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01.16.17

Links 16/1/2017: Linux 4.10 RC4, Linux Mint 18.1 ‘Serena’ KDE Edition Beta

Posted in News Roundup at 7:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Turn an old laptop into a Chromebook-Linux hybrid

    Common scenario: You buy a new laptop, thinking you’ll sell, donate or hand down the old one… but it never happens. Maybe you don’t want to deal with the hassles of Craigslist or Ebay, not to mention wiping all your data, reinstalling Windows and so on.

    Whatever the case, now it’s just taking up space. But it doesn’t have to: You can give that old laptop new life.

    With Linux, right? Wrong! I mean, yes, you could install Linux, which has always been the go-to option, but not everybody needs or wants the complexity of that operating system. For some, Chromium might be the better choice.

    Chromium is the OS that’s at the heart of Chromebooks — those fast-booting, cloud-powered devices that are so popular these days. Think about it: For whatever reason, no one buys Linux laptops. They buy Chromebooks.

    If you like the idea of giving your old system a Chromebook-like lease on life, good news: It’s fast, free and easy. And it’s not even permanent unless you want it to be.

  • When Peer Pressure Nukes Linux for Windows

    Several months ago, my 16-year-old grandson decided he wanted a powerful computer for gaming. I showed him Steam and some other stuff in Linux and he thought that looked good, so I started accumulating parts. If it was substantially more powerful than anything I have for myself, it was on the list. Sorry I don’t have the details list nearby, but it had a motherboard with a name I had heard, a fairly fast AMD processor with six cores, maxed out RAM, 1TB hard drive, video that took up two slots and had two fans, power supply you could use for welding, and a pair of 22″ monitors.

    I installed Mint 17.3 KDE in less than half an hour (the usual), including separate swap and home partitions (it’s a neurotic thing), setting wallpaper and the like, and doing whatever came to mind at the time. It ran flawlessly and I was happy, so I played with it a while. I really liked it. If I could think of a use, I’d build one for myself.

  • That Other Operating System Continues Its Decline

    The big winner is the Linux kernel. The vociferous opponents of GNU/Linux who haunt this blog can’t have it both ways. If GNU/Linux is not “GNU” and is Linux, then Android/Linux can’t be just Android. It’s Linux underneath.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • FLOSS Weekly 417: OpenHMD

      Fredrik Hultin is the Co-founder of the OpenHMD project (together with Jakob Bornecrantz). OpenHMD aims to provide a Free and Open Source API and drivers for immersive technology, such as head-mounted displays with built-in head tracking. The project’s aim is to implement support for as many devices as possible in a portable, cross-platform package.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.10-rc4

      Things are still looking fairly normal, and this is the usual weekly
      Sunday rc release. We’re up to rc4, and people are clearly starting to
      find the regressions. Good, good.

      it’s a slightly more random collection of fixes from last week: the
      bulk of it is still drivers (gpu, net, sound, usb stand out), and
      there’s the usual architecture work (but mostly just x86 this time
      around), but there’s a fair amount of fixes all over. Filesystems
      (xfs, btrfs, some core vfs), tooling (mostly perf), core mm,
      networking etc etc.

      This is also the point where I start hoping that the rc’s start
      shrinking. We’ll see how the tiny rc2 affects things – this may
      technically be rc4, but with that one almost dead week, it feels like
      rc3. But I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll have less next week.

      Regardless, go out and test. This was not a huge merge window, I think
      we’re in pretty good shape for people to dive in..

      Linus

    • Linux 4.10-rc4 Kernel Released

      The fourth weekly test release of the Linux 4.10 kernel is now available.

      For those not up to speed on Linux 4.10, see our Linux 4.10 feature overview. There is a lot of great work included like Nouveau atomic mode-setting, Nouveau boost support, AMD Zen/Ryzen work, new ARM board/platform support, EXT4/XFS DAX iomap support, ATA command priority support, Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0, and much more.

    • Linus Torvalds Announces Fourth Linux 4.10 Kernel Release Candidate, Get It Now

      It’s Sunday evening, again, and Linus Torvalds just made his weekly announcement to inform the community about the immediate availability for download of a new Release Candidate of the upcoming Linux 4.10 kernel.

      One more week has passed in our lives, but the development of the Linux kernel never stops, and we’re now seeing the release of fourth RC (Release Candidate) build of Linux kernel 4.10, which appears to be fairly normal, yet again, bringing only a collection of assorted bug fixes and improvements from last week.

    • Linux 4.9.4

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.9.4 kernel.

      All users of the 4.9 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.9.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.9.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:

      http://git.kernel.org/?p=linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-st…

    • Linux 4.4.43
    • Linux Kernel 4.9.4 Released with Various ARM/ARM64 and Networking Improvements

      Only three days after announcing the release of the third maintenance update to the Linux 4.9 kernel series, renowned kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman is now informing us about the availability of Linux kernel 4.9.4.

      If you were afraid that your patch did not land in Linux 4.9, which is currently the most advanced stable kernel branch available for GNU/Linux distributions, or if you thought that your device hasn’t yet received the right drivers, think again, because Linux kernel 4.9.4 is full of goodies. Yes, again, but this time the patch is a little smaller and fixes a total of 59 files, with 507 insertions and 205 deletions.

    • A Yet-To-Be-Merged Kernel Patch May Boost Kabylake Graphics In Some Cases
    • A Look At Where The P-State Linux Driver Does Bad Against CPUFreq, Clear Linux Tests

      I’m still running more benchmarks in investigating the Core i5 7600K Linux performance and with even its graphics performance being slower than Skylake. I fired up Clear Linux on this Kaby Lake system this weekend and it’s indeed faster than Ubuntu, though there still is some sort of fundamental issue at play with these new CPUs on Linux. But what is clear is that there are cases where the P-State CPU frequency scaling driver does perform very poorly over the mature, generic CPUFreq scaling driver.

    • The Linux Test Project has been released

      the Linux Test Project test suite stable release for *January 2017* has been released.

    • Graphics Stack

    • Benchmarks

      • A Look At The Huge Performance Boosts With Nouveau Mesa 17.0-devel On Maxwell

        Landing this week in Mesa 17.0-devel Git was OpenGL 4.3 for NVC0 Maxwell and a big performance boost as well for these GeForce GTX 750 / 900 series NVIDIA “Maxwell” graphics processors. Here are some before/after benchmarks of the performance improvements, which the patch cited as “1.5~3.5x better”, when testing a GeForce GTX 750 Ti and GTX 980.

      • Fresh Tests Of Intel Beignet OpenCL

        When firing up Intel’s Beignet OpenCL implementation on Clear Linux this weekend, I was surprised to see it was happily chugging along with many of our different CL benchmarks.

  • Applications

    • Top Software

      The number of open source applications and tools that are available on today’s popular operating systems is simply mind-blowing. They come in all forms. Small scripts and console tools that can be easily integrated into large projects, feature-rich applications that offer everything a complete solution, well designed tools, games that encourage real participation, and eye catching candy.

      Open source software holds many compelling advantages over proprietary software. Open source improves the quality of the code, keeps costs down, encourages innovation and collaboration, combined with superior security, freedom, flexibility, interoperability, business agility, and much more.

    • Kodi 17.0 “Krypton” Release Candidate 3 Updates Estuary Skin, Fixes More Bugs

      The wait is almost over, and you’ll finally be able to enjoy a much modern, improved, and full of new technologies Kodi media center on your PC or HTPC device, be it an Apple TV or Raspberry Pi.

      Martijn Kaijser announced the third Release Candidate (RC) development version for the Kodi 17.0 “Krypton” media center, and it looks to us like these pre-releases are getting smaller by the day, the RC3 build including only seven changes listed on the release notes attached to the official announcement.

    • Proprietary

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Wine-Staging 2.0-RC5 Improves Compatibility For Origin, GOG Galaxy & More

        Wine-Staging 2.0-RC5 was released on Sunday as the newest version of this experimental/testing Wine build. This time around there are some exciting new patches.

        On top of re-basing off Friday’s Wine 2.0-rc5 release and continuing to maintain quite a number of patches that haven’t yet made their way into mainline Wine, a few more patches were added. Upstream Wine is currently under a code freeze until the 2.0 release later this month but that doesn’t stop the Wine-Staging crew.

      • Release 2.0-rc5

        Wine Staging 2.0-rc5 improves the compatibility of various applications that require at least Windows Vista or Windows 7. This includes Origin, Uplay, GOG Galaxy and many more. Several bugs were fixed in the PE loader to support loading of packed executables with truncated headers and/or on-the-fly section decompression. If you are using the 64 bit version of Wine, you may also benefit from the memory manager improvements, which allow applications to reserve/allocate more than 32 GB of virtual memory. The memory allocations are now only constrained by resource limitations of the hardware / the operating system and no longer by an artificial design limit in Wine.

      • Wine Staging 2.0-rc5 released, better support for Origin, GOG Galaxy and more
    • Games

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Calligra 3.0 released

        A new wonderful era for the Calligra Suite has begun with the release of version 3.0.

        We have chosen to cut back on the number of applications. Krita has left us to be independent and although it was emotional it was also done with complete support from both sides. We are saying goodbye to Author, which never differentiated itself from Words. We also removed Brainstorm the purpose of which will be better fitted by a new application (nothing planned from our side). Flow and Stage has gone in this release but we intend to bring them back in the future.

      • Calligra 3.0 Officially Announced, Drops Some Apps, Ports To KF5/Qt5

        This six-year-old split from KOffice is finally living in the KDE Frameworks 5 and Qt5 world with the Calligra 3.0 release. Besides the porting to KF5/Qt5, Calligra 3.0 does away with Krita since it’s moved onto releasing as its own project, the Author e-book application was dropped since it never became much different from Words, and the Brainstorm note-taking app was droped. The Flow flowchart software and Stage presentation program were also dropped from Calligra 3.0 but they are expected to be brought back in the future, such as when fully-ported to KF5/Qt5.

      • Kirigami 2.0 Released, KDE’s Framework for Convergent Mobile and Desktop UIs

        After being in development for the past six months, KDE’s Kirigami 2.0 open-source UI (User Interface) framework has been officially released in its final, production-ready state.

        If memory recalls, the first public release of the Kirigami UI framework saw the light of day at the beginning of August last year, allowing early adopters to test drive KDE’s brand-new tool for creating beautiful, convergent user interfaces written in Qt for both mobile and desktop applications.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • My next EP will be released as a corrupted GPT image

        Endless OS is distributed as a compressed disk image, so you just write it to disk to install it. On first boot, it resizes itself to fill the whole disk. So, to “install” it to a file we decompress the image file, then extend it to the desired length. When booting, in principle we want to loopback-mount the image file and treat that as the root device. But there’s a problem: NTFS-3G, the most mature NTFS implementation for Linux, runs in userspace using FUSE. There are some practical problems arranging for the userspace processes to survive the transition out of the initramfs, but the bigger problem is that accessing a loopback-mounted image on an NTFS partition is slow, presumably because every disk access has an extra round-trip to userspace and back. Is there some way we can avoid this performance penalty?

      • This week in GTK+ – 31

        In this last week, the master branch of GTK+ has seen 52 commits, with 10254 lines added and 9466 lines removed.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • 4MParted 21 Disk Partitioning Live CD Gets Beta Release, Based on GParted 0.26.1

        4MLinux developer Zbigniew Konojacki is informing Softpedia today about the Beta release of his upcoming 4MParted 21.0 distribution, a small Live CD that you can use to partition disk drives without having to install any software application or script.

      • Q4OS 1.8.2, Orion

        New version 1.8.2 is based on the the most recent release of stable Debian Jessie 8.7, important security patches have been applied and core system packages have been updated. Q4OS Update manager has been rewritten from scratch to provide a robust and reliable tool for safe system upgrades. Other Q4OS specific fixes and under the hood improvements are delivered as usual. All the updates are immediately available for existing Q4OS users from the regular Q4OS repositories.

        Most attention is now focused on the development of the testing Q4OS ‘Scorpion’ version 2.2, based on Debian 9 Stretch. Q4OS 2.2 Scorpion continues to be under development so far, and it will stay as long as Debian Stretch will be testing, the release date is preliminarily scheduled at about the turn of April and May 2017. Q4OS ‘Scorpion’ will be supported at least five years from the official release date.

      • NuTyX 8.2.93 released
      • Linux Top 3: Parted Magic, Quirky and Ultimate Edition

        Parted Magic is a very niche Linux distribution that many users first discover when they’re trying to either re-partition a drive or recover data from an older system. The new Parted Magic 2017_01_08 release is an incremental update that follows the very large 2016_10_18 update that provided 800 updates.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Debian from 10,000 feet

        Many of you are big fans of S.W.O.T analysis, I am sure of that! :-) Technical competence is our strongest suit, but we have reached a size and sphere of influence which requires an increase in organisation.

        We all love our project and want to make sure Debian still shines in the next decades (and centuries!). One way to secure that goal is to identify elements/events/things which could put that goal at risk. To this end, we’ve organized a short S.W.O.T analysis session at DebConf16. Minutes of the meeting can be found here. I believe it is an interesting read and is useful for Debian old-timers as well as newcomers. It helps to convey a better understanding of the project’s status. For each item, we’ve tried to identify an action.

      • Debian Outs First Release Candidate of Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” Installer

        Work on the upcoming Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system is ongoing, and Debian Project’s Cyril Brulebois announced today the availability of the first Release Candidate of the Debian Installer for Stretch.

        A lot of things have been implemented since the eight, and last Alpha development release of the Debian Stretch Installer, but the most important changes outlined in the announcement for the RC1 build are the revert of the switch to merged-/usr as default setting for debootstrap and disablement of Debian Pure Blends support.

      • Debian Installer Stretch RC 1 release

        The Debian Installer team[1] is pleased to announce the first release candidate of the installer for Debian 9 “Stretch”.

      • Debian Installer Stretch RC 1 Arrives, The /usr Merge Has Been Postponed

        The Debian Installer is getting ready for the 9.0 “Stretch” release.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 “Jessie” Live & Installable ISOs Now Available for Download

        We reported the other day that the Debian Project released Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 “Jessie,” which is the seventh maintenance update to the current Debian Stable series of Linux-based computer operating systems.

        As promised, we told you then that installation mediums aren’t yet available for download, nor Live ISO images, which help users install the latest, most up-to-date version of Debian Linux on their PCs or laptops without having download hundreds of updates from the official software repositories.

      • Debian Project launches updated Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 with bug fixes

        An updated version of Debian, a popular Linux distribution is now available for users to download and install. According to the post on the Debian website by Debian Project, the new version is 8.7. This is the seventh update to the Debian eight distribution, and the update primarily focuses on fixing bugs and security problems. This update also includes some adjustments to fix serious problems present in the previous version.

      • Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, December 2016

        The number of sponsored hours did not increase but a new silver sponsor is in the process of joining. We are only missing another silver sponsor (or two to four bronze sponsors) to reach our objective of funding the equivalent of a full time position.

      • APK, images and other stuff.

        Also, I was pleased to see F-droid Verification Server as a sign of F-droid progress on reproducible builds effort – I hope these changes to diffoscope will help them!

      • Derivatives

        • Tails 2.10 Will Upgrade to Linux Kernel 4.8 and Tor 0.2.9, Add exFAT Support

          A new stable release of Tails, the beloved anonymous Live CD that helps you stay hidden online when navigating various websites on the Internet, is being prepared.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • MATE 1.16 Desktop Now Available for Ubuntu MATE 16.04, Here’s How to Install It

            The wait is finally over, as the MATE 1.16 desktop environment is now available for those who use the Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system or later versions, such as 16.04.1.

            After thoroughly testing them, Martin Wimpress and his team updated the PPA (Personal Package Archive) containing the MATE desktop packages for Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS, a long-term supported version of the officially recognized Ubuntu flavor built around the lightweight and customizable MATE desktop environment, to version 1.16.

            MATE 1.16.1 is, in fact, the current version of the desktop environment included in said PPA for Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS users, which they can install as we speak by using the installation instructions provided in the next paragraphs, and it looks like it was derived from those prepared for the upcoming Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” release.

          • Intel Haswell GPUs Now Support OpenGL 4.2 for Ubuntu Gamers in Padoka/Oibaf PPAs

            Ubuntu gamers relying upon their Intel Haswell graphics card series to play various games that support these GPUs will be happy to learn that the open-source Intel drivers now support OpenGL 4.2.

            Until today, the Intel i965 graphics drivers offered by the well-known Padoka and Oibaf PPAs for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) and Ubuntu 16.10 (Yakkety Yak) operating systems exposed only OpenGL 4.0 for Intel Haswell GPUs, thus support for some demanding games just wasn’t there.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Ultimate Edition 5.1 Linux OS Is Out, Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and Kernel 4.4

              After announcing the release of Ultimate Edition 5.0 Gamers Edition, an Ubuntu-based operating system designed for Linux gamers, last week, TheeMahn is now releasing Ultimate Edition 5.1.

            • Linux Mint 18.1 ‘Serena’ KDE Edition Beta is available for download now

              A Beta release for Linux Mint 18.1 ‘Serena’ KDE is here. There are already versions available featuring other desktop environments, such as Cinnamon, Mate, and Xfce. You’d think that would be enough, but no! Apparently a fourth edition is needed. Some people feel that a KDE version is a waste of resources, but either way, here we are.

              So what is new? The KDE Plasma 5.8 desktop environment is the star of the show — after all, if you do not want KDE, you wouldn’t choose this version. The shipping Linux kernel is 4.4.0-53, which is surprisingly outdated. Ubuntu-based operating systems are never known for being bleeding-edge, however.

            • Linux Mint 18.1 “Serena” KDE Gets a Beta Release, Ships with KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS

              After landing on the official download channels a few days ago, the Beta version of the upcoming Linux Mint 18.1 “Serena” KDE Edition operating system got today, January 16, 2017, an official announcement.

              The KDE Edition is the last in the new Linux Mint 18.1 “Serena” stable series to be published, and it was delayed a little bit because Clement Lefebvre and his team wanted it to ship with latest KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS desktop environment from the Kubuntu Backports PPA repository.

            • Linux AIO Ubuntu 16.10 — Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, and Xubuntu In One ISO

              Linux AIO is a multiboot ISO carrying different flavors of a single Linux distribution and eases you from the pain of keeping different bootable USBs. The latest Linux AIO Ubuntu 16.10 is now available for download in both 64-bit and 32-bit versions. It features various Ubuntu flavors including Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, and Xubuntu.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Google’s open-source Draco promises to squeeze richer 3D worlds into the web, gaming, and VR

    Google has published a set of open source libraries that should improve the storage and transmission of 3D graphics, which could help deliver more detailed 3D apps.

  • Why every business should consider an open source point of sale system

    Point of sale (POS) systems have come a long way from the days of simple cash registers that rang up purchases. Today, POS systems can be all-in-one solutions that include payment processing, inventory management, marketing tools, and more. Retailers can receive daily reports on their cash flow and labor costs, often from a mobile device.

    The POS is the lifeblood of a business, and that means you need to choose one carefully. There are a ton of options out there, but if you want to save money, adapt to changing business needs, and keep up with technological advances, you would be wise to consider an open source system. An open source POS, where the source code is exposed for your use, offers significant advantages over a proprietary system that keeps its code rigidly under wraps.

  • Events

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Target CIO explains how DevOps took root inside the retail giant [Ed: Don’t ever make/give Target any payments, certainly not digitally. They use a lot of Microsoft Mindows i.e. back doors]

      When I arrived at Target in mid-2015, I was excited to find an active grassroots DevOps and agile movement in pockets of the technology team. We’d already seen some great results with our digital teams and our enterprise architecture group moving to agile and DevOps. And we had a lot of engineers and team members who were hungry to start working this way.

    • OpenStack Vendor Mirantis Offers Managed OpenContrail SDN Services

      The open-source OpenContrail Software Defined Networking (SDN) technology is one of the most widely used and deployed networking approaches in the OpenStack cloud market. That’s a fact that is not lost on OpenStack vendor Mirantis, which is why today Mirantis is announcing commercial support for OpenContrail.

    • Cloud Kindergarten preps students for OpenStack careers

      Cloud Kindergarten began this year to offer students a chance to learn about OpenStack and how to work with it. The students taking part in this program have access to Devstack so that they can learn about different commands and how to best utilize them in practice. Students are also able to create a tenant or network with routers and host an application like WordPress with databases and web servers.

    • OpenStack private cloud: benefits, challenges and what the future holds

      Many businesses in the UK have turned to private cloud to run mission-critical applications, with 80 percent of senior IT professionals having moved, or planning to move, to the OpenStack private cloud.

      The impact and adoption rates of this “cloud of choice” were explored in a recent study by SUSE, looking into the key benefits of private cloud and the effect its growth is having on UK businesses.

    • Navigating OpenStack: community, release cycles and events

      Hopefully last week we piqued your interest in a career path in OpenStack. Like any other open source project, if you’re going to use it—professionally or personally—it’s important to understand its community and design/release patterns.

    • Containers on the CERN cloud

      We have recently made the Container-Engine-as-a-Service (Magnum) available in production at CERN as part of the CERN IT department services for the LHC experiments and other CERN communities. This gives the OpenStack cloud users Kubernetes, Mesos and Docker Swarm on demand within the accounting, quota and project permissions structures already implemented for virtual machines.

    • Effective OpenStack contribution: Seven things to avoid at all cost

      There are numerous blogs and resources for the new and aspiring OpenStack contributor, providing tips, listing what to do. Here are seven things to avoid if you want to be an effective OpenStack contributor.

    • Tips for contributors, managing containers at CERN, and more OpenStack news

      Are you interested in keeping track of what is happening in the open source cloud? Opensource.com is your source for news in OpenStack, the open source cloud infrastructure project.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GIMP’s Progress In 2016, What’s Ahead For 2017

      GIMP contributor Alexandre Prokoudine published a lengthy blog post today looking back at what were the accomplishments for this open-source image manipulation program in 2016 and some of what’s ahead for the program this year.

      [...]

      Among the work still being done before GIMP 2.10 is released includes cleaning up libgimp, changing linear/gamma-corrected workflows, and 16/32-bit per color channel support, a new color management implementation, and more. GIMP 2.10 will hopefully ship later in 2017.

    • How To Install The Latest GIMP 2.9 Development Build on Ubuntu
    • What To Expect In GIMP 2.10

      The GIMP is our favorite image editing app for Linux, and this year it’s set to get even better. The development team behind the hugely popular open-source project this week shared word about ‘what’s next for GIMP‘ in 2017.

    • AMD HSA IL / BRIG Front-End Still Hoping To Get Into GCC 7

      For many months now there’s been work on an AMD HSA IL front-end for GCC with supporting the BRIG binary form of the Heterogeneous System Architecture Intermediate Language (HSA IL). It’s getting late into GCC 7 development and onwards to its final development stage while this new front-end has yet to be merged.

      Developer Pekka Jääskeläinen has been trying to get in the finishing reviews and changes for getting approval to land this BRIG front-end into the GNU Compiler Collection. It’s a big addition and with GCC 7 soon just focusing on wrong-code fixes, bug fixes, and documentation fixes starting on 19 January, there would be just a few days left to land this new front-end for GCC 7 to avoid having to wait until next year for it to debut in stable with GCC 8.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Can academic faculty members teach with Wikipedia?

        Since 2010, 29,000 students have completed the Wiki Ed program. They have added 25 million words to Wikipedia, or the equivalent of 85,000 printed pages of content. This is 66% of the total words in the last print edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. When Wiki Ed students are most active, they are contributing 10% of all the content being added to underdeveloped, academic content areas on Wikipedia.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Can RISC-V – Linux of Microprocessors – Start an Open Hardware Renaissance?

        I share the hope with many people that we will soon have access to modern, capable devices powered by both open hardware AND software. There have been advancements in recent years and more hardware is being opened up, but the microprocessors in our pc’s and other devices are stuck running one of the dominant, closed Instruction Set Architectures. RISC-V aims to fix this.

  • Programming/Development

    • Rcpp 0.12.9: Next round

      Yesterday afternoon, the nineth update in the 0.12.* series of Rcpp made it to the CRAN network for GNU R. Windows binaries have by now been generated; and the package was updated in Debian too. This 0.12.9 release follows the 0.12.0 release from late July, the 0.12.1 release in September, the 0.12.2 release in November, the 0.12.3 release in January, the 0.12.4 release in March, the 0.12.5 release in May, the 0.12.6 release in July, the 0.12.7 release in September, and the 0.12.8 release in November — making it the thirteenth release at the steady bi-montly release frequency.

      Rcpp has become the most popular way of enhancing GNU R with C or C++ code. As of today, 906 packages on CRAN depend on Rcpp for making analytical code go faster and further. That is up by sixthythree packages over the two months since the last release — or about a package a day!

Leftovers

  • Hardware

    • MSI X99A RAIDER Plays Fine With Linux

      This shouldn’t be a big surprise though given the Intel X99 chipset is now rather mature and in the past I’ve successfully tested the MSI X99A WORKSTATION and X99S SLI PLUS motherboards on Linux. The X99A RAIDER is lower cost than these other MSI X99 motherboards I’ve tested, which led me in its direction, and then sticking with MSI due to the success with these other boards and MSI being a supporter of Phoronix and encouraging our Linux hardware testing compared to some other vendors.

    • First 3.5-inch Kaby Lake SBC reaches market

      Axiomtek’s 3.5-inch CAPA500 SBC taps LGA1151-ready CPUs from Intel’s 7th and 6th Generations, and offers PCIe, dual GbE, and optional “ZIO” expansion.

      Axiomtek’s CAPA500 is the first 3.5-inch form-factor SBC that we’ve seen that supports Intel’s latest 7th Generation “Kaby Lake” processors. Kaby Lake is similar enough to the 6th Gen “Skylake” family, sharing 14nm fabrication, Intel Gen 9 Graphics, and other features, to enable the CAPA500 to support both 7th and 6th Gen Core i7/i5/i3 CPUs as long as they use an LGA1151 socket. Advantech’s Kaby Lake based AIMB-205 Mini-ITX board supports the same socket. The CAPA500 ships with an Intel H110 chipset, and a Q170 is optional.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Veterans’ Corner: Contaminated water at Camp Lejeune

      The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to expand disability compensation eligibility for Veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to Camp Lejeune.

      Water sources at Camp Lejeune were contaminated from 1953-1987 with industrial solvents that are correlated with certain health conditions. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has proposed presumptions of service connection for certain conditions associated with these chemicals.

      The drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene and other petroleum contaminants from leaking storage tanks. It has been determined that prolonged exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of certain health conditions.

    • Medicare for All should replace Obamacare: Column

      Even before the election of Donald Trump, Obamacare was in trouble. Premiums on the government exchanges for individual policies are projected to increase an average of 11% next year, nearly four times the increase for employer-based family policies. And some large insurers are pulling out of that market altogether in parts of the country.

      Those who buy insurance on the exchanges often find that even with subsidies, they can’t afford to use the insurance because of mounting deductibles (about $6,000 for individual Bronze plans). It has become clear that health insurance is not the same as health care.

  • Security

    • Microsoft slates end to security bulletins in February [iophk: “further obscuring”; Ed: See this]

      Microsoft next month will stop issuing detailed security bulletins, which for nearly 20 years have provided individual users and IT professionals information about vulnerabilities and their patches.

      One patching expert crossed his fingers that Microsoft would make good on its pledge to publish the same information when it switches to a new online database. “I’m on the fence right now,” said Chris Goettl, product manager with patch management vendor Shavlik, of the demise of bulletins. “We’ll have to see [the database] in February before we know how well Microsoft has done [keeping its promise].”

    • Reflected XSS through AngularJS sandbox bypass causes password exposure of McDonald users

      By abusing an insecure cryptographic storage vulnerability (link) and a reflected server cross-site-scripting vulnerability (link) it is possible to steal and decrypt the password from a McDonald’s user. Besides that, other personal details like the user’s name, address & contact details can be stolen too.

    • DragonFlyBSD Installer Updated To Support UEFI System Setup

      DragonFlyBSD has been working on its (U)EFI support and with the latest Git code its installer now has basic UEFI support.

    • Monday’s security updates
    • What does security and USB-C have in common?

      I’ve decided to create yet another security analogy! You can’t tell, but I’m very excited to do this. One of my long standing complaints about security is there are basically no good analogies that make sense. We always try to talk about auto safety, or food safety, or maybe building security, how about pollution. There’s always some sort of existing real world scenario we try warp and twist in a way so we can tell a security story that makes sense. So far they’ve all failed. The analogy always starts out strong, then something happens that makes everything fall apart. I imagine a big part of this is because security is really new, but it’s also really hard to understand. It’s just not something humans are good at understanding.

      [...]

      The TL;DR is essentially the world of USB-C cables is sort of a modern day wild west. There’s no way to really tell which ones are good and which ones are bad, so there are some people who test the cables. It’s nothing official, they’re basically volunteers doing this in their free time. Their feedback is literally the only real way to decide which cables are good and which are bad. That’s sort of crazy if you think about it.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Taiwan’s President Takes a ‘Walk on the International Stage’ While Trump Baits Beijing

      The U.S. President-elect’s insistence that recognition of the “one China” policy is negotiable has infuriated China

      Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has risked Beijing’s wrath by remarking that her trip to Central America via the U.S. has allowed “Taiwan to walk on the international stage,” just a day after President-elect Donald Trump reiterated that American recognition of the “one China” principle was up for negotiation.

      China and Taiwan effectively split in 1949 following a civil war, though Beijing considers the self-governing island of 25 million a breakaway province with which it must one day be reunified — by force if necessary. Chinese officials are extremely wary of any statement — like Tsai’s — that might give the impression that Taiwan is an independent nation.

    • Donald Trump warned Beijing will ‘take off the gloves’ if he continues Taiwan agenda, says Chinese state media

      President-elect Donald Trump has been warned he is “playing with fire” and that Beijing will “take off the gloves” if he continues to provoke China’s government by suggesting the “One China” policy could change.

      Mr Trump once again suggested the “One China” principle, in which the US recognises the self-governing island of Taiwan as part of China, is up for negotiation in a recent interview.

      Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the President-elect said: “Everything is under negotiation, including One China”. China’s foreign ministry responded to the comments by stating that the “One China” principle is the foundation of US ties and is non-negotiable.

    • Yemen death toll has reached 10,000, UN says

      At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen, according to the United Nations, which is urging both sides to come together to end nearly two years of conflict.

      The UN’s humanitarian affairs office said the figure, which is a low estimate, was reached using data from health facilities that have kept track of the victims of the war, which has largely been ignored by the international community.

      The figure does not include those recorded by hospitals and health centres as having died, which is likely to be most of the combatants on both sides of the conflict.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange: Scapegoat or villain?

      One of the most banal tropes of Hollywood blockbuster trailers is about one man pitted against an all-powerful enemy, and ultimately prevailing. The figure of the lone ranger battling on with his back to the wall is a popular figure of American pop culture. How ironic, then, that this very figure seems to have become the bane of the country’s righteous political establishment.

      So one man, holed up in the embassy of a tiny Latin American nation, a man who hasn’t seen much sunlight in four years, who is under round-the-clock surveillance, and is subject to arbitrary denial of Internet access, has managed to swing the presidential election of the most powerful country in the world in a direction it ought not to have gone. Or so we are told by influential sections of the Western press.

    • Media beware, your credibility is all you have: Column

      BuzzFeed News drew a tongue-lashing from President-elect Donald Trump this week for publishing a 35-page bombshell document with inflammatory allegations about his ties to Russia.

      Disclosing the Trump dossier — with its errors and unproven claims — reflects BuzzFeed’s principles “to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers,” editor Ben Smith said in a memo to his staff. He said it also reflects “how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”

      But many journalists and critics aren’t so sure. “It’s never been acceptable to publish rumor and innuendo,” Margaret Sullivan wrote in The Washington Post. The Atlantic’s David Graham, meanwhile, worried about the ethics of publishing specific claims other reporters had tried to verify but could not.

      Once again, it comes down to credibility — the only real currency journalism has.

    • Social media, “WikiLeaks” and false news in the 18th century: Thomas Jefferson and the “Mazzei letter”

      In today’s public discourse, nothing is more super-charged than social media, “WikiLeaks” and false news.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Japan criticised after whale slaughtered in Australian waters

      Australia’s federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, has criticised Japan following the release of photographs allegedly showing the slaughtering of protected whales inside Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary.

      Frydenberg’s statement came as conservationists called for tougher action from Australia.

      “The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Frydenberg said.

    • Green MEP calls on police chief to investigate ‘threats’ against anti-drilling campaigners

      Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, has written to Chief Constable Giles York of Sussex Police urging the force to investigate ‘harassment’ claims made by various anti-drilling campaigners.

      In November, Keith visited constituents at the peaceful anti-drilling protection camp in Leith Hill, Dorking before meeting with the Keep Billingshurst Frack Free campaign group. During the meetings, and in subsequent correspondence, campaigners reported escalating levels of ‘stalking’ and ‘harassment’ by individuals they allege to be shareholders of the drilling company, UK Oil and Gas (UKOG).

  • Finance

    • A Republican Privatization of Social Security Is a Real Possibility

      Social Security was among the most important issues heading into the 2016 election. Yet, interestingly enough, it wasn’t paid very much attention during the debates, which is surprising when you consider that 61% of current retired beneficiaries count on Social Security to provide at least half of their monthly income.

      The reason Social Security is causing such concern among retirees and working Americans is an expected budgetary shortfall in the program that’s being caused by the retirement of baby boomers from the workforce and the relatively steady lengthening of life expectancies since the mid-1960s. According to the Social Security Board of Trustees, the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Trust is slated to exhaust its more than $2.8 trillion in spare cash by 2034. Should Congress fail to find a way to generate more revenue, cut benefits, or enact some combination of the two, the Trustees report estimates that a 21% across-the-board benefit cut would be needed to sustain Social Security through the year 2090. For those aforementioned reliant seniors, a 21% cut in their benefits is a terrifying reality.

      During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump offered one simple solution to the American public: that he would leave Social Security alone. Trump opined that it was the duty of congressional leaders to fulfill their promise to retired workers of a steady monthly benefit check.

    • World’s eight richest men own as much as poorest 50%

      The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released on Monday.

      Presenting its findings on the dawn of the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Oxfam says the gap between the very rich and poor is far greater than just a year ago. It’s urging leaders to do more than pay lip-service to the problem.

      If not, it warns, public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow and lead to more seismic political changes akin to last year’s election of Donald Trump as US president and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

    • The Coming Crusade Against Public Education

      Betsy DeVos, whose nomination for secretary of education will be reviewed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, has never taught in a classroom. She’s never worked in a school administration, nor in a state education system, nor has she studied pedagogy. She’s never been to public school, and neither have her children. She has no record on higher education, except as an investor in the student-loan industry, which the Department of Education oversees. As Massachusetts Senator (and HELP Committee member) Elizabeth Warren wrote recently, there is “no precedent” for an education secretary with DeVos’s lack of experience in public education.

    • Sterling Options Signal More Turmoil as May Speech, Ruling Loom

      A measure of anticipated swings for the pound climbed to the highest in three months before U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech on Brexit plans Tuesday and a court ruling this month on whether the British leader or Parliament carries the power to invoke the exit.

    • World’s eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

      The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth.

      In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.

      The development charity called for a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

    • [Old] Gates Foundation accused of ‘dangerously skewing’ aid priorities by promoting ‘corporate globalisation’

      They are among the richest people on earth, have won plaudits for their fight to eradicate some of the world’s deadliest and prolific killers, and donated billions to better educate and feed the poorest on the planet.

      Despite this, Bill and Melinda Gates are facing calls for their philanthropic Foundation, through which they have donated billions worldwide, to be subject to an international investigation, according to a controversial new report.

      Far from a “neutral charitable strategy”, the Gates Foundation is about benefiting big business, especially in agriculture and health, through its “ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation,” according to the report published by the campaign group Global Justice Now. Its influence is “dangerously skewing” aid priorities, the group says.

      [...]

      The report is critical of the close working relations between the Foundation and major international pharmaceutical corporations and points out many of the same firms have been criticised for their over-pricing of life-saving vaccines. It warns that philanthropic influence is skewing health priorities “towards the interests of wealthy donors (vaccines) rather than resilient health systems”.

      [...]

      It accuses the Gates Foundation of promoting specific priorities through agriculture grants, some of which undermine the interests of small farmers. These include promoting industrial agriculture, use of chemical fertilisers and expensive, patented seeds, and a focus on genetically modified seeds. “Much of the Foundation’s work appears to bypass local knowledge,” the report claims.

      The criticism echoes the accusations made by the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva who called the Gates Foundation the “greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.”

      [...]

      It calls for the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development to carry out an inquiry into the foundation’s work on top of a British Parliamentary inquiry.

    • The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative

      The Clinton Foundation’s long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 elections provoked critics to allege conflicts of interests. Clinton partisans defended the organization’s charitable work, and dismissed claims that it served as a means for the Clintons to sell off access, market themselves on the paid speech circuit, and elevate their brand as Hillary Clinton campaigned for the presidency.

      But as soon as Clinton lost the election, many of the criticisms directed toward the Clinton Foundation were reaffirmed. Foreign governments began pulling out of annual donations, signaling the organization’s clout was predicated on donor access to the Clintons, rather than its philanthropic work. In November, the Australian government confirmed it “has not renewed any of its partnerships with the scandal-plagued Clinton Foundation, effectively ending 10 years of taxpayer-funded contributions worth more than $88 million.” The government of Norway also drastically reduced their annual donations, which reached $20 million a year in 2015.

    • Looking forward to Theresa May’s speech on Brexit

      This week’s speech is expected to say that the United Kingdom is prepared to leave the single market. But, as I have set out on this blog and at the FT, the departure of the United Kingdom from the single market is the necessary implication of the positions which the prime minister has admitted to holding.

      Perhaps the speech will reveal something about how the United Kingdom is seeking to attain the objectives. Perhaps there will be some statements about still-unknown issues such as the United Kingdom’s position on a customs union.

      Or perhaps it will be a sequence of slogans and ambitions, without any substance on how they will be converted into reality.

      More important may be the interview from the chancellor of the exchequer Phillip Hammond with a German newspaper. He often seems to be the only grown-up in the cabinet.

    • Swedish minister ‘shocked’ by xenophobia towards Swedes in UK

      The Swedish government wants the issue of the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British people settled elsewhere in Europe to be resolved urgently and removed from the Brexit negotiating table as quickly as possible.

      Ann Linde, the Swedish minister for EU affairs and trade, said she was shocked by the uncertainty and xenophobia experienced by Swedes in the UK since the referendum.

      She said the future of an estimated 100,000 Swedish people in Britain and 30,000 British people in Sweden, had to be urgently dealt with. She said: “This is one of the very most important issues and we have to solve it in a very constructive way in the first part of the negotiations.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • French progressives dare to hope as maverick Macron surges in polls

      From the stage in a packed concert hall, France’s youngest presidential candidate looked up at the thousands of people who had come to witness his trademark thunderous speaking style.

      “Never accept those who promote exclusion, hatred or closing in on ourselves!” Emmanuel Macron urged the audience in Lille, a city surrounded by France’s leftwing northern heartlands that are increasingly turning to Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National. “When the Front National promises to restore security points at the border, they are lying,” he said.

    • Donald Trump v. the Spooks

      In that corner, we have a deal-making, billionaire “man of the people” who, to European sensibilities at least, reputedly espouses some of the madder domestic obsessions and yet has seemed to offer hope to many aggrieved Americans. But it is his professed position on building a rapprochement with Russia and cooperating with Moscow to sort out the Syrian mess that caught my attention and that of many other independent commentators internationally.

      In the opposite corner, Trump’s opponents have pushed the CIA into the ring to deliver the knock-out blow, but this has yet to land. Despite jab after jab, Trump keeps evading the blows and comes rattling back against all odds. One has to admire the guy’s footwork.

      So who are the opponents ranged behind the CIA, yelling encouragement through the ropes? The obvious culprits include the U.S. military-industrial complex, whose corporate bottom line relies on an era of unending war. As justification for extracting billions – even trillions – of dollars from American taxpayers, there was a need for frightening villains, such as Al Qaeda and even more so, the head choppers of ISIS. However, since the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015, those villains no longer packed as scary a punch, so a more enduring villain, like Emmanuel Goldstein, the principal enemy of the state in George Orwell’s 1984, was required. Russia was the obvious new choice, the old favorite from the Cold War playbook.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Calling Something Hate: The New Form Of Silencing

      See how easy it is to tar someone as an unacceptable person?

      They say something you don’t like.

      Or maybe they’re in your way for some reason — perhaps keeping you from having an entirely clear path to the top.

      “J’accuse!” time!

      I think this is becoming — and will continue to become — an extremely convenient way to go after people who’ve done nothing wrong…well, that is, in a society that values civil liberties, including free speech, enough to protect them.

    • ‘Telly viewers hate censorship more than swearing’, say academics

      Television viewers are less offended by swear words than censorship when it comes to regulators, academics have found.

      Researchers from Leicester and Birmingham City universities travelled the country – and Germany – to study people watching daytime TV.

      They watched programmes reported to be offensive or problematic and discussed these with the viewers.

      Dr Ranjana Das, from Leicester’s School of Media, Communication and Sociology, and Dr Anne Graefer, from the Birmingham School of Media, found swear words, bad language or flashy lighting were rarely considered worth complaints to regulators.

    • IMDb Draws Support In Fight Against California Censorship Law

      A California law requiring Amazon’s IMDb to scrub actors’ ages from its site could pave the way for other new measures aimed at squelching truthful information, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says in new court papers.

      “If it is constitutional for the government to suppress IMDb’s public site from reporting age information, there will be virtually no limit to the government’s ability to suppress the reporting of many other truthful facts by many other sources,” the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argues in a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week. “In an age where the media is struggling to combat the pernicious effects of false news, the truth should not be suppressed.”

      The organization, along with a host of legal scholars, is backing IMDb’s effort to block enforcement of the new law, which was passed last year at the urging of the Screen Actors Guild and took effect on January 1.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Obama administration signs off on wider data-sharing for NSA

      The Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) has signed off on new rules to let the National Security Agency (NSA) share globally intercepted personal information with the country’s other 16 intelligence agencies, before it applies privacy protection to or minimizes the raw data.

      Or, as Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), put it in an interview with the New York Times, 17 intelligence agencies are now going to be “rooting… through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant”.

      The new rules mean that the FBI, the CIA, the DEA, and intelligence agencies of the US military’s branches and more, will be able to search through raw signals intelligence (SIGINT): intercepted signals that include all manner of people’s communications, be it via satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, as well as messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

    • Obama Expands NSA Spying. Attack against Democratic Rights
    • Barack Obama Allowed NSA to Share Surveillance Data With All Government Intelligence Agencies

      Barack Obama, the outgoing US president, allowed the NSA (National Security Agency) to share surveillance data with all government security and intelligence agencies. The new rules were signed by Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General, on January 3, 2017. There are 16 government security and intelligence agencies in total, some of them are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

    • White House Approves New Rules for Sharing of Raw Intelligence Data

      President Obama last week approved a change in the way the National Security Agency shares raw signals intelligence data with the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, a shift that privacy experts worry will erode the civil liberties of Americans.

    • Pardon Snowden Campaign Delivers Over One Million Signatures to Obama

      With less than a week left of Obama’s presidency, a coalition of organizations has collected more than a million signatures on a petition urging Obama to issue a full pardon to Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who revealed the size and scope of the surveillance conducted by the NSA and other federal agencies. Snowden (shown) fled the country and has lived in exile in Russia since May of 2013. If pardoned, he could return to American soil a hero to many.

    • Records show timesheet falsifications at NSA

      The National Security Agency’s internal watchdog has found more than 100 cases in five years in which civilian employees and contractors falsely claimed to have been at work.

      Details about the cases were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Baltimore Sun (http://bsun.md/2iuZO9g ). An NSA spokesman says the incidents cost the agency almost $3.5 million, though about 80 percent of the money lost to the fraud has been recovered.

    • Amazon snapped up an AI security startup for around $20 million

      Amazon has acquired a San Diego security startup called Harvest.ai for around $20 million (£17 million), TechCrunch reports.

      The acquisition was reportedly made through Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud services group.

      Founded by two former NSA employees, Harvest.ai has developed technology that can help companies to find and stop targeted attacks on their data.

    • 3Apple, please help to save private e-mail encryption

      After the latest Mac OS upgrade (Sierra) – GPG encryption of mail doesn’t work. Apparently, the GPGTools-people need to do a lot of reverse engineering. And as they kindly offer the world encryption for free their resources are limited.

      This might lead to people turning away from e-mail encryption, at a point in time where more people ought to take it up. This should be an argument strong enough for Apple to give the GPG-team a helping hand.

    • When It Comes to Police Surveillance, Local Politics Matter

      On Friday, the Boston Police Department said that it would not go ahead with a controversial plan to spend $1.4 million dollars on software used to monitor social media activity.

      “After reviewing the submitted proposals I felt that the technology that was presented exceeds the needs of our department,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said in a statement.

      The announcement comes after a sustained campaign led by the American Civil Liberties Union, Fight for the Future, and other community organizers to defeat the proposal, which was first made public in late October.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Obama’s Legacy: A Historic War On Whistleblowers

      As President Barack Obama soared into office eight years ago, he promised, on his first day in the White House, to launch “a new era of open government.”

      “The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears,” Obama said in a Jan. 21, 2009 memorandum.

      Obama was urging the attorney general to issue new guidelines protecting The Freedom of Information Act. “In the face of doubt,” Obama proclaimed, “openness prevails.”

    • Sick Muslim migrant gang that broke girl’s jaw accused of REGULAR ‘Sharia patrol’ attacks

      The girl, named only as Leonie, heads up the gang of six migrants who are purported to have carried out several Sharia-inspired attacks across the European capital of Vienna.

      Leonie, 15, was among the six Muslim youths from Chechnya who allegedly beat up a teenage girl, named as Patricia, in the centre of the Austrian capital city.

      Patricia, a Polish schoolgirl, was falsely accused of pulling off a Muslim woman’s headscarf.

      The attack, which left her with a broken jaw in two places, shocked Austria when footage of the beating went viral.

    • Pastor vandalized for fourth time after anti-mosque remarks

      A pastor who has been outspoken about his opposition to construction of a mosque in Bayonne is the victim of vandalism for the fourth time.

      [...]

      Basile says he asked the men in charge if they believed in Sharia law and they refused to answer. Their lawyer wouldn’t let them answer.

    • Saudi Arabia cleric warns of ‘depravity’ of cinema, concerts

      Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric has warned of the “depravity” of cinemas and music concerts, saying they would corrupt morals if allowed in the ultra-conservative kingdom. “We know that singing concerts and cinemas are a depravity,” Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said in a television interview cited by Sabq news website late Friday. The head of the Saudi supreme council of clerics was responding to a question about the plans of the kingdom’s General Authority for Entertainment to licence concerts and study opening cinemas.

    • Saudi Arabia religious chief says legalising cinemas risks ‘mixing of sexes’ and ‘rotten’ influence

      Saudi Arabia’s religious authority has said the legalisation of cinemas and concerts could lead to the “mixing of sexes” and “atheistic or rotten” influences in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

      Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh made the statements on his weekly television programme as the Saudi government prepares to begin cultural and economic reforms known as Vision 2030.

      The head of the General Authority for Entertainment, Amr al-Madani has raised the potential for opening cinemas and holding concerts as early as this year.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • In Final Speech, FCC Chief Tom Wheeler Warns GOP Not to Kill Net Neutrality

      Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered an impassioned defense of US net neutrality protections on Friday, one week before Republicans who have vowed to roll back the policy are set to take control of the agency.

      In his final public speech as the nation’s top telecom regulator, Wheeler warned that Republican efforts to weaken FCC rules ensuring that all internet content is treated equally will harm consumers, stifle online innovation, and threaten broadband industry competition.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Patents and know-how power new GE move into China battery market

      The fact that GE is willing to eventually part with the concerned patents altogether, if the price is right, is a good sign that this particular technology is a decent candidate for an external partnership in China. It signals that not having control of the relevant IP is an eventuality the business is prepared to face – to the extent that it has put an approximate dollar price on. GE does appear to know its way around China’s patent sales market – this blog reported last year on its transfer of 131 LED-related patents to Beijing-based display maker BOE Technology.

    • New Book Highlights IP Trade Law Flexibilities For Public Health

      “Private Patents and Public Health: Changing intellectual property rules for access to medicines” by Ellen ’t Hoen, an authoritative public health advocate who previously led the global Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) Access to Essential Medicines Campaign, and the Medicines Patent Pool.

      Ellen ‘t Hoen is a member of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Policies and Management, and a researcher at the University Medical Centre at the University of Groningen, Netherlands.

    • Copyrights

      • Don’t Go Back on the Deal – IFLA, EIFL and EBLIDA call on EU Member States to Deliver on Marrakesh Treaty Ratification

        As IFLA and partner organisations have underlined, this is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people with print disabilities – who cannot pick up and read a book in the same way as everyone else – both in Europe and beyond.

      • Understanding the fundamental, irreconcilable conflict between copyright enforcement and privacy of communication

        Enforcement of copyright is fundamentally, conceptually incompatible with privacy of correspondence. You can’t have the sealed and private letter in existence at the same time as you enforce copyright, once communications have gone digital. This is the reason you see VPN companies and other privacy advocates fight copyright enforcement and copyright law: because society has to choose between privacy and copyright, and basic civil liberties are considered more important than one particular entertainment business model.

        Why is a VPN company interested in copyright law? Why does a VPN company even question copyright law expansion and enforcement? Why do the most appreciated internet operators talk back a lot to the copyright industry – and are appreciated by their customers for that very reason? Why does the net generation generally say, as a blanket statement, that copyright law just has no place in an Internet world?

        Is it, as some would claim, because BitTorrent users make up a majority of the paying customers of a VPN company or an internet operator? That the net generation just wants everything for free? That the VPN company profits from protecting criminals? You know, there are people who would actually claim this with a straight face, apparently serious. The facts are clear on the matter, though: BitTorrent usage is neither a majority reason for using a VPN, nor are heavy-bandwidth users particularly profitable. And the net generation has no illusion about everything-for-free being sustainable or even desirable – but they do defend their liberty ferociously.

‘Financial Director’ Publishes Fake News About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

More of these foolish self-fulfilling prophecy attempts

Dave Croston in Financial Director

Summary: Response to some of the latest UPC propaganda, which strives to misinform Financial Directors so as to enrich the author and his firm

TEAM UPC and the EPO‘s management keep lying to us all about the UPC. Sometimes the media outside the echo chamber-like circles of the patent microcosm starts to repeat the lies, whereupon we need to step in and issue corrections.

The above ‘article’ was promoted via the patent microcosm in Twitter and it says UPC “will also be more appealing to SMEs.”

“Sometimes the media outside the echo chamber-like circles of the patent microcosm starts to repeat the lies, whereupon we need to step in and issue corrections.”Josep Maria Pujals says “excepto en España. Aquí vamos sobrados…”

I told him that the UPC would be harmful to ALL SMEs, not just Spanish ones, citing some among plenty of evidence of it. It is a Big Lie (in the classic sense) that UPC is good for SMEs. Large corporations, their lobbyists, and the patent microcosm keep spreading these lies and occasionally we see politicians repeating that lie (probably due to gullibility).

“I’d better say [about] UPC,” Josep Maria Pujals told me, “Any company infringing other’s (also sme’s) patents can be accused before one Court of infringement & receive an injunction” (exactly!).

“First, it’s not happening (the UPC). Second, not good for SMEs.”The above article was composed by Dave Croston, who by his own description is a “partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers,” i.e. part of the patent microcosm. Are publications not fact-checking what they publish? Is Financial Director publishing fake news now, on behalf of people seeking to profit from Big Lies? The UPC isn’t even going to happen in 2017. It’s the same old broken record we have been hearing every year.

If Financial Director fails to do quality control when publishing items, then we’ll need to help them. First, it’s not happening (the UPC). Second, not good for SMEs. Don’t just become a platform for the patent microcosm if the goal is to properly inform Financial Directors.

Independent and Untainted Web Sites About Patents Are Still Few and Rare

Posted in Patents at 8:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Commentary about news sources that we rely on, as well as the known pitfalls or the vested interests deeply ingrained in them

TECHRIGHTS started in 2006 primarily as a campaigning site. Our first campaign was about patents and about Novell. We have since then never been funded or affiliated with anyone. We are not perfect, but nobody out there is able to claim that we’re compromised by some monetary interests. I actually left my job as a writer (for a large publisher) the following year, after I had experienced editorial censorship that impeded my freedom of expression and inevitably led to an unhealthy dose of self-censorship (could not quite criticise the advertisers/sponsors).

“We are not perfect, but nobody out there is able to claim that we’re compromised by some monetary interests.”It’s no secret that a lot of news sites are funded (salaried) by venture capitalists who want something in return (like selling of an agenda for some particular client/s, setup of ‘events’ for lobbying etc.) and sites of patent lawyers are all about shameless self-promotion (even IP Kat resorted to that). They’re not reader-funded and definitely not independent. In the case of sites like IP Watch, there seems to be relatively real independence; Patently-O, on the other hand, seems indebted or beholden to the funding sources of Crouch’s university and the drivers of his research. There is no true independence there. As for the UK-based IAM and MIP (Managing IP), just look where their subscribers and partners come from; they are both megaphones of the patent microcosm and occasionally the EPO‘s too. In Patent Docs, Donald Zuhn’s (Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP) choice of top patent stories for last year omits cases where software patents are rejected and instead focuses on the opposite, i.e. more of the usual. Also see MIP’s “Cases to look out for in 2017 – Japan and China” (it’s actually behind a paywall, so only the patent microcosm is likely to read it all). As we repeatedly said here before, a lot of the corporate media is still steered by the patent microcosm whenever it covers patent issues/news; it either quotes it extensively, consults it extensively (for supposed fact-checking), or simply hands over the platform to it (guest posts, occasional columns and so on).

Firmly established bias connected to the income sources (strings) cannot be dismissed, ignored or downplayed. It’s a crucial factor and it’s almost everywhere. Some sites, such as Wikileaks, rely on donations from the public ; media partners too provide a cushion. Here is how they present their list of media partners (past and present):

Wikileaks partners

Not everyone out there likes Wikileaks. It is thoroughly demonised by corporate media which deems it “competition” and envies its breadth of sources, troves of material etc. In our view, in spite of the witch-hunt, Wikileaks has a lot of credibility because it provides original material with which to back its claims. We have operated similarly for over a decade, but never did we receive the same scale or magnitude of leaks.

Going back to patents, while we’re reading very closely a lot of sites that cover the topic, very few of them we can actually trust for objective assessment. Scepticism is sorely required. Whitewashing of software patents from The Economist came just days ago in an article about Blockchain. Reality evades the author [1, 2, 3], who appears to conflate patenting with “success” or good news. Also see today’s article from the Nigerian media, titled “Things Bitcoin Companies Try To Patent”. Here is how it starts (name-dropping big brands, which have had nothing to do with Bitcon’s inception or popularisation): “Amazon. AT&T. Bank of America. Goldman Sachs. IBM. JPMorgan. Mastercard. R3. Western Union. Verizon. These are just a few of the corporations which have filed blockchain-related patent applications worldwide. But, what about bitcoin-specific patent applications, not blockchain?”

“We previously highlighted the use of terms like “death squad” (PTAB), “kill” (invalidate), and “survive” (not invalidated) in relation to patents. These are the terms made up by the patent microcosm, which typically inverses the narrative of aggression.”All that they hope to accomplish here is protectionism and control over disruptive technology that they had nothing to do with in the first place. It’s like the strategy of buying one’s competitor, often idealogical competitor (like buying the “organic” or “generic” competitor so as to limit people’s ability to escape unethical monopolies).

The use of language sure can be misleading. We previously highlighted the use of terms like “death squad” (PTAB), “kill” (invalidate), and “survive” (not invalidated) in relation to patents. These are the terms made up by the patent microcosm, which typically inverses the narrative of aggression. The defendant magically becomes a “killer”, the aggressor becomes the victim, and scientists are basically a “death squad”. George Orwell would have loved it!

In IAM, in this recent self-promotion (we assumed it’s paid for), the word “damages” is chosen as a truth-inverting euphemism; when the party damaged is one that must pay a ‘fine’ (settlement) why must we accept the narrative when the plaintiff is the ‘poor baby’? Such is the inherent bias of IAM, where the “T” word (troll) is rarely used at all.

“Since virtually none of these agents and clients use encryption, and as mass surveillance has become so pervasive, privilege has become merely an illusion for them. It’s marketing.”Now, let’s turn our attention to some recent articles from Patently-O, which some people out there consider to be some sort of yardstick of objectivity because it’s supposedly “academic” or “scholarly” (not that it rules out financial strings or conditions for employment/grants). We wrote about this subject 6 years ago in “Subjective Subject Matter”. This one Patently-O post says that “the Federal Circuit has reversed — finding that the examiner did not have (or at least explain) a substantial ‘reason to believe’ that the prior art inherently taught the functional limitation of being configured to reach a bone.”

Prior art is key to rejection of patent applications (i.e. patent quality); the very fact that one would go as high as the Federal Circuit to dispute an examiner’s judgment is rather worrisome.

On another day, Patently-O called for help with a job. To quote: “I’m writing a paper on privilege (patent agent, and patent lawyers who are in-house but not licensed in the state they practice in). In the course of doing so , I’ve been reading these state statutes and also thinking about them. I compiled a list and thought I’d share it. The ABA’s first, since it compiles them, but many links are broken and so the correct ones follow. So, if you don’t see your state, go to the ABA site. If you see your state, use this link.”

Well, “privilege” alludes to privacy in this case. Since virtually none of these agents and clients use encryption, and as mass surveillance has become so pervasive, privilege has become merely an illusion for them. It’s marketing.

“Patent maximalism keeps them and their occupation relevant.”Patently-O also entertained the possibility of lack of loyalty, or a patent agent knowing something that constitutes a conflict of interest. To quote: “Suppose you’re representing a party to a lawsuit, and you have no conflicts, but you need to take discovery of a client, or a former client and the lawsuit is related to your work for your former client. While your representation of the party in the suit isn’t adverse, some courts hold that taking discovery is adverse, and so if it’s taken from a current client, that’s a conflict, and if taken from a former client, that’s adverse and can’t be done if the matter for the former client is “substantially related” to the discovery requests.”

It comes to show just how problematic this whole occupation might be. And let’s not forget that lawyers like to plagiarise legal documents or reuse their own, i.e. using the work done for a former client to make shortcuts in the next (templates, copy-paste and so on).

Last but not least, consider this PTAB article from Patently-O. “In this case,” it says, “the patentee ImmunoGen won its case before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) with a judgment that the challenged claims are not obvious. U.S. Patent No. 8,337,856 Phigenix appealed, but the court here has dismissed the case for lack of standing – holding that the challenger-appellant failed provide “sufficient proof establishing that it has suffered an injury in fact.””

We wrote about this on Sunday afternoon, noting that PTAB remains strong in enforcing patent quality — something which the patent microcosm sure likes to deny.

“The majority of sites provide some information or links to information, but their analysis tends to fall short because it’s basically marketing or lobbying wrapped up (or disguised) as “news”.”Today or last night, Patently-O highlighted a criticism of patent maximalism. It’s titled “Has the Academy Led Patent Law Astray?”

“In the article,” Patently-O says, “Barnett primarily focuses on the idea of a patent thicket and whether these patent thickets have inhibited downstream innovation. Barnett concludes: “Without a secure expectation of injunctive relief and compensatory damages, false prophecies of too many patents may result in too little innovation.” Of course this conclusion also rests upon weak empirical ground.””

We still get the impression that Patently-O opposes these views, based on what it has been writing over the past half a decade. It’s not hard to see the vested interests of the writers there. Patent maximalism keeps them and their occupation relevant.

One last example of bias comes from this new article, courtesy of a patent maximalism site, promoted by an advocate of software patents in Europe (he profits from it). It says that the “patent-eligibility jurisprudence under Section 101 and Alice is a model of inconsistency,” which is untrue. The author, Charles Bieneman (patent microcosm, obviously), is attempting to impose alternatives to Alice — those that would make software easier to patent. He basically does what David Kappos is now paid to do at the behest of companies like IBM and Microsoft.

We often sound negative and critical of many if not most things we cite. Well, when it comes to patents, it’s just so hard to find objective sources (there used to be Groklaw). The majority of sites provide some information or links to information, but their analysis tends to fall short because it’s basically marketing or lobbying wrapped up (or disguised) as “news”. Great caution is therefore imperative.

The 20% Rule: Patent Trolling Suffers Double-Digit Declines and Patent Troll Technicolor is Collapsing

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related:

Technicolor logo

Summary: Significant demise or total catastrophe for the modus operandi (method) of going after companies with a pile of patents and threats of litigation

Published not too long ago was a sort of eulogy for patent trolls (“Number of New Patent Cases in the US Fell 25% Last Year, Thanks in Part to the Demise of Software Patent Trolls”). They’re not doing too well. Some of the biggest ones even collapse or resort to massive layoffs. Not that these people ever produced anything anyway, other than threatening legal letters…

Today we deal with Technicolor (covered here before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]; it was close to Novell). Benjamin Henrion told me “lots of their boxes runs GPL code without publishing sources.” That’s a serious licence violation which highlights Technicolor’s hypocrisy.

Anyway, Europe’s lesser known patent troll (“licensing”) firm Technicolor is also dying or at least struggling, based on one of its fans, IAM ‘magazine’. To quote this Sunday’s report from IAM’s editor:

Technicolor CEO Frederic Rose has probably not had the best of weekends. On Thursday, the Paris-based entertainment technology company issued a warning that EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) for financial year 2016 is likely to come in at €565 million – significantly less than the €600 million to €635 million that had been anticipated at the end of the third quarter. The shortfall has been caused almost entirely by lower sales than expected of set top boxes in the company’s Connected Home division. On Friday the markets reacted with a sell-off: the company’s share price fell by close to 20%.

However, the news was not entirely bleak. While Technicolor as a whole has failed to deliver the results it was supposed to, its technology licensing operation had a spectacular year producing EBITDA of €190 million – a record amount and a truly noteworthy achievement given a slump in income from the MPEG LA patent pool. In Q4 alone, the patent licensing business – under the stewardship of chief IP officer Arvin Patel – generated revenues of more than $70 million, thanks in part to the conclusion of a series of new deals. That’s quite a performance, albeit one that was trailed at the end of Technicolor’s first half.

We recently saw claims that the EPO was operating loss of €145,000,000 — a claim we were never able to verify because we lack accounting expertise. But either way, if our interpretation of the above is correct, as “the company’s share price fell by close to 20%” we can expect a similar decline in employment (same in Intellectual Ventures, which fired 20% of its staff a couple of years ago). Technicolor is said to employ over 10,000 people (according to Wikipedia anyway), but having reinvented itself as somewhat of a troll, the company does not deserve to exist anymore. It’s a parasite and a burden on society, not just in Europe.

US Supreme Court Did Not End Apple’s Patent Disputes Over Android (Linux), More Cases Imminent

Posted in Apple, Courtroom, Patents, Samsung at 6:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

US Supreme Court and scales

Summary: An overview of some very recent news regarding the highest court in the United States, which has been dealing with cases that can determine the fate of Free/Open Source software in an age of patent uncertainty and patent thickets surrounding mobility

SEVERAL days ago we became aware of “Apple’s motion for a permanent injunction against Samsung for infringing upon three software patents.”

This has been covered by quite a few Apple-leaning sites and mainstream news sites, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]. This article by Dennis Crouch of Patently-O said:

In a one-paragraph order, the Federal Circuit has vacated its prior design patent damages determination in Samsung v. Apple following the Supreme Court’s 2016 reversal. The appeal is reinstated, and new briefs will now be filed. (Federal Circuit Docket No. 14-1335).

Apple’s design patents cover various ornamental designs applied to the iPhone and infringing Samsung Galaxy devices. Samsung was found to infringe because it “sells … [an] article of manufacture to which such design … has been applied.” 35 U.S.C. 289. The statute calls for for the infringer to be “liable to the owner [of the patent] to the extent of his total profits.” In its original decision, the Federal Circuit held that “total profits” referred to Samsung’s total profits on its infringing phones – i.e., total profits associated with the article of manufacture to which the design has been applied.

The US Supreme Court was recently mentioned in relation to other cases. It will take on patents of reasonably large companies. “Today,” Patently-O wrote last week, “the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two dueling petitions involving the Federal Circuit’s 2015 interpretation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009.”

This was also covered by Natalie Rahhal in New York. She said that the “dispute between Amgen and Sandoz over aspects of the so-called patent dance outlined in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act was granted cert by the US Supreme Court” (SCOTUS).

“If patents are supposed to be in the interest of the public, then why deny ill people access to treatment which they can afford?”Writing from New York, again in relation to a SCOTUS, “Natalie Rahhal analyses the arguments of the amicus briefs filed in Lee v Tam, ahead of oral arguments in the case involving disparaging trade marks at the US Supreme Court on January 18,” according to this from MIP. This is not about patents, but the oral argument is imminent (2 days from now).

Looking outside the US for high-profile cases, there is also this case of Fujifilm v AbbVie (UK), which several sites have covered this month [1, 2] because “[g]eneric companies can seek court declarations that their own products are old or obvious in patent law terms under certain circumstances, the England & Wales Court of Appeal has ruled,” to quote MIP.

In Canada, the Supreme Court might soon hear this case where AstraZeneca is attempting to block generics. To quote MIP again: “The court on November heard arguments in AstraZeneca Canada v Apotex. The case involves AstraZeneca Canada’s patent for Nexium (Esomeprazole), a pharmaceutical product used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease. AstraZeneca attempted to block Apotex from bringing a generic drug to the market. The Federal Court found that the promised utility of Nexium had not been adequately proven at the time of filing. AstaZeneca appealed to the Supreme Court.”

“2017 promises to be rather interesting, especially because later this week Trump gets inaugurated and he can thereafter cause a lot of damage to patent reform.”Suffice to say, we support generic medicine. If patents are supposed to be in the interest of the public, then why deny ill people access to treatment which they can afford?

2017 promises to be rather interesting, especially because later this week Trump gets inaugurated and he can thereafter cause a lot of damage to patent reform. His policies and appointments tend to serve the richest people, not ill and poor people.

01.15.17

Links 15/1/2017: Switching From OS X to GNU/Linux, Debian 8.7 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 12:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • CC4 – Linux – A Brief Introduction

    Here I’ve given a speech concerning the topic of Linux, it’s benefits and where it stands today, with a little bit of history.

  • Some improbable 2017 predictions [Older, no longer behind paywall]

    Another important single point of failure is Android. It has brought a lot of freedom to the mobile device world, but it is still a company-controlled project that is not entirely free and, by some measures at least, is becoming less free over time. A shift of emphasis at Google could easily push Android more in the proprietary direction. Meanwhile, the end of CyanogenMod has, temporarily, brought about the loss of our most successful community-oriented Android derivative.

    The good news is that the efforts to bring vendor kernels closer to the mainline will bear some fruit this year, making it easier to run systems that, if not fully free, are more free than before. Lineage OS, rising from the ashes of CyanogenMod, should help to ensure the availability of alternative Android builds. But it seems likely that efforts to provide free software at the higher levels of the stack (microG, for example) will languish.

  • Desktop

    • Why I switched from OS X to GNU/Linux

      After I was done with my studies at the university I wanted to work for some company which worked with Open Source, I started at Pelagicore, where I still work. There we are creating custom Linux distributions for car manufacturers, we do UI work, we write Linux drivers, Linux middleware and so on. Because we work with Linux it is much more convinient to run Linux nativelly for developement too. At Pelagicore (almosc) all developers work on Linux desktops and laptops, I felt that I fit right in with my ThinkPad. And this was also why I used my iMac less and less, everybody around me was using Linux, it became cumbersome to do the overhead to get stuff running on the iMac which I already had running at work and on my laptop on Linux.

      I started with Ubuntu, but quite fast switched to Debian testing with Gnome 3 because I learned about how Canonical treats everyone, their users (the [Amazon problem (http://www.zdnet.com/article/shuttleworth-defends-ubuntu-linux-integrating-amazon/) with Unity Dash search results, problems with their Intellectual Property Policy, etc.) It also helped that there was Jeremiah, who evangalizes debian day in day out at work.

      In between I wanted to try out Arch Linux so I installed it on my ThinkPad, and man this was a performance boost, it felt like a new machine in comperison to Ubuntu. Nowadays I run Arch at work too. For stuff which doesn’t work, like some specific version of Yocto, I wrap it into a docker container with a Ubuntu image for compatibility.

    • Mintbox Mini Pro computer with Linux Mint now available for $395

      The Mintbox Mini Pro is a tiny desktop computer with a fanless design for silent operation, a low-power AMD processor, 8GB of RAM, 120GB of solid state storage, and Linux Mint 18 software pre-installed.

      It measures about 4.3″ x 3.3″ x 0,9″ and has a metal case made from zinc and aluminum.

      First introduced in September, the MintBox Mini Pro is now available for purchase for $395.

    • Librem 13 coreboot report – January 12, 2017

      Hello again Purists! I’ve made some progress on the coreboot port to the Librem 13 v1 hardware.

  • Server

    • Top 10 Linux Server Distributions of 2017

      You know that Linux is a hot data center server. You know it can save you money in licensing and maintenance costs. But that still leaves the question of what your best options are for Linux as a server operating system.

      We’ve researched, crunched the numbers and put dozens of Linux distros through their paces to compile our latest list of the top ten Linux server distributions (aka “Linux server distros”) — some of which you may not be aware.

      The following characteristics, in no particular order, qualified a Linux server distro for inclusion in this list: ease of installation and use, cost, available commercial support and data center reliability.

      Without further ado, here are the top 10 Linux server operating systems for 2017.

    • A Web Service Written in Pure Bash.

      The service itself is currently running on a Ubuntu 16.10 droplet on DigitalOcean. To expose my service I needed to open a connection with the outside world and initially played with netcat as it’s preinstalled on most *nix machines. This task wasn’t familiar to me at all, but I couldn’t read the incoming request and I couldn’t handle two users connecting at the same time. I explored inetd which lacked of documentation beyond the man page. Continuing with my research I found xinetd which is a more secure version of inetd. I also found a lot more sufficient documentation and user guides on creating a service. After installing xinetd I began building a primitive version of my pure bash service called beeroclock.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Deloitte Blockchain Lab Opens in NYC

      Here’s another sign that blockchain is becoming big business.

      Deloitte today announced the formation of a blockchain lab in the heart of New York City’s financial district in what the global audit and consultancy firm expects will be a “make or break” year the technology. The lab is home to more than 20 developers and designers and will work with Deloitte teams abroad as well as over a dozen of the company’s technology partners.

      Open now and dubbed the Americas Blockchain Lab at Deloitte, the new practice will help drive the development of blockchains solutions for financial services firms, from proofs of concepts to ready-to-integrate solutions, stated the company.

      “Financial institutions have the power and ability to move blockchain to the next level,” said Eric Piscini, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, in a statement. “To get there, companies will need to move away from churning out proofs of concept and begin producing and implementing solutions.”

    • Graphics Stack

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Google Code-in draws to a close — students finish your final task by January 16, 2017 at 09:00 (PST)

        Mentors, you have until January 18, 2017 at 09:00 (PST) to evaluate your student’s work. Please get that done before the deadline, so that admins don’t have to judge the student work.

      • Mycroft Plasmoid for KDE Plasma 5
      • Plasma 5.9 Beta Kicks off 2017 in Style.

        Thursday, 12 January 2017. Today KDE releases the beta of this year’s first Plasma feature update, Plasma 5.9. While this release brings many exciting new features to your desktop, we’ll continue to provide bugfixes to Plasma 5.8 LTS.

      • The hype is great: WikiToLearn India Conf2017 is almost here!

        In less than two weeks WikiToLearn India Conf2017 is about to happen. We are extremely happy because this is the first big international event entirely dedicated to WikiToLearn. We have to thank the members of our community who are working hard to provide you this amazing event. For sure, the best thing about this conference is the great variety of speakers: Ruphy is flying from Italy to India to attend the conference and give a talk about WTL. For this event we have speakers lined up from Mediawiki, KDE and Mozilla Community. Several projects and ideas will meet at WTL India Conf2017 and this is simply amazing for us! The entire event will be recorded and videos will be uploaded online: you won’t miss any talk!

      • Fixing old stuff

        On FreeBSD, Qt4 is still a thing — for instance, for the KDE4 desktop that is still the latest full-KDE experience you can get from the official packages. And although that software is pretty old, the base system still evolves. FreeBSD 9 has been put to rest, and with it all the GCC-based FreeBSD systems. That frees us from having to deal with GCC and Clang at the same time, and we can generally patch things in just one way (usually towards more-modern C++). But the base system also evolves “out from under” older software. There’s an effort to update the base system compiler (for FreeBSD 12) to Clang 4.0 (sometime soon-ish), and that means that our older C++ code is being exposed to a newer, pickier, compiler.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Intro To Netrunner Desktop 17.01 GNU/Linux for Beginners

        This review of Netrunner Desktop 17.01 GNU/Linux is intended for end users and beginners. Netrunner is a desktop oriented operating system, ships with complete daily-usage desktop applications, and full multimedia codecs support. It means once the users install Netrunner they do not need to install anything anymore for all daily works. In this article you will find 12 points of review, download links, and some notes at the end. Enjoy it.

      • MX Linux MX-16 Metamorphosis – Winds of change

        MX Linux MX-16 Metamorphosis is a very decent distribution. It’s a small product, not very well known, and probably not your first home choice when it comes to Linux. But then, despite its humble upbringing, it does offer a powerful punch. You get all the goodies out of the box, and except for some Bluetooth issues and less-than-trivial customization, the slate is spotless. Music, phones, speed, battery life, fun, all there.

        Of course, the question is, can MX Linux sustain this record. If we look back, there were some rough patches, a bit of identity crisis, and the existential question of quality, the same journey that Xubuntu underwent. But then it kind of peaked and degraded some recently. Will MX Linux follow the same path? The last few years were good, with a steady, consistent improvement on all fronts. Then again, I thought Xubuntu was invincible, too.

        For the time being, predicting the future remains tricky. However, here and now, MX-16 is a great choice for a lightweight desktop. Xfce has come a long way, and you get all the essentials you expect from a home system. It’s all there, plus good looks, plus speed that rivals anything out there, among the best battery life numbers, great stability, and even some extra unique features like the live session save and MX Tools. A most worthy combo. All in all, 9.5/10. Warmly recommended for testing and sampling.

    • New Releases

      • Devil-Linux 1.8.0-rc2 released

        Devil-Linux 1.8.0-rc2 has been released! This is a major overhaul of Devil-Linux. Most programs and libraries have been updated and unmaintained ones have been removed. The main file system has been switched to squashfs, to further reduce the iso size. See the changelog for additional details.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • openSUSE Tumbleweed – Review of the Week 2017/02

        I hope you all ended up well fed and healthy in the new year. For the last few weeks we have seen quite a slow pace for Tumbleweed, just as pre-announced in my last review of the year 2016. We can surely expect an increased pace again as people from all around the world resume their regular life rhythms. For completeness sake I will cover in this weeks’ review not only this week, but also the few snapshots since my last review. That means, we cover 8 snapshots: from 2016: 1216, 1217, 1219, 1222 and 1226 and from 2017: 0104, 0109 and 0110. Sadly, 0111 and 0112 ran into some issues on openQA – but the issues are to most parts in the testing framework, not the product (from what we know). But not being able to fully confirm it, I did not feel comfortable releasing them into the wild onto you. After all, I know some of you are still having issues with the kernel 4.9 series (but good new on that part is on the horizon). 0112 might still cut it, if we solve the openQA issues in time.

      • Forget Ubuntu, now OpenSuse Linux comes to Windows 10

        If you have been following Techworm, you will know that you can run Ubuntu Apps on Windows using Bash. Microsoft brought the fun and power of Linux to Windows 10 with Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). This allowed the Windows 10 users to run Bash on Ubuntu on Windows 10 and enjoy Ubuntu Apps without having to install the Ubuntu distro separately.

      • You can now install SUSE Linux distribution inside WSL on Windows 10
      • It’s Now Possible to Use openSUSE Inside Windows 10, Here’s How to Install It
    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Updated Debian 8: 8.7 released

        The Debian project is pleased to announce the seventh update of its stable distribution Debian 8 (codename “jessie”). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories were already published separately and are referenced where available.

        Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian 8 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old “jessie” CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to-date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated.

      • Debian 8.7 Jessie Released
      • Debian 8.7 released

        This update adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with adjustments for serious problems.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 Released

        The Debian Project has released the seventh update of Debian 8 Jessie. This release ships with tons of security updates, bug fixes, and updated packages. The existing users of Debian 8 need to point the apt package tool to one of the updated Debian mirrors and get the update. The new installation media and ISO images are yet to be published.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 Released With New Features and 85 Security Updates
      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • TedPage: The Case for Ubuntu Phone

            What I find most interesting thing about this discussion is that it is the original reason that Google bought Android. They were concerned that with Apple controlling the smartphone market they’d be in a position to damage Google’s ability to compete in services. They were right. But instead of opening it up to competition (a competition that certainly at the time and even today they’re likely to win) they decided to lock down Android with their own services. So now we see in places like China where Google services are limited there is no way for Android to win, only forks that use a different set of integrations. One has to wonder if Ubuntu Phone existed earlier whether Google would have bought Android, while Ubuntu Phone competes with Android it doesn’t pose any threat to Google’s core businesses.

            It is always a failure to try and convince people to change their patterns and devices just for the sake of change. Early adopters are people who enjoy that, but not the majority of people. This means that we need to be an order of magnitude better, which is a pretty high bar to set, but one I enjoy working towards. I think that Ubuntu Phone has the fundamental DNA to win in this race.

          • new Ubuntu Terminal snap – tabs and tiled view on Ubuntu 16.04 Unity 8
          • The Case for Ubuntu Phone: Flexibility for Mobile Networks

            Canonical engineer Ted Gould has put the case for Ubuntu Phone, arguing that mobile carriers will appreciate the ‘flexibility’ to bundle apps and services.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Baidu released artificial intelligence operating system DuerOS

    At this year’s CES show, Baidu released its artificial intelligence operating system system DuerOS, also announced at home with small fish to reach cooperation, small fish at home is the first equipped with Baidu DuerOS artificial intelligence manufacturers. Baidu said that this is the first time the introduction of dialogue type artificial intelligence operating system, Baidu is an important strategic product of artificial intelligence. DuerOS emphasizes the interactive nature of voice conversations through natural language. At the same time with the cloud of the brain, can always learn evolution, become more intelligent.

  • Intel Open-Sources BigDL, Distributed Deep Learning Library for Apache Spark

    Intel open-sources BigDL, a distributed deep learning library that runs on Apache Spark. It leverages existing Spark clusters to run deep learning computations and simplifies the data loading from big datasets stored in Hadoop.

    Tests show a significant speedup performance running on Xeon servers compared to other open source frameworks Caffe, Torch or TensorFlow. The speed is comparable with a mainstream GPU and BigDL is able to scale to tens of Xeon servers.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • New Port for RISC-V

      We’d like to submit for inclusion in GCC a port for the RISC-V architecture. The port suffices to build a substantial body of software (including Linux and some 2,000 Fedora packages) and passes most of the gcc and g++ test suites; so, while it is doubtlessly not complete, we think it is far enough along to start the upstreaming process. It is our understanding that it is OK to submit this port during stage 3 because it does not touch any shared code. Our binutils port has already been accepted for the 2.28 release, and we plan on submitting glibc and Linux patch sets soon.

    • [Older] Twenty-four new GNU releases in December
  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Getting Election Data, and Why Open Data is Important

        Back in 2012, I got interested in fiddling around with election data as a way to learn about data analysis in Python. So I went searching for results data on the presidential election. And got a surprise: it wasn’t available anywhere in the US. After many hours of searching, the only source I ever found was at the UK newspaper, The Guardian.

        Surely in 2016, we’re better off, right? But when I went looking, I found otherwise. There’s still no official source for US election results data; there isn’t even a source as reliable as The Guardian this time.

        You might think Data.gov would be the place to go for official election results, but no: searching for 2016 election on Data.gov yields nothing remotely useful.

        The Federal Election Commission has an election results page, but it only goes up to 2014 and only includes the Senate and House, not presidential elections. Archives.gov has popular vote totals for the 2012 election but not the current one. Maybe in four years, they’ll have some data.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

Leftovers

  • New evidence: Was DB Cooper a Boeing employee?

    A band of amateur scientists selected by the Seattle FBI to look for clues in the world’s most infamous skyjacking may have found new evidence in the 45-year-old case.

    They’re asking for the public’s help because of new, potential leads that could link DB Cooper to the Puget Sound aerospace industry in the early 1970s.

    The scientific team has been analyzing particles removed from the clip-on tie left behind by Cooper after he hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet in November 1971.

    A powerful electron microscope located more than 100,000 particles on old the JCPenny tie. The team has identified particles like Cerium, Strontium Sulfide, and pure titanium.

  • If you don’t finish then you’re just busy, not productive

    I find this message extremely compelling, because I frequently find myself starting new programming projects in my spare time. In a lot of ways they are not a waste – I definitely learn a lot from these projects and gain a new skill.

  • Hardware

    • AMD Set to Launch Ryzen Before March 3rd, Meeting Q1 Target

      Then again, the launch could easily be anytime during February – this March 3rd date only really puts an end-point on the potential range. AMD has stated many times, as far back as August, that Q1 is the intended date for launch to consumers in volume. When we spoke with AMD at CES, nothing was set in stone so to speak, especially clock speeds and pricing, but we are expecting a full launch, not just something official on paper. Ryan will be at GDC to cover this exact talk, and I’ll be at MWC covering that event. Either way, we want to make sure that we are front of the queue when it comes time to disclosing as much information as we can get our hands on ahead of time.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Thirteen Dems Join GOP to Kill Sanders Resolution on Canadian Drug Imports

      Twelve Republicans and thirteen Democrats crossed party lines in a 52-46 vote against prodding Congress toward examining the allowance of pharmaceutical imports from Canada.

      The non-binding resolution failed last night amid a series of regular procedural considerations–a so-called “vote-a-rama.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sponsored the measure.

      The move was a blow for those seeking to ensure access to healthcare, as the Senate also approved of a resolution orienting Congress toward a repeal of Obamacare, in a 51-48 vote.

      Notable Democratic defections on the Canada vote included Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate health committee, and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a rumored 2020 presidential contender.

    • Dow Chemical Wants Farmers to Keep Using a Pesticide Linked to Autism and ADHD

      On Mondays, Magda and Amilcar Galindo take their daughter Eva to self-defense class. Eva is 12 but her trusting smile and arching pigtails make her look younger. Diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, Eva doesn’t learn or behave like the typical 12-year-old. She struggles to make change, and she needs help with reading and social situations. Eva’s classmates are sometimes unkind to her, and Magda worries for her daughter’s feelings and her safety. So once a week, after they drive her from her middle school in Modesto, California, to her tutor in nearby Riverbank, the Galindos rush off to the gym where they cheer Eva on as she wrestles with a heavy bag and punches the air with her skinny arms.

    • Even Without an Agriculture Secretary, Trump’s Cabinet Says Plenty about Food and Water Plans

      It’s official. This week’s Veterans Affairs nomination leaves the Trump administration’s Secretary of Agriculture position as the last cabinet slot to be filled. With his inauguration just 7 days away, the president-elect still hasn’t announced his pick for this vital position that touches every American’s life at least three times a day.

      But while we wait (and wait, and wait) to see who will run the department that shapes our nation’s food and farm system, it may be instructive to take a look at what some of his other personnel choices say about his intentions in this realm. And particularly, what the Trump team could mean for two of our most basic human needs—food and water.

      First, food. On the whole, today’s US agriculture system is skewed to production of commodity crops—chiefly corn and soybeans—the bulk of which become biofuel components, livestock feed, and processed food ingredients. That said, over the last 8 years we’ve seen increased emphasis, from the White House and the USDA, on healthy eating, local food systems, and the like.

    • Donald Trump’s Plan for Our Water is Just as Bad as You’d Imagine

      During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to use his first 100 days in office to implement plans to overhaul our nation’s aging roads, bridges, ports and yes—water systems.

      This sounds great on paper. Infrastructure systems form the backbone of our nation, and when they fall apart society follows. So, while modernizing these systems is laudable, the devil is in the details. In reality, Trump’s plan for repairing our nation’s water systems would be an absolute disaster for just about everyone—except of course, water corporations and Wall Street investors.

      In fact, some of the same players that brought down our nation’s housing market are poised to repeat the same mistakes—but this time, with our water.

    • GOP House Takes Next Step Toward Taking Healthcare Away From Millions

      With a vote largely along party lines, the U.S. House on Friday pushed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, one step closer to death.

      Ahead of the 227-198 vote (roll call here), GOP House leaders expressed confidence that their chamber would pass a budget resolution paving the way for ACA repeal, “despite lingering wariness from the rank-and-file about proceeding without a plan to replace the health law,” as Politico reported. The Senate passed its version of the resolution in the wee hours of Thursday.

    • Obamacare Repeal = $7 Million Tax Cut for Nation’s Richest 400 People

      Repealing Obamacare, which Republicans on Friday appear closer to doing, would deliver a sizeable tax cut for the rich, a new report shows.

      Released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the publication shows that the repeal would give to each of the top 400 highest-income taxpayers—who averaged incomes of roughly $318 million in 2014—a tax cut of about $7 million a year.

      That’s because getting rid of the healthcare law would mean getting rid of its two Medicare taxes, which are paid for by individuals with incomes above $200,000 and couples with incomes above $250,000. One is a 3.8 percent Medicare tax that hits their unearned income (like capital gains) above those thresholds, while the other is additional 0.9 percent tax on earned income above those thresholds.

  • Security

    • Microsoft Says Windows 7 Has Outdated Security, Wants You to Move to Windows 10 [Ed: all versions are insecure BY DESIGN]

      Windows 10 is now running on more than 20 percent of the world’s desktop computers, and yet, Microsoft’s bigger challenge isn’t necessarily to boost the market share of its latest operating system, but to convince those on Windows 7 to upgrade.

    • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 Officially Released, Includes over 85 Security Updates

      If you’re using Debian Stable (a.k.a. Debian GNU/Linux 8 “Jessie”), it’s time to update it now. Why? Because Debian Project launched a new release, Debian GNU/Linux 8.7, which includes over 170 bug fixes and security updates.

    • CVS: cvs.openbsd.org: src

      Disable and lock Silicon Debug feature on modern Intel CPUs

    • How we secure our infrastructure: a white paper

      Trust in the cloud is paramount to any business who is thinking about using it to power their critical applications, deliver new customer experiences and house their most sensitive data. Today, we’re issuing a white paper by our security team that details how security is designed into our infrastructure from the ground up.

      Google Cloud’s global infrastructure provides security through the entire information processing lifecycle.This infrastructure provides secure deployment of services, secure storage of data with end-user privacy safeguards, secure communications between services, secure and private communication with customers over the internet and safe operation by administrators.

    • Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview [Ed: Google banned Windows internally]

      The content contained herein is correct as of January 2017, and represents the status quo as of the time it was written. Google’s security policies and systems may change going forward, as we continually improve protection for our customers.

    • Security Through Transparency

      Encryption is a foundational technology for the web. We’ve spent a lot of time working through the intricacies of making encrypted apps easy to use and in the process, realized that a generic, secure way to discover a recipient’s public keys for addressing messages correctly is important. Not only would such a thing be beneficial across many applications, but nothing like this exists as a generic technology.

    • Patch your FreeBSD server for openssh vulnerabilities [11/Jan/2017]
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Trump must expose Obama-era power grabs: Column

      President-elect Donald Trump will face pervasive doubts about his legitimacy from the day he takes office. His opponents will likely portray him as governing in unprecedented and reckless ways. The best response to such charges is to open the books and expose how the Obama administration commandeered far more power than most Americans realized.

      Trump should follow the excellent precedent set by President Obama. In 2009, shortly after he took office, Obama released many of the secret Bush administration legal memos that explained why the president was supposedly entitled to order torture, deploy troops in American towns and cities, and ignore the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless, unreasonable searches. The disclosures signaled a new era in Washington and helped give Obama a reputation as a champion of civil liberties.

    • So How’s That Coalition Thing Working Out in Afghanistan?

      Short Answer: It’s been 15+ years of coalition and the Taliban are still there, the Afghan government in Kabul is even more corrupt, and most of Afghanistan is as economically decrepit as ever.

      A report, “Lessons From the Coalition,” emerged from a conference co-hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace (yes, we have one, it is part of the State Department and doesn’t do much but organize events in Washington.) The conference brought together representatives from eleven major donor nations, the EU, UN, World Bank, and NATO to share common experiences and lessons from the Afghan reconstruction effort.

    • GOP introduces new gun silencer law

      Three GOP lawmakers introduced a new law that will make gun silencers easier to buy.

    • The Silence Of The Politicians

      I don’t doubt Trump would sign this into law. He likes breaking things and learning from the results. The first terrorist in a mass-shooting to use a silencer might change his mind but at what cost? How many more bodies do there have to be before USA brings in reasonable controls for access to firearms? It’s one thing to say good citizens have the right to firearms. It’s quite another to hold that murdering bad guys should have the same rights. Then there’s the problem of sorting out the good guys from the murdering bad guys. No, religion or skin-colour or address won’t do it…

    • A nuclear world: eight-and-a half rogue states

      The British nuclear force is not one of the larger ones, certainly in comparison with the United States and Russia. However, it still has 100-200 thermonuclear warheads, with just one of its Trident submarines capable of launching sixteen missiles, each with three warheads. The actual numbers may be lower than this in routine deployments, but a submarine ordered to fire could certainly ripple-fire over thirty warheads to different targets within half an hour. Typical missile flight times of less than half an hour mean that the destruction could all be achieved in just double that period (see: “Britain’s nuclear-weapons future: no done deal,” 21 July 2016).

    • Who’s Afraid of a Naked Emperor?

      Today, we have Russophobia. Smart, respectable people make fun of Russian people as if it’s a duty, a slight bow to the establishment just to make sure that they belong and are being obedient. The President of the United States says upfront that Russia is weak, small and no one wants anything from them except for oil, gas and arms, and so on.

    • Chelsea Manning Should Not Die in Prison

      On Wednesday, NBC News reported that President Obama had placed Chelsea Manning on a “short list” of individuals to whom he is considering granting clemency.

      Sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for disclosing information to the news media in 2010, Chelsea has spent almost seven years in custody — a term of incarceration already longer than any individual has ever served for comparable charges in United States history. Now, without action by President Obama before he leaves office and with nearly three decades left on her sentence, Chelsea is unlikely to survive to see her freedom.

      In the past six months alone, Chelsea has twice attempted suicide. After she first tried to end her life in July of last year, the military responded by bringing administrative charges against her for attempting suicide and then unexpectedly throwing her into solitary confinement before she was able to appeal those charges. A particularly cruel response to her despair, the punishment destabilized her just as she was beginning to recover. In solitary, she attempted suicide a second time.

    • Chelsea Manning and the Arab Spring

      What we call the Arab Spring was the result of many seemingly small things, butterfly effects. One of them was a courageous woman named Chelsea Manning. If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.

      For me, it all started in mid-October of 2010, with a direct message on Twitter from a good friend of mine. He belonged to a circle of digital activists with whom I worked closely with for years on many advocacy projects in the Arab World, from anti-censorship strategies and campaigns to building and training non-violent protests movements. In that DM he urgently asked me to speak over encryption with him. After one single OTR chat session, he sent me an encrypted zip file containing a trove of around 400 texts files organized in about 15 folders. All the folders were named after Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Bahrain, etc. I didn’t know what was in them. He told me just before ending the chat session: do something with them, I trust you and trust your knowledge and judgment.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Why I Got Kicked Out of Whole Foods …. Again

      It may surprise consumers that each of these facts are true of chickens in cage free farms, despite aggressive marketing of their eggs as humane. Companies that sell cage free eggs are able to charge more, although these eggs are less costly to produce. It’s time to stop the fraudulent marketing and constant search for a right way to do the wrong thing. Chickens, fish, cows, and pigs are all sentient animals who exhibit signs of pain, joy, and complex social relationships. The humane alternative to conventional eggs isn’t cage free, pasture raised, or any new label for exploitation.

    • We can learn so much from nature

      A French company, Colas, is working with the French National Institute for Solar Energy to test its Wattway technology under various conditions, with a goal of covering 1,000 kilometres of existing highway with thin, durable, skid-resistant crystalline silicon solar panel surfacing over the next four years. They estimate that could provide electricity for five million people. Although critics have raised questions about cost and feasibility, it’s not pie-in-the-sky. The technology is being tested and employed throughout the world.

      Rooftops are another place to generate power using existing infrastructure. Elon Musk’s company Tesla is making shingles that double as solar panels. Although they cost more than conventional asphalt shingles, they’re comparable in price to higher-end roof tiles, and can save money when you factor in the power they generate.

    • EPA Pick Pruitt’s “Radical Record” and Abundant Conflicts Probed by Senate Dems

      As Common Dreams and others have reported, Pruitt spent his time as Oklahoma attorney general launching multiple legal attacks against the EPA and its efforts to protect the environment and public health. Now, the Democrats on the Environment and Public Works committee want to know how the EPA will ensure that Pruitt is recused from involvement in those cases.

    • EPA Acknowledges Neonics’ Harm to Bees, Then ‘Bows to Pesticide Industry’

      The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday published two bee-related announcements, but with both, say environmental groups, the agency has failed the pollinators.

      One was its “Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products.” It states that the “policy is not a regulation or an order and, therefore, does not legally compel changes to pesticide product registrations.”

      The other release was a set of draft risk assessments for three neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” They are the most widely used class of insecticides, and they have been linked to bee harm. The new assessments were for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, and an updated assessment on another, imidacloprid, was also included.

      Those assessments, according to Paul Towers, policy advocate and spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network, “are full of gaps and continue to ignore many of the most significant threats from neonicotinoids, particularly when they’re used as seed coatings on common crops,” their most frequent use.

  • Finance

    • Moody’s pays $864 million to U.S., states over pre-crisis ratings

      Moody’s Corp has agreed to pay nearly $864 million to settle with U.S. federal and state authorities over its ratings of risky mortgage securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

      The credit rating agency reached the deal with the Justice Department, 21 states and the District of Columbia, resolving allegations that the firm contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the department said in a statement.

      “Moody’s failed to adhere to its own credit-rating standards and fell short on its pledge of transparency in the run-up to the Great Recession,” Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer said in the statement.

    • Apple accused of App Store price-fixing in new lawsuit

      Apple is once again heading to court. However, the company won’t be arguing over patents for a change, instead Apple will need to fight off allegations of price-fixing in the iOS App Store as part of a new anti-trust lawsuit. This isn’t the first time Apple has been brought up on anti-trust charges either, the company was previously found to have been complicit in eBook price fixing, which ended with the company being fined £315 million.

    • Do You Make Less Than $47,500 a Year? Help Us Investigate Overtime Pay.
    • How Trump Could Kill a Plan to Get You Overtime Pay

      Donald Trump ran for president as the billionaire who would champion working people.

      As the president-elect put it in one of the major economic speeches of his campaign: “Too many of our leaders have forgotten that it’s their duty to protect the jobs, wages and well-being of American workers before any other consideration.”

      One of the first tests of Trump’s pledge to help workers will come in how his administration handles the complicated rules that govern who has the right to time-and-a-half overtime pay.

    • Will Betsy DeVos Restart The ‘Education Wars’?

      Education, which was hardly ever mentioned in the recent presidential election, has suddenly been thrust to the frontline in the increasingly heated conflict over President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees. The reason for that turn of events is his choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her nomination risks “reigniting the education wars,” according to Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union.

      Weingarten stated that warning in an address this week at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and broadcast live on the AFT Facebook page.

      The union leader joins a chorus of education leaders and activists, as well as Democratic party government officials on Capitol Hill, in calls to delay the hearing for DeVos until after government ethics officials have finished their review of DeVos’ numerous ties to financial and charitable interests. After these calls for delay, the confirmation hearing was indeed postponed for a week.

      But what education wars?

    • There Are Moral Imperatives to Fighting Inequality: Correa

      In a wide-ranging interview with teleSUR, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa highlighted the historic achievements of his government.

      On the occasion of assuming the chairmanship of the G77 on Friday, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa spoke with teleSUR’s Abby Martin about the disaster of neoliberal policies in Latin America and the historic achievements of his model of 21st-century socialism.

    • Does Betsy DeVos Understand the Impact of Poverty and Trauma on Children’s Learning?

      Educators who look at learning from a developmental perspective know that the trauma and toxic stress associated with poverty can seriously interfere with a child’s brain development and inhibit learning. Children who have been overwhelmed by stress or exposure to violence, and experience lack of security frequently have difficulty controlling impulsive behavior and focusing their attention on tasks at school. While these behaviors are disruptive in classrooms – they are devastating to the children themselves.

      We understand neurobiological changes that are created by childhood trauma and toxic stress – these are changes in the emotional brain circuits that enable us to respond to crises, fear and threats. Children’s brains can be hijacked by emotions and deeply fearful responses to perceived threats. This reaction gives them less access to brain areas that support memory, focused attention, organizing information, and building positive relationships. We call these executive functions – and they are essential for learning.

    • Who killed bourgeois democracy in Europe?

      When a system calls itself democracy, but forces increasing parts of the demos (people) to live under poverty, its own central concept gradually becomes hollow.

    • Hammond threatens EU with aggressive tax changes after Brexit

      The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has suggested Britain could transform its economic model into that of a corporate tax haven if the EU fails to provide it with an agreement on market access after Brexit.

      In an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Hammond said if Britain were left closed off from European markets after leaving the EU, it would consider abandoning a European-style social model, with “European-style taxation systems [and] European-style regulation systems”, and “become something different”.

    • Michael Hudson: Donald Trump Wants to Make the 1% Even Richer
    • Resisting the Trumpublican Shock Doctrine Blitzkrieg

      The Trumpublicans are intent on manipulating the shock of Donald Trump’s victory to roll back much of the New Deal and Great Society; ram through unvetted Cabinet appointments intent on undermining the legal mandate of the very Departments they are charged with leading; legitimize unprecedented conflicts of interest; and intimidate opponents, professional civil servants, and the press, in a rapid Blitzkrieg, before the opposition even knows what hit them.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Yertle, the Commander-in-Chief

      Dr. Seuss taught me to read. My older brother brought Seuss books home to me from the local public library because I was too young to have a library card of my own.

      The Cat in the Hat, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, Horton Hears a Who! — all, for better or worse, played a role in my early childhood development, a phase from which I have yet to emerge, but never mind. Yet as I watched Donald Trump’s press conference on Wednesday morning, a performance reminiscent of PT Barnum — if Barnum suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, congenital petulance and anger management issues — I was reminded of a different Dr. Seuss masterwork…

      [...]

      Whatever the case, the point of Yertle and Mack’s tale is simple: Protest can topple a tyrant. Sometimes it has to be loud and rude. Next weekend, around the events of the inauguration, thousands and thousands will march and voices will be raised. Let these be just the beginning.

    • Outrage After Trump Insults Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

      On the Saturday morning of a holiday weekend honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., President-elect Donald Trump trashed civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), after Lewis said he would not attend next week’s inauguration ceremony.

      The Georgia lawmaker—who has served in Congress since 1987; is the last living speaker of the 1963 March on Washington; and was severely beaten after leading civil rights demonstrators across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965—told NBC News on Friday that he does not plan to attend Trump’s inauguration.

      “It will be the first one that I miss since I’ve been in Congress,” Lewis said. “You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.” Lewis is one of a handful of Democratic lawmakers who have announced this week that they’ll be skipping the ceremony.

    • It Can Happen Here

      On November 8 the rise of a right-wing nationalist regime in the United States became a realistic possibility, if not now then in the coming years. Such regimes stress nationalist and patriotic themes, play upon and intensify fear of minority ethnicities and/or religions and/or other long-oppressed groups, promise to resolve festering economic problems of ordinary people, and direct the blame for such problems at a convenient scapegoat such as foreigners or immigrants rather than the real causes. Such regimes, if consolidated, invariably restrict long-established individual rights and introduce, or intensify, the use of extra-legal violent methods at home and abroad. This possibility has sent shock waves throughout U.S. society, including in the long-ruling establishment, creating a sense of chaos in which it seems anything can happen.

      The greatest danger is the political coalition that emerged on November 8. Such coalitions have underpinned right-wing nationalist regimes in the past. It is made up of traditional right-wing constituencies suddenly combined with significant parts of the working class. Such a political base, held together by the above themes and promises, can enable a right-wing nationalist regime to emerge in a democratic capitalist system even without the upstart demagogic leader winning an absolute majority.

    • GOP Leader Threatens to Subpoena Ethics Chief Who Called Out Trump Conflicts

      Instead of investigating concerns that President-elect Donald Trump will come to power with numerous conflicts of interest, the Republican head of the House Oversight Committee is now threatening the government ethics monitor who called them out.

      Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent a letter (pdf) to Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), admonishing him for “blurring the lines between public relations and official ethics guidance,” citing a series of OGE tweets encouraging President-elect to commit to “full divestiture” of his business holdings (which he has refused to do.)

      In the letter, Chaffetz warns Shaub that the OGE’s operations are being examined by the committee and then demands that he make himself available “for a transcribed interview with the Committee staff as soon as possible, but not later than January 31, 2017.”

    • Why Bernie Sanders Came Up Short—and How That Lesson Can Fuel Future Progressive Victories [Ed: Misses the point that -- as Podesta E-mails and DNC leaks made VERY clear -- Clinton and DNC sabotaged Sanders]

      Bernie began the race fairly late in the game, with 3 percent name recognition, no money, and all kinds of baggage that pundits believed would disqualify him out of hand. By the time the Iowa primary came, Bernie was surging in the national polls. He went on to win twenty-two states and received an astonishing 46 percent of the pledged delegates for the nomination.

    • Five Ways Trump’s “News Conference” Wasn’t a News Conference

      Tyrants don’t allow open questioning, and they hate the free press. They want total control. That’s why Trump’s so-called “news conference” on December 11 – the first he’s held in six months – wasn’t really a news conference at all.

    • Donald Trump’s Fake News Conference

      The media waited with bated breath for Donald Trump’s first news conference in 167 days. But I’m sure many journalists knew what was coming: a show, orchestrated by The Apprentice executive director so as to reveal precisely nothing but used instead to revile his critics. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have done better.

      Trump was true to form, and character: He spent very little time answering (actually avoiding) questions, he brought along a small crowd of flatterers to applaud his lines, he had three people (his communications spokesman, his vice president-elect, and his tax lawyer) stand in to defend him, and he bragged about how many jobs he will create and how he had turned down a $2 billion business opportunity with Dubai.

      [...]

      Trump also tried to preempt further discussion of his financial conflicts of interest by putting the Trump Organization in the hands of his two sons. As various ethics specialists in and out of government have pointed out, that decision is no solution. As one of them said, Trump will be in violation of the Constitution on the day he takes office. He actually had the audacity to say that he has every right to run both his organization and the presidency—implying that we should be grateful for his choice not to do so, as though we don’t already know that he has every intention to remain in charge of his empire. He again refused to release his tax returns, saying that only the press wants him to do so. Trump’s attitude is clear: I’m the president and I’ll do what I want; try to stop me.

    • Meet Mike Pompeo, the Far-Right Christian Zealot Who Will Lead Trump’s CIA

      Pompeo is a deeply conservative evangelical Christian who has said, “America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.” He believes politics is “a never-ending struggle . . . until the rapture.”

      He does not sound like the type of person one normally associates with the intelligence community. But this is Trump’s administration, and Trump has promised to shake things up. An apocalyptic Islamophobic fanatic at the head of CIA will no doubt bring change to the agency.

      [...]

      Trump has also declared that his presidential orders to torture suspected terrorists would not be refused by those under him. When told that torture is illegal, he simply said he would change the law because we “have to get tougher.”

      Pompeo surprised the committee when he said he would not comply with an order to torture and that he couldn’t imagine that Trump would ask him to do it. He insisted he would always comply with the law. Of course, he also has said the Bush administration’s torture regime was legal, so that’s not entirely reassuring. Still, Pompeo’s testimony was widely interpreted as distancing him from Trump’s stated position.

    • Trump and the Dangers of Secret Law

      President-elect Trump has disdained the rule of law when it comes to national security, vowing to reinstitute torture and suggesting that the military should target terrorists’ families. In response, President Obama recently released a report describing the legal and policy framework for United States military operations. The idea is simple: If the rules are made public, it will be easier to hold the Trump administration accountable for violations—or to spot when the rules have changed.

      Obama is undoubtedly correct in calculating that legal transparency will help safeguard the rule of law. But his initiative begs the question: why stop at military operations?

      Since the attacks of 9/11, every area of national security policy has increasingly been regulated by secret law. For instance, much of the authority to conduct mass surveillance, and the limits that apply, are set forth in classified orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or “FISA Court”). In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that this court had secretly interpreted the Patriot Act to allow the collection of nearly every American’s phone records.

    • Obama’s Farewell

      OK. See you at the country club, buddy, after your lunch with Penny Pritzger, the Chicago Hilton Hotels billionairess, who put you in office back when in 2008.

      And now America changes one real estate wheeler-dealer for another, this time one who takes the direct reins of government. And he’s Obama’s legacy as well….

    • Bringing Trump Nation Down to Size

      Exit polls show that 25 percent of Trump voters expressed the view that their candidate was not fit to be president, which lowers Trump’s unqualified support to 20 percent of the electorate. Which is on the high side, when you consider those who think he’s disgusting or dishonest or both but voted for him anyway.

    • Unicorns, Gnomes, and Plea to the Press on Covering Trump

      The story of the appalling press conference of January 11 needs to be the story of the lies that were told, the status of the very real and legitimate questions that the reporters asked but which were not answered, and the insistence on the importance of getting answers to those real questions.

      We need to stay grounded in our shared and dangerous reality, and not get sucked into an analysis of the illusions created by a master illusionist.

    • Bracing for Trump, Protests Commence in Nation’s Capital and Beyond

      “The Trump team has already announced that some of their first acts of brutality will be to lash out against immigrants and Muslims,” organizers wrote in a call to action. “Their aim is to deport millions of immigrants, rip millions of families apart, and drive tens of millions of immigrants, refugees, and their families and friends into silence out of fear.”

      “We are committed to standing up for an America which values all people,” they continued. “Just one week before Donald Trump’s inauguration we will stand up to say yes to community, love for one another, shared strength, and human dignity. It is time for us to link arms and stand as a line of defense against Donald Trump’s promised reign of terror.”

    • Who’s the Real Manipulator of Elections?

      In berating Russia for alleged interference in the recent U.S. election, the U.S. intelligence community ignores the extensive U.S. role in manipulating political movements around the globe, observes Jonathan Marshall.

    • The Scheme to Take Down Trump

      Is a military coup in the works? Or are U.S. intelligence agencies laying the political groundwork for forcing Donald Trump from the presidency because they can’t abide his rejection of a new cold war with Russia? Not long ago, even asking such questions would have marked one as the sort of paranoid nut who believes that lizard people run the government. But no longer.

    • What’s Propaganda Got To Do With It?

      Amid the “fake news” controversies in the aftermath of the 2016 United States Presidential election, the notion of propaganda surged back into popular consciousness. Across the political spectrum, online conversations about propaganda bloomed like a thousand flowers of media anxiety.

      For example, shortly after the election, futurist Alex Steffen garnered thousands of retweets and likes with a tweet that declared, “Fake news is propaganda. The powerful demanding apologies from artists is censorship. Business dealings while in office are corruption.” To underscore the anti-authoritarian thrust of the message, a follow-up Medium post featured an image of 1984 author (and dedicated democratic socialist) George Orwell, invoking the thought-limiting qualities of that novel’s Newspeak. Although Steffen did not name the President-Elect in his short text, the post is tagged, “Donald Trump.”

    • Trump, Russia, and the Return of Scapegoating, a Timeless American Tradition

      Now that the intelligence chiefs’ report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is available in expurgated form—and we have no reason to assume the classified version is any more substantial than the rubbish made public last Friday—it is time to do that most difficult thing: step back and take a cold, hard look at ourselves. What we find, to put my conclusion first, is that most of us will do more or less anything just now to avoid taking a cold, hard look at ourselves and what it is we are up to.

      This is commonly done by way of scapegoating. The Russian case is extreme, but it must not be seen in isolation.

      It is true that Americans today are a divided people in many respects. But let’s not make too much of this, for we display a striking unity in our tendency to blame others for our difficulties, shortcomings, and failures, of which there are unusually many at this moment—every one our own doing. It is tempting to anatomize our current outburst of scapegoating according to political persuasion—which party abuses whom—but this does not do because almost everyone gives in to flinching from failures that are all our own.

    • Images That Refute Trump’s Attack on Hero John Lewis
    • Rep. John Lewis: ‘I Don’t See Trump as a Legitimate President’

      In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said he does not believe Donald Trump is a “legitimate president,” citing Russian interference in last year’s election.

      Asked whether he would try to forge a relationship with the president-elect, Lewis said that he believes in forgiveness, but added, “it’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

      When pressed to explain why, he cited allegations of Russian hacks during the campaign that led to the release of internal documents from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign co-chairman, John Podesta.

    • Trump team discussing border wall with Army Corps, Interior Department

      President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is engaged in active discussions with the US Army Corps of Engineers and Interior Department to begin planning a wall along the Mexican border, including how specific environmental laws could get in the way, CNN has learned.

      A US official with knowledge of a visit last last month to the Interior Department — which oversees most federal lands and major environmental laws — said the transition team was particularly interested in finding out “how long it would take” to build the wall given potential legal obstacles.

    • The Great Wall Of China Didn’t Have Trump’s Problems

      Really, Trump caught onto this panacea during his campaign that can’t really work as intended/proclaimed and will cost a bundle and will do a lot of damage. Waiving legalities doesn’t really change that. As Trump is fond of saying, “It’s not going to happen!”.

    • Six Reasons Why Trump’s Wall is Even Dumber Than Most of Trump’s Other Ideas

      At his turbulent his news event last Wednesday (I won’t dignify it by calling it a news conference), Trump reiterated that he will build a wall along the Mexican border. “It’s not a fence. It’s a wall,” he said, and“Mexico will pay for the wall.”

      Here are 6 reasons why Trump’s wall is an even dumber idea than most of his others.

    • Dem boycotts of inauguration grow

      In a sharp break with tradition, a growing number of Democrats are announcing they will boycott President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

      Ten House Democrats so far have issued public statements saying they won’t attend the Jan. 20 ceremony following an extraordinarily divisive election. Still others say they’re torn about going.

      It’s a departure from lawmakers of both parties putting aside their personal feelings to watch the new president take the oath of office. While the majority of Democrats still plan to go, the fact that even a handful are making a point of boycotting shows the depth of antipathy toward Trump.

    • Human Rights Watch lists Trump as threat to human rights

      Human Rights Watch is listing President-elect Donald Trump as a threat to human rights, calling his campaign a “vivid illustration of the politics of intolerance.”

      “Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk,” the group said in a Friday statement announcing a new report.

      The 687-page World Report analyzes Trump’s campaign, pointing to his rhetoric as a cause for worry over human rights violations.

      “(Trump’s) campaign floated proposals that would harm millions of people, including plans to engage in massive deportations of immigrants, to curtail women’s rights and media freedoms, and to use torture,” the report says, quoting Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

    • James O’Keefe caught trying to bribe protesters to riot at Trump inauguration

      James O’Keefe is the Breitbart-affiliated fraudster and fake news pioneer who staged the hoax videos about Acorn and Planned Parenthood that disrupted the last two election cycles; his MO is to dress up in disguises and then attempt to trick progressives into saying damning things on camera (he’s not very good at it, having been rumbled by both CNN and Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky).

    • Dossier’s Russia Charges Should Be Treated Skeptically–but Taken Seriously

      It’s not an intelligence report, or a government report of any kind. No official agency had a hand in creating it; indications are it was leaked to media by the same private group that commissioned it. Putting it in the “intelligence” category makes it harder to think about how media outlets should deal with it, bringing in questions of journalism’s relationship to the state. Really, despite its anonymous author reportedly having a background in British intelligence, it’s closer to being itself a strange sort of journalism: It’s an investigator’s account of what information they say they learned by talking to people—not unlike a news article.

    • Mainstream Media’s Russian Bogeymen

      In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the U.S. election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into U.S. power infrastructure.

    • NYT: If Only We Knew What We Already Know About Jeff Sessions

      Jefferson Beauregard Sessions seems to be on his way to becoming attorney general. Many people are angry and frightened, that the person in charge of the Justice Department could be a man whose public record demonstrates hostility to the idea of equal rights under the law. In particular, Sessions brought vote fraud charges, threatening decades of prison time, against voting rights activists who had worked with Martin Luther King; he has referred to the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive,” and supported voter suppression.

      That’s part of why there have been sit-ins and phone banks and multi-group public statements, reflecting the large number and wide range of people familiar with Sessions who state that his record, not his accent or personal demeanor, make him unfit for office.

      In this light, the January 8 New York Times editorial struck me as highlighting, painfully, the limits of elite media.

    • WATCH: In His Former Life as Alabama’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions Abused His Power and Was Read the Riot Act Over It

      It is now well-known that Jeff Sessions’ record as a senator shows blindness or hostility to the rights of those the attorney general is responsible for protecting — people of color, women, LGBT people, religious minorities, and immigrants. Less well known, but equally disturbing, is his record as a prosecutor. When he last exercised the power of a prosecutor, as attorney general for Alabama in the 1990s, he abused that power.

      The biggest case his office handled was thrown out in what the judge called the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct he had ever seen. In a remarkable opinion, the Alabama state trial judge hearing the case concluded that “the misconduct of the Attorney General in this case far surpasses in both extensiveness and measure the totality of any prosecutorial misconduct ever previously presented to or witnessed by the Court.”

    • Fox News Going All-In on Trump in the New Era

      January 19, 2009—the day before Barack Obama was sworn in as president—Fox News aired the first episode of Glenn Beck. Obama was a polished representative of the multicultural values that the conservative movement had fought to defeat for decades, and Beck was the perfect expression of right-wing rage and frustration with him: The eponymous host alternated between anger, conspiracy theories and sobbing.

      Beck’s tenure at the channel didn’t last long; Fox News chair and CEO Roger Ailes declined to renew his contract in early 2011. But by that point, the GOP had won back the House of Representatives in the 2010 Tea Party wave, a right-wing backlash movement that owed at least some of its success to Beck’s overly earnest mugging.

      Beck’s hire signaled to the network’s base and the country at large the direction Fox would take as a reaction to Obama’s election: The network was prepared to spend the next four to eight years in constant opposition to the newly elected president, with no angle of attack too extreme.

    • America in Need of ‘Democracy Promotion’

      Both the ruling party and the principal opposition party extensively manipulate the boundaries of legislative districts to benefit their own party and to entrench incumbents, but this practice has disproportionately benefited the ruling party because of its control over most state legislatures, where the manipulative line-drawing occurs.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Christian Censorship: I Talked About Race And Was Silenced

      A few days ago, I posted this piece, called An Apology To Black Women. Per my usual modus operundi, I posted it in various Christian Facebook groups. Within a few hours, I received a message from an admin of one of the groups. It said, essentially “We, the admins of ____ removed your post because even our one black admin found it offensive.”

    • Why the Senate’s Attack on Backpage Will Backfire

      The businessmen who run the classifieds website Backpage.com received a serious verbal lashing from a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. They were accused of committing a crime that every member of the committee eagerly denounced — profiting from the sexual exploitation of children. Backpage had already shut down its popular adult services section the day before, citing ongoing acts of “government censorship.”

      It may be easy for lawmakers of both parties to agree that child sex trafficking should be condemned, but the hearing and the 20-month probe behind it drew plenty of controversy outside the Senate chamber. For a company accused of facilitating the exploitation of kids, Backpage saw a good number of organizations rush to its defense, including internet freedom groups, free speech advocates and libertarian think tanks.

    • Government Pressure Shutters Backpage’s Adult Services Section

      The announcement came on the eve of a hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). The hearing was the backdrop for the release of a committee report [PDF] alleging [PDF] that Backpage knew that its website was being used to post ads for illegal prostitution and child sex trafficking, and directly edited such ads to make their illegality less conspicuous or flagged for the posters how to do so themselves.

      While acknowledging the horrific nature of sex trafficking, EFF has participated in several cases to remind courts about the importance of preserving strong legal protection under the First Amendment and Section 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230) for Internet intermediaries.

    • EFF is Proud to Stand Beside Techdirt in its “First Amendment Fight for its Life.”

      The First Amendment provides vitally important protections for publishers – the Supreme Court ruled that public figure plaintiffs in defamation lawsuits must prove that offending statements about them are in fact false, and that the speaker actually knew they were false or seriously doubted them when they were published. That rule protects speakers, bloggers, and reporters against lawsuits designed merely to squelch critical speech about public figures. Nonetheless, defending against such suits can be very costly.

      [...]

      Techdirt is a vital resource – it provides a wide audience with independent journalism addressing some of the biggest technology issues of our time. The Internet community wouldn’t be the same without it. But of course this case is not just about Techdirt. It’s about freedom of the press generally.

      We commend Techdirt for taking on this fight for freedom of expression. And we urge everyone who cares about a free and independent press to support Techdirt in “its First Amendment fight for its life.”

    • Arizona Bill Would Ban Discussion of Social Justice, Solidarity in Schools

      Arizona state representative Bob Thorpe, a Republican, has just proposed a bill that would ban any school courses or extracurricular activities that “promote” any kind of “social justice” or “solidarity” based on race, class, gender, politics, or religion.

      The legislation, House Bill 2120, also appears to connect classes on social justice and solidarity with “promotion of the overthrow of the United States government,” which it also explicitly outlaws.

      Tucson.com reports that “Thorpe said Thursday his bill is aimed specifically at things like a ‘privilege walk’ exercise (pdf) sponsored by the University of Arizona and a course entitled ‘Whiteness and Race Theory’ at Arizona State University.”

      The law is sweeping yet fails to define many of its tenets—for example, it allows the teaching of “accurate” history of an ethnic group, but doesn’t define who or what would determine what is accurate. And Arizonans fear that not only does it threaten students’ and teachers’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly, but that it would go so far as to outlaw all charity efforts and most student groups at schools around the state.

    • KING: Arizona lawmaker proposes new bill banning classes or events discussing social justice on college campuses

      A conservative Arizona lawmaker, Rep. Bob Thorpe, is proposing a far-reaching law in Arizona, House Bill 2120, banning virtually every college event, activity or course which discusses social justice, skin privilege, or racial equality. Violating the law would allow the state of Arizona to levy multimillion-dollar fines and penalties against universities — removing at least 10% of their state aid.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • End of the line: surveillance, precarity and resistance in the call centre

      I spent six months undercover in call centres, researching how workers are subject to constant watch, psychological pressure, and what they do to resist. This is what I discovered.

    • Germany’s biggest Turkish Islamic network admits some imams spied for Ankara

      A Turkish Islamic group operating in Germany acknowledged that some of its imams complied with Turkish government instructions to give Ankara tips on suspected adherents of exiled US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

      Ditib, which stands for Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, is believed to have strong ties to Diyanet (Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs), a Turkish state-run religious affairs watchdog. Ditib previously denied its members were handing over information on Gulen supporters in Germany to the Turkish government.

      In a comment to Rheinische Post on Thursday, however, the secretary-general of Ditib, Bekir Alboga, appeared to have changed his tune, admitting that although “the written instructions of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs were not addressed to Ditib… some Ditib imams wrongly followed them.”

    • Poll: Will Digital Privacy Become a Luxury?

      Technology is a tool that also risks becoming a threat to privacy

      Cell phones now regularly track their users’ locations, monitor their health habits and keep tabs on their schedules and preferences—a series of tools that could also become a threat to privacy.

      An increasing reliance on technology and mobile devices has raised more questions about data privacy and whether it risks becoming a luxury.

    • NSA records allege dozens of cases of workers ripping agency off

      A group of five National Security Agency contractors falsified their time sheets to claim they had worked almost 200 days that agency investigators concluded they in fact had not, according to the agency’s inspector general.

      The incident was one of more than 100 in which the NSA’s internal watchdog found that civilian employees and contractors claimed falsely that they’d been at work — incidents that a spokesman said cost the surveillance outfit based at Fort Meade almost $3.5 million.

      The NSA disclosed the cases in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Baltimore Sun. The records cover five years ending in 2014, when The Sun request was originally filed.

    • What’s Up with WhatsApp?

      Despite my jaded feelings about corporate Internet services in general, I was suprised to learn that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption was a lie. In short, it is possible to send an encrypted message to a user that is intercepted and effectively de-crypted without the sender’s knowledge.

      However, I was even more surprised to read Open Whisper Systems critique of the original story, claiming that it is not a backdoor because the WhatsApp sender’s client is always notified when a message is de-crypted.

      The Open Whisper Systems post acknowledges that the WhatsApp sender can choose to disable these notifications, but claims that is not such a big deal because the WhatsApp server has no way to know which clients have this feature enabled and which do not, so intercepting a message is risky because it could result in the sender realizing it.

      However, there is a fairly important piece of information missing, namely: as far as I can tell, the setting to notify users about key changes is disabled by default.

      So, using the default installation, your end-to-end encrypted message could be intercepted and decrypted without you or the party you are communicating with knowing it. How is this not a back door? And yes, if the interceptor can’t tell whether or not the sender has these notifications turned on, the interceptor runs the risk of someone knowing they have intercepted the message. Great. That’s better than nothing. Except that there is strong evidence that many powerful governments on this planet routinely risk exposure in their pursuit of compromising our ability to communicate securely. And… not to mention non-governmental (or governmental) adversaries for whom exposure is not a big deal.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Down to the Wire: Obama’s DOJ Issues Scathing Report on Systemic Abuse Within Chicago Police

      The Justice Department released a blistering report on Friday concluding what many in Chicago have been saying for years: that the city’s police officers routinely use excessive and deadly force, particularly against black and Latino residents; that they systematically violate civil rights; and that the department consistently fails to hold officers accountable for abuse and misconduct.

      With one week to go before the beginning of the Trump administration — which is widely expected to take a considerably less aggressive approach toward police abuse — federal officials this week tied up the loose ends on some of the department’s most high profile investigations of police departments.

      On Thursday, Justice Department officials signed a consent decree with the city of Baltimore, outlining reforms the city will be required to undertake after a scathing report published last August found a pattern of stops, searches, arrests and use of force that violated the First and Fourth Amendments as well as federal anti-discrimination laws.

    • Shots In The Back, Children Tasered: DOJ Details Excessive Force By Chicago Police

      In “numerous incidents,” Chicago officers chased and shot fleeing people who posed no threat to officers or the public, the DOJ says. In some cases, there was no basis even to suspect the person of committing a serious crime.

      “The act of fleeing alone was sufficient to trigger a pursuit ending in gunfire, sometimes fatal,” the DOJ writes.

      In one case, the report says, police officers fired 45 rounds at a man who was running away, killing him. They claimed he had fired a gun at them while they were chasing him — even though they noted there was no gun found on the man.

    • Free Chelsea Manning Now

      Freedom is suddenly in sight for Chelsea Manning. There is a real chance the Iraq War veteran and Wikileaks whistleblower could be home by Groundhog’s Day.

      Even a year ago it was unthinkable; now, it could be a partial redemption of the Obama administration’s shoddy record of persecuting leaks and whistleblowers.

    • Justice Department balks at securing CIA ‘Torture Report’ at federal court

      The Obama administration is resisting a federal judge’s order for a rare copy of the so-called Torture Report, saying the damning Senate study of the CIA’s secret post- 9/11 prison network is not the government’s to give the court.

      Judge Royce Lamberth on Dec. 28 ordered the Justice Department to deliver a copy of the report to his court for safekeeping. He said it would be preserved at a top-secret storage facility maintained by the U.S. District Court at 333 Constitution Ave. in Washington, D.C.

      But Justice Department attorneys wrote in a 16-page filing on Friday that delivery of a government copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence document would “unduly interfere … with the larger oversight relationship between the Senate Committee and the CIA.”

    • Polish couple ‘forced to work for £4 a day’ in Nelson

      A Polish couple were forced to work for £4 per day and treated with less respect than dogs, a court has heard.

      Mohammed Riaz, 62, and his son Khuram, deny forcing or compelling Margorsha Bienick and Michal Czesniawski into labour in Nelson, Lancashire.

      The father and son, 27, told Burnley Crown Court the couple were alcoholics who would have been on the streets.

      The jury was shown a video of Ms Bienick describing working long hours and being shouted at.

    • Kolkata’s Imam sparks row again: ‘Women should always be in veil’

      At an event organized at the Tipu Sultan Mosque on Friday, Barkati said, “Women are more respectful if they hide themselves from the eyes of men. If they are ‘sexy “, then they will attract more eyes and will fall victim to men’s “hawaz”. Like Rajasthani women use veil, Bengali women wear saris and Muslim women wear burqas, veils will make them respectful.”

      When asked what he meant by ‘sexy’, Barkati said he meant ‘attractive’ by the word ‘sexy’. Explaining his stand, Imam Barkati said, “Young women are innocent. Even without their knowledge, they become the object of men’s lust. So by wearing veil, she will follow the Hindustani culture and will be able to protect herself properly.”

    • CMS: Police found no evidence that teacher assaulted a Muslim kindergartener

      Police found no evidence to confirm a November report that a teacher bullied and assaulted a Muslim kindergartener at David Cox Road Elementary, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported Friday.

      Principal Celeste Spears-Ellis notified parents that the accused teacher has returned to the classroom after the District Attorney’s Office found “no evidence of an assault other than the complainant’s report” and no grounds for criminal charges.

    • Donald Trump accuses civil rights icon John Lewis of ‘all talk and no results’

      Donald Trump has ignited fresh controversy — on the eve of Martin Luther King Day — by accusing one of the civil rights leaders who marched and struggled with him of “talk and no action”.

      In a pair of tweets on Saturday morning, he said Congressman John Lewis should not have “falsely” complained about the election result.

      “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart,” said Mr Trump.

    • It’s begun: Internet providers are pushing to repeal Obama-era privacy rules

      Some of the nation’s biggest Internet providers are asking the government to roll back a landmark set of privacy regulations it approved last fall — kicking off an effort by the industry and its allies to dismantle key Internet policies of the Obama years.

      In a petition filed to federal regulators Monday, a top Washington trade group whose members include Comcast, Charter and Cox argued that the rules should be thrown out.

      “They are unnecessary, unjustified, unmoored from a cost-benefit assessment, and unlikely to advance the Commission’s stated goal of enhancing consumer privacy,” wrote the Internet & Television Association, known as NCTA.

    • The Breakthrough: Meet the Reporter Who Went Undercover in the Hermit Kingdom

      But some journalists have been able to evade the censorship. Suki Kim, an American novelist and investigative journalist, spent months undercover inside the country, working as an English teacher at a boarding school for North Korea’s young elites. Her reportage captured an unprecedented portrait of the country, showing the hopes, dreams and lies of North Korean youth.

      This week on the Breakthrough, Suki Kim takes us behind the closed borders of the Hermit Kingdom and reveals how she became one of the first reporters to go undercover in North Korea.

    • Turkey’s Relentless Attack on the Press

      It should come as no surprise that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would praise Donald Trump for refusing to talk to a CNN reporter at a news conference.

      For years, Mr. Erdogan has been crushing independent voices as part of a broader effort to assert authoritarian control. Earlier this month, the Turkish police arrested the top legal adviser and a former chief executive of Dogan Holding, a conglomerate that owns the newspaper Hurriyet and CNN Turk. This followed the detention in mid-December of another company executive, Barbaros Muratoglu, reportedly accused of “aiding a terror group,” namely the organization of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The company has denied links to Mr. Gulen.

    • Complaints Describe Border Agents Interrogating Muslim Americans, Asking for Social Media Accounts

      Customs and Border Protection agents have been invasively questioning Muslim-Americans at U.S. border crossings about their political and religious beliefs, asking for their social media information, and demanding passwords to open mobile phones, according to a set of complaints filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

      In one case, a 23-year old American citizen alleges that he was choked by a CBP agent after declining to hand over his phone for inspection while crossing the border back from Canada.

      The complaints deal with the cases of nine people who have been stopped at various U.S. border crossings, eight of whom are American citizens, and one Canadian. They were filed to the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Justice.

    • Prisoners With Physical Disabilities Are Forgotten And Neglected in America

      Dean Westwood arrived at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon in a wheelchair. Prison officials required him to surrender his property, submit to a search, and agree to administrative procedures like finger printing. This is standard practice. But unlike other detainees, Dean is paralyzed below the waist and has limited use of his arms and hands.

      Staff at the Oregon jail didn’t know how to handle someone with his disability. They rough-handled his limbs and pulled his fingers apart to get his fingerprints. They stripped him down for a search, rough-handling his genitals. They forced his body into a set of jail clothing that was a couple of sizes too small, which caused Dean severe irritation below the waist.

    • How to Talk to Congress

      As this year begins with a new president and new Congress taking power, more people than ever want to know how to make their voices heard in Congress. As the Legislative Counsel at EFF, my job is to help the organization and our supporters reach out to Congress more effectively. We’ve put together this guide in order to share some of our findings about how best to impact decisions in government. This represents years of trial and error at EFF as well as my own experience working in Congress and Washington, D.C. for a number of years before joining the organization.

    • Fury at Azaria Verdict is Israel’s Trump Moment

      The United Kingdom has Brexit. The United States, an incoming president Trump. And Israel now has Elor Azaria. It may not have the same ring, but ultimately the turning point could prove as decisive.

      Two fallacious narratives have greeted the army medic’s manslaughter conviction last week, after he was filmed firing a bullet into the head of a wounded and helpless Palestinian, 21-year-old Abdel Fattah Al Sharif.

      The first says Azaria is a rotten apple, a soldier who lost his moral bearings last March under the pressure of serving in Hebron. The second – popular among liberals in Israel – claims the conviction proves the strength of Israel’s rule of law. Even a transgressing soldier will be held accountable by the world’s “most moral army”.

      In truth, however, the popular reaction to the military court’s decision was far more telling than the decision itself.

      Only massed ranks of riot police saved the three judges from a lynching by crowds outside. The army top brass have been issued bodyguards. Demands to overrule the court and pardon Azaria are thunderous – and they are being led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    • Chicago Police Routinely, ‘Systemically’ Abused Civil Rights: DOJ

      Chicago police systematically violated people’s civil rights by routinely using excessive force, particularly against African-Americans and Latinos, according to a bombshell report (pdf) from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released Friday.

      The report is the conclusion of a 13-month investigation into the Chicago Police Department (CPD), launched after the October 2014 police killing of 17-year-old black Chicago resident Laquan McDonald, whose fatal shooting was captured by the patrol car’s dashboard camera.

      According to the inquiry, police routinely violated the Fourth Amendment by using “unnecessary and avoidable” force, including deadly force, which investigators attributed to poor training and accountability systems.

    • Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can’t Hide Disturbing Record

      Although Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general of the United States by the GOP-controlled Senate is a foregone conclusion, it is still important to analyze his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Thus far, the hearing has shed a troubling light on his positions.

      In his responses to the senators’ questions, Sessions loudly protested the idea that he has ever embraced racism, homophobia or sexism. Calling allegations of racism “incredibly painful,” Sessions assured the senators, “I abhor the Klan and all it represents.” However, that has not always been the case. He once joked that he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out that they smoked pot.”

    • How ride-hailing apps like Uber continue cab industry’s history of racial discrimination

      Our new paper, “Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies,” found patterns of discrimination in how some drivers using ride-hailing platforms, such as Uber and Lyft, treat African-American passengers and women. Our results are based on extensive field studies in Seattle and Boston, both considered liberal-minded cities, and provide stark evidence of discrimination.

    • Benny King and the Criminalization of Addiction in America

      You see, just like hundreds of thousands of poor, disproportionately black and brown Americans sidelined from American life – stuffed out of sight in state and federal penal institutions across the U.S. – King is serving time for one, and only one, unconscionable reason: he suffers from a substance abuse problem. He drinks.

    • Allegations of Russian Hacking Cover Up Larger Issue: Attacks on Independent Journalism

      Washington, D.C., and the mainstream media have spent much of the last week zeroing in on allegations that Russia interfered in the United States presidential election. Truthdig contributor Chris Hedges argues that such intense coverage is merely a way for establishment elites to criticize independent journalism.

      In an interview with RT America’s Simone Del Rosario, Hedges cites the McCarthyist attacks on independent outlets—including Truthdig—last year and says that the recent wave of reporting on Russia continues the alarmist narrative.

      Specifically, he labels a report recently released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence an “utter embarrassment.” He notes that U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper possessed “a deep rage” toward independent news outlets during his testimony before Congress last week.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • EFF to Court: Don’t Let California Gag IMDb

        California is trying to gag websites from sharing true, publicly available information about actors in the name of age discrimination. But one online service, IMDb, is fighting back. EFF and four other public interest organizations have filed in a friend of the court brief in the case, urging the court not to allow celebrities to wipe truthful information about them from the Internet.

Number of New Patent Cases in the US Fell 25% Last Year, Thanks in Part to the Demise of Software Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 11:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The legal paper ‘industry’ is walking away, gradually

Moving paperwork

Summary: Litigation and prosecutions that rely on patents (failure to resolve disputes, e.g. by sharing ideas, out of court) is down very sharply, in part because firms that make nothing at all (just threaten and/or litigate) have been sinking after much-needed reform

IN ORDER to understand what goes on in the mysterious (or cryptic) world of patent trolls we often turn to IAM ‘magazine’, which is paid by some trolls to embellish or soften their image. We read IAM ‘magazine’ very critically and try to extract from it some morsels of information. The other day we saw IAM ‘magazine’ conflating patents with “markets” again, as if patents are products up on the shelf or something (to trolls they are). It was also writing about this patent troll which got fed by Stanford University, whose patents were derived from publicly-funded research. To quote some background to this:

WiLAN has stepped up its campaign against the growing personal digital assistant market filing six lawsuits before and after Christmas against a series of big tech companies including Amazon and HTC over patents that underpin Siri, the popular electronic assistant on Apple devices. The most recent case was filed on Tuesday against ZTE in district court in Delaware, bringing the total number of suits that the NPE’s subsidiary IPA Technologies has filed in this campaign to 11.

WiLAN acquired the patents in question in two tranches, including a package of nine grants in May 2016, from SRI International, a non-profit research institute which spun out of Stanford University more than 40 years ago. SRI began developing the technology for a voice-controlled electronic assistant following a grant from the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), eventually setting up Siri Inc which was spun out as an independent entity in 2007 and was then bought by Apple in 2010.

We wrote about WiLAN many times before (6 years ago we named the person behind it, Jim Skippen). It’s regarded or understood to have become a pain in the bottom to a lot of Linux/Android OEMs, not just to companies like Apple. It’s a destructive entity which Canada should take shame — not pride — in.

The other day IAM also mentioned RPX, which is a massive troll that Microsoft joined 7 years ago. IAM wrote about it in the context of litigation decline — a subject which we covered here many times in the latter half of 2016. America Invents Act and PTAB had a lot to do with this decline, as IAM admits:

The headline numbers for the 2016 litigation year in the US were out last week and showed a big drop in the total number of new patent infringement cases. According to Unified Patents there were 4,382 new cases, a drop of almost 25% on the 2015 figure. That is the lowest level since 2011 when the America Invents Act (AIA) came into force and new joinder rules had a significant inflationary effect on litigation volume.

RPX also released some stats and included a numbers of interesting data points. Among them was a big fall in the number of NPE campaigns against companies with revenues of $50 billion or more. Those companies are, of course, typically among the most popular targets for licensing efforts but they’re also the ones most likely to fight back in long, drawn-out lawsuits.

RPX basically speaks of itself, as it tends to engulf and attack large entities. After Alice and some of the aforementioned reforms we don’t expect RPX to find quite the same level of ‘success’ (shakedown). In fact, like many other trolls we hope it will cease operations. We know for a fact that Intellectual Ventures is suffering and even laying off a lot of staff.

The patent microcosm, growingly irritated by the sharp drop in litigation, is already sucking up to Donald Trump, hoping that he will put someone corrupt like Randall R. Rader in charge, assuring regressions in law. On the other hand, Matt Levy, who opposes patent maximalism and calls for further patent reforms, has just published these suggestions to the Trump Administration, focusing in particular on patent trolls (a side effect or symptom of low patent quality):

What the new administration should be doing with patents

[...]

Continue to Fight Patent Trolls

It is true that patent troll litigation dropped in 2016, but according to a recent RPX report, nearly all of that drop is due to fewer lawsuits against very large, well-funded companies. Patent trolls seem to be shifting their focus to smaller businesses that can’t afford to defend themselves effectively. Trolls’ venue of choice continues to be the Eastern District of Texas, as I’ve written about a number of times.

A new paper by Brian Love and James Yoon confirms why this is true: patent trolls use the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) because its procedures increase costs for defendants quickly. In fact, 90 percent of cases there are filed by patent assertion entities. The paper also shows that only 18 percent of EDTX cases have any local link to the original inventor, original patent owner, or the first named defendant. By comparison, nearly 88 percent of the cases filed in the Northern District of California (which includes Silicon Valley) have such a link to the district.

The reality is that we need venue reform. Congress needs to fix the patent venue statute so that patent owners can’t sue a company virtually anywhere. The evidence is simply undeniable that patent trolls are taking advantage of a court with overly friendly rules in order to extort money, and there’s no reason to allow this to continue any longer.

Do No Harm on Patentable Subject Matter

With recent Supreme Court decisions, there has been a lot of handwringing about the patentability of software, diagnostic methods, and certain biotech inventions. There have even been proposals to do away with the patent-eligibility requirement altogether.

Congress needs to let the law develop slowly. The courts are gradually coming to some reasonable interpretations based on previous case law, and that’s as it should be. There are a lot of stakeholders with competing interests, and the best way to develop this law is a bit at a time. Yes, it’s painfully slow, but it’s the way our legal system works.

These calls to “do away with the patent-eligibility requirement altogether,” (or at least weaken them) as Levy puts it, were often funded by companies like IBM and Microsoft, which paid a former USPTO Director (David Kappos) to become their lobbyist and undermine Alice, bringing back software patents in a crooked fashion that’s akin to bribery of officials.

America Invents Act Improved Patent Quality, But Right Wingers Threaten to Make It Worse Again

Posted in America, Patents at 10:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rumours suggest that Donald Trump will add Randall R. Rader to his swamp

Randall R. Rader
Photo from Reuters

Summary: The past half a decade saw gradual improvement in assessment of patents in the United States, but there is a growing threat and pressure from the patent microcosm to restore patent maximalism and chaos

The USPTO has been gradually improving under Michelle Lee, who sought positive reform and is said to be on her way out after Trump’s inauguration. The former Director, David Kappos, is now lobbying (in exchange for money!) to make things worse again. It looks as though Trump is about to blow away any progress with Rader as Director (or similar position). Rader is not only corrupt but is also a software patents proponent.

The following new post by Jason Rantanen links to this new report from the USPTO:

USPTO Releases its 2016 Performance and Accountability Report

I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2016. The PAR serves as the USPTO’s annual report, similar to what private sector companies prepare for their shareholders. Each year the USPTO publishes this report to update the public on our performance and financial health.

[...]

We will continue efforts in the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, which is a multifaceted initiative that builds on past efforts and includes future programs aimed at improving the accuracy, clarity, and consistency of patents; continue implementation of the patent dispute resolution portions of the AIA; meet the wave of legal challenges to the USPTO’s interpretation of the AIA and its regulations implementing the statute; develop outreach at both headquarters and regional offices; expand on dissemination of data; attain and maintain full sustainable funding; and provide IT support for a nationwide workforce with a “24/7/365” operational capability.

Watchtroll, in the mean time, being the software patents proponent that the site always is, suggests changes that would inherit bad elements of the EPO, where software patents are habitually being granted in defiance of the rules (more so under Battistelli than before, to the point where legal firms say it’s easier to get software patents at the EPO than at the USPTO). To quote from the summary:

In summary, there is a plausible case that the US law on obviousness is indeed compatible with the above-explained EPO problem-and-solution approach. It could even be said that the steps of the problem-and-solution approach appear to have been inspired by US law and practice!

Under present working styles, USPTO examiners concentrate on the claims and spend little or no time reading the description. If they are to initiate obviousness rejections using the problem-and-solution format they would have to change habits and consult the description to locate any effects related to the distinguishing features.

I remark that the problem-and-solution approach is not a new statement of the law of obviousness: it is a statement of practical steps to be taken by a practitioner in order to come to an objective assessment of obviousness/non-obviousness compatible with the Statute Law and Case Law. It is an approach designed for large organizations like the USPTO who need to maintain uniformity.

[...]

The US Law on obviousness is indeed compatible with the EPO problem-and-solution approach. The USPTO, unlike the EPO, may be bound by the ratio decidenti of superior court decisions, but this should not impede completing the MPEP with instructions like the problem-and-solution approach. All that is needed is to arouse interest in potential long-term advantages for the USPTO notably the perspective of increased quality. Application of the approach does not imply any change in the Statute or Case Law, simply a determination to complement the current piecemeal guidelines by a coherent methodology.

It follows that the USPTO not only could adopt an approach for assessing obviousness like the EPO problem-and-solution approach, but in my view the quest for quality is a good reason why it should do so.

A guest post at Patently-O, composed by Professors Arti Rai (Duke) and Colleen Chien (Santa Clara), is titled “Patent Quality: Where We Are” and it names the legacy of Kappos, which is similar to that of Battistelli (compromising patent quality to artificially make ruinous ‘gains’):

When former USPTO Director David Kappos took the helm in 2009, budgetary strains and application backlog demanded immediate attention. Even so, then-Director Kappos pushed through redesign of the agency’s IT system, gave an across-the-board increase in time to examiners, adjusted count allocation so as to reduce incentives for rework, and emphasized quality improvements through international worksharing, industry training, and the creation of the Common Patent Classification system. Then, with the passage of the American [sic] Invents Act of 2011, the agency’s budgetary position stabilized and the stage was set for further focus on quality. The backlog subsided, with the queue of patents reduced by 30% over the last eight years, according to statistics released by the USPTO.

It was only after the America Invents Act (AIA), which then created PTAB, that patent quality started to make more sense. We hope that even in the era of a Trump Administration the same kind of trend will persist, though we are not particularly optimistic about it.

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