.

      The report comes the same week that President Trump’s nominee to be the next attorney general, William Barr, was asked at his Senate confirmation hearing whether “he would jail reporters for doing their jobs” — meaning reporters who would not disclose their sources to prosecutors. After a long pause, Barr refused to rule it out.

    • Digital license plates are now allowed in Michigan
    • Going old school: how I replaced Facebook with email

      In November 2017, I deactivated my account on Facebook. I didn’t leave Facebook for moral reasons back then but more because it was starting to feel like a waste of time and valuable brain cycles that I wanted to focus elsewhere. (I realize some people can’t leave Facebook completely for work or other personal reasons.) There were aspects of Facebook that I thought I would miss — the relative ease of use, keeping up with what is going on in lots of people’s lives, etc — so I decided to work out a new way of communicating that was completely Facebook-free after using Facebook heavily for many years. I haven’t missed it at all. This post is about what I did and what I learned.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • “I don’t want to go anywhere”: Video surfaces of Nastya Rybka’s arrest in Sheremetyevo Airport

      A video showing the arrest of the model and sex trainer Anastasia Vashukevich, better known as Nastya Rybka, has been published by REN TV. In the video, law enforcement officials carry Vashukevich into one of the airport’s wheelchairs while she tells them, “I don’t want to go anywhere.” The sex trainer and her mentor Alexander Kirillov, who goes by the name Alex Leslie, were deported from Thailand after being charged with conducting sex work illegally. Vashukevich first gained fame for leaking videos and images that appeared to support opposition activist Alexey Navalny’s claims about government corruption.

    • Of Triggers and Bullets

      This commentary is dedicated to all of my friends who don’t know the difference between a trigger and a bullet. I apologize in advance if I sound condescending. I’m 51 years old and I’ve been through this nonsense too many times – and every time it gets more surreal.

      It’s an imperfect metaphor — that’s the nature of metaphors. But you don’t need to be an anarchist to understand it – you don’t even need to have fired a gun in your life, either.

      Facebeast loves our arguments – their algorithms only show us arguments and baby pictures, nothing else is relevant to their business model. I really don’t understand why anyone bothers arguing with someone on Facebeast, unless they’re just trying to encourage the further stratification of society. I assume they find it therapeutic to dump on other people. It’s the social media equivalent of yelling out your car window at another driver who’s doing something you don’t approve of.

      The theme that tends to get a rise out of people the most, from my experience, is any criticism of Democratic Party politicians. There is an actual fascist in the White House, they say. We must have a unified opposition against him – a united front, a glorious resistance.

      I don’t bother arguing on Facebeast with anyone, well-intentioned though they may be. It’s a pointless exercise, by design. But yes, of course, there is a bona fide fascist in the White House. (For more on the similarities between Germany in 1933 and the US today, listen to episode 22 of my podcast, This Week with David Rovics.)

      The Orangeman in the White House is the bullet, in my metaphor of the week. What to do with that bullet, which is already speeding through the air towards its metaphorical destination, is an important question. But figuring that out absolutely requires understanding how the bullet left the chamber of the gun, and what made it fire – we know what the bullet is, but what is the trigger.

      The deplorables, I can hear someone say. The unreconstructed white American racists, says another. The misogynists, says someone else.

    • The Case Against Galveston County’s Pretrial Detention System Survives the Government’s Challenge

      A win could set a precedent for prosecutor accountability and right to counsel in bail hearings that could help reform pretrial detention nationally.
      If you are accused of a crime and arrested in Galveston County, Texas, you better hope you can afford to pay the preset bail amount to get out of jail. If not, then you will join hundreds of other people who are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom. In Galveston and communities across the country, there is one pretrial detention system for the poor and an entirely different one for everyone else.

      Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Booth found this out the hard way last April after being arrested for felony drug possession. Booth’s arresting officer consulted with a prosecutor who set his bail at $20,000, the minimum amount permitted under Galveston County’s felony bail schedule, even though Booth lives near the poverty line. Booth then saw a magistrate judge who automatically adopted his bail amount without asking him about his ability to make bail or determining whether he was a flight risk or a danger to the community. Booth asked the magistrate for a court-appointed attorney, but at the time of his hearing and at the time his bond was set, the county had failed to provide an attorney to represent him.

      On April 8, 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Arnold & Porter filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. district court on behalf of Booth and other similarly situated people who remained in jail solely because they were too poor to pay their bail. We sued Galveston County, the magistrate judges, district court judges, and the district attorney for violating the substantive and procedural due process rights of Galveston County residents as well as their rights to equal protection and counsel guaranteed by the Constitution. Booth argued that everyone with a hand in Galveston’s system was legally responsible, including the district attorney who sets bail amounts, the magistrates who sign off on them without a hearing, and the trial judges who refuse to pass rules to fix this system.

    • The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.

      Every year I ask myself questions about the shameful exploitation of Martin Luther King Jr.–why do Americans love to disgrace his message so much? Why is it so popular that we see it year after year? Remember last year? Trump was talking about “s@!#hole countries” while tweeting “I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service activities in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy.” What is to stop longtime racists like Rep. Steve King from copying and pasting a quick quote into their twitter feeds? Last year he posted: “Ive been to the mountain top. And I’ve seen the promised land. …we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” And yet his long list of racially offensive comments and associations with avowed white nationalists, recently published in the New York Times, reveal his use of Dr. King’s words to be a snide mockery.

      Of course the GOP has recently (finally) taken a moment to be critical of Steve King’s flagrant white supremacy in 2019, but they still refuse to comment on the same racist behavior from President Trump. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy said about King’s outlandish comments defending white nationalism, “That is not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.” Great. Now how about Trump’s longtime racism? Trump’s “My Kevin” (Trump’s nickname for him when McCarthy was House Majority Leader) doesn’t get this, hence more MLK Day whitewashing.

      Sadly, Trump’s Kevin is wrong; racism has never been beneath the “dignity of the party.” Nothing is more Republican than racism—a wall serves as a modern day burning cross and the rallying point of contemporary bigotry; Nothing is more American than racism—the country’s vast fortunes were built on slave labor and theft of land from indigenous people. Nothing could be further from the message so many in the GOP copy, paste, and ignore: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It is the kitsch of far-right Rep. Barry Loudermilk and politicians across the country, cynically misappropriating words they neither earned nor deserve. A firm commitment to Trump’s racist promises isn’t just cowardly; it is antithetical to the love that Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Teen Vogue, in a great piece on MLK one year ago, gets it better than these jellyfish do, MLK was radical in his support the love supreme Jesus preached: “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.”

    • Undocumented Immigrants Are Tethered to ICE and Private Companies

      A handful of companies are making millions off of ankle monitors strapped to undocumented immigrants in ICE custody. The makers pitch the monitors as an alternative to being jailed, but are they simply another form of bondage? Reporter Ryan Katz looks at what life is life while wearing one of these monitors. He untangles the complicated web of ICE, immigration bail agent companies, and the attorneys fighting them.

    • The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone

      How far would you really go to secure the nation’s borders against illegal aliens?

      Would you give the government limitless amounts of money to fight yet another endless war? Surround the entire country with concrete walls and barbed wire? Empower border police to do whatever it takes to crack down on illegal immigrants, even if it means violating their human rights? Hold your nose and tolerate all manner of abuses in name of national security?

      Would you allow government agents to trample on the rights of anyone who gets in their way, including legal citizens? Relinquish some of your freedoms in exchange for the elusive promise of non-porous borders? Submit to a national ID card that allows the government to target individuals and groups as it chooses in order to identify those who do not “belong”? Turn a blind eye to private prisons and detainment camps that profit off the forced labor of its detainees?

      Would you turn your backs on every constitutional principle for which our founders fought and died in exchange for empty campaign promises of elusive safety by fast-talking politicians?

      This is the devil’s bargain that the U.S. government demands of its people.

      These devilish deals have been foisted upon “we the people” before.

    • Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping

      Amid a controversial government shutdown, affecting 800,000 thousand federal employees, you would think that the agency headed by Robert Wilkie would be an oasis of tranquility.

      His Department of Veterans Affairs is, like the Pentagon, largely exempt from the shutdown. Due to prior budget approval, its funding for the current fiscal year is unaffected by the continuing stand-off between President Trump and Democrats in Congress.

      The 300,000 staff members of veterans’ hospitals and clinics, which serve nine million patients, are reporting for duty, getting paid, and caring for their patients as usual. About a third of them are veterans themselves.

      But in Trump-like fashion, Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie has stirred up a ruckus of his own about the impact of the shutdown on former military personnel elsewhere on the federal pay-roll.

      In a January 14 VA press release, he publicly denounced a veterans’ liaison officer within Bureau of Prisons for suggesting that shut-down-related psychological stress was a threat to some of the 150,000 veterans employed by the federal government who are not getting paid. (A third of them have a medical condition that is service related, according to the VA.)

      Edward M. Canales, a U.S. army veteran and local leader of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), who is a 100 percent disabled combat veteran, told ABC News about calls from union members who are upset and depressed about the growing financial pressures on their families.

    • William Barr Will Be a Loyal Foot Soldier in King Trump’s Army

      At his attorney general confirmation hearing, William Barr sought to reassure senators on the Judiciary Committee that Robert Mueller’s probe would be allowed to continue, saying, “I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation.”

      But Barr, who champions a disturbing radical right-wing theory of all-encompassing presidential power called the “unitary executive,” refused to say whether Congress would see Mueller’s report when his investigation is complete, instead pledging only to provide a summary of it.

      Federal regulations do not prohibit the release of the special counsel’s report to Congress or the public. They simply state that, “At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

      What the attorney general does with the report is up to him.

      Professor Neil J. Kinkopf, who testified at Barr’s confirmation hearing, predicts that, “Barr will take the position that any discussion or release of the Mueller report — relating to the president, who again cannot be indicted — would be improper and prohibited by [Department of Justice] policy and regulations.”

    • Austin Police Department Orders Deeper Investigation After Audit Finds It Misclassified Cleared Rape Cases

      The announcement comes as the APD released the full findings of a review by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which audited the department following an investigation by Newsy, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. The news report showed how Austin and dozens of other police departments across the country frequently use “exceptional” clearances to close rape cases, increasing clearance rates while leaving suspects on the streets.

      The initial findings from the DPS audit, which looked at three months of Austin rape reports from 2017, concluded that nearly one-third of the cases the APD had exceptionally cleared were misclassified.

      The full report reveals Austin police often failed on multiple fronts. To clear a case exceptionally, the FBI requires police to have enough evidence to make an arrest, to know who and where the suspect is, and for there to be a reason outside their control that prevents an arrest. Cases that fail to meet all four requirements cannot be cleared exceptionally. The DPS report shows that out of 95 exceptionally cleared rapes auditors reviewed, Austin police had failed to meet the FBI requirements 30 times. In 17 of those cases, police failed to meet at least two of the FBI’s tests. In five cases, police did not meet any of the four criteria.

      “While we’re glad this audit has been completed, it confirms that we have serious issues and we need to take quick action that corrects the patterns that allowed these cases to be handled improperly,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a joint statement with Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

    • Merkley Calls for FBI Perjury Probe into Homeland Secretary Nielsen After Child Detention Memo Leaked

      After releasing a damning draft memo that showed the Trump administration planned to “traumatize” migrant children with family separations and expedite deportation by denying asylum hearings, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday called for an FBI investigation into whether Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen lied when she testified before Congress about the policy.

      In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the senator noted that “compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.”

      “Despite this fact,” Merkley continued, “while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally ‘I’m not a liar, we’ve never had a policy for family separation.’” Given the “conflicting facts,” Merkley formally demanded an immediate investigation.

    • Long-Lost Records Surface in Wrongful Conviction Case, Detailing Lead Detective’s Fondling of Informants

      Newly released documents show the lead detective in an Elkhart, Indiana, police investigation that led to a pair of wrongful convictions was forced to resign because of sexual misconduct with an informant, the details of which the city had failed to disclose for more than 10 years.

      The former detective, Steve Rezutko, was the main investigator in the convictions of Keith Cooper and Christopher Parish, a case that was chronicled by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica last year and was replete with errors by police, the prosecution and judges.

      The two wrongfully convicted men had been seeking the documents on Rezutko’s resignation as they pursued lawsuits against the city and individual officers. But they were repeatedly told the documents couldn’t be found, according to trial transcripts and other court records.

      The difficulties they faced getting records are similar to those faced by the Tribune and ProPublica. Local government agencies, including the Elkhart Police Department, denied or delayed access to some public records and, in other instances, released files that were incomplete.

    • Ahead of Third Annual Women’s March, Group Releases Far-Reaching ‘Intersectional Feminist Policy Platform’

      A day ahead of a major march in Washington, D.C. and satellite events nationwide, the Women’s March on Friday unveiled a detailed 70-page agenda, a document the group describes as a first of its kind “intersectional feminist policy platform.”

      The “Women’s Agenda,” the group declared on Twitter, is “a roadmap for our movement, a workplan for our electeds, and it’s everything we’re marching for on January 19, 2019.”

    • Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors

      Humiliation can always be used as a form of entertainment when coupled with a sense of moral justice. Even before Jerry Springer and Divorce Court, watching someone squirm could be appealing when well-deserved. After Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose, the definition of “schadenfreude” is public shame.

      Shaming was seen as an effective way to rehabilitate when American society was less mobile. Since citizens were mostly confined to the same small towns they grew up in, disappearing to start a new life was far less common. Instead of prison time, ‘earmarking’ was common for thieves in the 17th century southern colonies. This practice involved slitting or punching a hole in the robber’s ear. Once permanently marked, the criminal was easily recognizable as well as punished and rehabilitated through humiliation. This prevented the criminal from “bribing the government”, by paying fines. Before America grew into an easily traveled territory, the justification of this justice felt practical. Small communities meant a lasting reputation.

      The prison system, while not exactly public humiliation, has proven itself to be an island of American rights. Prison rape jokes are so common, the possibility of sexual assault is now assumed. Our obsession with the degradation can be seen from an outpouring of reality and scripted prison shows. Even when a prisoner is released, it may be difficult for him or her to vote, get a job or integrate into society.

      In 2016 when Brock Turner was accused of penetrating an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, he was met with a swarm of media attention. The idea that a young, white, upper-class man would go to prison for sexual assault, however, proved too difficult for the justice system to treat fairly. Of course he would be raped, Facebook and Reddit seemed to scream.

      The punishment for sexual assault in America is tricky. Even if there is forensic evidence, witnesses, and/or a history of abuse, prosecution is difficult at best. For many victims of sexual assault, performing a rape kit is more about their performance than the nurse’s. They must undress and display themselves for sometimes up to four hours. Their genitals are photographed, pubic hair combed, rectum swabbed and emotional state monitored. Many rape kits have not been processed, therefore proving themselves useless. The humiliation of a victim can feel worse than any justice they might find.

    • Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality

      Solidarity is the guiding principle for any egalitarian philosophy. The basic idea is that all oppressed people face the same enemy and the only way any of us can defeat our collective oppressor is with the collective force of a diverse people united against it in all its demonic manifestations. Today they call this principle intersectionality. The uncivil union of big government and big business that calls itself the state murders black people, rapes trans folks, objectifies women, dehumanizes workers, and bombs the third world into, well, the third world. Separated we are weak, impoverished, crippled. But united we are dangerous, we are a force to be reckoned with.

      In my mind, the natural objective of solidarity and intersectionality should be anarchy in one form or the other and only the concept of panarchy allows for one form or another to be properly explored. In spite of their once lofty ambitions and their recent rise in trendiness, state socialism and communism don’t destroy the class system, they just replace it. Ultimately the only difference between a bureaucrat and an oligarch is a title. The Bolshevik interpretation of the Marxist Dictatorship of the Proletariat is just asinine. If creating a state to dismantle the state worked, the Soviet Union would exist as a Kropotkinite workers paradise and Sweden wouldn’t be slowly dissolving into neoliberal hell. I’m not unsympathetic to these brave and honorable experiments in collective governance. I still admire the courage of comrades like Fidel Castro and Olaf Palme. But the experiment has failed and it’s time to move on. The Sandernistas are living in another century. The state ultimately exists for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to quite simply exist. You can call it capitalism or communism but when you create a state you create a business that relies on wage slavery and all to often war to justify its own solipsistic existence.

    • Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States

      On June 29, 2015 the United States Supreme Court argued in Glossip v. Gross that executions may continue with the use of lethal drug cocktails including the use of midazolam, an extremely painful drug, which in effect, burns to death the condemned by scorching internal organs. The use of midazolam, according to the Court, does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment. The Court found that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method.

      In dissenting views justices opened the legal door for future challenges to the death penalty. In a meticulously crafted dissent Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg initiated a timely counterargument to capital punishment. This was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in diverging dissents of their own. The dissents were significant in that they outline the legal framework for the abolition of the death penalty based on the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, Sotomayor and Kagan argued in separate opinions that the use of lethal chemicals in executions was intolerably painful.

      In turn this begged the question, for many, as to whether or not executions could ever be legitimized since executions must necessarily involve physical or mental pain. In all democratic societies, intentionally inflicting pain on another human being is torture.

      This article addresses the Court’s concerns, expressed in Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, that protests against Glossip’s anticipated execution was a “guerilla war” against the death penalty and that inflicting physical or mental pain intentionally on a human being is an acceptable component of execution and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

    • A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices

      The recent attempts of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan, and a Professor at the University of Jadhavpur, Kolkata, to diminish women’s identities and reduce them to symbols of “purity” compelled me to think about empowered women in the fourteenth century in my native state, Kashmir.

      Kashmiris have taken pride in inhabiting a cultural space between Vedic Hinduism and Sufi Islam. The traditional communal harmony in Kashmir enabled the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Hindus, mutual respect for their places of worship, and an ability to synthesize not just cultural but religious practices as well. Deep reverence for each other’s shrines and the relics housed in those shrines is a well entrenched aspect of the culture.

      A fitting symbol of this syncretic ethos of Kashmir is Lalla-Ded, a figure revered by both the Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir. Lalla-Ded was born in 1334 into a Kashmiri Brahmin home in village Simpur, about four miles from Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. She was brutalized in a marriage that was arranged for her by the elders once she crossed the threshold of puberty. Unwilling to acquiesce to the constraints placed on the “traditional” woman and questioning the self-abnegation of women that disallows them from reconciling their private selves with their roles as public contributors to the community, Lalla-Ded disavowed the psychosocial narratives inscribed on the female body in defiance of the continued conscription of women (Bhatnagar, Dube and Dube 2004: 30).

    • Laquan McDonald’s Family: Jason Van Dyke’s Sentence Reduces Laquan To ‘Second-Class Citizen’

      Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to six years and eight months in state prison for second-degree murder. He killed a black 17 year-old named Laquan McDonald.

      It was the first time 

that a Chicago police officer was sentenced to prison for a shooting in the line of duty


. However, the sentence was far shorter than what the prosecution requested and what McDonald’s family and many in the city of Chicago had anticipated.

      Marvin Hunter, a great uncle of McDonald, declared on behalf of the family, “This sentence represents the sentence of a second-class citizen. It reduced Laquan McDonald’s life to a second-class citizen. And it suggests to us that there are no laws on the books for a black man that a white man is bound to honor.”

      Van Dyke killed Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014. McDonald was on the south side of Chicago that night. He had a knife in his hand. Police were apparently called to arrest him after a 911 call that alleged he was breaking into trucks in a nearby truck yard.

      None of the police on the scene fired their weapon. When Van Dyke arrived, he immediately exited his vehicle with his partner, Officer Joseph Walsh, and unloaded a magazine of bullets into McDonald’s body.

    • Carey McWilliams: The Most Important American Author Many Don’t Know

      Truthdig: Your book traces the extraordinary career of Carey McWilliams, from his Los Angeles legal activism to his radical journalism and finally to his two-decade editorial stint at The Nation. You argue that he was one of the most versatile and productive public intellectuals of the 20th century. Why don’t more Americans know about him?

      Peter Richardson: Yeah, it’s funny. Despite the accolades, he’s probably the most important American author that most people have never heard of. He has his fans, of course. Kevin Starr was one. He called McWilliams “the single finest nonfiction writer on California—ever” and “the state’s most astute political observer.” Mike Davis is another. “City of Quartz” is a kind of love letter to McWilliams. Over the years, McWilliams also won over the city room at the Los Angeles Times. When journalists need a quote about the city, they often turn to McWilliams or Joan Didion.

      There are a few reasons McWilliams isn’t better known. First, he was a radical. He had powerful enemies, including J. Edgar Hoover, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Farmers, which objected to his history of California farm labor in “Factories in the Field” (1939). When Earl Warren first ran for governor in 1942, he promised growers that his first act would be to fire McWilliams from his position in state government. The California Un-American Activities committee smeared him mercilessly. So even though he was accomplishing a great deal, he didn’t endear himself to those in power.

      McCarthyism was a factor. By the 1950s, McWilliams was back in New York City, shepherding The Nation magazine through a difficult decade. Many of his friends were victims of the Communist witch hunt—in fact, McWilliams wrote a book on that topic in 1950, well before most people understood the dangers to our democracy. But that was typical of McWilliams. He was always a kind of early-warning system. In 1950, he called Richard Nixon “a dapper little man with an astonishing capacity of petty malice.” It took the rest of the country two more decades to figure that one out.

    • Indigenous Peoples Show Solidarity at D.C. March

      Activists from around the world gathered for the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Issues including voter suppression, environmental protections and violence toward women and girls were at the forefront of the event.

      “Our people are under constant threat, from pipelines, from police, from a system that wants to forget the valuable perspectives we bring to the table. But those challenges make us stronger,” said Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney at the Lakota People’s Law Project and member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

    • The President Plans Big Announcement on Saturday on Shutdown, Border

      The move — on Day 28 of a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks — represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. The president and his aides have said he will not budge on his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall. Democrats have panned the offer and said they will not negotiate until the government reopens.

    • Facebook manager says in internal post she quit after being ‘harassed’ over views on diversity

      A Facebook engineering manager left the company earlier this month after being harassed by her colleagues for expressing criticism.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Vermont official fact-checks mobile carriers’ coverage maps, proves they’re lying like crazy

      Knowing it and proving it are two different things: so Department of Public Service telecommunications infrastructure specialist Corey Chase, packed six cell-phones loaded with custom code developed by a Bulgarian programmer into a state-owned Prius and drove more than 6,000 miles around the state, “ground-truthing what every Vermonter with a cell phone knows: there are many, many places in the state where you simply can’t get a signal, not to mention the 5 megabits per second data download speeds the carriers were claiming.”

    • State Official Went Roaming Around Vermont To Test Cell Coverage Claims

      Equipped with six cell phones and an app customized by a coder in Bulgaria, Chase was ground-truthing what every Vermonter with a cell phone knows: there are many, many places in the state where you simply can’t get a signal, not to mention the 5 megabits per second data download speeds the carriers were claiming.

    • On Heels Of Favorable FCC Ruling, Verizon Imposes ‘Spam’ Fees On Text Message Service For Schools, Nonprofits

      Just about a month ago the FCC quietly handed the telecom industry another favor by voting to reclassify text messages as an “information service” instead of a “telecommunications service” under the Telecom Act, effectively freeing text messaging practices from government oversight. While the FCC stated the move was essential in order to fight text spam, consumer groups were quick to note the lack of oversight provided cellular carriers a nifty way to hamper third-party SMS services that might just compete with, or cause problems for, their own offerings.

      Fast forward to this month, and lo and behold, Verizon’s already ruffling some feathers on this front. Remind, a free school texting, chat and messaging service used by teachers, students, school coaches, and parents, this week sent a notice to its customers stating that it may no longer be able to offer the service on the Verizon network thanks to a new “spam” fee Verizon is imposing on a service that’s not really spam.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • AC Technologies S.A. v. Amazon.com, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      The Federal Circuit recently issued a decision further clarifying the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) ability to invalidate claims on reconsideration even when the claims were not addressed in the final written decision. In the analysis below, we review only the procedural question of the PTAB’s ability to address claims on reconsideration. In this case, the PTAB issued a final written decision ruling certain claims of AC Technologies S.A.’s U.S. Patent No. 7,904,680 unpatentable. Then, on reconsideration, the PTAB invalidated the remaining claims based on a ground of unpatentability raised by Amazon.com…

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit found no due process violation occurred here. As AC admits, after the Board decided to accept Amazon’s rehearing request and consider Ground 3, it permitted AC to take discovery and submit additional briefing and evidence on that ground. Though AC did not receive a hearing specific to Ground 3, it never requested one. Had AC desired a hearing, it should have made a request before the Board. Other cases follow this guideline, such as finding no due process violation where a party had notice and an opportunity to be heard and failed to request surreply or rehearing to address the issue. See, e.g., Intellectual Ventures II LLC v. Ericsson Inc., 686 F. App’x 900, 905–06 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

      The Federal Circuit also reviewed AC’s challenge specific to the unpatentability of the claims (not addressed in this analysis here), and found the Board’s decision to be based on substantial evidence. Thus, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision.

    • Trademarks

      • The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ People Are Suing Netflix Over ‘Bandersnatch’

        As you may have already heard, the latest iteration of the Black Mirror franchise on Netflix, titled Bandersnatch, is an absolute hit. You likely also have heard that it allows the viewer to influence the plot by making choices within the story’s many inflection points. And, hey, perhaps you even heard that Netflix is facing legal action by Chooseco LLC, the company behind the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s.

        But if you haven’t dug into the details, both in terms of why Chooseco states the Netflix series violates its trademark and the damages it is asking for in court, you may not realize just how bonkers all of this is.

    • Copyrights

      • Now EVERYBODY Hates the New EU Copyright Directive

        Until last spring, everyone wanted to see the new European Copyright Directive pass; then German MEP Axel Voss took over as rapporteur and revived the most extreme, controversial versions of two proposals that had been sidelined long before as the Directive had progressed towards completion.

        After all, this is the first refresh on EU copyright since 2001, and so the Directive is mostly a laundry list of overdue, uncontroversial technical tweaks with many stakeholders; the last thing anyone wanted was a spoiler in the midst.

        Anyone, that is, except for German newspaper families (who loved Article 11, who could charge Big Tech for the privilege of sending readers to their sites) and the largest record labels (who had long dreamed of Article 13, which would force the platforms to implement filters to check everything users posted, and block anything that resembled a known copyrighted work, or anything someone claimed was a known copyrighted work).

        Maybe it’s time we stopped holding the future of European copyright to ransom for the sake of a few recording companies.

      • Article 13 and 11 Update: Even The Compromises are Compromised In This Copyright Trainwreck

        Politicians are meant to broker compromises in the pursuit of the public good – though in a year that is already overloaded with government shutdowns and Brexit logjams, that skill seems in short supply.

        But sometimes there are no compromises to be found. Sometimes, even the most talented diplomats are handed an impossible task. The Romanian Presidency is struggling to finish negotiations the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive together. But two parts of that law —Article 13, intended to introduce compulsory copyright filters, and Article 11, a new licensing requirement on reproducing snippets of news articles—are so controversial that they risk sinking the entire process.

        Just hours before a key vote on this Friday, the Presidency has presented their proposed compromise to the negotiators. The text, leaked to Politico Europe, shows just how far they will have to go to bring all the parties together.

        On Article 13, the Council and the Parliament are struggling over whether small and medium-sized businesses should be excluded from the crushing demands and liability Article 13 would impose on Internet sites. This was one of the concessions that MEP Axel Voss offered in a last-minute attempt to get the Article’s provisions past Parliament.

        But that’s not good enough for the article’s lobbyists, who believe that any site that allows users to put their content online should be treated as a pirate’s den—even if it’s a small European Internet site hoping to compete with deep-pocketed, US-based Big Tech companies.

      • Don’t Put Robots in Charge of the Internet

        Last year, YouTube’s Content ID system flagged Sebastian Tomczak’s video five times for copyright infringement. The video wasn’t a supercut of Marvel movies or the latest Girl Talk mashup; it was simply ten hours of machine-generated static. Stories like Tomczak’s are all too common: Content ID even flagged a one-hour video of a cat purring as a likely infringement.

        Filters are most useful when they serve as an aid to human review. But today’s mandatory filtering proposals turn that equation on its head.

        But those are only a small glimpse of a potential Internet future. Today, with the European Parliament days away from deciding whether to pass a law that would effectively make it mandatory for online platforms to use automated filters, the world is confronting the role that copyright bots like Content ID should play on the Internet. Here in the US, Hollywood lobbyists have pushed similar proposals that would make platforms’ safe harbor status contingent on using bots to remove allegedly infringing material before any human sees it.

        Stories like the purring and static videos are extreme examples of the flaws in copyright filtering systems—instances where nothing was copied at all, but a bot still flagged it as infringement. More often, filters ding uploads that do feature some portion of a copyrighted work, but where even the most basic human review would recognize the use as noninfringing. Those instances demonstrate how dangerous it is to let bots make the final decision about whether a work should stay online. We can’t put the machines in charge of our speech.

      • EU Cancels ‘Final’ Negotiations On EU Copyright Directive As It Becomes Clear There Isn’t Enough Support

        Apparently multiple countries — including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — made it clear they would not support the latest text put forth by Romania, and therefore would have blocked it from moving forward. Monday’s negotiations were supposed to have been the “final” negotiations (after the previous “final” negotiations that didn’t accomplish much) around a “compromise” bill that then would have gone out to be voted on by the EU Council, the EU Committee and the EU Parliament in the next few months. However, with the news of all those countries (via the EU Council) deciding to vote against the proposal, it effectively blocks it for now.

        MEP Julia Reda now has the full breakdown of the votes, noting that 11 countries voted against the “compromise” text: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. That’s… a pretty big list. Reda points out that most of those countries were concerned about the impact on users’ rights (Portugal and Croatia appear to be outliers). That’s pretty big — as it means that any new text (if there is one) should move in a better direction, not worse.

      • Record Labels, Film Studios, Tech Companies And The Public Now All Agreed That Article 13 Is A Disaster

        They don’t really explain why they’re so upset, but it’s not difficult to see that it’s the same reason as the film, TV and sports organizations. Again, Article 13 is a kind of bait and switch. All of the stuff people are complaining about — the mandatory filters, notice-and-staydown, the insane fines — all go away if the internet platforms agree to basically cough up all their money to the legacy copyright gatekeepers. The “secret” truth behind Article 13 is that even the folks crafting it know that all of the demands are absolutely ridiculous. It’s just that they’ve included a “way out.” And that “way out” is to agree to insane licensing rates from the legacy copyright players. Despite the nonsense you’ll hear, this won’t create “fair market” rates or “fair” anything. You don’t negotiate a fair market rate when you’re basically told that if you don’t agree to whatever rates the copyright gatekeepers set, you’ll get fined billions of dollars.

        So any path to avoiding having to agree to a license at the end of a shotgun is seen as a non-starter for the entertainment industry. Though, their latest bit of petulance about not getting everything they want kind of gives away the gameplan. This was never about stopping infringement. It was always about a government-mandated wealth-transfer from the companies who actually innovated to the companies that failed to innovate.

01.18.19

Links 18/1/2019: Mesa 18.3.2, Rust 1.32.0

Posted in News Roundup at 12:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • New Deepin Linux Gets Even Better With Touchscreen Gesture Support

      Easily the most welcome new feature is enhanced touchscreen support, especially during a time when 2-in-1 devices are becoming more popular. And in many Linux distributions, touchscreen functionality is a bit of a weak point. Deepin 15.9 adds support for multiple touch gestures including click, double click, a long press to bring up the context menu, as well as sliding up and down.

      Also added is an onscreen keyboard plugin, available from the dock.

    • Popular open source laptop maker Purism announces new series

      Hackers and hustlers who have been looking for fully open source laptops have often turned to Purism, a small but feisty distributor that pairs high-end hardware with completely open software. The laptops are generic enough to ensure that you won’t be locked down by Windows or any other closed-source players but high-end enough for programming work.

      The best thing? Both laptops feature a physical on and off switch to control the Wi-Fi, camera, and microphone, thereby ensuring complete privacy when talking biz. The laptops are excellent for folks specifically interested in security as users can manage everything from the OS to their crypto wallet with complete transparency.

    • The best Linux apps for Chromebooks

      Being able to install Linux apps on Chrome OS opens up some fascinating new possibilities — particularly if you’re an advanced user.

      After all, while a Chromebook’s standard combo of web apps, Chrome apps, and Android apps is more than sufficient for most folks’ needs, some of us still require (or maybe just prefer) traditional local programs for certain specific purposes. The presence of Linux apps on Chrome OS means we can have our cake and eat it, too — by enjoying the speed, simplicity, and security of a Chromebook while also embracing the occasional heavy-duty desktop app.

  • Server

    • Modern web applications on OpenShift: Part 3 — Openshift as a development environment

      Welcome back to the final part of this multipart series about deploying modern web applications on Red Hat OpenShift. In the first post, we took a look at how to deploy a modern web application using the fewest commands.

      In the second part, we took a deeper look into how the new source-to-image (S2I) web app builder works and how to use it as part of a chained build.

      This third and final part will take a look at how you can run your app’s “development workflow” on OpenShift.

    • Survey Indicates Container Security Concerns Limit Adoption

      A new survey indicates that 60 percent of IT pros working with containers experienced at least one container security incident in the last year.

    • SUSE teams with Intel & SAP on persistent memory in the datacentre

      SUSE has announced support for Intel Optane DC persistent memory with SAP HANA.

      Persistent memory is typically defined as any method or apparatus for storing data structures such that they can continue to be accessed using memory instructions or memory APIs even after the end of the process that created or last modified them – and that often means ‘when the power is off’.

      Running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications, SAP HANA users can now use Intel Optane DC persistent memory in the data centre.

    • Red Hat Shareholders Greenlight $34B IBM Acquisition

      IBM’s $34 billion deal to acquire Red Hat took a big step closer to completion, as Red Hat shareholders nearly unanimously approved the deal on Wednesday.

    • How VMware Is Advancing Kubernetes Cloud-Native Technology With Heptio
    • Top 5 Linux Server Distributions

      However, in the name of opening your eyes to maybe something a bit different, I’m going to approach this a bit differently. I want to consider a list of possible distributions that are not only outstanding candidates but also easy to use, and that can serve many functions within your business. In some cases, my choices are drop-in replacements for other operating systems, whereas others require a bit of work to get them up to speed.

      Some of my choices are community editions of enterprise-grade servers, which could be considered gateways to purchasing a much more powerful platform. You’ll even find one or two entries here to be duty-specific platforms. Most importantly, however, what you’ll find on this list isn’t the usual fare.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.20.3
    • Linux 4.19.16
    • Linux 4.14.94
    • Linux 4.9.151
    • Linux 4.4.171
    • Ditching Out-of-Date Documentation Infrastructure

      Long ago, the Linux kernel started using 00-Index files to list the contents of each documentation directory. This was intended to explain what each of those files documented. Henrik Austad recently pointed out that those files have been out of date for a very long time and were probably not used by anyone anymore. This is nothing new. Henrik said in his post that this had been discussed already for years, “and they have since then grown further out of date, so perhaps it is time to just throw them out.”

      He counted hundreds of instances where the 00-index file was out of date or not present when it should have been. He posted a patch to rip them all unceremoniously out of the kernel.

      Joe Perches was very pleased with this. He pointed out that .rst files (the kernel’s native documentation format) had largely taken over the original purpose of those 00-index files. He said the oo-index files were even misleading by now.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Check Out the 2019 Linux Foundation Events and Expand Your Open Source Experience

        The Linux Foundation just recently announced its 2019 events schedule, featuring all your favorite events as well as some brand-new ones to cover the latest technologies. Make plans now to speak or attend and expand your experience with open source.

      • The Role of Hyperledger in the Development of Smart Contracts

        Businesses constantly look to improve. A great part of that improvement is optimizing the costs-to-revenue ratio, which obviously favors revenue. Developing decentralized applications (dApps) with smart contracts has opened exciting avenues for businesses. Blockchain developers are exploring this practical aspect of smart contracts to create dApps that solve several issues current businesses struggle with: too many intermediaries, too much time, and too many conditions attached to executing a business transaction.

        The sum of these issues comes down to spending too much money on completing business contracts. Expectedly, the solution would be to reduce most of the complicated aspects to do business in a more affordable way than ever before.

        [...]

        The Hyperledger is different from other blockchain endeavors. It not only offers a dApp platform for creating practical solutions but it also provides collaborative partnership and unique smart contract technology as well as rich resources such as plug-in tools and frameworks that businesses can use in the process of dApp development. In the spirit of Linux, it also features a very active online community.

        Despite the permissioned blockchain model, it’s important to keep in mind Hyperledger’s open-source software orientation, which means the platform offers its newly developed code to partners for free. Apart from the membership fee, there are no additional fees for licenses and royalties. In a way, seeing blockchains as completely open or partially open networks is similar to the conundrum associated with the different benefits of open-source and proprietary software.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Mesa 18.3.2

        Mesa 18.3.2 is now available.

        In this release candidate we have added more PCI IDs for AMD Vega devices and
        a number of fixes for the RADV Vulkan drivers.

        On the Intel side we have a selection ranging from quad swizzles support for
        ICL to compiler fixes.

        The nine state tracker has also seen some love as do the Broadcom drivers.

        To top it all up, we have a healthy mount of build system fixes.

        Alex Deucher (3):
        pci_ids: add new vega10 pci ids
        pci_ids: add new vega20 pci id
        pci_ids: add new VegaM pci id

        Alexander von Gluck IV (1):
        egl/haiku: Fix reference to disp vs dpy

        Andres Gomez (2):
        glsl: correct typo in GLSL compilation error message
        glsl/linker: specify proper direction in location aliasing error

        Axel Davy (3):
        st/nine: Fix volumetexture dtor on ctor failure
        st/nine: Bind src not dst in nine_context_box_upload
        st/nine: Add src reference to nine_context_range_upload

        Bas Nieuwenhuizen (5):
        radv: Do a cache flush if needed before reading predicates.
        radv: Implement buffer stores with less than 4 components.
        anv/android: Do not reject storage images.
        radv: Fix rasterization precision bits.
        spirv: Fix matrix parameters in function calls.

        Caio Marcelo de Oliveira Filho (3):
        nir: properly clear the entry sources in copy_prop_vars
        nir: properly find the entry to keep in copy_prop_vars
        nir: remove dead code from copy_prop_vars

        Dave Airlie (2):
        radv/xfb: fix counter buffer bounds checks.
        virgl/vtest: fix front buffer flush with protocol version 0.

        Dylan Baker (6):
        meson: Fix ppc64 little endian detection
        meson: Add support for gnu hurd
        meson: Add toggle for glx-direct
        meson: Override C++ standard to gnu++11 when building with altivec on ppc64
        meson: Error out if building nouveau and using LLVM without rtti
        autotools: Remove tegra vdpau driver

        Emil Velikov (13):
        docs: add sha256 checksums for 18.3.1
        bin/get-pick-list.sh: rework handing of sha nominations
        bin/get-pick-list.sh: warn when commit lists invalid sha
        cherry-ignore: meson: libfreedreno depends upon libdrm (for fence support)
        glx: mandate xf86vidmode only for “drm” dri platforms
        meson: don’t require glx/egl/gbm with gallium drivers
        pipe-loader: meson: reference correct library
        TODO: glx: meson: build dri based glx tests, only with -Dglx=dri
        glx: meson: drop includes from a link-only library
        glx: meson: wire up the dispatch-index-check test
        glx/test: meson: assorted include fixes
        Update version to 18.3.2
        docs: add release notes for 18.3.2

        Eric Anholt (6):
        v3d: Fix a leak of the transfer helper on screen destroy.
        vc4: Fix a leak of the transfer helper on screen destroy.
        v3d: Fix a leak of the disassembled instruction string during debug dumps.
        v3d: Make sure that a thrsw doesn’t split a multop from its umul24.
        v3d: Add missing flagging of SYNCB as a TSY op.
        gallium/ttn: Fix setup of outputs_written.

        Erik Faye-Lund (2):
        virgl: wrap vertex element state in a struct
        virgl: work around bad assumptions in virglrenderer

        Francisco Jerez (5):
        intel/fs: Handle source modifiers in lower_integer_multiplication().
        intel/fs: Implement quad swizzles on ICL+.
        intel/fs: Fix bug in lower_simd_width while splitting an instruction which was already split.
        intel/eu/gen7: Fix brw_MOV() with DF destination and strided source.
        intel/fs: Respect CHV/BXT regioning restrictions in copy propagation pass.

        Ian Romanick (2):
        i965/vec4/dce: Don’t narrow the write mask if the flags are used
        Revert “nir/lower_indirect: Bail early if modes == 0″

        Jan Vesely (1):
        clover: Fix build after clang r348827

        Jason Ekstrand (6):
        nir/constant_folding: Fix source bit size logic
        intel/blorp: Be more conservative about copying clear colors
        spirv: Handle any bit size in vector_insert/extract
        anv/apply_pipeline_layout: Set the cursor in lower_res_reindex_intrinsic
        spirv: Sign-extend array indices
        intel/peephole_ffma: Fix swizzle propagation

        Karol Herbst (1):
        nv50/ir: fix use-after-free in ConstantFolding::visit

        Kirill Burtsev (1):
        loader: free error state, when checking the drawable type

        Lionel Landwerlin (5):
        anv: don’t do partial resolve on layer > 0
        i965: include draw_params/derived_draw_params for VF cache workaround
        i965: add CS stall on VF invalidation workaround
        anv: explictly specify format for blorp ccs/mcs op
        anv: flush fast clear colors into compressed surfaces

        Marek Olšák (1):
        st/mesa: don’t leak pipe_surface if pipe_context is not current

        Mario Kleiner (1):
        radeonsi: Fix use of 1- or 2- component GL_DOUBLE vbo’s.

        Nicolai Hähnle (1):
        meson: link LLVM ‘native’ component when LLVM is available

        Rhys Perry (3):
        radv: don’t set surf_index for stencil-only images
        ac/nir,radv,radeonsi/nir: use correct indices for interpolation intrinsics
        ac: split 16-bit ssbo loads that may not be dword aligned

        Rob Clark (2):
        freedreno/drm: fix memory leak
        mesa/st/nir: fix missing nir_compact_varyings

        Samuel Pitoiset (1):
        radv: switch on EOP when primitive restart is enabled with triangle strips

        Timothy Arceri (2):
        tgsi/scan: fix loop exit point in tgsi_scan_tess_ctrl()
        tgsi/scan: correctly walk instructions in tgsi_scan_tess_ctrl()

        Vinson Lee (2):
        meson: Fix typo.
        meson: Fix libsensors detection.

      • Mesa 18.3.2 Released With Many Fixes As Users Encouraged To Upgrade

        With the Mesa 18.2.8 release at the end of December being the last release of that driver series, users should really consider upgrading to Mesa 18.3. Fortunately, Mesa 18.3.2 is out this morning with dozens of fixes.

        This point release to Mesa 18.3 is quite big as it’s arriving a few weeks late due to the holidays and the release manager having been ill. Mesa 18.3.2 has more than six dozen changes including the new Vega 10/20 PCI IDs along with the new VegaM ID too, Gallium Nine fixes, Intel Icelake fixes, Meson build system updates, a few Broadcom VC4/V3D fixes too, and rounding out with a few RADV Radeon Vulkan driver fixes too.

      • Nouveau Open-Source Driver Will Now Work With NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti On Linux 5.0

        Among the many Linux 5.0 kernel features is initial open-source NVIDIA driver support for the latest-generation Turing graphics processors. Missed out on during the Linux 5.0 merge window was “TU102″ support but now that is coming down as a fix for the 5.0 kernel.

        Back in December, Ben Skeggs of Red Hat posted the initial Turing support for Nouveau in the form of the TU104 (RTX 2080) and TU106 (RTX 2060/2070) but was lacking coverage of the TU102, which is for the flagship RTX 2080 Ti and TITAN RTX. He wasn’t able to test the support at the time and thus left it out. Skeggs has now been able to verify the TU102 support is working and that patch is now on its way to the mainline kernel tree.

      • Quake 2 Gets Real-Time Path Tracing Powered By NVIDIA RTX / VK_NV_ray_tracing

        For those Linux gamers with a NVIDIA RTX “Turing” graphics card, there’s finally an interesting open-source workload to enjoy that makes use of the RTX hardware and NVIDIA’s VK_NV_ray_tracing extension… A real-time path tracing port of the legendary Quake 2 game.

        While Quake II recently saw a Vulkan port, university students have now done an “RTX” port for Quake 2 with the new Q2VKPT project.

    • Benchmarks

      • Mesa 19.0 RADV vs. AMDVLK 2019.Q1.2 vs. Radeon Software 18.50 Linux Vulkan Performance

        With the latest AMDVLK Vulkan driver improvements back to coming out on a weekly basis by AMD and Mesa 19.0 development progressing ahead of its feature freeze later this month, here is a fresh Linux gaming benchmark comparison of the AMD Radeon Vulkan driver options on Linux. Tested this round with a Radeon RX 590 and RX Vega 64 was the latest Mesa 19.0 development state for RADV, this week’s new AMDVLK 2019.Q1.2 driver snapshot, and the Radeon Software 18.50 proprietary driver while running a slew of Vulkan-powered Linux games and DXVK.

      • WLinux & WLinux Enterprise Benchmarks, The Linux Distributions Built For Windows 10 WSL

        Making the news rounds a few months back was “WLinux”, which was the first Linux distribution designed for Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on Windows 10. But is this pay-to-play Linux distribution any faster than the likes of Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Debian already available from the Microsoft Store? Here are some benchmarks of these different Linux distribution options with WSL.

        WLinux is a Linux distribution derived from Debian that is focused on offering an optimal WSL experience. This distribution isn’t spun by Microsoft but a startup called Whitewater Foundry. WLinux focuses on providing good defaults for WSL with the catering of its default package set while the Debian archive via APT is still accessible. There is also support for graphical applications when paired with a Windows-based X client. For this easy-setup, quick-to-get-going Linux distribution on WSL, it retails for $19.99 USD from the Microsoft Store though often sells for $9.99 USD.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Plasma 5.15 Beta

        Today KDE launches the beta release of Plasma 5.15.

        For the first release of 2019, the Plasma team has embraced KDE’s Usability & Productivity goal. We have teamed up with the VDG (Visual Design Group) contributors to get feedback on all the papercuts in our software that make your life less smooth, and fixed them to ensure an intuitive and consistent workflow for your daily use.

        Plasma 5.15 brings a number of changes to our configuration interfaces, including more options for complex network configurations. Many icons have been added or redesigned. Our integration with third-party technologies like GTK and Firefox has been made even more complete. Discover, our software and add-on installer, has received a metric tonne of improvements to help you stay up-to-date and find the tools you need to get your tasks done.

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Desktop Environment Enters Beta, Promises Numerous Improvements
      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta Released With Some Grand Improvements
      • Help Test KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta

        KDE’s flagship project Plasma has a new beta out. There’s now three weeks to sort out the bugs to make the release a work of perfection. We need your help.

        Plasma has a new testing release out with a final release due in three weeks. We need your help in testing it and reporting problems.

        KDE neon Developer Git-Stable Edition now has Plasma 5.15 beta and can be used for testing.

      • On Wallpapers

        I’ll be switching to releasing new wallpapers every second Plasma release, on even-numbered versions.
        This is just a post to refer to for those who have asked me about Plasma 5.15 and a new wallpaper. Since I started working on Plasma 5 wallpapers, there has always been a number of factors determining how exactly I made them. After some agonising debate I’ve decided to slow the wallpaper release pace, because as time has gone on a number of things have changed since I started contributing them [....]

        LTS Plasma versions & quality. While it may seem irrelevant to wallpapers, LTS stands out to as the place where we really need to pour love and care into our designs. With each new wallpaper I’m pushing things a bit harder and a bit further which means taking more time to create them, and I’m realising that at the quality I want to drive out LTS wallpapers with, it might take 3 to 5 dedicated days to produce a final product. That’s not including post-reveal tweaks I do after receiving feedback, or the wallpapers I discard during the creation process (for each wallpaper released, it’s likely I got halfway through 2 other designs). In other words, it’s becoming less sustainable.

        The wallpapers aren’t crap anymore. It’s no secret, my first wallpapers were rough. When a new wallpaper was finished there were real quality incentives for me to take the lessons learned and turn-around a better wallpaper. Nowadays though most new wallpapers are visually pleasing and people don’t mind if they stick around for a bit longer. I know a lot of people even go back to previous wallpapers. Adding to this, it’s gotten easy to get older wallpapers; OpenDesktop, GetHotNewStuff both serve as easy access, and we now have some of the most popular default wallpapers in the extended wallpapers package. While new wallpapers are always nice to have, it’s no longer bad to keep what we’ve got.

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta Wayland Run Through

        In this video, we look at KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta the Wayland Session. Please keep in mind that it is still in development and the Xorg session is perfect.

      • Qt 5.13 Might Add QTelemetry For Opt-In Anonymous Data Collection

        The next release of the Qt5 tool-kit might introduce a potentially controversial module to facilitate anonymous data collection of Qt applications.

        The addition of Qt Telemetry has been under code review since last September. There was some reviews taking place and code revisions happening but since November that review dried up.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME’s Builder IDE Goes Through Its Biggest Code Refactoring Ever

        The lead developer of the GNOME Builder integrated development environment, Christian Hergert, has just led his project through its largest code re-factoring yet. Builder 3.32 coming out in March with GNOME 3.32 features more than 100k lines of code changed with various underlying improvements as well as some new features for developers.

      • GNOME Software 3.31.2 Debuts With Flatpak Improvements, Many Fixes

        Now available for testing ahead of GNOME 3.32 in March is GNOME Software 3.31.2, the first development release for this “app store” / software center seeing its first release since v3.31.1 last October.

        Given the time since the prior development release, GNOME Software 3.31.2 has a lot of fixes and other improvements in preparing for the 3.32.0 stable release.

  • Distributions

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Tumbleweed Starts Year with New Plasma, Applications, VIM, curl

        This new year has brought several updated packages to users of openSUSE’s rolling release Tumbleweed.

        Three snapshots have been released in 2019 so far and among the packages updated in the snapshots are KDE’s Plasma, VIM, RE2, QEMU and curl.

        The 20190112 snapshot brought a little more than a handful of packages. The new upstream Long-Term-Support version of nodejs10 10.15.0 addressed some timing vulnerabilities, updated a dependency with an upgrade to OpenSSL 1.1.0j and the versional also has a 40-seconds timeout that is now applied to servers receiving HTTP headers. The changelog listed several fixes for the highly configurable text editor with vim 8.1.0687, which should now be able to be built with Ruby 2.6.0 that was released at the end of December. Google’s re2 20190101 offered some performance tweaks and bug fixes. The fast real-time compression algorithm of zstd 1.3.8 has better decompression speed on large files. There was a change in the yast2-firewall package, which arrived in the the 20190110 snapshot, that allows new ‘forward_ports’, ‘rich_rules’ and ‘source_ports’ elements in zone entries with yast2-schema 4.1.0.

    • Slackware Family

      • Uploading 15 GB of new Slackware Live Edition ISO images

        The squashfs modules in the XFCE ISOs are compressed with ‘xz’ to keep them as small as possible (so they will fit on a CDROM medium). All of the other ISOs are compressed with ‘zstd’ which gives the Live OS a speed boost of ~20% at the cost of 10% increase in the ISO size.

    • Fedora

      • How Do You Fedora: Journey into 2019

        Jose plans on continuing to push open source initiatives such as cloud and container infrastructures. He will also continue teaching advanced Unix systems administration. “I am now helping a new generation of Red Hat Certified Professionals seek their place in the world of open source. It is indeed a joy when a student mentions they have obtained their certification because of what they were exposed to in my class.” He also plans on spending some more time with his art again.

        Carlos would like to write for Fedora Magazine and help bring the magazine to the Latin American community. “I would like to contribute to Fedora Magazine. If possible I would like to help with the magazine in Spanish.”

        Akinsola wants to hold a Fedora a release part in 2019. “I want make many people aware of Fedora, make them aware they can be part of the release and it is easy to do.” He would also like to ensure that new Fedora users have an easy time of adapting to their new OS.

        Kevin is planning is excited about 2019 being a time of great change for Fedora. “In 2019 I am looking forward to seeing what and how we retool things to allow for lifecycle changes and more self service deliverables. I think it’s going to be a ton of work, but I am hopeful we will come out of it with a much better structure to carry us forward to the next period of Fedora success.” Kevin also had some words of appreciation for everyone in the Fedora community. “I’d like to thank everyone in the Fedora community for all their hard work on Fedora, it wouldn’t exist without the vibrant community we have.”

    • Debian Family

      • Understanding Debian: The Universal Operating System

        “And my final test as to whether or not Debian succeeded was: could the founder step away from the project and could the project keep going because that is the only point at which you know that the project has basically taken a life of its own.” ~ Ian Murdock

      • Week 5: Resolving the blocker

        This post is about my work on the subscription feature for Debian derivatives – first of the two main issues to be resolved within my internship. And this week’s topic from the organizers is “Think About Your Audience”, especially newcomers to the community and future Outreachy applicants. So I’ll try to write about the feature keeping the most important details but taking into account that the readers might be unfamiliar with some terms and concepts.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Flavours and Variants

            • How to replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint

              Many of you are Windows 7 users. I get it. Windows 7 just works. But the clock is ticking for Windows 7. In less than a year, Windows 7′s free support ends.

              Come that day, you’ll have a choice: You can either run it without being certain you’ll get vital security patches (that would be really stupid), or you can pay for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) on a per-device basis, with the price increasing each year. We don’t know how much that will be, but I think we can safely assume it won’t be cheap. Or, you can migrate to Windows 10. And, yes, for now, you can still update to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • CNC milling with open source software

    I’m always looking for new projects to create with my 3D printer. When I recently saw a new design for a computer numeric code (CNC) milling machine that mostly uses 3D printed parts, I was intrigued. When I saw that the machine works with open source software and the controller is an Arduino running open source software, I knew I had to make one.

    CNC milling machines are precision cutting tools used in creating dies, engravings, and models. Unlike other milling tools, CNC machines can move on three axes: the Z axis moves vertically, the X axis moves horizontally, and the Y axis moves backward and forward.

  • Attackers Leverage Open Source in New BYOB Attack [Ed: A "phishing site impersonating the Office 365 login page," but hey, let's blame "open source"]

    An attack leveraging the open-source Build Your Own Botnet (BYOB) framework has reportedly been intercepted by Israeli cybersecurity firm Perception Point’s incident response team. According to the team, this appears to be the first time the BYOB framework has been found to be used for fraudulent activity in the wild.

    While these tactics and techniques have historically been limited in used to financially backed advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, they are now more easily accessed by novice criminals, in part because of the more widespread popularity of plug-and-play hacking kits, researchers said.

  • Try ‘Puffer’: An Open-Source Free Live TV Streaming Service By Stanford

    A new free TV streaming service called “Puffer” has been launched as a part of a nonprofit academic research study by a group of Stanford researchers.

    The team, led by Francis Yan, a doctoral student from the computer science department at Stanford Universty, aims at improving Internet transmission and video-streaming algorithms by using AI.

  • H2O.ai Empowers MarketAxess to Innovate and Inform Trading Strategies

    H2O.ai, the open source leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), today announced that its open source platform, H2O, provides critical machine learning capabilities to MarketAxess, the operator of a leading electronic trading platform for fixed-income securities and the provider of market data and post-trade services for the global fixed-income markets. MarketAxess’ Composite+, powered by H2O open source, delivers greater insight and price discovery in real-time, globally, for over 24,000 corporate bonds. Composite+ has won several awards for its use of AI including the Risk Markets Technology Award for Electronic Trading Support Product of the Year and the Waters Technology American Financial Technology Award for Best Artificial Intelligence Technology Initiative.

  • 2019 AI Trend To Watch: Open Source and RAPIDS

    Nvidia aims to increase its GPU platform usage by offering open source tools to help accelerate machine learning workloads.

  • How to Preserve Your Privacy on Android Without Tearing Your Hair Out

    It can seem intimidating, but you can gain some semblance of mobile privacy with a few quick tweaks.

    [...]

    If you had unlimited time and some familiarity with the Android platform, you could go to extremes like rooting to disable system components, flashing custom ROMs, or even building your own privacy-focused ROM. For most people, that’s not feasible. Not only are such activities incredibly complex, but they also make your phone less useful.

    The fact of the matter is, most Android users want access to the Play Store, Google apps, and high-security apps (e.g. banking) that rely on Google’s TrustZone system. However, you can make some simple but not always obvious changes to Android phones to preserve your privacy.

  • Blast from the Past: Retrieving Old Game Source Code

    Way back in 1985, I created games on the ZX Spectrum/Timex and CBM-64. A friend and I set up a small software house, and in addition to creating our own games, we also (and more lucratively) converted games for other publishers from CBM-64 to other formats.

    During this period, I wrote several original games in Z80 and 6502 assembler. I kept their sources on 5 1/4″ floppy disks, but after a few years I lost the floppy drive that could read the disks, and they were shoved in a cupboard. Somewhere between house moves, I lost the disks for all time.

    Fast-forward to this past December. In a store, I spotted a cheap game console for roughly $100 (get a look at this absolute unit, sold under the brand name “RetroPi”). It came with 18,000 games for various old computers and consoles, including SNES, ZX Spectrum and CBM-64. The hardware was a Raspberry PI clone in a case, and included Nintendo-type game controllers, along with HDMI and USB power cables.

    [...]

    I priced out the hardware for the console, and reckon it would cost about $70 for the Pi, controllers and cables, so I don’t feel ripped off… especially as it gave me a chance to play “Legend of Zelda” and “Secret of Mana” for the first time in 25 years via the SNES emulator!

  • How Open Source Culture Is Battling Skepticism Successfully

    The software industry has also witnessed vital changes. One of the biggest methods of evangelising this grown lies in open sourcing. One may think open source is just about free software and data, but, that is not the only thing; open source is about the code that becomes publicly available for people to modify and use it.

  • VLC, that magic open source video player, might be making a play for more consoles

    Speaking to VentureBeat, Jean-Baptiste Kempf revealed that VLC had reached three billion downloads to date and will continue to push HDR support as much as they can via the AV1 format, and further support VR videos.

    As far as gaming devices go, Kempf says that in addition to their already existing Xbox app they’re also interested in releasing VLC for the Switch, Roku devices and the PS4. As VentureBeat points out these aren’t a top priority given that only 12 people actually contribute to the VLC project, but it’s something they’re thinking about.

  • Mastodon is crumbling—and many blame its creator

    It’s 9am on a Tuesday, early morning by cybre.space’s standards. Few have logged on to the microblogging social network, and it shows: A follower feed filled with more than 31 users updates at a snail’s pace. It’s much slower than one would expect on Twitter. But then again, cybre.space isn’t Twitter. It runs off a decentralized social media software called Mastodon, and is part of a much larger network of Mastodon communities.

    Over on Twitter, users post jokes about President Donald Trump, this time of a fast food feast he prepared for the Clemson Tigers football team amid the ongoing government shutdown. But the words “Trump” and “shutdown” only appear once each on cybre.space’s “local timeline,” which shows posts on the site and any other connected “instances,” or Mastodon communities. It’s even more barren on this reporter’s home timeline: No one is talking about hamberders.

    Posting works differently on cybre.space than Twitter. It’s much more like living in a queer house, one that prefers to talk about political theory over current events. Some users chat about democratic socialism and queer identity, while others talk about games, music, fandom, or their difficulties navigating trans healthcare. One user posts a message that reads “re: hrt” with a few lines about their hormone replacement regimen hidden underneath, accessible only via the “show more” content warning (CW) button next to it. Another boosts a post praising Tallahassee by the Mountain Goats, calling it a “visceral experience.”

    Cybre.space has just over 2,000 users. Over on Mastodon’s flagship community, Mastodon.social, there are over 300,000 users. But despite the larger userbase, discussions are even less political. On the community’s local timeline, one user troubleshoots installing a Linux distribution. Another shares a news story about a man who tried to turn his home into a restaurant. A third links to an article about Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford. Here, Trump is not the sun; tech, gaming, and the occasional NSFW post largely prevail. It’s as if the outside world doesn’t exist.

  • The Best Open Source Software in 2018 (Users’ Choice)

    LibreOffice is a free and open source office suite written in C++, Java, and Python. It was first released in January 2011 by The Document Foundation and has since known to be the most reliable open source office suite.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Announcing Rust 1.32.0

        The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.32.0. Rust is a programming language that is empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software.

      • Rust 1.32 Released With New Debugger Macro, Jemalloc Disabled By Default

        For fans of Rustlang, it’s time to fire up rustup: Rust 1.32 is out today as the latest feature update for this increasingly popular programming language.

        The Rust 1.32 release brings dbg!() as a new debug macro to print the value of a variable as well as its file/line-number and it works with more than just variables but also commands.

      • Is It Time to Rewrite the Operating System in Rust?

        Bryan Cantrill explores Rust, explains why it has captured the imagination of so many systems software engineers, and outlines where it might best fit in the deep stack of operating system software.

        [...]

        Bryan Cantrill is the CTO at Joyent, where he oversees worldwide development of the SmartOS and SmartDataCenter platforms. Prior to joining Joyent, he served as a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, where he spent over a decade working on system software, from the guts of the kernel to client-code on the browser.

      • Julien Vehent: Maybe don’t throw away your VPN just yet…

        At Mozilla, we’ve long adopted single sign on, first using SAML, nowadays using OpenID Connect (OIDC). Most of our applications, both public facing and internal, require SSO to protect access to privileged resources. We never trust the network and always require strong authentication. And yet, we continue to maintain VPNs to protect our most sensitive admin panels.

        “How uncool”, I hear you object, “and here we thought you were all about DevOps and shit”. And you would be correct, but I’m also pragmatic, and I can’t count the number of times we’ve had authentication bugs that let our red team or security auditors bypass authentication. The truth is, even highly experienced programmers and operators make mistakes and will let a bug disable or fail to protect part of that one super sensitive page you never want to leave open to the internet. And I never blame them because SSO/OAuth/OIDC are massively complex protocols that require huge libraries that fail in weird and unexpected ways. I’ve never reached the point where I fully trust our SSO, because we find one of those auth bypass every other month. Here’s the catch: they never lead to major security incidents because we put all our admin panels behind a good old VPN.

      • Reflections on a co-design workshop

        Co-design workshops help designers learn first-hand the language of the people who use their products, in addition to their pain points, workflows, and motivations. With co-design methods [1] participants are no longer passive recipients of products. Rather, they are involved in the envisioning and re-imagination of them. Participants show us what they need and want through sketching and design exercises. The purpose of a co-design workshop is not to have a pixel-perfect design to implement, rather it’s to learn more about the people who use or will use the product, and to involve them in generating ideas about what to design.

        We ran a co-design workshop at Mozilla to inform our product design, and we’d like to share our experience with you.

        [...]

        Our UX team was tasked with improving the Firefox browser extension experience. When people create browser extensions, they use a form to submit their creations. They submit their code and all the metadata about the extension (name, description, icon, etc.). The metadata provided in the submission form is used to populate the extension’s product page on addons.mozilla.org.

      • Firefox Nightly: These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 51
      • WebRender newsletter #36

        Hi everyone! This week’s highlight is Glenn’s picture caching work which almost landed about a week ago and landed again a few hours ago. Fingers crossed! If you don’t know what picture caching means and are interested, you can read about it in the introduction of this newsletter’s season 01 episode 28.

        On a more general note, the team continues focusing on the remaining list of blocker bugs which grows and shrinks depending on when you look, but the overall trend is looking good.

      • Happy BMO Push Day!
  • Databases

    • Unlock Hybrid Everything with MariaDB Platform X3

      As customers, we expect businesses to provide us with useful information. And as our expectations rise, so too must the usefulness of the information. For example, it’s useful to know a product is on sale. It’s more useful to know that it will be sold-out within hours. It’s also useful to know the balance on my credit card. But it’s even more useful to know if it’s going be higher than the automated payment I scheduled.

    • MariaDB Platform X3 combines transaction processing and analytics

      With MariaDB Platform X3, an organization may use a single database both for conventional customer-facing workloads (transactional, or OLTP) and internal business-intelligence workloads (analytical, or OLAP). The same data is available for either kind of work and is kept automatically in sync between the two sides.

      MariaDB Platform is priced at a flat per-node cost, regardless of whether nodes are OLTP or OLAP. This allows for more flexible deployments, where the number of nodes in a given deployment can be moved freely between OLTP and OLAP workloads as demand changes.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Bash shell utility turns 5.0

      A few months prior to celebrating the 30th birthday of the Bash command language interpreter, the GNU Project has released Bash 5.0, featuring bug fixes and new shell variables.

      As we look forward to the release of Linux Kernel 5.0 in the coming weeks, we can enjoy another venerable open source technology reaching the 5.0 milestone: the Bash shell utility. The GNU Project has launched the public version 5.0 of GNU/Linux’s default command language interpreter. Bash 5.0 adds new shell variables and other features and also repairs several major bugs.

      New shell variables in Bash 5.0 include BASH_ARGV0, which “expands to $0 and sets $0 on assignment,” says the project. The EPOCHSECONDS variable expands to the time in seconds since the Unix epoch, and EPOCHREALTIME does the same, but with microsecond granularity.

    • Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp pose privacy risks, warns free software guru Richard Stallman

      Think twice before posting anyone’s photo on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, says free software guru Richard Stallman. As a few among the strongest centralised surveillance mechanisms in the world, even with a picture of the back of head, they would be able to track where you go and what you do, he added.
      The software guru’s lecture titled Education Freedom Day lecture, organised by International Centre for Free and Open Source Software and Society for Promotion of Alternate Computing and Employment (SPACE) in Thiruvananthapuram, had first bewildered information technology professionals and academicians when he asked them to “switch-off the geo-location feature of your smartphone, if you are taking my photos”.
      He said that 90% of the 1,000 free applications in Google Play stores can spy, according to the latest studies and asked why should the fleshlight application be linked to the server. Even the data on the sex toy go to the server, with its thermometer readings sharing the time of contact. He argued that owners of the firms who spy on a user’s personal data should be jailed. Richard Matthew Stallman, according to Wikipedia, “is an Amercian freedom activist and a computer programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in such a manner that a user receiving it, likewise receives with it the freedom to use, study, distribute and modify that software”.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Red Hat drops MongoDB over concerns related to its Server Side Public License (SSPL)

      It was last year in October when MongoDB announced that it’s switching to Server Side Public License (SSPL). Now, the news of Red Hat removing MongoDB from its Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora over its SSPL license has been gaining attention.

    • The Need for Sustainable Open Source Projects

      The point of the article is a lot of companies that support open source projects, like RedisDB, are moving to more closed source solutions to survive. The cloud providers are called out as a source of a lot of problems in this article, as they consume a lot of open source software, but do not really spend a lot of time or effort in supporting it. Open source, in this situation, becomes a sort of tragedy of the commons, where everyone thinks someone else is going to do the hard work of making a piece of software viable, so no-one does any of the work. Things are made worse because the open source version of the software is often “good enough” to solve 80% of the problems users need solved, so there is little incentive to purchase anything from the companies that do the bulk of the work in the community.

    • MongoDB’s licensing changes led Red Hat to drop the database from the latest version of its server OS

      After MongoDB decided last year that it was changing the license for its open-source database to a more restrictive version, Red Hat decided it would no longer include MongoDB in the latest version of its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system.

      The change apparently went unnoticed until a Hacker News thread took off earlier today, but it was included in the release notes for RHEL 8.0, which was released in beta last November. In those notes, Red Hat states “note that the NoSQL MongoDB database server is not included in RHEL 8.0 Beta because it uses the Server Side Public License (SSPL).”

    • Red Hat drops MongoDB over SSPL; MDB -3%

      Amazon responded by launching DocumentDB, a managed database that’s compatible with existing MongoDB applications and tools. DocumentDB works with MongoDB version 3.6, which predates the SSPL license.

    • Governance without rules: How the potential for forking helps projects

      The speed and agility of open source projects benefit from lightweight and flexible governance. Their ability to run with such efficient governance is supported by the potential for project forking. That potential provides a discipline that encourages participants to find ways forward in the face of unanticipated problems, changed agendas, or other sources of disagreement among participants. The potential for forking is a benefit that is available in open source projects because all open source licenses provide needed permissions.

      In contrast, standards development is typically constrained to remain in a particular forum. In other words, the ability to move the development of the standard elsewhere is not generally available as a disciplining governance force. Thus, forums for standards development typically require governance rules and procedures to maintain fairness among conflicting interests.

  • Programming/Development

    • Django 2.2 alpha 1 released

      Django 2.2 alpha 1 is now available. It represents the first stage in the 2.2 release cycle and is an opportunity for you to try out the changes coming in Django 2.2.

      Django 2.2 has a salmagundi of new features which you can read about in the in-development 2.2 release notes.

    • Eliminating PHP polyfills

      The Symfony project has recently created a set of pure-PHP polyfills for both PHP extensions and newer language features. It allows developers to add requirements upon those functions or language additions without increasing the system requirements upon end users. For the most part, I think this is a good thing, and valuable to have. We’ve done similar things inside MediaWiki as well for CDB support, Memcached, and internationalization, just to name a few.

      But the downside is that on platforms where it is possible to install the missing PHP extensions or upgrade PHP itself, we’re shipping empty code. MediaWiki requires both the ctypes and mbstring PHP extensions, and our servers have those, so there’s no use in deploying polyfills for those, because they’ll never be used. In September, Reedy and I replaced the polyfills with “unpolyfills” that simply provide the correct package, so the polyfill is skipped by composer. That removed about 3,700 lines of code from what we’re committing, reviewing, and deploying – a big win.

    • Polonius and region errors

      Now that NLL has been shipped, I’ve been doing some work revisiting the Polonius project. Polonius is the project that implements the “alias-based formulation” described in my older blogpost. Polonius has come a long way since that post; it’s now quite fast and also experimentally integrated into rustc, where it passes the full test suite.

    • Serious Python released!

      Well, Serious Python is the the new name of The Hacker’s Guide to Python — the first book I published. Serious Python is the 4th update of that book — but with a brand a new name and a new editor!

    • Radeon GCN Compiler Backend Merged Into GCC 9 – To Allow OpenMP/OpenACC Offloading

      The long-in-development AMD “GCN” back-end for the GNU Compiler Collection that allows targeting recent generations of Radeon GPUs for compute offloading has been merged into the upcoming GCC 9 release.

      This AMD Radeon GCN back-end is what has been in development for many months by Code Sourcery / Mentor Graphics with the ultimate goal of allowing Fortran/C/C++ compute work to be offloaded Radeon graphics processors via the OpenMP and OpenACC APIs, similar to the NVPTX offload support within GCC already for NVIDIA GPUs as well as Xeon Phi offloading on the Intel front.

    • Getting Started with MySQL and Python

      For any fully functional deployable application, the persistence of data is indispensable. A trivial way of storing data would be to write it to a file in the hard disk, but one would prefer writing the application specific data to a database for obvious reasons. Python provides language support for writing data to a wide range of databases.

    • Webinar Recording: “Live Development of a PyCharm Plugin” with Joachim Ansorg
    • How to implement Download Manager in python
    • “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” – Differentiating between bugs and non-bugs using machine learning
    • Beyond the “hello, world” of Python’s “print” function
    • Leaving Mozilla and (most of) the Rust project
    • RcppArmadillo 0.9.200.7.0

Leftovers

  • Science

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Trump Administration Backs Slow-Motion Right-Wing Coup In Venezuela

      A slow-motion coup by right-wing opposition forces is underway in Venezuela. It has the support of President Donald Trump’s administration, and if successful, President Nicolas Maduro will be undemocratically removed from power though he was re-elected last May.

      Juan Guaido of the Popular Will Party in Venezuela was elected to lead the National Assembly, Venezuela’s congress. He said on January 11 that he was ready to replace Maduro.

      “The constitution gives me the legitimacy to carry out the charge of the presidency over the country to call actions. But I need backing from the citizens to make it a reality,” Guaido stated.

      On January 15, the National Assembly called Maduro’s presidency “illegitimate” and passed a resolution indicating the body no longer believes he has any legal authority.

      Trump administration officials immediately voiced their support. Vice President Mike Pence, who called Guaido, indicated the United States supports the effort to “declare the country’s presidency vacant.”

      “The Maduro regime is illegitimate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared, echoing the rhetoric of opposition forces in Venezuela. He said America was hopeful it could be a “force for good” and help those who oppose Maduro “restore a real democracy to that country.”

    • Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran

      The United States’ international windbag, Secretary of Defense (read: War) Mike Pompeo has been acting the imperial blowhard throughout the Middle East. With his boss busy denying that he’s a Russian agent, watching advisors and cabinet members come and go with dizzying alacrity, and dodging porn-star accusations, Pompeo is trotting through the Middle East, sounding war drums.

      It seems that Iran, which has long been in the crosshairs of U.S. gunboat ‘diplomacy’, remains firmly targeted. In Cairo, Pompeo promised a “…campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world”.

      It is with a firm shake of the head that this writer reads such statements, wondering how anyone with even a modicum of intelligence can take such pronouncements seriously. If one is to discuss ‘malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world’, shouldn’t one look, first and foremost, at the United States?

    • Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East

      If you’re an American, he’s still out there among the “maybe” candidates. But if you live in the Middle East – whether you’re Arab or Israeli, Muslim, Jew or Christian – you should keep your eye on Bernie Sanders.

      He’s no shoo-in, of course – certainly not after his pitiful handover to the awful Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. I still remember shouting “No!” myself when I heard his fans cursing his decision to stand down in favour of Clinton. But the guy just might have the guts, even the courage, to stand up to the ally to whom the US always gives groveling, uncritical, slavish, immoral support.

      Note how at this point I don’t need to identify Israel as the ally in question. Nor did I have to mention in my first paragraph that Sanders is one of the two most prominent Jewish members of the US Senate. In fact, Sanders wears his origins, race, religion, social background and integrity so easily that he comes across, even to a cynical European still living in a pre-Brexit world (just), as a patently nice guy. Unlike Donald Trump, he’s sane. But unlike Obama, he’s not so goody-two-shoes or optic-obsessed to think that he can fandangle voters with ageing good looks and the right heart.

      It’s one thing for a black candidate to go for the black vote in the US, but for an American Jew to go for the American Jewish vote is a very different matter.

    • War Whores

      From the beginning of recorded history through the end of WWII the term “war” was understood as armed conflict between states or governments. This definition obtained through the Korean and Vietnam wars, gradually losing precision by adoption of such terms as “conflict” and “insurgency”, presumably so as not to dignify grossly unbalanced contests with the glorious name bestowed on mutual slaughter by giant, equal adversaries.

      Since Vietnam–with the shameful, degrading brutality involved in the Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti and other “police actions”–and signally since the Iraq/Kuwait Turkey Shoot, the old, abused term has lost any solid relation to its original meaning and is pathetically applied to any violent rape by the American War Machine of any putative “enemy”, regardless of the incommensurate forces involved, often when the victim–not even a legitimate adversary–has no capacity at all to strike back or defend itself.

      This suits the psychopaths who govern us perfectly, which is no surprise considering what they are. The system of War Capitalism that owns their contemptible, diseased souls can only burgeon and grow fatter by extortion of literally uncountable sums of our money, every dollar diverted from any beneficent use in our society or the least social profit for our people.

      Schumpeter said it best and it can’t be too often repeated: “Created by the wars that required it, The Machine now creates the wars it requires.”

      The tragedy–no surprise, either–is that the American people are so deeply steeped in the pretty poison of Exceptionalism that they are, if not overtly, then tacitly, fully behind the mindless military vandalizing and brutalization of people just like them in all essentials: powerless, no better and no worse.

    • Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump

      Donald Trump and his “war cabinet” have struck again. In the wake of record defense spending; the creation of a Space Force that would violate the Outer Space Treaty agreed to fifty years ago; the abrogation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty from thirty years ago; and the chaos of random decision making for use of force, the Trump administration is returning to the madness of President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” idea with costly and ineffective ideas regarding missile-defense technologies.

      Trump’s Pentagon is reviving ideas that were abandoned after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, including weapons that can shoot down missiles from space and high energy lasers that can destroy missiles shortly after they are launched, the so-called boost phase. Trump plans to go further than Reagan by deploying missile defense in Europe and Asia to protect U.S. forces and regional allies. Congress was skeptical of Reagan’s “Star Wars” in the 1980s, but the current Congress has been unwilling to challenge the outrageous national security policies of the Trump administration.

      Unlike Reagan’s “Star Wars,” which was designed to protect against a strategic attack from Russia or China, Trump’s version is oriented to stopping an attack from so-called rogue nations such as Iran or North Korea. According to the Washington Post, the United States would put high-powered lasers on drones flying off the Korean coast and create a third ground-based missile interceptor site in the United States to defend against Iran. The North Korean and Iranian scenarios are quite fanciful, but then again the exaggeration of the threat from the Soviet Union and China in the 1980s was equally far-fetched.

    • The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

      Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has joined with the chorus of Western countries supporting Canada’s protestations against the “arbitrary,” and “politically motivated” death sentence imposed by a Chinese court on Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg.

      Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Pompeo’s “recognition of the principle that we are speaking about.” She argues that the application of the death sentence to a Canadian national in this case is “inhumane”, and represents a, “way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.”

      Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, echoed Freeland’s cry of victory for having won US support. “I hope they continue to back Canada in this particular dispute,” MacNaughton said.

    • “Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency

      As Trump projects his Imperial power in the direction of our southern border, demanding to reinforce its security by building a wall, the real threat to America’s safety – weather terrorism (Bruno Latour’s term for the biospheric backlash aimed at the vast hubris of humanity) – goes unheeded. Trump’s posturing with regard to establishing a national emergency to facilitate wall building, obscures a genuine emergency in just one more case of the Fake eclipsing the Real.

      The president is supported in this passive, climate change denialism by the misdirection of the mainstream (and much of the alternative) press, which expends an immense amount of journalistic energy impugning him. We know he’s an intensely solipsistic president who uses political issues sociopathically – for their sole value in aggrandizing his sense of self-worth. Can we move on? That logorrheic energy might better be used in raising the issue of weather terrorism to a scare factor in excess of his bogus issue of illegal immigration. Ironically, south of the border emigration is itself a climate change phenomenon. Most of those making up the migrant caravans originate in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries whose lands are devastated by drought, giving their farming families little choice but to seek a life elsewhere.

      Violent acts of extreme weather come and go with virtually no political will to prepare for them or mitigate their consequences. Existential crises, it seems, must be matched with the pre-existing Imperial-Fossil-Capital agenda to warrant a meaningful response. Rising sea levels, global warming exacerbated hurricanes, storm surges, floods, drought and wildfire are the real dangers at our borders, along 12,383 miles of coastline, in our cities, on our islands and farmlands, in our wilderness and hinterlands. Yet they elicit little in the way of a concerted public outrage at the failure of a supine federal government to make efforts to protect against them.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • US subpoenas Ecuadorians over alleged Manafort Assange visit

      Six diplomatic staff at the Ecuador embassy in London have been issued subpoenas by the US Department of Justice, which wants to question them in the wake of a story published by The Guardian claiming that former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, visited WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
      In a statement, WikiLeaks said the questioning was scheduled for 18 January US time (which would be approximately 19 January Australian time), adding that it had been made in 7 January.

      It said the request had been made to the Ecuadorian authorities who had approved it, despite it being “highly unusual to permit foreign interrogations of former diplomatic officials over their diplomatic work, or to provide foreign investigators information about those who have been afforded political asylum in relation to them”.

    • Hacker behind ‘Football Leaks’ arrested in Hungary

      Since 2015, the Football Leaks website operated a-la WikiLeaks, publishing secret documents that it claimed it obtained from anonymous sources. The site, a mere WordPress.com blog, made the documents available for everyone, but also to teams of investigative journalists across Europe.

      The documents helped reveal the football world’s shady inter-club player transfers that included shell companies and a slew of intermediaries that siphoned off huge bonuses from each player transaction.

    • US officials to ask Ecuador embassy staff about Assange visitors

      US investigators will on Friday begin to question diplomatic staff who were stationed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London during WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s years-long stay about his visitors, according to the whistleblower group.

      It follows international subpoenas from the US Department of Justice, which is probing a report that President Donald Trump’s disgraced former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks there with Assange, Wikileaks said.

      The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the matter, wants to talk to six staff members from the embassy and will start to interview them in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Friday, it added.

      Britain’s The Guardian newspaper claimed in November that Manafort — who was convicted of multiple charges including bank fraud and money laundering in two separate cases last year — met Assange on several occasions from 2013 to 2016.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Scientists Call for ‘Global Agricultural Revolution’ and ‘Planetary Health Diet’ to Save Lives—and Earth

      The commission brought together 37 experts in agriculture, environmental sustainability, human health, and political science from 16 countries. Over three years, they developed the “planetary health diet,” which aims to address the global food system’s devastating environmental impact as well as mass malnutrition.

      Noting that more than 800 million people worldwide “have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease,” co-lead commissioner Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University said the “world’s diets must change dramatically” to reverse the damage that’s been done.

      “To be healthy,” he explained, “diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.”

    • The Fox in Charge of the Henhouse: Activists Decry Trump’s EPA Pick, Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler

      Senate confirmation hearings began Wednesday for former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, whom President Trump has nominated to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler has been the acting head of the EPA since Scott Pruitt resigned in July amid an onslaught of financial and ethics scandals. We speak with Heather McTeer Toney, national field director for Moms Clean Air Force and former Southeast regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration. We also speak with Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

    • New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice

      Another country has banned the cruel practice of ritual slaughter––kosher slaughter, sanctioned by Jewish law and halal slaughter, sanctioned by Islamic law. In both practices, cattle, sheep, goats and poultry have their throats cut while they are fully conscious and capable of experiencing great fear and pain.

      Starting in 2019, Belgium will no longer grant exemptions from humane slaughter laws (that require an animal be stunned before it is killed) for ritual slaughter, joining Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia which also outlaw the practice.

      Other European countries are considering tightened slaughter laws. The Netherlands, for example, has considered a law that states that no more animals can be killed for kosher and halal meat than “necessary to meet the actual need of the religious communities present in the Netherlands” and that if an animal is not “insensitive to pain” within 40 seconds of slaughter, it must be put out of its misery and shot.

    • Battery boom aids climate change battle

      Billions of dollars are being invested worldwide in the developing battery boom, involving research into storage techniques to use the growing surpluses of cheap renewable energy now becoming available.

      Recent developments in batteries are set to sweep aside the old arguments about renewables being intermittent, dismissing any need to continue building nuclear power plants and burning fossil fuels to act as a back-up when the wind does not blow, or the sun does not shine.

      Batteries as large as the average family house and controlled by digital technology are being positioned across electricity networks. They are being charged when electricity is in surplus and therefore cheap, and the power they store is resold to the grid at a higher price during peak periods.

    • Haiti by the Numbers

      Years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti: 9

      Estimated number of aftershocks that measured 4.5 or greater: 59

      Number of people who died in the earthquake, according to Haitian government: 316,000

      Number of people displaced: 1,300,000

      Number of people who remained in internally displaced persons camps, as of September 2017: 37,867

      Estimated population of Canaan, a barren hillside north of the capital, pre-earthquake: 0

      Estimated population of Canaan now: 300,000

      Minimum number of new homes necessary to meet demand: 500,000

  • Finance

    • Backing Teachers, Sanders Says LA Strike Exposes National Need for ‘Revolution in Public Education’

      Tens of thousands of public school teachers and support staff with the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest district in the country—continued the city’s first strike in three decades on Thursday.

      The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) kicked off the long-promised strike on Monday over unmet demands for higher payer; smaller class sizes; more special education staff, bilingual education instructors, nurses, counselors, and librarians; and stricter regulation of the city’s many charter schools.

    • The L.A. Teachers’ Strike Is About So Much More Than Wages

      Los Angeles public school teachers began a historic strike on Monday, for the first time in 30 years. Members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) walked out of contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that had dragged on for nearly two years. The specific battle is being fought over LAUSD’s refusal to tap into its record $1.86 billion reserve in order to reduce class sizes, hire more support staff, including counselors and nurses, improve infrastructure and more. But more broadly speaking, the L.A. teachers’ fight is symbolic of a bigger struggle to maintain and expand quality public education for all Americans and to secure the rights that the critical stakeholders—teachers, students, parents—have within that system.

      The L.A. teachers’ strike comes after several high-profile fights last spring in states like West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, where educators tired of poverty-level wages fought for raises and won. But the L.A. strike is broader than those others, not just in terms of the sheer size of the district and the union, but in the demands the union is making. Although LAUSD has offered a 6 percent raise over two years (not nearly enough of what teachers deserve), teachers want an overall better experience for their 600,000 overwhelmingly nonwhite students. They want more nurses and counselors, smaller class sizes and a halt to the expansion of charter schools.

    • LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters

      LAUSD has taken over $100 million in revenue losses in the first four days of the strike, since the district is paid for each student who attends and few are attending. At my high school, for example, attendance Thursday was down to 128 students–a mere 6% of the total student body. As in several previous days, we had almost half as many students on our picketline as were in school.

    • WaPo Misses the Story: Either Scott Walker Doesn’t Understand Taxes or He Lies to Fifth Graders

      Ocasio-Cortez is right on this point and Walker is wrong. He either does not understand how our income tax system works, or is deliberately lying to advance his agenda. Either way, the Post should have pointed out that Walker was wrong.

      Many people are confused about the concept of a marginal tax rate. (The higher tax rate only applies to the income above a cutoff.) Opponents of high marginal taxes on the rich try to take advantage of this confusion in the way Scott Walker did with his class of fifth graders. It is the media’s responsibility to try to inform people about how the tax system works and to expose politicians who misrepresent the issue.

    • Bitcoin Interview: Edge Wallet’s Paul Puey on the Future of Money

      CCN had a chance to speak with Paul Puey, founder of Edge Wallet and veteran crypto entrepreneur. Edge Wallet was previously called Airbitz. In the early days of crypto, Airbitz was a Bitcoin-only wallet that featured a directory of brick and mortar businesses which accepted Bitcoin. It was one of the only mobile wallets which allowed the user to own their private keys without having to see them.

      While it was very popular as Bitcoin wallets go, the era of Ethereum and beyond made it necessary to adapt to people who expect to be able to use more than one cryptocurrency.

    • An Education in Fraud

      Most investors couldn’t have seen it coming, but those in the business were thrilled. The day after The Trump was given the keys to the best playroom he’d ever had, the stock in Strayer Education, Inc., the company that owns the for-profit Strayer University, jumped almost 20%. Stock in other for profit universities enjoyed a similar increase. Investors were prescient. Betsy DeVos was named Secretary of Education.

      A fan of school choice, charter schools, and a major supporter of the Republican party, Betsy was a great choice for the position, even though she had no experience in the realm of education, other than her passionate support for the reportedly less than successful charter schools in Michigan.

      After Betsy was confirmed by the Senate, she made up for her own lack of knowledge about the world of education by hiring people who had been closely identified with the for-profit college business. Among them was Julian Schmoke, who was placed in charge of the unit that investigates fraud in higher education. From 2008 to 2012 Mr. Schmoke was associate dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University. That university engaged in assorted fraudulent activities, for which it paid more than $1 million in fines and penalties.

      Another Betsy hire was Robert Eitel who, prior to joining the Department, had been at Bridgepoint Education. That institution was fined $30 million on account of deceptive student lending practices.

      According to a report by the Associated Press, Betsy took steps designed to improve the lives of the for-profit colleges, while making it more difficult for defrauded students to be made whole. As she explained, if a former student borrows money from the government to attend a for-profit college that defrauds the student, and the debt is forgiven or reduced, the cost of the forgiveness lands on the backs of the taxpayer. The defrauded students should, she believes, share in bearing some of the pain of having been defrauded. It should not all land on the backs of the taxpayers since they were not the ones defrauded. Happily for students, Betsy did not have the last word.

    • A Question of Loyalty

      When asked in an interview during the last Indyref where his loyalty would lie if Independence won, then Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael replied without hesitation that of course he was a Scot and he would be loyal to Scotland. Where, I wonder, would Fluffy Mundell’s loyalties lie? The border is a short hop for him. Colonel Ruthie Davison has always had her eyes on high office at Westminster, and I expect she would be quickly down the A1. As for Labour, I don’t suppose anyone in England especially wants Richard Leonard. To be fair, I suspect Gordon Brown is not going anywhere and would reconcile himself to being the Scot who, in his own mind, saved the World. Wouldn’t it be lovely if J K Rowling upped sticks and went to be closer to her beloved Tony Blair?

      With Scotland in the EU and England outside, would Andrew Neil be allowed to “queue jump” and stay as a top Tory at the England and Wales Broadcasting Corporation? Or would he fall victim to a hostile environment? Surely the mighty Laura Kuenssberg would demand a larger field for her snide right wing jibes than her home country?

    • Facebook Employees Think They Are Robbing Unsuspecting Children & Parents

      Every year several unsuspecting children end up spending hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars from their parent’s credit cards while playing online games on Facebook. Now, the company’s internal documents have revealed that even Facebook’s own employees believe the company is inappropriately making money off such children and their parents.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Steve King Isn’t the Only Elected Official Pursuing a White Supremacist Vision for America

      itch McConnell says racism has no place in the Republican Party. The evidence, however, demonstrates that’s not true.
      Last week, U.S. Rep. Steve King, Republican from Iowa, posed a question to a New York Times reporter that laid bare his racist ideology: “White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” He didn’t stop there. In the same interview, he expressed resentment toward the record-breaking gender and racial diversity of the 116th Congress: “You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men.”

      His words were not taken out of context, as he now argues. Nor is such racism new for him. During the Republican National Convention in 2016, King responded to a critique about older white men dominating the Republican Party by questioning the contributions that people of color have made to civilization. “I’d ask you to go back through history, and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about – where did any other sub group of people contribute more to civilization?” he said on an MSNBC panel.

      “Than white people?” host Chris Hayes asked.

      “Than western civilization itself that is rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world,” King replied. He was clear about his beliefs then and now.

      I won’t waste space rebutting his ignorance by describing the incredible advances and discoveries made by people from African, Asian, and other cultures that were not white or Christian. These facts would not make a difference to King, who has chosen the path of deliberate ignorance. But he cannot use his ignorance to hide who he is.

    • ‘Terrible News’ for GOP as Survey Shows Generation Z Shaping Up To Be Most Progressive Ever

      From their strong belief that humanity played a central role in causing the climate crisis to their overwhelming dislike of President Donald Trump, the young Americans who have been classified as Generation Z—comprised of those between the ages of 13 and 21—could be even more progressive than the slightly older millennial generation, according to a Pew Research Center survey published Thursday.

      “Gen Z looks a lot like millennials politically, which is terrible news for Republicans,” Acadia University lecturer Jeffrey Sachs wrote in response to Pew’s survey, which found that 70 percent of Gen Zers disapprove of Trump, 54 percent believe the planet is warming because of human activity, and 70 percent believe the government should be doing more to solve the nation’s problems.

      “This data suggests there is a reason why Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets so much heat from conservatives—she and this new congressional class not only represent the demographic changes that scare some, but she embodies the ideological trends, too,” argued Anthony Michael Kreis, visiting assistant professor of law at Chicago-Kent College.

    • ‘We Have Monsters Leading America’: Trump’s DHS Locked Up More Children Than Previously Known

      Confirming the fears of human rights groups, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported on Thursday that thousands more children were separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border by the Trump administration, long before it first publicly unveiled the family separation policy last spring.

      “The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,” reads the report, and the inspector general found that children were separated over a longer period of time as officials “observed a steep increase in the number of children who had been separated from a parent or guardian” by the Department of Homeland Security starting in July 2017—nearly a year before the administration officially announced its family separation policy in May 2018.

    • Trump Administration Likely Split Up Thousands More Migrant Families

      It seems likely that thousands more migrant children were split from their families than the Trump administration has acknowledged, in part because officials were stepping up family separations long before the border policy that prompted international outrage last spring, a government watchdog said Thursday.

      It’s unclear just how many family separations occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border. Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with caring for migrant children, did not adequately track them until after a judge ruled that children must be reunited with their families, according to the report by the agency’s inspector general.

      Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations, said the number of children removed from their parents was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents. Those documents chronicled separations that took place as parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally entering the country under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

    • Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers

      “Over the past three decades,” reported Steve Reilly in a June 2016 USA Today article, Donald Trump “has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits.” Many of these lawsuits, Reilly notes, “involve ordinary Americans…who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.” Dishwashers, plumbers, bartenders, painters, waiters, real estate brokers, lawyers–this broad swath of workers Trump routinely relied on to build his wealth, and yet he didn’t see fit (it is alleged) to compensate them for the work that they had done. Trump, it seems, thought he was entitled to their unpaid labor.

      But that’s not all.

      “Trump’s companies,” Reilly continues, “have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage.”

      While, admittedly, all of this is old news, Donald Trump’s anti-labor practices are actually instructive regarding the current #TrumpShutDown. Like his refusal to pay his former employees, for example, Trump’s shutdown is his willingness to sacrifice working women and men for his own personal gain. The shutdown also expresses his sense of entitlement–to which the lawsuits attest–to the unpaid labor of others, as well as his disregard for the fact that the workers upon whom he relies need to pay their rent, their gas and electric bills, their water bills, their student loan debts–even their transportation to the local food bank. And like his treatment of his former employees, Trump’s shutdown reveals an inability on his part to “relate” to any workers struggling to make ends meet.

    • ‘Our Nation’s Capital Has Officially Become a Playground’: Trump Sends ‘Childish’ Letter Canceling Pelosi’s Overseas Trip

      A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for the delay of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address due to security concerns caused by the government shutdown, Trump responded on Thursday with a letter of his own informing Pelosi that he has “postponed” her planned congressional delegation trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan.

      “Our nation’s capital has officially become a playground,” declared CNN reporter Jim Acosta as he detailed the “childish” contents of the president’s letter in a television appearance shortly after it was made public.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Is on the Financial Committee, and Banks Are Afraid

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s assignment to the powerful House Financial Services Committee has triggered a fresh round of handwringing, this time with some merit. Banks are afraid of her — and they should be. The addition of Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken advocate for financial reform, to the committee represents one of the greatest challenges to big banks’ interests since the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Though she joins other strong voices like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on the committee, Ocasio-Cortez will give a voice to her generation, which came of age in the financial crisis.

      Now under the leadership of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), the Financial Services Committee is considered one of the House’s most active committees and wields great influence. The committee is described as a “magnet for campaign contributions,” and its members hold tight relationships with the industries they are tasked with overseeing. Public disclosures show that the financial, insurance and real estate sectors spend at least twice as much on campaign contributions to the committee’s members as any other sector. Both Rep. Sinema (D-Arizona) and Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) received over $1 million in contributions from Securities and Investment donors in the last congressional cycle.

      By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez will join the committee as an independent, unbought politician. She boasted the largest number of small donors of any 2018 midterm candidate, with nearly 62 percent of her war chest coming from small donations. She’s built her brand and reputation on standing for working-class interests and, along with some other prominent Democratic candidates, has publicly eschewed big donors and corporate money.

    • Protesting Outside GOP’s ‘Lavish Retreat,’ Federal Workers Demand End to Shutdown Amid Growing Calls for Strike

      Amid growing calls for federal workers to walk off the job in protest as President Donald Trump continues to hold their paychecks hostage and downplay their financial hardship, government employees rallied outside of the Washington Nationals’ ballpark in the frigid D.C. weather on Thursday to demand an end to the government shutdown as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans held a “retreat” inside the stadium.

      “Clearly McConnell thinks his lavish retreat is more important than 800,000 families,” declared the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), one of several unions that took part in the demonstration.

      Facing severe economic pain from the shutdown—which is now the longest in U.S. history—the workers called on McConnell to immediately allow a vote on House-passed legislation that would reopen the government and put an end to the pervasive financial anxiety and safety risked posed by the lapse in federal funding.

      “It’s past time for McConnell to call the vote instead of partying with his colleagues at Nationals stadium,” the AFL-CIO wrote on Twitter.

    • 10 Things We All Lose If Bernie Chooses Not to Run in 2020

      But perhaps the threshold question is what if he does not run? What policy issues would be off the table? What demands for transformation would be watered down? The answer is that most progressive initiatives Sanders and his supporters have championed will never see the light of day.

      Many of us have waited a lifetime for a leader with so deep a commitment to fundamental change to come along and galvanize our existing movements. While there will be a large and diverse field of candidates, the opportunity to elect someone who has dedicated his life to economic and social justice also gives us the chance to bring forth a more perfect union – one genuinely of the people, by the people, and for the people.

      Without Bernie in 2020, what follows is just a partial catalog of what disappears or is seriously compromised.

    • Facebook finds and kills another 512 Kremlin-linked fake accounts

      Two years on from the U.S. presidential election, Facebook continues to have a major problem with Russian disinformation being megaphoned via its social tools.

      In a blog post today the company reveals another tranche of Kremlin-linked fake activity — saying it’s removed a total of 471 Facebook pages and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram accounts, which were being used to spread propaganda in regions where Putin’s regime has sharp geopolitical interests.

      In its latest reveal of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” — aka the euphemism Facebook uses for disinformation campaigns that rely on its tools to generate a veneer of authenticity and plausibility in order to pump out masses of sharable political propaganda — the company says it identified two operations, both originating in Russia, and both using similar tactics without any apparent direct links between the two networks.

    • President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”

      It is possible that President Donald Trump never suspected this, but among his many yet never-acknowledged talents is that of being a novelist. A novelist in the Latin American tradition of magic or “magical realism.”

      Magical realism is a style of fiction writing that combines a realistic view of the modern world while also adding some magical elements. Writer and literature professor Matthew Strecher defined magical realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”

      Magical realism has been often associated with Latin American authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. Now President Donald Trump has joined the rank of these illustrious authors. His assertion that there is a serious national crisis at the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico seems to challenge reality, making it too strange to believe.

      According to official data, the number of people caught trying to cross the southern border peaked at 1.6 million in 2006 and have been in decline since then. According to the Customs and Border Protection, there were 303,916 apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border for fiscal 2017, the lowest in more than 45 years.

      In magical realism, writers reveal the magical element in the real world and the supernatural blends smoothly with the familiar world. This was notably done by Gabriel García Márquez in his seminal work, One Hundred Years of Solitude. When President Trump says that he has already started building the wall in the border with Mexico he is bending reality. So far, Congress has only appropriated money for bollard fencing, replacement fencing, or secondary fencing. What started in California is bollard fencing that had already been planned in 2009.

    • Russia’s federal censor says Facebook and Twitter have responded to data-localization demands

      Last month, Russia’s federal censor, Roskomnadzor, sent formal letters to Facebook and Twitter, demanding that the social networks report on their compliance with Russian regulations requiring companies to store Russian users’ data on servers located inside Russia. If they refused, both companies faced small fines of 5,000 rubles ($75), though Roskomnadzor was careful to point out that it has no current plans to block the social-media giants.

      On January 18, the agency announced that it has received answers from both Facebook and Twitter. The agency says it is currently reviewing the information and will issue a statement on January 21.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Twitter Bug Exposed Android Users’ Private Tweets For 5 Years

      Twitter users who tweet from their Android devices should review their settings now — especially if they have tweeted at any time between 2014 and 2019. Apparently, a bug has been plaguing Twitter since 2014 which exposed the tweets of some Android users that were supposed to be private.

    • New GitHub authorization expands agency access to open source resources

      Government IT offices now have access to a vast range of open source software resources and developers since GitHub gained FedRAMP operating authority for its Enterprise Cloud, according to a new special report.

    • NY Court Tells NYPD It Can’t Hide Surveillance Of Protesters Behind A Glomar Response

      Another lawsuit over the NYPD’s surveillance of First Amendment-protected activities continues. Records requests by Black Lives Matter offshoot Millions March detailing surveillance methods used by the NYPD against protesters have been met with the usual opacity by the PD. It has done what it always does in cases like these: throw FOIL exemptions around and stonewall the hell out the request. The PD has also added a few Glomar responses to the mix, refusing to confirm or deny the existence of sought records.

      Fortunately, the judge presiding over the case — Arlene Bluth — isn’t in a charitable mood. Greeted with the NYPD’s incessant opacity, the judge has called bullshit — repeatedly — over the course of a 14-page ruling [PDF]. The plaintiffs are seeking records related to the NYPD’s use of surveillance tech targeting cellphones. It is well known the NYPD owns and has access to Stingray devices. What these records would show is the use of Stingrays in an untargeted manner — either to gather cellphone identifiers indiscriminately or simply to disrupt phone service during protests by funneling all phones in the area into the NYPD’s cell tower spoofer.

    • Decipher Podcast: Nate Cardozo

      Dennis Fisher talks with Nate Cardozo, senior information security counsel at the EFF, about a proposal from the UK’s spy agency, GCHQ, that would insert a backdoor into encrypted communications by adding a “ghost”, or invisible third party, to two-party conversations.

    • How The GDPR Is Still Ruining Christmas

      Late last year, I wrote about how the GDPR almost ruined Christmas in one German town, where it was determined that the annual tradition of kids putting their wishes on a tree in the center of town (to be fulfilled by local town officials) would violate the GDPR. Some people did figure out a “workaround” involving some pointless bureaucracy in getting parents to first sign “consent” forms to allow the town to do the same thing they’ve always done for years without a problem.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Attorney General Nominee Seems Willing To Let The DOJ Jail Journalists Over Published Leaks

      Jeff Sessions did everything the president wanted him to do: roll back civil rights investigations, get tough on immigration, amp up the War on Drugs, blame everyone but law enforcement for spikes in crime. It didn’t matter. The president shitcanned Sessions because he recused himself from the DOJ’s investigation of Trump’s Russia-related activities.

      His replacement, William Barr, is undergoing the formality of a confirmation hearing. It’s assumed there’s no way he can blow it. But he’s trying.

      Barr would be no improvement over the departed Sessions. Barr thinks marijuana should be illegal everywhere. He’s a fan of expanding executive power. As attorney general under George Bush Sr., he ordered phone companies to comply with DEA demands for millions of call records originating in the United States, laying the groundwork for the NSA’s Section 215 collections.

      He also doesn’t seem to care much for the First Amendment. As attorney general, he pushed for a Constitutional amendment banning the burning of American flags in the wake of a Supreme Court decision offering First Amendment protection for this form of expression.

      Thirty years later, Barr seems just as reluctant to respect the First Amendment. During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar lobbed what should have been a softball to the AG nominee. Moving on from the appalling murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by members of the Saudi government, Klobuchar asked if the Justice Department would jail journalists for doing their jobs.

    • Rochester Could Break Through the Thin Blue Line Protecting Abusive Police

      How the city could create New York’s first independent review board with the power to discipline officers.
      We know what happens when we allow police to police themselves. Too often, they escape punishment when they abuse the people they are supposed to protect. A lack of meaningful police accountability not only skirts justice, but people’s lives are in danger when officers who repeatedly harm civilians keep their jobs.

      The Rochester City Council in New York introduced a draft bill this week that addresses this fundamental problem. The bill would create a civilian-controlled Police Accountability Board with the power to investigate complaints from residents and to discipline officers who the board determines have abused people. Rochester would be the first municipality in New York State — and one of just a handful in the country — with a civilian board that has the power to discipline officers.

      Most civilian review boards only have the power to make recommendations for what consequences officers should face, with final disciplinary decisions usually left up to the chief of police. Rochester already has a civilian review board, but that board lacks the authority to conduct its own investigations or to impose punishments. This bill would change that.

      The Rochester bill is part of a national trend towards creating independent mechanisms for oversight and accountability of police. This trend encompasses calls for the appointment of special prosecutors to investigate police killings, inspector generals to oversee police policies, and even legislation that takes decisions about acquiring surveillance tools out of the hands of police departments.

    • Sex trainers Nastya Rybka and Alex Leslie allegedly arrested in Moscow airport

      The Bell reports that Anastasia Vashukevich, a model and sex trainer who goes by the name Nastya Rybka, and her colleague Alexander Kirillov, better known as Alex Leslie, have been arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. They and their travel companions had been deported to Russia from Thailand. While other sources have not yet confirmed The Bell’s report, the outlet has been in contact with the pair’s friends and relatives.

    • Russia’s Federal Protective Service wants to hide its procurement deals from prying eyes

      Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO) has drafted legislation that would grant it secrecy privileges awarded to the Defense Ministry and Federal Security Service, allowing the agency to classify its procurement contracts. If the law is adopted, the FSO could conduct these deals on closed electronic platforms, according to Vedomosti.

      A source in Russia’s intelligence community told the newspaper that federal officials believe current transparency levels could leak information about the technical equipment used to secure government communications. The deputy director of Transparency International Russia, however, warns that this could open the door to even more corruption.

    • Native American Communities Bear Brunt of Shutdown with Medicine Shortages & Suspended Food Programs

      We look at the widespread impact of the government shutdown on Native American communities, as the Indian Health Service goes understaffed and a federally funded food delivery program to Indian reservations has halted. Democratic members of Congress held a hearing Tuesday on the effects of the shutdown on health, education and employment in Native communities. We speak with Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

    • Russian police arrest two more human rights activists on suspicious drug charges

      A year after the suspicious arrest of Chechen human rights advocate Oyub Titiev, two activists connected to Alexey Navalny and Mikhail Khodorkovsky have been arrested in the city of Pskov, MBK Media reports. Leah Milushkina and her husband, Artyom Milushkin, have been charged with selling drugs in large quantities, their attorney Tatyana Martynova told MBK. Mediazona reports that Milushkina is the local coordinator of Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia movement in Pskov while Milushkin works in Navalny’s local headquarters.

    • Judge Acquits 3 Chicago Officers of Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

      A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, dismissing as just one perspective the shocking dashcam video of the black teenager’s death that led to protests, a federal investigation of the police department and the rare murder conviction of an officer.

      In casting off the prosecution’s entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected in October by jurors who convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

      The judge said the video showed only one viewpoint of the confrontation and that there was no indication the officers tried to hide evidence.

      [...]

      In her ruling, the judge rejected prosecution arguments that the video demonstrated officers were lying when they described McDonald as moving and posing a threat even after he was shot.

      “An officer could have reasonably believed an attack was imminent,” she said. “It was borne out in the video that McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground” and refused to relinquish a knife.

      The video appeared to show the teen collapsing in a heap after the first few shots and moving in large part because bullets kept striking his body for 10 more seconds.

    • Judge Acquits Cops in Laquan McDonald Cover-Up Trial

      When Police Officer Jason Van Dyke let loose a hail of gunfire on 17-year-old McDonald, murdering him in October of 2014, the police code of silence quickly sprang into action. Van Dyke’s partner, officers on the scene, investigating detectives, and their superior officers all collaborated to manufacture, record and promote a false story: that Van Dyke shot McDonald in an act of justified self-defense.

      Meanwhile, a video that revealed the lie behind the police’s cover story was kept secret by high-ranking city and county officials, including then Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, for more than a year — until it was released by a Cook County judge in November 2015 in the wake of the publication of an autopsy report that showed that McDonald had been shot 16 times.

      The reaction was seismic: Outraged people took to the streets, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly admitted that there was a police code of silence and Alvarez was defeated at the polls. Later, the Mayor’s Police Accountability Review Commission and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division each issued scathing condemnations of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) racist policies and practices.

      To top things off, Emmanuel recently announced he will not seek another term.

    • Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General

      Many Senate Democrats are throwing in the towel on the nomination of William Barr for Trump’s Attorney General (a prospect assured by Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, declaring his personal vote against Barr). Let’s ask why?

      One would think that Senate Democrats would be appalled at Barr’s long-time unyielding conduct and writings asserting that the President can start any wars he wants even if Congress votes against it! An example of this is the constitutionally undeclared criminal invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush. Barr was also George H.W. Bush’s Attorney General and has been a long-time defender of executive branch lawlessness.

      One would think that Barr’s insupportable drive for more corporate prisons and more mass incarceration would upset these Senators.

      One would think that Barr’s view of the separation of powers, which has meant separating Congress from its constitutional powers and handing them over to the “unitary presidency,” would alarm these Senators. (Didn’t James Madison believe that Congress would jealously guard its authority vis-à-vis any new emergence of a modern King George III?)

      One would think that Barr’s inflexible position giving Presidents—including the embattled Donald Trump—effective immunities for obstructing justice and from blocking ongoing investigations, including limitless pardons even of himself and his family, would infuriate the Democrats.

    • Strike! Barbara Ehrenreich Calls on TSA Workers to Walk Off Job in Protest of Government Shutdown

      The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is now on Day 27. As 800,000 workers continue to go without pay, federal employees around the country are rising up to demand an end to the shutdown, which has run public institutions ragged and left hundreds of thousands financially strapped. We speak with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the best-seller “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” She is calling for TSA workers around the country to strike.

    • The ‘Shameful’ Answer to #WheresMitch? Not Ending Shutdown, But Voting on Extremist Anti-Choice Bill

      Freshman members of Congress and others who have been demanding to know the whereabouts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days got their answer on Thursday, as McConnell held a Senate vote not on whether to reopen the government, but on a bill that would restrict abortion rights for low-income women.

      The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (S.109) would have permanently restricted federal funds from going to abortion care, codifying the Hyde Amendment so the Senate doesn’t have to pass it—as it has since 1976—in annual appropriations bills. The legislation would have also banned abortion care in federally funded medical facilities and barred healthcare plans subsidized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from covering abortions.

    • Center for American Progress, a Liberal Think Tank, Fires Two After Media Leaks

      Two staff members from The Center for American Progress (CAP), a leading Washington think tank, were fired amid concerns that they were involved in leaking internal emails to the media, The Intercept reported Wednesday. Other CAP staff, who spoke to The Intercept anonymously, believed these emails “reflected improper influence by the United Arab Emirates within the think tank.”

      The emails, which The Intercept says were not leaked by the fired employees, revealed that CAP staff members argued over how CAP should respond in a public statement to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and U.S. citizen who, according to a C.I.A. report, was killed on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

      Initially, according to The Intercept, CAP’s public statement both condemned the killing and called for specific consequences for Saudi Arabia. Then, as The Intercept reports, “Brian Katulis, a Gulf expert at CAP, objected to the specific consequences proposed in an email exchange with other national security staffers.” Demands for Saudi Arabia to face specific consequences as a result of its role in Khashoggi’s killing were cut from the statement, replaced with a general, milder request to “take additional steps to reassess” U.S.-Saudi relations.

    • Russian activist faces police charges for posting video on Facebook that shows her civic movement’s logo

      Police in Krasnodar are pressing misdemeanor charges against Yana Antonova, a pediatric surgeon and the regional coordinator for the “Open Russia” protest movement, because she shared a video on Facebook showing an appeal to the State Duma asking for federal subsidies to build 10 new schools in the city. What was the problem with the video? It featured Open Russia’s logo.

      According to Radio Liberty, Antonova is being charged with “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization” and faces a fine as high as 15,000 rubles ($225).

    • Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal

      Donald Trump comes under fire from the neoliberal establishment whenever he does something digestible. I am amazed the liberals are mad at him so often, considering 99.9% of the time he is doing something awful. Anytime Trump has a unique thought about the vicious imperialist structures, the crippling trade deals, or the draconian CIA, the neoliberal establishment loses their heads. Now Donald Trump, in spite of his nefarious history, is attempting to stop sex trafficking. This somehow is his greatest crime and “leftists”, “liberals” and “feminists” of all stripes are losing their heads.

      Donald Trump’s latest delinquency: The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, which puts 430 million in federal funds towards preventing human trafficking. I wrote about Donald Trump’s denial of asylum to domestic violence victims here. .On the Douglass act, one has to be happy that this prevention attempt is getting some much-needed funding. Domestic violence shelters and other government resources are already hurting under the government shutdown and through Trump’s budget cuts in general. If Trump will fund anything, it’s the police. But with no other alternative in sight, and the Democrats surely to blow it again to Trump in 2020, the Douglass act will save some lives.

      Now there is opposition to the bill by all sorts of people. The first argument against: free speech and a tyrannical government. I always wonder what people’s worst-case scenarios are for the big government complaints. Is your theoretical (hopefully, theoretical) right to buy a prostitute really more important than someone’s right not to be bought by you? I mean is the government really going to inflict something worse than ownership of another human being? Trafficking is already a dire situation. Sorry, we shouldn’t consider buying another human being to be an expression of free speech. Maybe the First Amendment believed that, but that was written by slaveholders. We should believe that buying another human being is wrong and we should know that the United States is willing to support it precisely because our society was founded on such principles of freedom that relied on ownership of others.

    • A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment

      The first Saturday of 2019 didn’t start well for Rahaf al-Qanun, the Saudi teen, who wanted to make a dash for freedom in Australia via Thailand.

      The forces of “order” blocked her path in the Thai capital.

      On the second Saturday, January 12, she landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Ontario. Chrystia Freeland, the foreign minister of Canada, was among those who welcomed her to her new homeland.

      What catapulted this unknown Saudi teen into stardom is an incredible story of freedom and its glorious victory with the help of Twitter, journalists and ordinary people with smartphones all over the world.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Sudden Vacancies At Some International Agencies, Industry Sees New Top Officials, Lawyers Engage In Firm-Hopping

      While the World Bank Group and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are looking for new leaders following the unexpected resignations of their heads, the International Telecommunication Union re-elected its secretary general. The European Patent Office got two new vice-chairs, and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) a new president, both starting in January. Associations for the creative industry and the pharmaceutical industry also elected new top officials, and lawyers continued to practice firm-hopping.

    • Trademarks

      • Supermacs Beats McDonalds To Have ‘Big Mac’ Trademark Cancelled In Europe

        You may be surprised to find that a search of our story archives involving fast-food giant McDonald’s returns pretty scant posts here at Techdirt. Regardless, the company is known to be quite protective on trademark matters, often times using the trademarks it holds to swat at legitimate competition, pretending at potential public confusion that doesn’t really exist. Given the size of the company’s legal war chest, these bullying efforts are typically successful.

        But not always. One victim of this bullying was Supermacs, an Irish fast-food chain with an appropriately Irish name. Supermacs has for years wanted to expand throughout Europe, but was largely unable to due to McDonald’s claiming that its trademark registration for “Big Mac”, the name of its famous sandwich, meant that any attempt by Supermacs to expand into Europe would cause public confusion. This is typically where the story would end. Instead, Supermacs went on the offensive and decided to try to get McDonald’s “Big Mac” trademark cancelled entirely so that it could no longer be wielded as a bully-stick. And, much to this writer’s surprise, Supermacs won.

      • EUIPO cancels McDonald’s ‘BIG MAC’ trade mark due to lack of genuine use

        Can the word EU trade mark (EUTM) ‘BIG MAC’ owned by McDonald’s be revoked for non-use? The answer is ‘yes’.

        The EUIPO Cancellation Division provided it further to an application for revocation filed by Irish company Supermac (Cancellation No 14 788 C).

    • Copyrights

      • Latest EU Copyright Directive Still Demands Internet Companies Wave Magic Wands

        The whole thing remains an utter disaster that is moving forward even as no one is left who really seems to support it. The public doesn’t want this shit. The big entertainment companies are now asking for Article 13 to be set aside. The big internet companies have always been against it. And yet it rolls ever forward, with a bunch of clueless, technically illiterate bureaucrats basically saying “well, if we just say big companies should do this without allowing any negative consequences to happen, surely they can figure it out…” and tossing it over the fence.

        This is not how sane policy is made. This is how you fuck up the internet.

      • Activists Publish ‘An Illegal Book?’ to Defend Popcorn-Time News Site in Court

        A seized domain name of a website that provided information about the Popcorn Time software, has resulted in an intriguing legal battle. Several organizations, including Electronic Frontier Norway informed a local court that the seizure went too far. To prove their point, EFN published “An illegal book?” which consists of a printout of the site in question.

      • Copyright’s Safe Harbors Preserve What We Love About the Internet

        How is the Internet different from what came before? We’ve had great art, music, film, and writing for far longer than we’ve had the World Wide Web. What we didn’t have were global conversations and collaborations that millions can participate in. The Internet has lowered barriers to participation in culture, politics, and communities of interest. Copyright’s safe harbors for intermediaries are essential to making this possible. But today, those safe harbors are under threat from laws like Article 13 of the EU’s proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. And some voices in the U.S. want to gut the safe harbors here.

        In the U.S., the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protect Internet companies of various kinds against the possibility of massive copyright infringement damages when one of their users copies creative work illegally. In return for that protection, Internet companies have to take some concrete steps, like adopting and enforcing a repeat infringer policy. Some companies—the ones that store user-uploaded content—have to register an agent to accept and act on takedown notices from rightsholders (the familiar “DMCA notices”). The law is explicit that Internet companies aren’t required to surveil everything uploaded by users to find possible copyright infringement. It also provides a counter-notice process for users to get non-infringing uploads put back online.

        This system is far from perfect. At EFF, we spend a lot of time calling out abuses of the DMCA notice and takedown regime—abuses that the law makes far too easy. We’ve also fought to make the penalties for improper takedowns a meaningful deterrent. But for all our criticism of the existing safe harbor, it is vital to preserving many of the things we all love about the Internet—especially the ease of participation that it enables.

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