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02.14.19

Outline/Index of the Alexandre Benalla/Battistelli Scandal

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Alexandre Benallas selfie

Summary: Our writings about the scandals implicating Benalla and the European Patent Office (EPO)

Reading Techrights on a Mobile Device Running Android

Posted in Site News at 2:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Screenshot Techrights on an app
Screenshot of Techrights on the Android app

Summary: A new Android app for reading this site is being tested

TECHNOLOGY changes over time and it changes relatively fast (compared to other things). This means that nowadays more people use Linux to access to Web than any other kernel, owing primarily to Android. Form factors too have changed. Microsoft missed the boat and only laptops is where GNU/Linux adoption has been rather scarce (depending on how one classifies Chromebooks).

“It never really evolved for that need. That site is 15 years old and the layout has been largely the same over the years.”A week ago I responded to complaints that Tux Machines did not have a mobile-friendly layout. It’s true. It never really evolved for that need. That site is 15 years old and the layout has been largely the same over the years.

There’s now another option for reading Techrights and also for following Tux Machines, which is a lot more active (more regularly updated). It’s this .apk file (it’s not on some ‘app’ ‘store’, at least not yet) and it’s mostly being tested at the moment. It ought to work perfectly fine with most modern versions of Android (we’re aware of some bugs already). To our surprise it has exceeded 1,500 downloads since yesterday when it was first published. It doesn’t do much except display content from the Techrights RSS feeds, as well as notifications. Maybe in the near future we’ll make something more solid and privacy-preserving (although nothing on a ‘smart’ phone can ever fully respect privacy), but this is just an interim solution. We reluctantly “get with the times…”

Please download/install to help the testing.

Links 14/2/2019: “I Love Free Software Day” and Mesa 19.0 RC4 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 1:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • 5 Gorgeous Examples Of Truly Customized Linux Desktops

      Using Linux is anything but boring, especially when it comes to personalizing your OS. That extends way beyond just the ability to install multiple Desktop Environments like Budgie, Pantheon and KDE Plasma. Sure I’ve tinkered with them, tweaked the appearance a bit, installed some cool desktop widgets. But nothing prepared me for my first trip to /r/unixporn.

      I repeatedly insist that Linux makes your PC feel personal again, but the level of customization and pure creative beauty on display below left my jaw on the floor, and me with a desire to learn how to accomplish what’s been done here.

      Join me in a brief but drool-worthy tour of some truly unique Linux desktops.

    • Google Chrome is getting virtual desktops (probably)

      If you’re the sort of person who regularly runs a bunch of programs on your computer at once, you may already be a fan of using multiple monitors. You can put one set of apps on one screen and a different set on another and tilt your head a bit to switch your focus from one to the other.

      But if you have a laptop, you’re probably confined to using a single screen from time to time (unless you have a portable monitor that you take everywhere you go).

      Enter virtual desktops. Most modern operating systems offer a way to create multiple virtual workspaces that you can flip between. It’s not quite as seamless as using multiple displays, but it’s certainly more compact (and more energy efficient, for that matter).

  • Server

    • The long, slow death of commercial Unix [Ed: Microsoft propagandist Andy Patrizio should also do an article about the death of Windows Server.]

      In the 1990s and well into the 2000s, if you had mission-critical applications that required zero downtime, resiliency, failover and high performance, but didn’t want a mainframe, Unix was your go-to solution.

      If your database, ERP, HR, payroll, accounting, and other line-of-business apps weren’t run on a mainframe, chances are they ran on Unix systems from four dominant vendors: Sun Microsystems, HP, IBM and SGI. Each had its own flavor of Unix and its own custom RISC processor. Servers running an x86 chip were at best used for file and print or maybe low-end departmental servers.

    • What is Server Virtualization: Is It Right For Your Business?

      In the modern world of IT application deployment, server virtualization is a commonly used term. But what exactly is server virtualization and is it right for your business?

      Server virtualization in 2019 is a more complicated and involved topic than it was when the concept first started to become a popular approach nearly two decades ago. However, the core basic concepts and promises remain the same.

    • Transitioning Red Hat SSO to a highly-available hybrid cloud deployment

      About two years ago, Red Hat IT finished migrating our customer-facing authentication system to Red Hat Single Sign-On (Red Hat SSO). As a result, we were quite pleased with the performance and flexibility of the new platform. Due to some architectural decisions that were made in order to optimize for uptime using the technologies at our disposal, we were unable to take full advantage of Red Hat SSO’s robust feature set until now. This article describes how we’re now addressing database and session replication between global sites.

    • Red Hat named to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list

      People come to work at Red Hat for our brand, but they stay for the people and the culture. It’s integral to our success as an organization. It’s what makes the experience of being a Red Hatter and working with other Red Hatters different. And it’s what makes us so passionate about our customers’ and Red Hat’s success. In recognition of that, Red Hat has been ranked No. 50 on Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For! Hats off–red fedoras, of course–to all Red Hatters!

    • News from Fedora Infrastructure

      One of the first tasks we have achieved is to move as many application we maintain to use CentOS CI for our Continuous Integration pipeline. CentOS CI provides us with a Jenkins instance that is running in an OpenShift cluster, you can have a look at the this instance here.

      Since a good majority of our application are developed in Python, we agreed on using tox to execute our CI tests. Adopting tox on our application allows us to use a really convenient way to configure the CI pipeline in Jenkins. In fact we only needed to create .cico.pipeline file in the application repository with the following.

    • Mirantis to Help Build AT&T’s Edge Computing Network for 5G On Open Source

      The two companies hope other telcos will follow AT&T’s lead in building their 5G networks on open source software.

    • The Telecom Industry Has Moved to Open Source

      The telecom industry is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. Whether it’s connected IoT devices or mobile entertainment, the modern economy runs on the Internet.
      However, the backbone of networking has been running on legacy technologies. Some telecom companies are centuries old, and they have a massive infrastructure that needs to be modernized.
      The great news is that this industry is already at the forefront of emerging technologies. Companies such as AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, DTK, and others have embraced open source technologies to move faster into the future. And LF Networking is at the heart of this transformation.
      “2018 has been a fantastic year,” said Arpit Joshipura, General Manager of Networking at Linux Foundation, speaking at Open Source Summit in Vancouver last fall. “We have seen a 140-year-old telecom industry move from proprietary and legacy technologies to open source technologies with LF Networking.”

    • Monroe Electronics Releases Completely Redesigned HALO Version 2.0

      With improvements including a new web-based interface and its shift to a unified web-server platform, HALO V2.0 simplifies and streamlines all of these critical processes. The new web-based interface for HALO V2.0 allows users to work with their preferred web browser (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari). The central HALO server now runs on a Linux OS (Ubuntu and CentOS 7) using a PostgreSQL database.

  • Shows

    • Top 5 podcasts for Linux news and tips

      Like many Linux enthusiasts, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I find my daily commute is the best time to get some time to myself and catch up on the latest tech news. Over the years, I have subscribed and unsubscribed to more show feeds than I care to think about and have distilled them down to the best of the best.

      Here are my top five Linux podcasts I think you should be listening to in 2019, plus a couple of bonus picks.

    • BSD Strategy | BSD Now 285

      Strategic thinking to keep FreeBSD relevant, reflecting on the soul of a new machine, 10GbE Benchmarks On Nine Linux Distros and FreeBSD, NetBSD integrating LLVM sanitizers in base, FreeNAS 11.2 distrowatch review, and more.

    • FLOSS Weekly 517: Liverpool MakeFest

      Caroline is the co-founder of the free event called Liverpool Makefest, a festival to promote stem, foss and maker-education for young people. The festival is now in its fifth year has attracted over 20,000 visitors and is being expanded across the national libraries within the UK.

    • LHS Episode #271: The Discord Accord

      Welcome to Episode 271 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this week’s episode, the hosts discuss ARISS Phase 2, the Peanut Android app for D-STAR and DMR linking, a geostationary satellite from Qatar, open source software in the public sector, a new open-source color management tool, Linux distributions for ham radio and much more. Thank you to everyone for listening and don’t forget our Hamvention 2019 fundraiser!

  • Kernel Space

    • Rusty’s reminiscences

      Rusty Russell was one of the first developers paid to work on the Linux kernel and the founder of the conference now known as linux.conf.au (LCA); he is one of the most highly respected figures in the Australian free-software community. The 2019 LCA was the 20th edition of this long-lived event; the organizers felt that it was an appropriate time to invite Russell to deliver the closing keynote talk. He used the opportunity to review his path into free software and the creation of LCA, but first a change of clothing was required.

      [...]

      He found his way into the Unix world in 1992, working on an X terminal connected to a SunOS server. SunOS was becoming the dominant Unix variant at that time, and there were a number of “legendary hackers” working at Sun to make that happen. But then Russell discovered another, different operating system: Emacs. This system was unique in that it was packaged with a manifesto describing a different way to create software. The idea of writing an entire operating system and giving it away for free seemed fantastical at the time, but the existence of Emacs meant that it couldn’t be dismissed.

      Even so, he took the normal path for a few more years, working on other, proprietary Unix systems; toward the end he ended up leading a research project developed in C++. The proprietary compilers were too expensive, so he was naturally using GCC instead. He did some digging in preparation for this talk and found his first free-software contribution, which was a patch to GCC in 1995. The experience of collaborating to build better software for everybody was exhilarating, but even with as much fun as he was having there was another level to aim for.

    • Fixing page-cache side channels, second attempt

      The kernel’s page cache, which holds copies of data stored in filesystems, is crucial to the performance of the system as a whole. But, as has recently been demonstrated, it can also be exploited to learn about what other users in the system are doing and extract information that should be kept secret. In January, the behavior of the mincore() system call was changed in an attempt to close this vulnerability, but that solution was shown to break existing applications while not fully solving the problem. A better solution will have to wait for the 5.1 development cycle, but the shape of the proposed changes has started to come into focus.
      The mincore() change for 5.0 caused this system call to report only the pages that are mapped into the calling process’s address space rather than all pages currently resident in the page cache. That change does indeed take away the ability for an attacker to nondestructively test whether specific pages are present in the cache (using mincore() at least), but it also turned out to break some user-space applications that legitimately needed to know about all of the resident pages. The kernel community is unwilling to accept such regressions unless there is absolutely no other solution, so this change could not remain; it was thus duly reverted for 5.0-rc4.

      Regressions are against the community’s policy, but so is allowing known security holes to remain open. A replacement for the mincore() change is thus needed; it can probably be found in this patch set posted by Vlastimil Babka at the end of January. It applies a new test to determine whether mincore() will report on the presence of pages in the page cache; in particular, it will only provide that information for memory regions that (1) are anonymous memory, or (2) are backed by a file that the calling process would be allowed to open for write access. In the first case, anonymous mappings should not be shared across security boundaries, so there should be no need to protect information about page-cache residency. For the second case, the ability to write a given file would give an attacker the ability to create all kinds of mischief, of which learning about which pages are cached is relatively minor.

    • Linux Kernel Getting io_uring To Deliver Fast & Efficient I/O

      The Linux kernel is getting a new ring for Valentine’s Day… io_uring. The purpose of io_uring is to deliver faster and more efficient I/O operations on Linux and should be coming with the next kernel cycle.

      Linux block maintainer and developer behind io_uring, Jens Axboe of Facebook, queued the new interface overnight into the linux-block/for-next on Git. The io_uring interface provides submission and completion queue rings that are shared between the application and kernel to avoid excess copies. The new interface has just two new system calls (io_uring_setup and io_uring_enter) for dealing with I/O. Axboe previously worked on this code under the “aioring” name.

    • Graphics Stack

      • No Surprise But Intel Linux Developers Are Working Towards Adaptive-Sync Support

        Back during the Intel Architecture Day event in December, Intel confirmed that finally with Icelake “Gen 11″ graphics there is Adaptive-Sync support after talking about it for several years. While they didn’t explicitly mention Linux support, they’ve been largely spot on for years with supporting new display features on Linux and this should be the case as well with Adaptive-Sync and their next-generation graphics.

      • Mesa 19.0-RC4 Released With More Fixes

        After yesterday’s botched Mesa 19.0-RC3 release, Mesa 19.0-RC4 is now available while it’s looking like two weeks or so until the stable debut.

        Due to the prior release candidates missing out on many fixes due to a scripting failure, Mesa 19.0-RC4 is out today with the corrected script that’s pulled in a great deal of fixes onto the 19.0 branch. Over the earlier release candidates, Mesa 19.0-RC4 adds in a surprisingly large number of Nouveau NV50/NVC0 fixes, several RADV Radeon Vulkan driver fixes, and a random assortment of other fixes as seen in the 19.0 branch.

      • AMDGPU DC Gets Fixes For Seamless Boot, Disappearing Cursor On Raven Ridge

        Should you be running into any display problems or just want to help in testing out the open-source AMD Linux driver’s display code, a new round of patches were published today.

  • Applications

    • 8 Best Free Linux Food and Drink Software

      Richard Stallman, an American software freedom activist, has profound views on what freedoms should be provided in software. He strongly believes that free software should be regarded in the same way as free speech and not free beer. Rest assured, this article is not going to become embroiled in an ideological debate, but instead focuses on a subject which really is essential for life itself.

      The necessary requirements for life are physical conditions which can sustain life, nutrients and energy source, and water. This article relates to the last two requirements. Linux software can play a key part in helping to improve our health and quality of life. If you want to stay fit, part of the solution is to ensure that you are eating the right types of food in the right quantity. Nutrition analysis is important to ensure that you have a healthy balanced diet containing a variety of foods including fruit, vegetables and lots of starchy foods.

      This article is not just limited to software that ensures you maintain a healthy diet. We also feature the best free Linux software for helping people to cook delicious food. Although this software will not help you turn into Gordon Ramsay, Paul Bocuse, or Bobby Flay, it will open new doors in the world of cooking. Rest assured, we have not forgotten beer lovers, as we also identify the finest beer software available.

      To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 6 high quality food and drink software. Hopefully there will be something of interest for anyone interested in keeping fit, making beer, or the art of cooking.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Gathering Storm Ships for Mac and Linux on Feb 14th!

        Launching for Mac & Linux on February 14, 2019, Civilization VI: Gathering Storm adds new advanced technologies, engineering projects, the fan-favorite World Congress, and introduces a living world ecosystem that showcases natural events that could enrich or challenge your growing empire.

      • Six years ago today, Steam was released for Linux – Happy Birthday

        Happy official birthday to the Steam client for Linux, today marks six years since it released for everyone.

        Who would have thought we would have everything we do now back in 2013? We’ve come a seriously long way! In that time we’ve seen the rise and fall of the Steam Machine and Steam Link (now available as an app), the Steam Controller, the HTC Vive headset and plenty more.

        We now have well over five thousand games available on the Steam store that support Linux. That’s a ridiculous amount, considering we’re still a very small platform even in comparison to Mac when going by the current Steam Hardware Survey showing the market share.

      • Team Cherry has announced Hollow Knight: Silksong, coming to Linux

        The sequel to Hollow Knight has now been officially announced by Team Cherry as Hollow Knight: Silksong.

      • Iron Marines from Ironhide Game Studio will be coming to Linux

        Ironhide Game Studio (Kingdom Rush) are working on a new real-time strategy game named Iron Marines and they’ve confirmed to us it’s heading to Linux.

        As we follow them on Twitter, we saw them link to the Steam page. Upon viewing it, we noticed it only listed Windows and Mac. After sending a quick message to them on Twitter, to ask if it will come to Linux they replied with an amusing gif that said “For Sure”—so there you have it!

      • Another little update on Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation for Linux

        While Stardock haven’t managed to get Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation onto Linux just yet, they did give another small update last month.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Chakrma: Frameworks 5.55.0, Plasma 5.15.0, and Applications 18.12.2 by KDE are now available

        Most of our mirrors synchronize with the central repositories on the origin server within 24 hours. Use the mirror status web page to see when your mirror of choice last synchronized.

      • KDE neon Systems Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Have Reached End of Life, Upgrade Now

        With the rebase of KDE neon on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) on September 2018, the development team have decided it’s time to put the old series based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) to rest once and for all as most users already managed to upgrade their systems to the new KDE neon series based on Canonical’s latest Ubuntu LTS release.

        “KDE neon was rebased onto Ubuntu bionic/18.04 last year and upgrades have gone generally smooth. We have removed xenial/16.04 build from our machines (they only hang around for as long as they did because it took a while to move the Snap builds away from them) and the apt repo will remove soon,” said the devs.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

  • Distributions

    • The Earliest Linux Distros: Before Mainstream Distros Became So Popular

      Take a look back into how some of the earliest Linux distributions evolved and came into being as we know them today.

    • Ethical Hacking, Ubuntu-Based BackBox Linux OS Is Now Available on AWS

      If you want to run BackBox Linux in the cloud, on your AWS account, you should know that the ethical hacking operating system is now available on the Amazon Web Services cloud platform as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) virtual appliance that you can install with a few mouse clicks.

      The BackBox Linux operating system promises to offer Amazon Web Services users an optimal environment for professional penetration testing operations as it puts together a collection of some of the best ethical hacking tools, which are already configured and ready for production use.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Inkscape, GTK, glibc Updates Arrive in Tumbleweed

        The lone snapshot of the week was 20190209. ModemManager made the jump from version 1.6.14 to 1.10.0 and consolidated common tag names among all the supported plugins as well as provided a new tag to allow specifying flow control settings to use in serial ports. The Mozilla Thunderbird 60.5.0 package gave more search engine options in certain locations offering Google and DuckDuckGo available by default. The email client also added Thunderbird FileLink with WeTransfer to upload large attachments. Thunderbird Filelink provides support for online storage services and allows upload attachments to an online storage service and then replaces the attachment in the message with a link. General-purpose parser generator bison 3.3.1 removed support for the 32-bit C/C++ development system DJGPP. The compiler cache, ccache 3.6, which speeds up recompilation by caching previous compilations, fixed a problem due to Clang, which is a C language family frontend for LLVM, overwriting the output file when compiling an assembler file and added support for GNU Compiler Collection‘s `-ffile-prefix-map` option. The 1.12.12 version update for dbus stopped a few memory leaks and added a couple patches. The epson-inkjet-printer-escpr 1.6.35 version added support for new printer models EcoTank ET-M1100 and Epson WorkForce ST-2000. GNU C Library glibc 2.29 added getcpu wrapper function, which returns the currently used CPU and NUMA node, and optimized the generic exp, exp2, log, log2, pow, sinf, cosf, sincosf and tanf functions. Cross-platform widget toolkit gtk3 3.24.5 implement gdk_window_present for Wayland, updated translations and refreshed the theme. The health-checker 1.1 package added new plugins for cri-o and kubelet. Users of the professional-quality vector-graphics application Inkscape can now use the 0.92.4 version; the new version improves preferences of the measuring tool when grids are visible and fixes a crash that would happen when a user does a Shift/Ctrl-click when handling shapes. Tumbleweed users will have 1.7x faster performance with Ruby 2.6 as the default as compared to Ruby 2.5. Other library packages updated in the snapshot were libosinfo 1.3.0, libsodium 1.0.17, libsolv 0.7.3, libstorage-ng 4.1.86 and libzypp 17.11.1.

    • Debian Family

      • Futatabi video out

        After some delay, the video of my FOSDEM talk about Futatabi, my instant replay system, is out on YouTube. Actually, the official recording has been out for a while, but this is a special edit; nearly all of the computer content has been replaced with clean 720p59.94 versions.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Why I love free software

    The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charity that supports and promote the use of free software. Their latest income and expense report for 2017, shows that much of their efforts focus on, beyond basic infrastructure costs, public awareness, legal work, and policy work.

    Every year, they celebrate free software on February 14 around the world online and offline.

  • Let’s celebrate “I love Free Software Day”!

    One of our goals in the LibreOffice community is to make powerful productivity tools available to everyone. Releasing the software for free is an important part of that, but “free software” is about more than just the price. It’s about giving users fundamental freedoms in how they use their software and computers – giving control back to them.

    For instance, the source code for LibreOffice – that is, the human-readable “recipe” behind the program – is available for everyone to see, study and modify. You can download this code, see what it does, change it for your needs, and then turn it back into an executable version for your computer. Many hundreds of people have done this already, contributing back important changes and updates to LibreOffice. And then you’re free to share the changes with other users.

  • Show your love for free software this Valentine’s Day!

    Free software is crucial for a free society, and we love being able to use technology that respects our rights. Spread the love this Valentine’s Day and spread the word about free software by sharing this graphic, which invites your friends and family to learn more about computer user freedom, with the hashtag #ilovefs:

  • I Love Free Software Day 2019

    Free Software is a substantial part of my life. I got introduced to it by my computer science teacher in middle school, however back then I wasn’t paying that much attention to the ethics behind it and rather focused on the fact that it was gratis and new to me.

    Using GNU/Linux on a school computer wasn’t really fun for me, as the user interface was not really my taste (I’m sorry KDE). It was only when I got so annoyed from the fact that my copy of Windows XP was 32 bit only and that I was supposed to pay the full price again for a 64 bit license, that I deleted Windows completely and installed Ubuntu on my computer – only to reinstall Windows again a few weeks later though. But the first contact was made.

    Back then I was still mostly focused on cool features rather than on the meaning of free software. Someday however, I watched the talk by Richard Stallman and started to read more about what software freedom really is. At this point I was learning how to use blender on Ubuntu to create animations and only rarely booted into Windows. But when I did, it suddenly felt oddly wrong. I realized that I couldn’t truly trust my computer. This time I tried harder to get rid of Windows.

    Someone once said that you only feel your shackles when you try to move. I think the same goes for free software. Once you realize what free software is and what rights it grants you (what rights you really have), you start to feel uncomfortable if you’re suddenly denied those rights.

  • Events

    • Saving birds with technology

      Two members of the Cacophony Project came to linux.conf.au 2019 to give an overview of what the project is doing to increase the amount of bird life in New Zealand. The idea is to use computer vision and machine learning to identify and eventually eliminate predators in order to help bird populations; one measure of success will be the volume and variety of bird song throughout the islands. The endemic avian species in New Zealand evolved without the presence of predatory mammals, so many of them have been decimated by the predation of birds and their eggs. The Cacophony Project is looking at ways to reverse that.

    • Mozilla’s initiatives for non-creepy deep learning

      Jack Moffitt started off his 2019 linux.conf.au talk by calling attention to Facebook’s “Portal” device. It is, he said, a cool product, but raises an important question: why would anybody in their right mind put a surveillance device made by Facebook in their kitchen? There are a lot of devices out there — including the Portal — using deep-learning techniques; they offer useful functionality, but also bring a lot of problems. We as a community need to figure out a way to solve those problems; he was there to highlight a set of Mozilla projects working toward that goal.
      He defined machine learning as the process of making decisions and/or predictions by modeling from input data. Systems using these techniques can perform all kinds of tasks, including language detection and (bad) poetry generation. The classic machine-learning task is spam filtering, based on the idea that certain words tend to appear more often in spam and can be used to detect unwanted email. With more modern neural networks, though, there is no need to do that sort of feature engineering; the net itself can figure out what the interesting features are. It is, he said, “pretty magical”.

    • Lisp and the foundations of computing

      At the start of his linux.conf.au 2019 talk, Kristoffer Grönlund said that he would be taking attendees back 60 years or more. That is not quite to the dawn of computing history, but it is close—farther back than most of us were alive to remember. He encountered John McCarthy’s famous Lisp paper [PDF] via Papers We Love and it led him to dig deeply into the Lisp world; he brought back a report for the LCA crowd.

      Grönlund noted that this was his third LCA visit over the years. He was pleased that his 2017 LCA talk “Package managers all the way down” was written up in LWN. He also gave his “Everyone gets a pony!” talk at LCA 2018. He works for SUSE, which he thanked for sending him to the conference, but the company is not responsible for anything in the talk, he said with a grin.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Welcoming a new Firefox/Toolkit peer

        Please join me in welcoming Bianca Danforth to the set of peers blessed with reviewing patches to Firefox and Toolkit. She’s been doing great work making testing experiment extensions easy and so it’s time for her to level-up.

  • LibreOffice

  • Funding

  • Programming/Development

    • WebKitGTK 2.23.90 Adds Support For JPEG2000, More Touchpad Gestures

      It missed the GNOME 3.32 Beta by a week, but out today is the WebKitGTK 2.23.90 release, the downstream of the WebKit web layout engine focused on GTK integration and used by the likes of GNOME Web (Epiphany).

      Interestingly, this WebKitGTK release adds support for JPEG2000. That support is a bit surprising considering outside of Apple’s Safari browsers, JPEG2000 isn’t really supported by other web browsers for this offshoot of JPEG that has never been widely adopted. But now nearly two decades after JPEG2000 was published, it’s at least supported by WebKitGTK.

    • Qt on CMake Workshop Summary – Feb 2019

      Last Monday and Tuesday a few brave souls from both the Qt Company and KDAB gathered together in the KDAB Berlin office premises to work on the CMake build system for building Qt. There was Mikhail, Liang, Tobias, Kai (QtCompany) as well as Jean-Michaël, Allen, Volker and me (KDAB) sitting together in a tight room, focusing solely on the CMake port of Qt.

    • Python 3.8 alpha in Fedora
    • Fedora 31 Is Already Planning Ahead For Python 3.8

      While Fedora 30 isn’t debuting for another three months, with the system-wide change deadline already having passed on that release, ambitious Fedora developers are already thinking about early feature plans for Fedora 31 that will debut in November.

      One of the first Fedora 31 system-wide change proposals is for upgrading from Python 3.7 to Python 3.8. Python 3.7 was released just last summer and the Python 3.8.0 release isn’t even expected until the end of October, but given it will be another big update to Python3, Fedora developers are working on coordinating the upgrade early to prevent possible fallout late in the cycle.

    • What You Don’t Know About Python Variables

      The first time you get introduced to Python’s variable, it is usually defined as “parts of your computer’s memory where you store some information.” Some define it as a “storage placeholder for texts and numbers.” We will soon find out that Python’s variable is deeper than this.

    • Some Attention to Detail
    • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #40
    • A GPIOZero Theramin for Valentine’s Day
    • Benchmarking The Python Optimizations Of Clear Linux Against Ubuntu, Intel Python

      Stemming from Clear Linux detailing how they optimize Python’s performance using various techniques, there’s been reader interest in seeing just how their Python build stacks up. Here’s a look at the Clear Linux Python performance compared to a few other configurations as well as Ubuntu Linux.

      For this quick Python benchmarking roundabout, the following configurations were tested while using an Intel Core i9 7980XE system throughout:

      - Clear Linux’s default Python build with the performance optimizations they recently outlined to how they ship their Python binary.

    • Python elects a steering council

      After a two-week voting period, which followed a two-week nomination window, Python now has its governance back in place—with a familiar name in the mix. As specified in PEP 13 (“Python Language Governance”), five nominees were elected to the steering council, which will govern the language moving forward. It may come as a surprise to some that Guido van Rossum, whose resignation as benevolent dictator for life (BDFL) led to the need for a new governance model and, ultimately, to the vote for a council, was one of the 17 candidates. It is perhaps much less surprising that he was elected to share the duties he once wielded solo.

      The other members of the steering council are Barry Warsaw, Brett Cannon, Carol Willing, and Nick Coghlan. Other candidates and their nomination statements are available as part of PEP 8100 (“January 2019 steering council election”). Warsaw, Cannon, and Coghlan are likely recognizable names to those who follow Python development (as is, of course, Van Rossum). Willing is perhaps less-known in the Python world, even though she is a core developer, has been a member of the Python Software Foundation (PSF) board of directors, and is a core developer and steering council member for the Jupyter project.

      The number of candidates for the Python steering council was rather large, especially when compared with either the eligible voter pool (96) or the number who actually cast ballots (69). Voting was restricted to active core developers, though nominees could come from outside of that set. Some concerns were expressed about allowing external nominees, but the PEP did explicitly allow core developers to nominate “outsiders”. Three of the nominees were not on the list of eligible voters: David Mertz, Peter Wang, and Travis Oliphant. However, Oliphant is a former core developer as can be seen in his nomination thread. The rest of the candidates are a mix of both older and newer core developers with interests ranging throughout the Python ecosystem.

Leftovers

  • K-pop and Fancy Sneakers: Kim Jong Un’s Cultural Revolution

    Dancers in hot pants. Factories pumping out Air Jordan lookalikes. TV dramas that are actually fun to watch.

    North Korean pop culture, long dismissed by critics as a kitschy throwback to the dark days of Stalinism, is getting a major upgrade under leader Kim Jong Un.

    The changes are being seen in everything from television dramas and animation programs to the variety and packaging of consumer goods, which have improved significantly under Kim. Whether it’s a defensive attempt to keep up with South Korea or an indication that Kim is willing to embrace aspects of Western consumer culture that his predecessors might have viewed as suspiciously bourgeois isn’t clear.

    “The most important thing for us is to produce a product that suits the people’s tastes,” Kim Kyong Hui of the Ryuwon Shoe Factory told The Associated Press recently in the facility’s showroom, which is filled with dozens of kinds of shoes for running, volleyball, soccer — even table tennis. “The respected leader Kim Jong Un has instructed us to closely study shoes from all over the world and learn from their example,” she added, pointing to a pair of flame-red high-top basketball shoes.

    To be sure, North Korea remains one of the most insular countries in the world. Change comes cautiously and anyone who openly criticizes the government or leadership or is seen as a threat can expect severe repercussions. But there appears to be more of a willingness under Kim to experiment around some of the edges.

  • “Radical Ireland’s Dead And Gone”: The Protest Outside Simon Harris’ Home

    “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave”. Thus wrote W.B. Yeats over 100 years ago in his poem September 1913which castigated the Dublin middle class for their part in the Hugh Lane bequest controversy. Lane, an art dealer and collector, sought to offer his paintings to Dublin Municipal Corporation. The city’s middle class, however, descended into frenzied condemnation of the proposal and of the art – which included pieces by French impressionists Degas and Renoir – on moralistic and economic grounds.

    Yeats had also put pen to paper for September 1913 in the wake of the Great Dublin Lockout of that year, when “Big” Jim Larkin and James Connolly had led the city’s tram workers and the ITGWU in a protracted battle with the bosses and their figurehead William Martin Murphy. Yeats’ lines in the poem describing men fumbling “in a greasy till” to “add the halfpence to the pence” are understood to be attacks on the mean-spiritedness of both the middle and upper classes of Dublin during this period. With his reference to the Fenian, John O’Leary, a long-standing member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Yeats yearned for an Ireland of upstanding political characters but despaired that such an era was “dead and gone”.

    In the hysterical reaction of the last few days by what is often termed “Middle Ireland”, as well as by those purporting to be on the left, to a protest held outside the home of Simon Harris, Minister for Health, it is clear that “radical Ireland is dead and gone”. Indeed, we might ponder whether it ever existed.

  • Hardware

    • Cameron Kaiser: So long, Opportunity rover

      Both Opportunity and Spirit were powered by the 20MHz BAE RAD6000, a radiation-hardened version of the original IBM POWER1 RISC Single Chip CPU and the indirect ancestor of the PowerPC 601. Many PowerPC-based spacecraft are still in operation, both with the original RAD6000 and its successor the RAD750, a radiation-hardened version of the G3.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • This May Be the Only Viable Alternative to ‘Medicare for All’

      Affordable health care providing universal access has long been a holy grail of the Democratic Party. Like the grail itself, however, many have tried to obtain it, and all have failed in the efforts.

      Even after the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, American health care is still neither particularly affordable (especially after repeated Republican efforts under the Trump administration to gut its main elements), nor is the access universal. Unlike in most other countries, U.S. health care is still largely predicated on employment, despite the insistence of many that it is a “universal right.”

    • Bernie Sanders Wants to Expand Social Security

      Today, Social Security plays a major role in safeguarding tens of millions of people from destitution — not just people over the age of sixty-five, but millions of children too. It is by far the most significant anti-poverty program in the country. Which is why Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has introduced the “Social Security Expansion Act” to expand Social Security by requiring the wealthy to contribute more equitably to our public retirement system and preventing them from exploiting it for personal gain.

      Over the last thirty years, skyrocketing inequality has threatened Social Security’s survival. The wealthiest have captured an increasing share of income gains above the taxable earnings cap, while workers’ wages have flat-lined. This trend has shrunk the share of national wages being taxed to fund Social Security. That’s why the program’s “total cost is projected to exceed its total income (including interest) in 2018 for the first time since 1982,” according to Social Security’s Board of Trustees.

      For decades, conservatives on both sides of the aisle have tried to raid Social Security to bankroll corporate tax cuts and/or turn it into a profitable industry. Sanders’s legislation pushes back on this agenda.

    • To Be Crystal Clear: ‘Medicare for All’ Does Not Mean ‘Medicare for Some’

      As the health care debate heats up, it’s time to be clear about what Medicare for All is and what it is not. Medicare for All does not mean giving people the option to “buy in” to Medicare under our current health insurance system—what might be called Medicare for Some.

      Members of Congress who support bringing everyone in America under one federally administered health insurance program are proposing Medicare for All. Members of Congress who support opening up Medicare to people as an additional insurance option are proposing a Medicare buy-in or Medicare for Some. Predictably, some members of Congress support both.

  • Security

    • Snapd flaw gives attackers root access on Linux systems
    • Canonical Patches Dirty Sock Vulnerability Affecting Ubuntu, Other Linux Distros [Ed: Shows what Microsoft thinks of Linux: "Microsoft Editor" (Bogdan Popa) in Softpedia keeps hijacking their Linux section only ever to spew FUD in there. Again today.]
    • Microsoft Developer: You Still Should Have Anti-Virus With Windows Subsystem For Linux [Ed: Microsoft is making GNU/Linux "great again" with NSA back doors]
    • 9 Best Linux-Based Security Tools

      Information security specialists and sysadmins need to be sure their networks are sealed against malicious attacks. This is why the practice of penetration testing is commonly employed, to sniff out security vulnerabilities before malicious hackers. Home Linux users should also be wary about the security of their systems. There are a huge variety of tools for accomplishing this, but some stand out in the industry more than others.

      In this article, we are going to highlight 9 of the best Linux-based security tools, which every pentester should be familiar with. Note this is only a list of some of the most widely used tools – if you’re interested in the latest security news, you can regularly read this website, which covers a lot of great infosec topics. Most of the tools on this list are also bundled with Kali Linux (specially designed for information security professionals, but not for home users or Linux newbies), but you can check out this literally massive list of all things related to hardware, security, programming, and other computer-related fields of interest to infosec people.

    • Systemd 241 Released With Security Fixes & Other Changes

      Lennart Poettering has just tagged the systemd 241 update that includes the “system down” security fixes and other improvements to this widely-used Linux init system.

    • PostgreSQL 11.2, 10.7, 9.6.12, 9.5.16, and 9.4.21 released

      The PostgreSQL project has put out updated releases for all supported versions. “This release changes the behavior in how PostgreSQL interfaces with ‘fsync()’ and includes fixes for partitioning and over 70 other bugs that were reported over the past three months.”

    • Dimitri John Ledkov: Encrypt all the things

      Went into blogger settings and enabled TLS on my custom domain blogger blog. So it is now finally a https://blog.surgut.co.uk However, I do use feedburner and syndicate that to the planet. I am not sure if that is end-to-end TLS connections, thus I will look into removing feedburner between my blog and the ubuntu/debian planets. My experience with changing feeds in the planets is that I end up spamming everyone. I wonder, if I should make a new tag and add that one, and add both feeds to the planet config to avoid spamming old posts.

      Next up went into gandi LiveDNS platform and enabled DNSSEC on my domain. It propagated quite quickly, but I believe my domain is now correctly signed with DNSSEC stuff. Next up I guess, is to fix DNSSEC with captive portals. I guess what we really want to have on “wifi” like devices, is to first connect to wifi and not set it as default route. Perform captive portal check, potentially with a reduced DNS server capabilities (ie. no EDNS, no DNSSEC, etc) and only route traffic to the captive portal to authenticate. Once past the captive portal, test and upgrade connectivity to have DNSSEC on. In the cloud, and on the wired connections, I’d expect that DNSSEC should just work, and if it does we should be enforcing DNSSEC validation by default.

      So I’ll start enforcing DNSSEC on my laptop I think, and will start reporting issues to all of the UK banks if they dare not to have DNSSEC. If I managed to do it, on my own domain, so should they!

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Unhinged Mike Pence Warns of ‘New Holocaust’ as Team Trump Tries to Rally EU Leaders for War With Iran

      Pence accused Iran of being “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world” and “the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East” while attempting to shame European leaders over their recent “effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions…against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

      [...]

      Pompeo and Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton have been accused of fomenting unrest in Iran in the name of forcing regime change. Last month, just days after Pompeo delivered an “arrogant tirade” vilifying the country, it came out that Bolton had ordered the Pentagon to draw up military strike options against Iran. Earlier this week, Bolton marked the 40th anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution with barely veiled threats. Each move has provoked warnings that “the drums of war are beating.”

    • House Democrats Slam Trump on Yemen and Venezuela

      After years of standing on the sidelines as the United States waged war in countries across the globe, Democrats in Congress are challenging war hawks in the Trump administration and moving to curb the president’s ability to launch military operations in foreign countries without approval from lawmakers.

      With votes from a handful of isolationist Republicans, the Democratic majority in the House passed a resolution on Wednesday directing President Trump to halt U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, where an ongoing civil war has killed thousands of civilians and left millions more on the brink of starvation.

      The vote came shortly after a heated committee hearing where House Democrats warned White House officials against taking military action in Venezuela, where the U.S. is actively backing opposition politicians in the midst of a political and humanitarian crisis that has severely shaken the sitting government.

    • Ilhan Omar Grills Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams on U.S.-Backed Genocide, Death Squads & Massacres

      The new U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday on U.S. efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Abrams spoke three weeks after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new president. Since then, the U.S. has placed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company and rejected calls for an international dialogue to resolve the crisis. Elliott Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Ríos Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chávez. Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota questioned Abrams about his record on Wednesday during his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    • Rep. Ilhan Omar Applauded for Grilling Elliott Abrams Over Role in US-Backed Genocide, Massacres, and Death Squads in Latin America

      “You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a ‘fabulous achievement,’” Omar said. “Yes or no: Do you still think so?”

      After Abrams claimed that El Salvador became a “democracy” after the U.S. intervened, Omar pressed on, asking, “Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a ‘fabulous achievement’?”

    • Ilhan Omar Makes Convicted War Criminal Elliott Abrams Squirm

      As forensic experts in El Salvador continue the 26-year effort to exhume the bodies of the victims of the December 1981 El Mozote massacre, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar grilled the Trump administration’s Venezuela envoy, Elliott Abrams, on his role in human rights violations.

      “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful,” Omar said during a House foreign affairs hearing on Venezuela on Wednesday. She was referencing the Iran-Contra scandal, after which Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanor counts for lying to Congress about using cash from arms sales to Iran to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Abrams was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush. As Abrams began to speak, Omar cut him off.

      “It wasn’t a question,” she said.

      “It was an attack,” Abrams said, raising his voice.

    • Elliott Abrams Melts Down As Muslim Congresswoman Questions Role In Crimes Against Humanity

      Elliott Abrams, the special envoy to Venezuela for President Donald Trump’s administration, had a meltdown when Representative Ilhan Omar highlighted his criminal conduct in the Iran-Contra scandal.

      The meltdown occurred during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, “Venezuela at the Crossroads.”

      “In 1991, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush,” Omar stated. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”

      “If I could respond to that,” Abrams interjected. Omar replied, “That wasn’t a question.”

    • Keep Interceptor Missiles Out of Hawai’i

      It’s been reported that interceptor missiles might be deployed soon at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the leeward coast of Kauai (“Hawaii could house missile interceptors sooner than later,” Star-Advertiser, Feb. 3). Defense against missiles from North Korea is the stated purpose. For the people of Hawaii, who experienced the false missile alert of January 2018, a defensive system might sound like a good idea.

      Despite the nomenclature, however, the ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) is an offensive weapon. Since ancient times, it has been well-understood that a shield renders one’s sword more formidable. The point of BMDS is to have first-strike capability against one’s enemies.

      The Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy shifted the focus from terrorism back onto great powers competition. Russia and China are the rivals, and North Korea and Iran are the “rogue regimes” of greatest concern. Making Hawaii a launchpad for missiles makes it a target. It makes us less secure. When you received the missile alert, did you look out the window toward Pearl Harbor?

      During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union arrived at a stalemate via the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. Either side had sufficient nuclear weapons, particularly submarine-launched ballistic missiles, to survive a first strike by the other side. The threat of devastation by the other side’s remaining weapons helped to stay the finger of American presidents and Soviet premiers on the nuclear button.

    • We’ve Been Reduced to Enemy Combatants in Our Own Country

      We have managed to survive crackdowns, clampdowns, shutdowns, showdowns, shootdowns, standdowns, knockdowns, putdowns, breakdowns, lockdowns, takedowns, slowdowns, meltdowns, and never-ending letdowns.

      We’ve been held up, stripped down, faked out, photographed, frisked, fracked, hacked, tracked, cracked, intercepted, accessed, spied on, zapped, mapped, searched, shot at, tasered, tortured, tackled, trussed up, tricked, lied to, labeled, libeled, leered at, shoved aside, saddled with debt not of our own making, sold a bill of goods about national security, tuned out by those representing us, tossed aside, and taken to the cleaners.

      We’ve had our freedoms turned inside out, our democratic structure flipped upside down, and our house of cards left in a shambles.

      We’ve had our children burned by flashbang grenades, our dogs shot, and our old folks hospitalized after “accidental” encounters with marauding SWAT teams. We’ve been told that as citizens we have no rights within 100 miles of our own border, now considered “Constitution-free zones.” We’ve had our faces filed in government databases, our biometrics crosschecked against criminal databanks, and our consumerist tendencies catalogued for future marketing overtures.

      We’ve seen the police transformed from community peacekeepers to point guards for the militarized corporate state. From Boston to Ferguson and every point in between, police have pushed around, prodded, poked, probed, scanned, shot and intimidated the very individuals—we the taxpayers—whose rights they were hired to safeguard. Networked together through fusion centers, police have surreptitiously spied on our activities and snooped on our communications, using hi-tech devices provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

    • Danny Glover: The U.S. Redefines the Term ‘Dictator’ as It Sees Fit

      Actor and activist Danny Glover places the conflict over Venezuela in the context of a long history of US-led coups in Latin America

    • Mistranslated or Not, Israeli PM’s ‘War With Iran’ Tweet Sparks Grave Concerns

      A deleted tweet from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ignited fresh fears about his position on Iran, after his official Twitter account provided an English translation of his remarks to reporters on Wednesday while attending an American-led summit about the Middle East hosted in Warsaw, Poland.

      The initial tweet, translated from Hebrew, had the prime minister saying: “What is important about this meeting, and it is not in secret, because there are many of those—is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” An amended translation replaced “war” with “combating.”

    • In House’s Yemen Vote, Congress Reasserts War-Making Powers

      Asserting congressional authority over war-making powers, the House passed a resolution Wednesday that would force the administration to withdraw U.S. troops from involvement in Yemen, in a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s alliance with the Saudi-led coalition behind the military intervention.

      Lawmakers in both parties are increasingly uneasy over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and skeptical of the U.S. partnership with that coalition, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s role in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the royal family.

    • House Makes History With Vote to End U.S. Role in Yemen War
    • ‘Historic’: House Approves War Powers Resolution to End US Complicity in Yemen

      The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a War Powers Resolution that would require President Trump to end U.S. military support for the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen.

      The bill, H.J. Res. 37 introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), passed in a 248-177 vote—mostly along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House—and will now head to the Senate where a version of the resolution last year, despite Republican control, passed in historic fashion. Read the full roll call here.

    • One Year After Parkland Massacre, Student-Led Movement Celebrated for Renewed Progress on Anti-Gun Laws

      Hours before Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was to mark the one-year anniversary of its deadly shooting, gun control groups applauded as major gun control legislation was advanced to the House floor for the first time in years—the latest stride in a renewed push for meaningful reform which has been led largely by Parkland survivors.

      The House Judiciary Committee voted 21 to 14, along party lines, to send the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) to the House Wednesday night after nine hours of debate. The bill would require background checks for all gun sales in the U.S. The committee also passed a bill to close a loophole in the current, weaker background checks law that allows a gun purchase to move ahead if the check is not conducted within three days.

      Along with the Judiciary Committee’s hearing last week—the first on gun control in more than a decade—the votes were the first significant anti-gun actions taken by the Democratic Party since it won control of the House in November.

    • One Year After Parkland, 1,200 More Kids Are Dead by Gunfire—But Students Still Fight for Gun Safety

      It’s been one year since the devastating massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that galvanized the nation to take action against gun violence and turned a generation of young people into activists. On February 14, 2018, a former student armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire, gunning down 17 students, staff and teachers in just three minutes. It was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Students who survived the massacre quickly came to national prominence as leading activists for gun control. We speak with Lois Beckett, senior reporter at The Guardian covering gun policy. Her latest piece is titled “’We can’t let fear consume us’: why Parkland activists won’t give up.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Who’s Afraid of the Green New Deal

      In recent weeks, a polar vortex blew across the U.S., killing at least 20 people. At the same time, U.S. government scientists reported that 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, with the five hottest years occurring in the past five years. A huge hole in one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is causing accelerated melting there, while across that continent, large lakes of meltwater are bending, buckling and threatening to collapse these vast ice sheets — all leading to rapidly increasing global sea level rise. Glaciers melting in the Himalayas threaten tens of millions of people downstream with flooding and the disruption of water supplies. As evidence that the planet is experiencing what has been called “the sixth great extinction,” a recent review of scientific data concludes that 40 percent of the world’s insects are on the brink of extinction.

      President Donald Trump’s response? During the polar vortex, he tweeted: “What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!” Yet there are signs of hope. Two Democrats, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, have submitted a resolution to Congress recognizing “the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” House Resolution 109 had a remarkable 67 co-sponsors in the House, all Democrats, and has been distributed to 11 different House committees for consideration.

      “Today is the day that we truly embark on a comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice in the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said, announcing the effort. “Climate change and our environmental challenges are one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life, not just as a nation, but as a world.”

    • Capitalism’s Ownership of Global Warming

      Capitalism not only owns global warming, there’s a big red mitigation arrow pointed at the heart of today’s rampant capitalism, which is eerily similar to the loosie goosie version of the Roaring Twenties, but with a high tech twist.

      After all, somebody’s got to pony-up for climate change/global warming mitigation. Who better than deep pocket capitalists?

      For historical perspective: Today’s brand of capitalism runs circles around the Eisenhower 1950s with its 90% top marginal tax rate amidst harmony and good feelings all across the land, an age of innocence aka Leave It To Beaver.

      In sharp contrast to the fifties era of good feelings with its emergence of spanking new suburbia, today’s landscape resembles the film Blade Runner (1982) high-tech, rich, and gleaming in some places but elsewhere (often times right next door) shabby and weakening as America’s middle class fizzles away attached to a ball & chain of indebted servitude.

      With increasing frequency as climate mitigation is investigated certain economic statistics stand out like a throbbing sore thumb: “The top three greenhouse gas emitters— China, the EU and the US—contribute more than half of total global emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for 3.5%. Collectively, the top 10 emitters account for nearly three-quarters (75%) of global emissions. The world can’t possibly successfully tackle the climate change challenge without significant action from these top-emitting countries.” (Source: World Resources Institute)

      Interestingly enough, the socio-politico-economic genesis of global warming as of nowadays is known as Late Capitalism, as defined by Ernest Mandel (Late Capitalism, Verso Classics, 1999) or in the parlance: “Increasing commodification and industrialization of more, and more, sectors of human life” as the social fabric splits apart, delineating “haves” versus “have-nots.”

    • New Report Warns Geoengineering the Climate Is a ‘Risky Distraction’

      A new report makes the case that the fossil fuel industry prefers geoengineering as an approach for addressing climate change because it allows the industry to keep arguing for continued fossil fuel use.

      In Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis, the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL) warns that geoengineering, which includes technologies to remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide and to shoot particles into the atmosphere to block sunlight, potentially offers more of a problem for the climate than a solution.

      “Our research shows that nearly all proposed geoengineering strategies fail a fundamental test: do they reduce emissions and help end our reliance on fossil fuels?” said CIEL President Carroll Muffett, who co-authored the report with the support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

    • Large Natural Gas Producer to Pay West Virginia Plaintiffs $53.5 Million to Settle Royalty Dispute

      The second-largest natural gas producer in West Virginia will pay $53.5 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company was cheating thousands of state residents and businesses by shorting them on gas royalty payments, according to terms of the deal unsealed in court this week.

      Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp. agreed to pay the money to end a federal class-action lawsuit, brought on behalf of about 9,000 people, which alleged that EQT wrongly deducted a variety of unacceptable charges from peoples’ royalty checks.

      The deal is the latest in a series of settlements in cases that accused natural gas companies of engaging in such maneuvers to pocket a larger share of the profits from the boom in natural gas production in West Virginia.

      This lawsuit was among the royalty cases highlighted last year in a joint examination by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica that showed how West Virginia’s natural gas producers avoid paying royalties promised to thousands of residents and businesses. The plaintiffs said EQT was improperly deducting transporting and processing costs from their royalty payments. EQT said its royalty payment calculations were correct and fair.

      [...]

      Settlement payments will be calculated based on such factors as the amount of gas produced and sold from each well, as well as how much was deducted from royalty payments. The number of people who submit claims could also affect settlement payments. Each member of the class that submits a claim will receive a minimum payment of at least $200. The settlement allows lawyers to collect up to one-third of the settlement, or roughly $18 million, subject to approval from the court.

      The settlement is pending before U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey in the Northern District of West Virginia. The judge gave it preliminary approval on Monday, which begins a process for public notice of the terms and a fairness hearing July 11 in Wheeling, West Virginia. Payments would not be made until that process is complete.

    • Heat and the End of the World as We Know It

      I’m no climate scientist. The best I can say for myself is that I’ve been a pretty close student of varied specialties associated with climate science for about four decades.

      My somewhat lengthy acquaintance with climate science hasn’t led me to see a lifeless planet, a treeless planet, or human extinction across the entire planet. Nothing I know or think I know persuades me to expect anything quite that dire, at least not solely due to a hotter world.

      I do see us headed in that direction, just because we’re still cranking up the heat with just about everything we do in the normal course of our daily routines. Because this trend persists, and might persist for too long, I am persuaded that, beginning in the lifetime of children born since 1980, a plausibly hotter, hotter, and hotter world could set off a severe and gruesome culling of the human herd, and that we’ll be bringing a lot down with us.

      The end of the world? No. There’ll be some extinctions but, for humans, the effects of a hotter world are just a matter of increasing threat to familiar hopes for life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – and capital wealth including household wealth. In other words, the end of the world as we know it.

      Some of this is clearly preventable, in theory, but the prevention clearly depends on our willingness to pull back from familiar daily routines of a recklessly comfortable way of life. A recent Ambio article by some heavyweights in climate sets out the situation well enough.

    • Savage heat engulfs temperate Tasmania

      Australia has been going through one of its hottest and stormiest summers on record and usually temperate Tasmania, its island state, has taken a battering..

      Climate change-related weather events have brought cyclones and raging floods to the north-east of the country, while drought and temperatures exceeding 40°C have resulted in parched lands and rivers drying up in areas of New South Wales.

      Summer on the island of Tasmania, Australia’s most southerly state, with a generally temperate climate, is usually a time for BBQs and beach swimming. This summer has been very different.

      A prolonged drought and record high temperatures have caused a series of devastating fires, destroying unique forests and vegetation and forcing people to leave their homes.

    • Tanzania Prepares to Hand Wildlife Reserves Over to Farmers and Livestock

      Some of the most important habitats in the United Republic of Tanzania, one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, could soon be inundated with farmers and livestock following a recent decree by President John Magufuli that orders relisting protected lands as village property.

      This is a major reversal for Tanzania, a country known for its wild spaces, including World Heritage sites ranging from the Ngorongoro Crater and Mt. Kilimanjaro to the vast Selous Game Reserve and famous Serengeti National Park. Tanzania’s protected areas support an amazing array of wildlife, including some of the largest remaining elephant and lion populations in Africa and the continent’s largest wildebeest and zebra migrations.

  • Finance

    • A Late Valentine? Millionaires Stop Paying into Social Security on February 18th

      By February 18th, someone making $1,000,000 in 2019 will have stopped paying into Social Security for the year. Social Security, which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to countless Americans every year, only taxes the first $132,900 of a salary (up from $128,400 in 2018). If you make more than this cap, that income is not subject to the tax.

      Most people in the United States make less than $132,900 per year, so they will pay the 6.2 percent payroll tax every time they get a paycheck in 2019. Those who make over $132,900 get a break on any income above that amount.

      If a person made $50,000 in 2019, for example, they’d pay taxes until December 31st — and have an effective tax rate of 6.2 percent. But someone making $1,000,000 in 2019 would stop paying Social Security taxes on February 18th and see a bump in their pay afterwards. This person’s effective tax rate would be just 0.8 percent. The burden of Social Security taxes falls more heavily on those who make less.

    • Betsy DeVos Is Pushing a Terrible Double Standard on College Campuses

      In her proposed rules governing the treatment of sexual harassment and assault claims on college campuses and K-12 schools, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has managed to achieve exactly what the law she is enforcing prohibits: discrimination on the basis of sex.

      The Education Department is charged with enforcing Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bans sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funding, but DeVos’s proposed rules would create a systemic double standard: They treat claims of discrimination based on sex fundamentally differently from claims of discrimination based on race — also forbidden under federal law. The Education Department offers no justification whatsoever for the disparities, and while women are, of course, accustomed to such differential treatment, that’s exactly what Title IX was designed to eliminate.

    • The Washington Post Wants to Cut Social Security Again

      I guess we can always count on The Washington Post to print misleading pieces calling for cuts in Social Security. After all, what are newspapers for? Anyhow, Robert Samuelson gives us one of his usual tirades, misrepresenting most of the key items in the debate.

      The basis of his outrage is a bill proposed by Representative John Larson to increase Social Security. The proposal is for a modest overall increase in benefits with a larger increase for the poor. The proposal also calls for indexing benefits to a cost of living index designed to monitor the expenses faced by seniors, instead of the population as a whole. Samuelson complains that this could lead to higher benefits.

      The gist of Samuelson’s argument is that seniors are doing very well right now. He cites a recently done study by C. Adam Bee and Joshua Mitchell, two economists were at the Census Bureau at the time, that found, based on tax filings that seniors had higher incomes than we had realized.

    • And Now This Message From Some Very Rich People: ‘Please Raise Our Taxes’

      Imploring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow them to contribute to the state’s future in a way that benefits all New Yorkers, four dozen millionaires are demanding that lawmakers pass a “Multi-Millionaires Tax” to raise billions of dollars for education, infrastructure, and other programs for the greater good.

      Forty-eight millionaires sent a letter to Cuomo and the New York State Assembly as lawmakers weigh proposals for closing the state’s $2.3 billion deficit—arguing that raising their taxes could provide the state with an additional $2 to 3 billion per year.

      “We millionaires and multi-millionaires of New York can easily invest more in the Empire State, and lawmakers like you have a moral and a fiduciary duty to make sure we do so,” wrote the Patriotic Millionaires, including former Blackrock executive Morris Pearl and filmmaker and entertainment heir Abigail Disney.

    • JP Morgan Is Launching Its Own Cryptocurrency ‘JPM Coins’

      .P. Morgan Chase is set to become the first major U.S. bank to launch its own cryptocurrency. The bank has created its digital currency dubbed ‘JPM Coin’ that will be used to carry out a few transactions initially.

      The engineers at the New York-based bank have leveraged blockchain technology to create digital tokens that will drive a fraction of $6 trillion that bank moves around the world each day. With its digital currency, the bank wants to envision a future where its own cryptocurrency will be used to perform cross-border transactions, corporate debt issuance, etc.

    • Ripple can be the dark horse cryptocurrency of 2019: Ripple Price Predictions – XRP Price Today

      Many of the investors are looking for cryptocurrencies which can actually rise significantly in 2019. Most of the investors are looking at the lesser known cryptocurrencies or at the mainstream cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or the Ethereum. The truth is that it can be Ripple which can be the dark horse cryptocurrency of 2019.

    • ‘No One Should Be Surprised’: After Long Career Stiffing Workers, Trump Blocks Back Pay for Federal Contractors

      As a real estate mogul, Donald Trump was notorious for swindling low-wage workers out of pay.

      So—as economist Robert Reich put it—”no one should be surprised” that Trump is continuing this cruel practice as president, this time by reportedly refusing to sign any government funding deal that includes back pay for the estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for over a month due to the shutdown.

    • 35 Days Without Pay Show How Precarious Federal Jobs Have Become

      As U.S. Congress attempts to avert yet another shutdown, federal workers and contractors are still recovering from the longest government closure in American history. President Trump used workers as a bargaining chip in his xenophobic demand for a border wall, with many turning to food pantries or the more than 2,000 GoFundMe campaigns to make ends meet. Those 35 days of lost wages exposed how precarious federal labor has become after decades of rhetoric meant to delegitimize the work of the public sector.

      One illustrating point: the sweeping privatization of public jobs. In an economy where one in five jobs are held by contract workers, the federal government’s turn toward privatization translates to unstable wages, lack of benefits and temporary employment for the workers who clean, serve food and guard government buildings.

      Despite the shutdown’s end, an estimated four million federally contracted workers from private companies have still not received a paycheck for the five weeks of work they lost due to the government’s closing. Federal contractors include support staff in federal buildings, who are among the lowest-paid workers, earning between $450 and $650 per week. While Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to give contract workers back pay, it remains unclear if the bill will pass.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • What Swings the Swing Voter?

      According to conventional wisdom, the Democrats must appeal to middle-of-the-road swing voters in order to defeat Trump in 2020. Supposedly these voters want a moderate who “crosses the partisan divide,” “finds common ground with all classes and income groups,” “removes barriers to advancement,” “builds public/private partnerships,” “works for the common good against all special interests,” “avoids the extremes of the right and the left,” and “shuns costly pie-in-the-sky programs.”

      Wrong.

      Mounting evidence suggests that the swing voter is one who faces the stark daily realities of rising inequality and all its related issues — expensive or non-existent health care, astronomical student debt, unaffordable housing, and a generation’s worth of wage stagnation. As the New York Times recently reports (“For Democrats Aiming Taxes at the Superrich, ‘the Moment Belongs to the Bold’”)

      The soak-the-rich plans — ones that were only recently considered ridiculously far-fetched or political poison — have received serious and sober treatment, even by critics, and remarkably broad encouragement from the electorate. Roughly three out of four registered voters surveyed in recent polls supported higher taxes on the wealthy. Even a majority of Republicans back higher rates on those earning more than $10 million, according to a Fox News poll conducted in mid-January.

    • The Lobbying Swamp Is Flourishing in Trump’s Washington

      It’s been more than two years since President Donald Trump, who rallied campaign supporters with calls to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and their ilk, took office. But despite that campaign promise, Washington influence peddlers continue to move into and out of jobs in the federal government.

      In his first 10 days in office, Trump signed an executive order that required all his political hires to sign a pledge. On its face, it’s straightforward and ironclad: When Trump officials leave government employment, they agree not to lobby the agencies they worked in for five years. They also can’t lobby anyone in the White House or political appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the Trump administration. And they can’t perform “lobbying activities,” or things that would help other lobbyists, including setting up meetings or providing background research. Violating the pledge exposes former officials to fines and extended or even permanent bans on lobbying.

      But loopholes, some of them sizable, abound. At least 33 former Trump officials have found ways around the pledge. The most prominent is former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in December after a series of ethics investigations. He announced Wednesday that he is joining a lobbying firm, Turnberry Solutions, which was started in 2017 by several former Trump campaign aides. Asked whether Zinke will register as a lobbyist, Turnberry partner Jason Osborne said, “He will if he has a client that he wants to lobby for.”

      Among the 33 former officials, at least 18 have recently registered as lobbyists. The rest work at firms in jobs that closely resemble federal lobbying. Almost all work on issues they oversaw or helped shape when they were in government. (Nearly 2,600 Trump officials signed the ethics pledge in 2017, according to the Office of Government Ethics. Twenty-five appointees did not sign the pledge. We used staffing lists compiled for ProPublica’s Trump Town, our exhaustive database of current political appointees, and found at least 350 people who have left the Trump administration. There are other former Trump officials who lobby at the state or local level.)

    • Didactic Truancy: Blackface and the Fallacy of “Teachable Moments”

      History abounds with teachable moments, but they have meaning only if its students show up. The ceaseless onslaught of reports of blackface has proven, well, instructive. It seems that almost daily we are inundated with a flood of blackface incidents. In Virginia alone, it has been revealed that three top political leaders from both parties have blackening up in the past and cakewalked their way into belated infamy.

      We keep revisiting blackface, or rather, like a parasitic house guest, it never quite packs up and leaves. When it comes to blackface in America, every day is Groundhog’s Day, an endlessly recycling time loop, though without the redemptive ending. Only a year ago former NBC talk show host Megyn Kelly opined that “Back when I was a kid, that was OK, just as long as you were dressing as a character.” The good old days Kelly, 48, describes are not those of America’s pre-civil rights era but, presumably, the 1980s. Her sentiments are shared by Ralph (“Coonman”) Northam, the embattled Democratic governor of Virginia, who saw nothing wrong with moonwalking in blackface as Michael Jackson in 1984. (Ironically, had he waited twenty years to imitate Jackson, he might not have felt compelled to use shoe polish, but that’s another act in the tragicomedy of American racial performativity and a subject for another article.) If Kelly’s case has a teachable moment, it is that you can insult black people, get “fired” for it and come away with a $62 million severance package. Lesson learned, though this was perhaps not the teachable moment NBC intended.

      It may indeed be that for many white people, blackface is not an issue. Judging by its continued popularity, it may never become an issue for them despite almost two centuries of black efforts to enlightened them. However, it has been an issue for most blacks and not, as some whites have claimed, only recently: Black hatred of the practice goes back to its beginnings in the 1830s, with Frederick Douglass in 1848 denouncing its practitioners as “the filthy scum of white societywho have stolen from us our complexion denied to them by nature in such a way to make money and pander to the contempt of their fellow white citizens.”

    • If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics

      Amy Klobuchar could’ve waited for the temperature to rise above 15 degrees before launching her 2020 presidential bid. Instead, she chose to risk frostbite and make her pitch in the middle of a snowstorm—all for an election more than 600 days away.

      The Minnesota senator is just one of around a dozen Democrats who’ve already thrown their hats into the presidential ring or hinted they intend to soon.

      What’s the big rush?

      People in other countries think we’re insane for having such long political races. By one count, in the timeframe of the 2016 U.S. election, you could’ve fit about four elections in Mexico, seven in Canada, 14 in the UK, and 41 in France.

      If lengthy campaigns boosted voter education and turnout, I’d be all for them. But there’s scarce evidence of that. The United States ranks 26th out of 32 industrialized countries in the share of the voting age population that shows up at the polls.

      So what can we do to avoid contests that shift politicians’ focus away from governing to endless campaigning?

    • Republicans Deny Collusion as Manafort Busted Again

      The similarity between these two situations is so obvious as to be almost not worth mentioning: The House committee back then was controlled by a Republican majority and chairman, as is the Senate committee today. Congressional Republicans, nearly to a person, have stapled their fate to the whims and vagaries of the anthropomorphic wrecking ball in the White House. “Nothing to see here, move along” has been the party’s mantra since Trump slithered down that golden elevator in June of 2015… So, yeah, it sounds totally legit when they wave the whole thing off, again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Back in March of 2018, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee erupted in rage and disgust when the GOP majority abruptly shut down the investigation after claiming there was no there, there. “The work is too important to be left undone,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), then the ranking minority member. “The American people need to know whether the Russians still have something they can hold over the president’s head. If this is where the GOP is coming from, it represents to me the completeness of their capitulation to the White House, and that leaves little common ground.”

      House Democrats on that 2018 committee even went so far as to release their own dueling report denouncing Republicans for ending the investigation, listing a long litany of witnesses who were never interviewed and documents that were never subpoenaed or examined. “The decision to shut down the investigation before key witnesses could be interviewed and vital documentary evidence obtained will prevent us from fully discharging our duty to the House and to the American people,” read the rebuttal.

      Those same House Democrats are now running the show on the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Schiff, who has reopened the investigation and is actively sharing information with Robert Mueller and his crew. “The concern that we have always had is whether this president is acting in the national interest, or because of some hidden financial motivations,” Schiff recently told The Washington Post. “I think we need to find out.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Privacy is not a science, it is a human right

      Given the levels of institutional corruption in academia and in the regulatory bodies and advocacy institutions that should be protecting our privacy, very few things shock me these days. So hats off to Bart van der Sloot for managing the impossible and finding a new low by framing institutional corruption as scientific neutrality in his article Dubbele petten in de privacywetenschap.

      [...]

      First off, let’s get this straight: privacy is not a science, it is a human right. There is no such thing as “privacy science”. There never was. There never will be. It’s not a science any more than human rights is a science. I can see what you’re trying to do, Mr. Sloot, and it’s duplicitous as all hell.

      Let me tell you why privacy is not a science: because there is no scientific reason for us to have privacy any more than there is a scientific reason why we should not be slaves. Mr. Sloot purposefully conflates ethics, which asks “what is good?” and “how should we live?” with evolutionary biology, and perhaps sociology, which study the way things are and how they came to be the way they are and maybe even extrapolate to how they might be in the future given a certain set of constraints. The latter do not make value judgements. The former is all about value judgements. To the extent that studies in the latter follow the scientific method, we call them sciences. The former is not science, it is philosophy.

      It is science that tells us how a projectile can be propelled from a hand-held device at such velocity as to cause terminal damage to another human being and exactly how it causes that damage. It is ethics that tells us we should not shoot people. Only people interested in providing some sort of pseudoscientific justification for their desire to shoot people conflate the two.

    • Facebook and Data Mining: Is Anything Private?

      Facebook knows us. Exceptionally well.

      Facebook tracks who we talk to, what we talk about, what we like, what we’re interested in. It tracks where we are and what transactions we conduct. Facebook can pick your face out of other people’s pictures and automatically tag you in media. It can even find you in the background of crowd shots (“isn’t it cool that I’ve been tagged in so many pictures?”).

      After gathering all this personal data, who does Facebook sell it to? Any buyer who can afford it. Even foreign actors, as we saw in the 2016 election. If there’s a small smidgen of our intimate life that Facebook can sell, it will do so.

    • California Governor Wants Users to Profit From Online Data

      California Gov. Gavin Newsom has set off a flurry of speculation after he said the state’s consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make by capitalizing on personal data they collect.

      The new governor has asked aides to develop a proposal for a “data dividend” for California residents but provided no hints about whether he might be suggesting a tax on tech companies, an individual refund to their customers or something else.

      “Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it,” the Democrat said in his first State of the State speech Tuesday. “California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.”

      Tech companies, for example, sell the data to outside businesses that target ads to users. The European Union and Spain’s socialist government last year each proposed taxing big internet companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

      Common Sense Media, which helped pass California’s nation-leading digital privacy law last year, plans to propose legislation in coming weeks that would reflect Newsom’s proposal, founder and CEO James Steyer said, without providing details.

      Starting next year, California’s European-style privacy law will require companies to tell customers upon request what personal data they have collected and why, which categories of third parties have received it, and allow consumers to delete their information and not sell it.

    • French Data Protection Authority Takes on Google

      France’s data protection authority is first out the gate with a big decision regarding a high-profile tech company, and every other enforcer in Europe is taking notes. On January 21, France’s CNIL fined Google 50 million Euros for breaches of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is about 57 million U.S. dollars. The decision relates to Google’s intrusive ad personalization systems, and its inadequate systems of notice and consent when users create accounts for Google services on Android devices.

      Since the GDPR came into effect on May 25, 2018, many companies have simulated compliance with the law while manipulating users into granting them consent by means of deceptive interface design and behavioral nudging. If a major company is seeking to get a free pass from another national data protection authority, that decision will now be critically contrasted with the approach of the CNIL.

      Hopefully, the CNIL’s recent decision is a harbinger of a robust enforcement approach which will deliver critical privacy protections to users.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Russia and the U.S. are racing to negotiate with Islamists. So far, they’re neck and neck.

      Russian-mediated negotiations between the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to conclude in Moscow today. The negotiations took place amid rumors that the White House is preparing a “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and may make its plan public this spring. In the last several months, Moscow and Washington have taken part in a lively contest to assert their influence in Middle Eastern conflicts, often by entering talks with parties that are widely considered extremist or terrorist groups. Here, Meduza reports on the most important episodes of that ongoing diplomatic game.

    • Can California Revolutionize Rape-Kit Testing?

      On a warm Friday night in May 2008, as a young woman and her friend got into a car in Berkeley, Calif., a stranger approached and held a gun to her head. He got into the back seat and ordered her to drive until she reached a dead-end street. There, he first raped the older teenager, and then the younger one.

      After the assault, the teens went to a hospital, where the older one agreed to complete a rape kit so that DNA evidence from the attack could be collected from her body.

      Had her rape kit been tested right away, it would immediately have revealed that her attacker was a California resident with a long criminal history, according to a 2016 report published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

      Instead, her kit sat on a shelf in the Berkeley Police Department’s evidence room until 2014, when it was finally processed by a crime lab.

      As a result of the long delay, the perpetrator remained free, and he raped another woman in 2015.

    • As Hunger Strike Resumes, Corcoran Prisoners Describe Life Under Lockdown

      Prisoners in 3C Unit at the state prison in Corcoran, California resumed their hunger strike after the warden backed out of negotiations to end a months-long lockdown and violence orchestrated by prison officials.

      At its peak, 270 people participated in the Corcoran hunger strike, in which prisoners refused food trays for three weeks in January. They suspended their action when Warden Ken Clark agreed to negotiate and pledged to meet two of their six demands by restoring access to packages and the canteen.

      But prisoners say negotiations have not progressed in the weeks since that first meeting and Warden Clark has failed to keep his promises. Family members and supporters gathered outside the prison on February 9 and 10 to protest during what would have been visitation hours.

      On February 11, the prisoners once again refused meals and held a day-long noise demonstration by banging on the doors and windows of their cells.

    • Federal Judge Thinks The Best Fix For An Accidentally Unsealed Court Doc Is Prior Restraint

      Kim did it anyway, resulting in the US Press Freedom Tracker taking notice of this unconstitutional blip on its radar. Judge Kim’s order blows right past Supreme Court precedent and attempts to do damage to the First Amendment protections the Chicago Sun-Times enjoys.

      Not that any of Kim’s courtroom bluster matters… at least not at this point. The Chicago Sun-Times published its article anyway using the source document the court system failed to keep sealed. And now Chicagoans know yet another of their politicians engaged in questionable — if not illegal — business dealings. Readers are likely unsurprised, but even so, there’s a strong public interest in political corruption, which should easily outweigh anything Judge Kim might try to summon in support of his free speech blindside hit. It’s apparent the US attorney’s office won’t be backing him up, so he’s going to have to go it alone if he’s going to take a run at contempt of court hearings. Good luck with that.

    • Another One: Falling Asleep In Your Car Outside Taco Bell While Black

      Yeah, it’s still happening. It took six Vallejo, CA. police officers firing “multiple rounds” in four seconds to kill Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old rapper who fell asleep in his car in a Taco Bell parking lot with a gun in his lap, woke up, “suddenly” moved and was evidently too startled to follow their commands to “keep his hands visible.” “However the driver quickly reached for the handgun on his lap,” read a police statement. “In fear for their own safety, the officers discharged their weapons.” Police were responding to a 911 call from a Taco Bell employee who said a man was “slumped over” the wheel of a silver Mercedes; police found the car running and the doors locked. Relatives said McCoy had been at a studio recording session – he performed as Willie Bo with the group FBG – dropped off his girlfriend, was getting something to eat and was likely exhausted. After firing, police kept shouting commands, removed him from the car and “rendered medical assistance.” He died on the scene.

    • Someone Impersonated New Jersey’s Attorney General To Demand Cloudflare Takedown 3d Printed Gun Instructions

      Buckle in, folks. Here’s a crazy one involving 3D printed guns, angry lawsuits and an apparently forged letter from the New Jersey Attorney General.

      Over the past few years, we’ve been highlighting a whole bunch of stories concerning the lengths that some people will go to in an effort to block certain content online. One version that we’ve seen quite a bit in the past few years is forging takedown demands, including forged court orders. However, now we’ve seen it expand to a different arena — touching on another issue we’ve written about before. Last year (not for the first time) we wrote about the moral panic and hysteria around 3D printed guns that had resulted in a few states claiming the right to order 3D files offline.

      Not much had seemed to happen on that front, until a week or so ago when various 2nd Amendment groups, including the somewhat infamous Defense Distributed (makers of 3D printer files for firearm components) filed a lawsuit, seeking an injunction against New Jersey’s Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, arguing that he had sent an unconstitutional takedown letter to Cloudflare, which was the CDN service that Defense Distributed was using for its website CodeIsFreeSpeech.com.

      In theory, this was setting up an important potential 1st Amendment case. But, on Tuesday, something unexpected happened. The State of New Jersey showed up in court to say no one there actually sent the takedown — and that they believed it was forged, and sent via a proxy service in the Slovak Republic. Really.

    • One Way Ralph Northam Can Redeem Himself

      Nearly four decades after smearing his face with shoe polish and doing a blackface impersonation of Michael Jackson, Virginia governor Ralph Northam says he wants to be a beacon of racial reconciliation. To that end, advisers tell BuzzFeed News, Northam has embarked on a survey course in wokeness: boning up on the horrors of U.S. slavery via Alex Haley’s Roots; studying the legacy of American racism through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations”; watching the heroic cinematic portraiture of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation. (A film, it should be noted, that features an astounding amount of blackface.) Northam’s apology-slash-rebranding campaign is also slated to feature a policy agenda focused on racial equity, putting desperately needed resources into public transportation, affordable housing and Virginia’s historically black colleges.

      Also supposedly on Northam’s to-do list? Finally calling for the removal of Virginia’s many racist statues and monuments glorifying the Confederacy, a nation founded specifically to ensure the preservation of black chattel slavery. According to BuzzFeed, “a source close to the governor said Northam is telling people privately that if the commonwealth’s legislature puts a bill on his desk that provides the authority to bring down Confederate statues that he would sign it.”

      Like the rest of his all-racial-equality-all-the-time platform, this sits somewhere between a shift and a pivot for Northam. The article notes that while stumping for the governorship, Northam was vocal about the need for Virginia’s Confederate markers to come down, but “later softened his position, saying what should be done with the statues should be left up to localities.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch makes particular note of the fact that in “August 2017, following the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Northam—then the Democratic nominee for governor—said in a statement that Confederate statues ‘should be taken down and moved into museums.’ He has not pursued that policy as governor.”

    • The Psychology of the Wall

      Geopolitics, like thermodynamics, has its laws of conservation. If a wall comes down in one place, you can bet that it will go up somewhere else.

      It wasn’t long after the Berlin Wall fell that different kinds of walls went up in Eastern Europe. New borders separated the Czech Republic from Slovakia, and then, after much bloodshed, the new successor states of former Yugoslavia.

      By the end of the 1990s, barriers were being established in small towns in the Czech Republic, in Slovakia, and in Romania to separate Roma and non-Roma populations. Germans on both sides of the former Berlin Wall were declaring that they were one people. But in other countries in the region, the majority population was insisting, rule of law notwithstanding, that the citizenry was not one people and a wall was necessary to emphasize the distinction.

      These discriminatory walls anticipated the next round of walls in the region: to keep out immigrants. Hungary built a wall on its border with Serbia in 2015, and then a second one in 2017 just to be sure. Germany was letting in more than a million desperate people. Hungary and most of the rest of Eastern Europe, after making the earlier case that they belonged in the European Union, were shutting the door after themselves.

      It’s not just Eastern Europe. The Brexit vote was basically an effort to build a big wall across the English Channel to separate the United Kingdom from Europe. Keeping out immigrants was a major motivating factor.

      Walls are practically everywhere, alas. You can find a very sad set of walls separating Israel from the Occupied Territories. Spain has walled off its cities of Ceuta and Melilla from the rest of Morocco (yes, there are two Spanish towns in North Africa). There’s a wall between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. According to Elisabeth Vallet, a geography professor at the University of Quebec-Montreal, there were 15 border walls around the world in 1989. That has jumped to 77 today.

      As with so many of his fixations, Donald Trump’s call for a wall is hardly original. And this wall, too, is a response to the collapse of walls elsewhere. Economic globalization was responsible, from the 1980s on, for gradually tearing down all manner of barriers: to trade, to finance, and to the movement of manufacturers. Trump and his economic populists have done as much as they can to put back some of those barriers, for instance by withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership and by slapping tariffs on products from allies and adversaries.

      But Trump’s wall along the Mexico border is first and foremost about keeping people out. Economic globalization removed some barriers to the movement of people, but primarily those with highly sought-after skills. As for the truly desperate who were trying to climb over walls and breach borders, they were often motivated more by war and the violence of non-state actors.

    • Putin proposes new law to punish crime bosses

      Russian president Vladimir Putin has proposed an addition to the country’s criminal codex that would penalize “occupying a high rank in the criminal hierarchy.” The proposal prescribes a prison sentence of 8 – 15 years.

      The clarifying note that accompanied Putin’s bill, which has been submitted for consideration to the State Duma, stated that Russian criminal authorities can currently avoid responsibility for their actions “thanks to their position.” “At the same time, current law does not place criminal responsibility on these figures for the fact of their leadership in the criminal hierarchy alone,” the president’s note explained.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • In Wake Of Verizon Flub, New Law Would Ban Wireless Throttling Of First Responders

      Last summer Verizon got caught in a PR shitstorm after it throttled the wireless data connection of a California fire department — just as they were fighting one of the biggest forest fires in California history. When the firefighters complained to Verizon about the throttling (which occurs on all of Verizon’s “unlimited but not really” data plans), instead of fixing the issue Verizon tried to upsell the department to a more expensive plan. While some responsibility lies with the department for not understanding the data connection they’d bought, Verizon ultimately admitted that throttling any first responders violated the company’s policies and should have never happened
      .
      In the months since, Verizon has been running ads (including one during the Super Bowl) in a bid to burn the PR kerfuffle out of the public consciousness.

      But the damage had already been done. The incident has now been a cornerstone of net neutrality activist arguments as to why some basic rules on this front are necessary, and it was brought up repeatedly during the recent opening arguments in the latest net neutrality court battle.

      [...]

      It’s been a bold lobbying gambit that has seen incredible success in the Trump era, largely while the general public (and even many in the tech press) remain oblivious to the full scope. And it’s a gambit ISPs like Verizon are desperately hoping will be upheld by Brett Kavanaugh should it wind its way to the Supreme Court.

  • DRM

    • Patently unfair – Epson takedowns continue

      As a verified rights-owner (VeRO) on eBay UK and by using Amazon UK’s reporting notice system, Seiko Epson Corporation (“Epson”) has free rein to remove any and all third-party cartridge listings that it wishes. It simply has to inform eBay or Amazon of the offending listing, provide its patent number and assert patent infringement. Listings are always removed, and affected sellers cannot prevent, challenge or appeal removal.

      This one-sided system is fundamentally unfair. If Epson genuinely believes that its patents are being infringed it should issue court proceedings to enforce its rights. Instead, eBay and Amazon’s automatic takedown notice procedures provide the multi-million-dollar corporation with a blunt tool it can brazenly use to circumvent fair judicial process.

      Targeting online sellers is a low move by Epson. The primary focus for patent enforcement should be compatible cartridge manufacturers or importers. Resellers are the least important part of the chain. However, online sellers have the disadvantage of being visible, and eBay and Amazon’s automatic and inflexible takedown policies make them by far the easiest target.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • User Interface Claims are Technological and Thus Not Subject to Business Method Review

      This appeal stems from Covered Business Method (CBM) Review decisions on four related patents owned by TT. The PTAB instituted all four CBM reviews. However, by the time of final decision, two of the challenged patents had been already upheld on eligibility by the Federal Circuit. For those two patents, the PTAB followed the court’s lead and found the patents were directed to eligible subject matter. However, claims of the second set of patents were ruled invalid as ineligible and obvious.

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit took a shortcut. Rather than directly addressing the underlying patentability question, the court vacated the PTAB determinations on jurisdiction grounds. The court held that the inventions at issue are “technological” and therefore not “covered business methods.”

      Section 18 of the America Invents Act (AIA) creates the “Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents.” The program, which sunsets in 2020 allows broad challenges of business method patents — including challenges on eligibility grounds. However, the law includes a strict and limited definition of what counts as a “covered business method patent.”

    • Unified files IPR against US 8,768,077 owned by Velos Media, LLC

      On February 12, 2019, Unified filed a petition (with Baker Botts serving as lead counsel) for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 8,768,077, owned by Velos Media, LLC (Velos) as part of Unified’s ongoing efforts in its new SEP Video Codec Zone.

      The ‘077 patent and its corresponding extended patent family is the largest family known to be owned by Velos and represents approximately 5.3% of Velos’ known U.S. assets. Including this petition, Unified has now challenged patents representing 10% of Velos’ total known U.S. assets.

    • ‘eBay decision has led to much better understanding of how injunctions affect markets’

      Injunctive relief has become an increasingly popular weapon in patent conflicts. Conditions for granting patent remedies define the scope of patent protection; injunctions that are granted automatically significantly strengthen patentees’ position. However, Rafał Sikorski of the Faculty of Law of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and editor of the book Patent Law Injunctions, thinks injunctive relief should be applied in a flexible manner. ‘Otherwise, there is a danger that it will be used by the right holders as a tool to obtain excessive compensation for the use of their inventions, one that does not reflect properly their real value.’ Kluwer IP Law interviewed Sikorski.

    • Apple’s workaround for German fake injunction–Qualcomm-based variants of iPhone 7 and iPhone 8–exacerbates Qualcomm’s antitrust woes

      At the end of my shareholder-value-focused analysis of Qualcomm’s $1.5 billion deposit for the immediate enforcement of a Germany-wide patent injunction against the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8, I predicted it was going to be “a Pyrrhic victory.” By now it’s clear that “Pyrrhic victory” is a euphemism. It’s a total disaster for Qualcomm, actually. A waste of money; zero leverage over Apple (which as of today is again selling all iPhone models in Germany without restrictions); zero proof of patent portfolio strength; a significant risk of additional EU antitrust problems because it underpins a complaint by Apple that had already given rise to preliminary investigations by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP); and adverse effects on Qualcomm’s reputation in U.S. and Asian competition circles.

    • Copyrights

      • Movie Torrents Shown To Actually Boost Box Office Sales For Post-Release Movies

        With what is now many, many years covering issues of piracy and intellectual property, it will come as no surprise to you that we’ve specifically dived into the intersection of copyright infringement and the film industry over and over. What is something of a counter-intuitive notion, however, is that we also have a decade-long post history pointing out that, despite all the fear-mongering about how piracy is killing the movie industry, box office records keep getting broken on the regular. The easy point to make is that obviously piracy is not killing the film industry, given how many movie tickets are being sold. But perhaps, according to a recent study, we should have gone one further and explored whether box office records were being broken in part because of piracy.

        Researchers from the University of Houston and Western University dug into the effect of The Pirate Bay’s offline status in part of 2014 and came away with some surprising findings.

      • The Final Version of the EU’s Copyright Directive Is the Worst One Yet
      • EU Moves Forward With Agreement To Fundamentally Change The Internet From Open To Closed

        Despite the fact that even the staunchest supporters of Article 13 were asking for it to be dropped from the final version of the EU Copyright Directive, that didn’t happen. In the final trilogue negotiations between the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament, it appears that the agreed upon “compromise” is basically as bad as we feared. It will fundamentally change the entire nature of the internet. And not in a good way. As we recently discussed, the only way this makes sense is if the goal is to have the law be so bad that big internet companies feel forced to pay their way out of it.

        [...]

        If this becomes law, I’m not sure Techdirt can continue publishing in the EU. At the very least, it will require us to spend a large sum of money on lawyers to determine what our liability risk is — to the point that it might just not be worth it at all. Article 13 makes a commenting system untenable, as we simply cannot setup a filter that will block people from uploading copyright-covered content. Article 11 potentially makes our posts untenable, since we frequently quote other news sites in order to comment on them (as we do above).

        This is, of course, the desire of those supporting both bills. It is not just to close the (made up, mythical) “value gap.” It is to fundamentally change the internet away from an open system of communications — one that anyone can use to bypass traditional gatekeepers, to a closed “broadcast” system, in which key legacy gatekeepers control access to the public, via a complicated set of licenses that strip all of the benefits and profits from the system.

      • EU Copyright Rules: Provisional Deal Struck On Changes

        The European Council’s Romanian presidency announced today it has struck a provisional agreement with the EU Parliament on a draft directive that makes changes to existing European Union copyright rules. The draft agreement, which will go before the full Council of member states and Parliament for approval, would make changes such as a controversial new “publishers’ right” or “snippet tax,” and strengthens copyright protections on online content sharing platforms. It also would introduce copyright exceptions for a range of purposes such as text and data mining, online teaching, and cultural heritage.

      • Mozilla Open Policy & Advocacy Blog: Mozilla statement on the conclusion of EU copyright directive ‘trialogue’ negotiations

        The Copyright agreement gives the green light to new rules that will compel online services to implement blanket upload filters, with an overly complex and limited SME carve out that will be unworkable in practice. At the same time, lawmakers have forced through a new ancillary copyright for press publishers, a regressive and disproven measure that will undermine access to knowledge and the sharing of information online.

        The legal uncertainty that will be generated by these complex rules means that only the largest, most established platforms will be able to fully comply and thrive in such a restricted online environment.

        With this development, the EU institutions have squandered the opportunity of a generation to bring European copyright law into the 21st century. At a time of such concern about web centralisation and the ability of small European companies to compete in the digital marketplace, these new rules will serve to entrench the incumbents.

“EPO Lawlessness Again”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

According to Florian Müller, an activist against software patents in Europe and a famous software developer

Mark Kokes
This man is gone, but his toxic legacy lives on

Summary: Blackberry uses bogus European Patents (on software) for lawsuits; “all of them pure software patents. Patents on programs for computers as such,” as Müller puts it

THE European Patent Office (EPO) can never get itself to obey the law. In that regard it is at least consistent and António Campinos is no exception but perpetuation.

“This is the kind of scenario we’ve long warned about (since 2006). Europe is being infiltrated by armies of patent bullies, who nonchalantly leverage software patents.”Referring to software patents by another/any other name, yesterday the EPO wrote: “There has been a very steep rise in the number of European patent applications related to autonomous driving.”

The EPO then uttered or name-dropped 3 buzzwords/hype waves in one tweet; all mean software patents which the EPO’s granting authority is not allowed to grant (4IR, AI, blockchain). To quote: “How do you see the impact of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution (e.g. #AI, #blockchain, etc.) on the functioning of the patent system?”

We got accustomed to such tweets. There are several likes these (software patents advocacy) every day.

It has meanwhile turned out, based on RPX, that Blackberry leverages ridiculous software patents, granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), against companies like Facebook (we covered this before) and now there’s this new find from Mr. Gross: “New owner of Blackberry patents sues Apple for infringement; USB charging features: https://insight.rpxcorp.com/litigation_documents/13230734 … Complaint identifies licensing deals with LG, Samsung and Huawei, only Apple is holdout!”

Florian Müller has meanwhile just published this post about what BlackBerry does in Europe: “BlackBerry suing Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidiaries over five European software patents in Munich”

As the former director of the European NoSoftwarePatents campaign I always find it shocking what kinds of patents the European Patent Office (EPO) grants despite the exclusion of “programs for computers as such” from the scope of patentable inventions according to Article 52 of the European Patent Convention (EPC).

Post-grant reviews often do away with those patents, but rarely ever on the basis of Art. 52 EPC per se. What typically happens is that the Federal Patent Court of Germany or other courts of competent jurisdiction categorize some claim limitations as “non-technical” and purposely ignore them in their novelty or inventiveness analysis. Whatever little remains then is often anticipated by, or at the very least obvious over, the prior art. But, unfortunately, efficiency gains (reduced data volumes, increased processing speeds, economic use of screen space etc.) often serve as an excuse for circumventing Art. 52 EPC.

Tomorrow the Munich I Regional Court will hold a first hearing in one of eight BlackBerry v. Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram cases over a total of five different patents–all of them pure software patents. Patents on “programs for computers as such.”

“EPO lawlessness again,” Müller dubbed it in a message to me. “This week I just became aware of a series of software patent lawsuits brought by BlackBerry against Facebook/WhatsApp in Munich (five software patents in total). Those patents are totally ridiculous. No “further technical effect” or anything like that. It’s unbelievable what kind of crap the EPO granted. Interestingly, the patent-in-suit that will be discussed tomorrow was filed in 2005, the year that the EU Parliament rejected the proposed software patents directive… I’ll blog about it because I haven’t been able to find ANY report on those Munich cases (just on the U.S. litigation between BlackBerry and Facebook) on the Internet. Mainstream media…”

This is the kind of scenario we’ve long warned about (since 2006). Europe is being infiltrated by armies of patent bullies, who nonchalantly leverage software patents. IBM even lobbies for these Europe, contrary to Red Hat which opposed such patents and is being bought by IBM.

Unitary Patent (UPC) is All About Imposing Patent Maximalists’ Ideology of Greed and Self Interest on Courts in the Name of ‘Unification’ or ‘Consistency’ or ‘Community’

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Concerns About Stephan Harbarth’s Unitary Patent (UPC) Vested Interests and His Entrance Into the Constitutional Court That Decides on UPC

The three Frenchmen
Michel Barnier and another couple of pro-UPC Frenchmen

Summary: Pushers of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) are upset that they don’t always get their way when independent judges get to decide; as it turns out, many European Patents are just fake patents, more so under António Campinos (shown above with other prominent UPC boosters)

YESTERDAY at Kluwer Patent Blog, a longtime booster of the UPC (because of this site’s ownership), John Collins and Sumer Dayal published this long post that said “[t]he “plausibility” requirement reflects UK case law’s harmonisation with the practice and decisions of European Patent Office (EPO). On the other hand, the Full Court clarified that “classical insufficiency” is the relevant test in Australia.”

These people just hope to override courts, as usual, or compel them to act as one, across nations and continents, based on criteria set by lobbyists of the litigation ‘industry’. Here’s more:

The “plausibility” requirement reflects UK case law’s harmonisation with the practice and decisions of European Patent Office (EPO). On the other hand, the Full Court clarified that “classical insufficiency” is the relevant test in Australia.

[...]

The UK Supreme Court noted that the UK would be the only EPC jurisdiction (up to that time) to find the relevant claims to be insufficient. Lord Sumption considered that it would be “unfortunate” if courts in other EPC jurisdictions came to different conclusions, but noted that much depended on “how far the factual and technical evidence before the foreign court was the same“.

The harmonisation of sufficiency law would certainly be of assistance to the commercial interests lying behind second medical use patents. However, the approach of the UK Courts, as evidenced by the decision of the UK Supreme Court, continues to be skewed towards finding reasons to invalidate patents, rather than to uphold them.

That term, “harmonisation” among others (harmony being the theme), has long been misused by Team UPC, predating the time it was even known as “UPC”. They called it “Community”, too, exploiting the goodwill or feel-good buzz.

“…these people will never rest until patent maximalism reigns supreme at all levels, including the Supreme Court.”ResearchAndMarkets also promoted a lawyers’ event “for the Pharmaceutical Industry” on Tuesday, with the UPC mentioned in it too [1, 2]. These are paid press releases. We saw similar press releases from ResearchAndMarkets in the recent past and these too mentioned the UPC.

“Corruption seems to be everywhere patent maximalism is to be found.”Isobel Finnie (Haseltine Lake LLP) then used the buzzwords “Biotech Innovators” to promote an “UK IPO – EPO Operation” for patent maximalists when she wrote (trying to needlessly rush examination like the European Patent Office (EPO) does):

Unfortunately, due to backlogs at the UK IPO, applicants in the field of biotechnology have had to wait longer than 6 months to receive the UK IPO’s search results. To tackle this backlog and to ensure that the UK IPO can continue to issue search reports quickly, the UK IPO announced on 1 February 2019 that they have signed a co operative searching agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO). Under this agreement, the EPO will perform 200-300 searches per year for UK applications relating to biotech inventions. The agreement will last for at least two years and is based on similar co-operation agreements which already exist between the EPO and other EPC contracting states including Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco and San Marino.

This is positive news for biotech innovators because all applicants using the UK IPO can expect to receive the valuable information they are seeking in a useful time frame.

Although UK applicants cannot chose whether their UK application is searched by the EPO, the search report will indicate which authority has performed the search and applicants whose searches are performed by the EPO may be entitled to the following additional benefits.

Firstly, where the EPO has completed the search for a UK application, a later filed European application claiming priority from the UK application could be eligible for a refund of up to 100% of the European search fee. Similarly, a later filed PCT application claiming priority from the UK application could be eligible for a refund of up to 84% of the international search fee where the EPO is the International Search Authoring (ISA). In view of the fact that the search fee for a UK application is currently only £150 – compared to €1,300 for a European application and €1,775 for an international search by the EPO – this could result in significant cost savings for applicants.

We are watching these things closely; there’s an effort by law firms to destroy the courts' independence; these people will never rest until patent maximalism reigns supreme at all levels, including the Supreme Court. We see the same thing in the US, where 35 U.S.C. § 101 (US Supreme Court/Alice) is now under attack by the new Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), appointed by Trump after he had worked with his firm. Corruption seems to be everywhere patent maximalism is to be found.

Battistelli’s Bodyguard, Part V: Mediapart Explains the ‘Raid’ Attempt, Reporters Without Borders Involved

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO too has a culture of silencing/intimidating critics

Summary: Mediapart, an investigative site that unearths a lot of incriminating things about Battistelli’s former bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, was the target of a raid attempt some weeks ago

THIS is the last part of a series of 5 English translations of French publications regarding the Benalla affair. Benalla had worked clandestinely at the European Patent Office (EPO) before the so-called ‘Benallagate’ broke out.

The above video accompanies this publication, for which we have the following English translation.

After the attempted search, our live press conference from Mediapart

Find the video of our press conference held live from Mediapart on Monday afternoon, following the attempted search this Monday morning, as part of an investigation opened by the prosecutor’s office into, among other things, the invasion of Alexandre Benalla’s privacy.

This Monday morning, at 11:10 am, two prosecutors accompanied by three police officers wanted to search Mediapart’s premises as part of an investigation opened by the prosecutor’s office for (among other things) violating Alexandre Benalla’s privacy, following our revelations last Thursday.

This investigation, which concerns the recordings revealed by Mediapart, is likely to compromise the confidentiality of the sources of our newspaper. That is why we refused this search, an unprecedented – and particularly serious – act in Mediapart’s history (see our article here).

Watch a video of our press conference with Edwy Plenel, our lawyer Emmanuel Tordjman and our journalists working on the Benalla, Marine Turchi, Antton Rouget and Fabrice Arfi case (as well as Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders -RSF-), which took place at 4pm at our offices.

Previously in the Benalla affair in relation to the EPO:

  1. Alexandre Benalla, Macron’s Violent Bodyguard, Was Also Battistelli’s Bodyguard
  2. It Wasn’t Judges With Weapons in Their Office, It Was Benoît Battistelli Who Brought Firearms to the European Patent Office (EPO)
  3. Benoît Battistelli Refuses to Talk to the Media About Bringing Firearms to the EPO
  4. Guest Post on Ronan Le Gleut and Benalla at the French Senate (in Light of Battistelli’s Epic Abuses)
  5. The Man Whose Actions Could Potentially Land Team Battistelli in Jail
  6. French Media Confirms Alexandre Benalla Just One of Six Battistelli Bodyguards, Employed at the Cost of €8,000-€10,000 Per Month (for Benalla Alone!)
  7. Corrupt Battistelli Paid a Fortune (EPO Budget) for Outlaw/Rogue ‘Bodyguards’ From Firm Linked to Russian Oligarch Iskander Makhmudov

Something tells us this isn’t the end of it. Will media delve deeper into Benalla’s affairs at the EPO? Will somebody be held accountable for it? Will António Campinos ever mention it? Battistelli totally refuses to talk to the media about it.

02.13.19

Links 13/2/2019: Tails 3.12.1, MongoDB Being Dumped

Posted in News Roundup at 7:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Ways To Contribute Back To Linux Community

    So you’ve been a part of the huge collaborative Linux community and have learned or benefited a lot from them. And now you hear about contributing back some love to the community through various means: developing software, maintaining, documenting, sharing, etc Maybe you are stuck figuring out at which to choose right now. Or have no idea at all where to start.

  • New Ports Bring Linux to Arm Laptops, Android to the Pi

    Like life itself, software wants to be free. In our increasingly open source era, software can more easily disperse into new ecosystems. From open source hackers fearlessly planting the Linux flag on the Sony Playstation back in the aughts to standard Linux apps appearing on Chromebooks and on Android-based Galaxy smartphones (Samsung’s DeX), Linux continues to break down barriers.

    The latest Linux-related ports include an AArch64-Laptops project that enables owners of Windows-equipped Arm laptops and tablets to load Ubuntu. There’s also a Kickstarter project to develop a Raspberry Pi friendly version of Google’s low-end Android 9 Pi Go stack. Even Windows is spreading its wings. A third-party project has released a WoA installer that enables a full Windows 10 image to run on the Pi.

  • Windows ARM Laptops Can Now Run Ubuntu

    A new open source project aims to bring fully functional Ubuntu to ARM Windows 10 laptops, like the HP Envy X2, pictured above.

    A crop of Windows 10 laptops that run atop Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM processors are available from major PC makers.

    Notebooks such as the HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo, though novel, and offering crazy-long battery life, have been criticised by users and tech bloggers alike for being slow.

    Poor performance and app incompatibilities around the ‘x86’ emulator Windows 10 for ARM uses have dogged these machines since their launch.

  • Desktop

    • Linux on DeX: Turn Your Samsung into a Computer

      When was the last time you heard of a computer-type experience on a mobile phone? Ubuntu Edge? If you haven’t heard about it yet, Samsung is masterminding housing the power of a whole computer on a mobile phone with Linux on DeX.

      Linux on DeX offers you a portable development environment by enabling you to cast a Linux development environment onto a desktop environment complete with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor anywhere, anytime.

      It requires a Galaxy Note9 or Galaxy Tab S4 running the Linux on DeX app and you can connect your device to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse for the full desktop experience.

  • Server

    • Sitting in the Linux Cockpit

      If you haven’t tried the relatively new Linux Cockpit, you might be surprised by all it can do. It’s a user-friendly web-based console that provides some very easy ways to administer Linux systems — through the web. You can monitor system resources, add or remove accounts, monitor system usage, shut down the system and perform quite a few other tasks — all through a very accessible web connection. It’s also very easy to set up and use.

      While many Linux sysadmins spend most of their time on the command line, access to a remote system using a tool like PuTTY doesn’t always provide the most useful command output. Linux Cockpit provides graphs and easy-to-use forms for viewing performance measures and making changes to your systems.

    • Open Outlook: Storage and the Power of the Stack

      The storage landscape has changed considerably over the past few years. We’ve seen the advent of Linux containers as a popular development tool, necessitating new forms of container-native storage solutions. Storage has evolved into software-defined storage (SDS) solutions that can provide consistent storage across on-premise, public and hybrid cloud environments. Hyperconverged infrastructure has emerged as a viable means of supporting both compute and storage.

      Indeed, storage has evolved since Red Hat acquired Gluster and InkTank (Ceph) in 2011 and 2014, respectively. At the time of those acquisitions, Red Hat was looking at the individual power behind both solutions, and how that power could be harnessed to make open source the de facto choice for organizations looking to dip their toes into SDS. In reality, we were laying the groundwork for the software-defined present we find ourselves in today. We were creating the building blocks for an integrated portfolio of solutions with storage as an important part of the puzzle.

    • OpenShift Protects against Nasty Container Exploit

      Red Hat OpenShift has been using Linux process-to-file type enforcement with multi-category security in its container orchestration platform for 8 years. SELinux has been set to enforcing in OpenShift since 2011. Red Hat Openshift Online is a publicly accessible hosted service that thousands of developers log into everyday to launch code as containers. Red Hat OpenShift Online had SELinux turned on from the beginning. How about the version of OpenShift you are running inside of your datacenter? That’s right: Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform has had SELinux turned on by default. And we don’t just mean it’s turned on; we mean it is configured to protect you out of the box against real world threats.

      I’m afraid I don’t know of another Kubernetes-based container orchestration platform that has used this protection method for this long. Unlike other Kubernetes distributions, Red Hat has bridged the gap between Linux and the container orchestration platform on top, enabling Red Hat OpenShift to track and address security issues across the stack, not just in one layer. And we’re able to do this by default, from day one.

    • Red Hat Virtualization 4.3 Beta is available now

      Virtualization is a cornerstone of the data center, providing a platform which organizations can use to more rapidly deploy new servers for applications, or to more confidently host existing applications which are critical to keeping the business operational. A virtualization platform should be a reliable and hardworking stalwart, ready to take on more work when needed.

    • Introducing a New Way to Try Red Hat OpenShift Online Pro

      Red Hat OpenShift Online hosting has been available since 2011, and to date, well over 4 million applications have been launched on OpenShift Online. This service has been available in two tiers: the free Starter plan and the paid Pro plan. Both services offered the same OpenShift experience, with the Starter plan geared toward developers who want to experiment and learn on the platform, and the Pro plan geared toward professional application development and hosting.

      We’re excited to announce that as of today, we’re offering a 30 day free trial of the Red Hat OpenShift Online Pro plan. The trial automatically converts to a fully supported, paying account after the 30 days to prevent any interruptions in service. This offering provides the full professional experience, allowing customers to utilize the full public cloud hosted power of OpenShift Online.

    • IBM Puffs Up Power Iron On Its Public Cloud
    • Big Blue Finally Brings IBM i To Its Own Public Cloud

      Well, that took quite a long time. After what seems like eons of nudging and cajoling and pushing, IBM is making the IBM i operating system and its integrated database management system, as well as the application development tools and other systems software, available on its self-branded IBM Cloud public cloud.

      Big Blue previewed its plans to bring both IBM i and AIX to the IBM Cloud at its annual Think conference in Las Vegas, on scale out machines aimed at small and medium businesses as well as to customers who want to run clusters of machines, and on scale up systems that have NUMA electronics that more tightly cluster them into shared memory systems.

      There are a lot of questions about how this will be all be packaged up and sold under the unwieldy name of the IBM Power Systems Virtual Server on IBM Cloud. But we will tell you all that we know and fill you in as we learn more.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Repo | LINUX Unplugged 288

      The hype around a new security flaw hits new levels. Fedora has a bunch of news, and we discover what’s new in the latest Plasma release.

      Plus we fall down the openSUSE rabbit hole when Ell updates us on her desktop challenge.

      Special Guests: Alan Pope, Brent Gervais, Daniel Fore, Ell Marquez, Martin Wimpress, and Neal Gompa.

    • mintCast 302 – New Users, Start Here
    • 5 Linux Mint Issues For Windows Users

      5 Linux Mint Issues For Windows Users. Any Windows user considering the switch to Linux Mint would be wise to consider the following points before taking the leap into a new Linux distribution. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have you join us! But there are issues to consider before switching from Windows over to Linux Mint.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Foundation

      • Xen Summit

        The ​Xen Project ​Developer ​and ​Design ​Summit ​brings ​together ​the ​Xen ​Project’s ​community ​of ​developers ​and ​power ​users ​for ​their ​annual ​conference. ​The ​conference ​is ​about ​sharing ​ideas ​and ​the ​latest ​developments, ​sharing ​experience, ​planning, ​collaboration ​and ​above ​all ​to ​have ​fun ​and ​to ​meet ​the ​community ​that ​defines ​the ​Xen ​Project.

      • Linux Foundation Unveils Impressive Speaker Lineup for Open Source Leadership Summit 2019

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced the speakers and schedule for Open Source Leadership Summit (OSLS), taking place March 12-14 at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

        The full lineup of sessions can be viewed here, and features speakers from Adobe, Comcast, Fidelity Investments, GitLab, Google, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Netflix, Nokia, Red Hat, Uber, Walmart, Wipro, and others.

        An intimate, invitation-only event for Linux Foundation and LF Project members, OSLS gathers technical and business leaders transforming technology across a multitude of industry verticals – financial services, healthcare, software, transportation, telecom and energy to name a few, to share best practices and accelerate open source development and cross-industry collaboration.

      • 6 Key Metrics Driving Growth at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation

        There are a lot of different open-source organizations out there, but none had a bigger year in 2018 than the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and 2019 looks to be no different.

        The CNCF published its 2018 annual report on Feb. 8 providing an overview of the organization’s activities and growth over the past year. The CNCF itself is part of the Linux Foundation and got its start with a single project in July 2015. That single project the Kubernetes container orchestrations system, is now just one of 31 open-source cloud projects hosted at the CNCF.

        The 31-page CNCF annual report provides all kinds of insight into the operations of the cloud organization, as well reviewing key metrics that define its current and likely future success. In this eWEEK Data Points article, we look at the reasons why the CNCF is growing and how the cloud native movement is poised for success in 2019 and beyond.

    • Graphics Stack

      • VK9 Project Stalls As Developer Leaves To Pursue Other Interests

        While VK9 was the first open-source project to pursue mapping Direct3D over Vulkan, at least for now the project has halted.

        It’s been almost three years that Christopher Schaefer has been near single-handedly working on this project to get Direct3D 9 running over the Vulkan graphics API. While he’s been successful in getting code samples and other bits running from D3D9 over Vulkan, he’s decided to throw in the towel at least for the time being.

      • NVIDIA Video Codec SDK 9.0 Officially Released

        Since the start of December the NVIDIA Video Codec SDK 9.0 update has been available in the company’s early access program while now this SDK with the NVENC/NVDEC APIs has rolled out as stable.

        The NVIDIA Video Codec SDK 9.0 brings some big changes particularly around the Turing GPU support with faster decode, support for higher image quality encoding on H.264/H.265, efficiency enhancements, better CUDA interoperability, and other new capabilities enabled for NVIDIA’s latest graphics processors.

      • AMD_DEBUG Can Now Be Used In Place Of R600_DEBUG For RadeonSI Options

        When setting various debug options for the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver — like enabling its NIR back-end among many other options — that has traditionally been done through the R600_DEBUG= environment variable. But that variable name makes little sense these days since RadeonSI doesn’t even support the now-vintage R600 GPUs. Thankfully, AMD_DEBUG= is now a supported alternative.

        Marek Olšák added the support on Tuesday so the AMD_DEBUG environment variable for RadeonSI can now be used as an alternative to R600_DEBUG — using that environment variable is still supported to keep any scripts, etc, working.

      • mesa 19.0.0-rc3

        Hi List,

        Mesa 19.0-rc3 is now available.

        Due to a bug I discovered in the script that scrapes for stable nominations
        (after uploading the tarball) there is basically nothing in the -rc3 release. As
        a result I’m planning to make a -rc4 tomorrow. You can see the staging/19.0
        branch to see the additional patches present.

        Dylan

      • Mesa 19.0-RC3 Released But It’s A Dud

        The latest weekly release candidate of Mesa 19.0 is now available for testing, but it’s a very petite release due to failing to include all of the latest back-ported patches intended for this release.

      • RadeonSI Picks Up Primitive Culling With Async Compute For Performance Wins

        Prolific open-source AMD Linux driver developer Marek Olšák has sent out his latest big patch series in the name of performance. His new set of 26 patches provide primitive culling with asynchronous compute and at least for workstation workloads yields a big performance uplift.

        The 26 patches allow for using async compute to do primitive culling before the vertex shader process. This work ends up yielding performance improvements for workloads that do a lot of geometry that ends up being invisible. This code is stable and passing nearly all conformance tests while working from GCN 1.1 through Radeon VII.

      • Linux-Firmware Adds Signed NVIDIA Firmware Binaries For Turing’s Type-C Controller

        While we are still waiting on NVIDIA to publish the signed firmware images for Turing GPUs in order to bring-up 3D hardware acceleration on the GeForce RTX 2000 series graphics cards with the open-source Nouveau driver, today they did post the signed firmware image files for their Type-C controller found on these new GPUs.

      • Open-Source NVIDIA “Nouveau” DRM Changes Begin Queuing Ahead Of Linux 5.1

        The Nouveau kernel driver tree where development happens on this open-source NVIDIA DRM driver saw a fresh batch of changes on Tuesday in aiming for new material with Linux 5.1.

        This latest work comes from Red Hat’s Ben Skeggs who continues serving as the Nouveau DRM driver maintainer and often responsible for many of the Nouveau DRM changes himself. There is just more than two dozen changes that landed into the Nouveau kernel repository.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Month of KDE Applications Snaps

        Snaps is a fancy new package format for Linux which allows applications to be shipped which run on pretty much any Linux distro. This nicely solves one of the headaches with shipping software for Linux, that you have to package it a dozen times using a dozen different methods to get anyone to be able to install it.

        The format and host for Snaps is made using Ubuntu and developed by KDE patron Canonical.

        We have been working on building Snaps from the KDE neon builders for some time and they’re now at a quality where we can move them into the stable channel. (Snap software gets hosted in channels depending on the risk you want to take, others being candidate, beta and edge.)

      • What’s new in KDE Plasma 5.15
      • KDE neon on xenial/16.04 EOL

        KDE neon was rebased onto Ubuntu bionic/18.04 last year and upgrades have gone generally smooth. We have removed xenial/16.04 build from our machines (they only hang around for as long as they did because it took a while to move the Snap builds away from them) and the apt repo will remove soon. If you haven’t already upgrade now.

      • Plasma v5.15 Released, NetBSD Switching to GCC v7, Django Announces Important Bug Fix, Xen Project Developer and Design Summit

        The KDE project launched the first stable release of Plasma in 2019 with version 5.15. The release boasts improvements in usability, notifications, eye candy and more.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • 24 Excellent GNOME Extensions (Updated)

        Freedom of choice is a central plank of open source software, and it’s very relevant when choosing and configuring a desktop environment. One of Linux’s best features is its modularity.

        Extensibility relates to the ability to customize a desktop environment to an individual’s preferences and tastes. This flexibility is offered by themes, extensions, and applets.

        GNOME ships with a System Settings tool which isn’t as diverse as some of its peers. There’s still useful options such as a simple way to enable remote access and file sharing. If you’re serious about customizing GNOME, you’ll need the GNOME Tweaks utility. It’s not an official GNOME app, but it offers some advanced tinkering. But when it comes to micro-configuring the GNOME desktop to your preference, Tweaks still leaves us asking for more. Fortunately, there’s an awesome range of extensions that provide additional functionality.

        Here’s our recommended GNOME shell extensions. Most of the extensions are not officially supported by GNOME. But they all take the desktop to the next level, either by adding useful functionality, improving your workflow, or simply offering a touch of panache to the desktop. All the extensions all compatible with the latest release of GNOME. Naturally there’s only open source goodness on offer.

        The extensions are best installed from the gnome-shell extensions website. Some extensions are installed by default with Linux distributions.

  • Distributions

    • Debian Family

      • Gemini NC14 + Debian

        My main machine is a Dell E7240. It’s 5 years old and, while a bit slow sometimes, is generally still capable of doing all I need. However it mostly lives in an E-Port Plus II dock and gets treated like a desktop. As a result I don’t tend to move it around the house; the external monitor has a higher resolution than the internal 1080p and I’m often running things on it where it would be inconvenient to have to suspend it. So I decided I’d look for a basic laptop that could act as a simple terminal and web browser. This seems like an ideal job for a Chromebook, but I wanted a decent resolution screen and all of the cheap Chromebooks were 1366×768.

        Looking around I found the Gemini Devices NC14. This is a Celeron N3350 based device with 4GB RAM and a 14” 1080p LCD. For £180 that seemed like a decent spec, much better than anything else I could see for under £200. Included storage is limited to a 32GB eMMC, with a slot for an m.2 SSD if desired, but as I’m not planning to store anything other than the OS/applications on the device that wasn’t a drawback to me. Box seem to be the only supplier, though they also list on Amazon. I chose Amazon, because that avoided paying extra for shipping to Northern Ireland.

        The laptop comes with just a wall-wart style power supply – there’s no paperwork or anything else in the box. The PSU is a 12V/2A model and the cable is only slightly more than 1m long. However there’s also a USB-C power on the left side of the laptop and it will charge from that; didn’t work with any of my USB-C phone chargers, but worked just fine with my Lenovo laptop charger. The USB-C port does USB, as you’d expect, but surprisingly is also setup for DisplayPort – I plugged in a standard USB-C → HDMI adaptor and it worked perfectly. Additional ports include 2 standard USB 3.0 ports, a mini-HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a micro SD card slot. The whole device is pretty light too, coming in at about 1.37kg. It feels cheap, but not flimsy – not unreasonable given the price point. The keyboard is ok; not a great amount of travel and slightly offset from what I’m used to on the right hand side (there is a column of home/pgup/pgdn/end to the right of the enter key). The worst aspect is that the power button is a regular key in the top right, so easy to hit when looking for delete. The trackpad is serviceable; the middle button is a little tricky to hit sometimes, but there and useful.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • It’s Hard to Believe That This is a Screenshot of Ubuntu

            But although the underlying operating system is familiar the rest of what’s on show is made up of unfamiliar, custom code from the hands of Redditor Noah_The_Blob.

            He shared screenshots of his bespoke desktop set-up on the /r/unixporn sub-reddit this week. Here, the world, including me, duly gave him props, upvotes and endless questions about how to recreate the look for ourselves!

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Events

    • Jonathan Dowland: My first FOSDEM

      FOSDEM 2019 was my first FOSDEM. My work reason to attend was to meet many of my new team-mates from the Red Hat OpenJDK team, as well as people from the wider OpenJDK community, and learn a bit about what people are up to. I spent most of the first day entirely in the Free Java room, which was consistently over-full. On Monday I attended an OpenJDK Committer’s meeting hosted by Oracle (despite not — yet — being an OpenJDK source contributor… soon!)

      A sides from work and Java, I thought this would be a great opportunity to catch up with various friends from the Debian community. I didn’t do quite as well as I hoped! By coincidence, I sat on a train next to Ben Hutchings On Friday, I tried to meet up with Steve McIntyre and others (I spotted at least Neil Williams and half a dozen others) for dinner, but alas the restaurant had (literally) nothing on the menu for vegetarians, so I waved and said hello for a mere 5 minutes before moving on.

    • At MWC19 Barcelona 2019, the future is open!

      From open platforms, to open collaboration, to open innovation, more telecommunications service providers (SPs) are looking to open to deliver more services faster, to meet customer expectations, beat out competitors, and excel in the digital era. In a few short days, MWC Barcelona will be underway in Barcelona, giving the industry an opportunity to coalesce and take on new challenges together.

    • First Phase for openSUSE Conference Talks Begins

      openSUSE is pleased to announce the first phase for accepting talks for the openSUSE Conference 2019 (oSC19) has begun.

      A total of 80 talks were submitted during the call for papers, which began in late fall and ended Feb. 4. In total, there were 42 normal talks, two long workshops, four short workshops, 19 short talks and seven lighting talks submitted.

      The review team rated all the submitted abstracts and selected 22 normal talks, two long workshops, four short workshops, 13 short talks and five lighting talks.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Tails 3.12.1 is out

        This release is an emergency release to fix a critical security vulnerability in Firefox.

        It also fixes other security vulnerabilities. You should upgrade as soon as possible.

      • Mozilla to use machine learning to find code bugs before they ship

        In a bid to cut the number of coding errors made in its Firefox browser, Mozilla is deploying Clever-Commit, a machine-learning-driven coding assistant developed in conjunction with game developer Ubisoft.

        Clever-Commit analyzes code changes as developers commit them to the Firefox codebase. It compares them to all the code it has seen before to see if they look similar to code that the system knows to be buggy. If the assistant thinks that a commit looks suspicious, it warns the developer. Presuming its analysis is correct, it means that the bug can be fixed before it gets committed into the source repository. Clever-Commit can even suggest fixes for the bugs that it finds. Initially, Mozilla plans to use Clever-Commit during code reviews, and in time this will expand to other phases of development, too. It works with all three of the languages that Mozilla uses for Firefox: C++, JavaScript, and Rust.

        The tool builds on work by Ubisoft La Forge, Ubisoft’s research lab. Last year, Ubisoft presented the Commit-Assistant, based on research called CLEVER, a system for finding bugs and suggesting fixes. That system found some 60-70 percent of buggy commits, though it also had a false positive rate of 30 percent. Even though this false positive rate is quite high, users of this system nonetheless felt that it was worthwhile, thanks to the time saved when it did correctly identify a bug.

      • Facebook Answers Mozilla’s Call to Deliver Open Ad API Ahead of EU Election

        After calls for increased transparency and accountability from Mozilla and partners in civil society, Facebook announced it would open its Ad Archive API next month. While the details are still limited, this is an important first step to increase transparency of political advertising and help prevent abuse during upcoming elections.

        Facebook’s commitment to make the API publicly available could provide researchers, journalists and other organizations the data necessary to build tools that give people a behind the scenes look at how and why political advertisers target them. It is now important that Facebook follows through on these statements and delivers an open API that gives the public the access it deserves.

        The decision by Facebook comes after months of engagement by the Mozilla Corporation through industry working groups and government initiatives and most recently, an advocacy campaign led by the Mozilla Foundation.

        This week, the Mozilla Foundation was joined by a coalition of technologists, human rights defenders, academics, journalists demanding Facebook take action and deliver on the commitments made to put users first and deliver increased transparency.

        “In the short term, Facebook needs to be vigilant about promoting transparency ahead of and during the EU Parliamentary elections,” said Ashley Boyd, Mozilla’s VP of Advocacy. “Their action — or inaction — can affect elections across more than two dozen countries. In the long term, Facebook needs to sincerely assess the role its technology and policies can play in spreading disinformation and eroding privacy.”

      • ARCore and Arkit, What is under the hood: SLAM (Part 2)

        In our last blog post (part 1), we took a look at how algorithms detect keypoints in camera images. These form the basis of our world tracking and environment recognition. But for Mixed Reality, that alone is not enough. We have to be able to calculate the 3d position in the real world. It is often calculated by the spatial distance between itself and multiple keypoints. This is often called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM). And this is what is responsible for all the world tracking we see in ARCore/ARKit.

      • This Week in Rust 273
      • Socorro: January 2019 happenings

        Socorro is the crash ingestion pipeline for Mozilla’s products like Firefox. When Firefox crashes, the crash reporter collects data about the crash, generates a crash report, and submits that report to Socorro. Socorro saves the crash report, processes it, and provides an interface for aggregating, searching, and looking at crash reports.

  • LibreOffice

    • New Tabbed Layout Coming On LibreOffice v6.2

      LibreOffice, the most popular open source office suite program is set to feature a new look and feel in the coming v6.2 release, called the tabbed layout. As of now, the current stable version is in v6.1.4 and its default look currently mimics the traditional menu-based GUI and some toolbars.

    • Expensive LibreOffice Extensions And Templates Website?

      I read a time ago about the myth of an expensive LibreOffice extensions and templates website. I investigated about this and had a look at the real numbers (they are public available on the wiki page: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/TDF/Ledgers). I found some expenses only in two fiscal period: 2017 and 2018. TDF spent in 2017 6399.44 Euro and in 2018 642.60 Euro. The money was predominantly spent for content migration and an improved server environment. It included also an individual training for the TDF infrastructure team.

    • Announcing the dates of LibOCon Almeria

      LibreOffice Conference 2019 will be hosted by the Spanish city of Almeria during the month of September, from September 11 (Wednesday) to September 13 (Friday).

      On Tuesday, September 10, there will be the usual meetings of the community, to discuss topics of general interest for native language projects, such as localization, documentation, quality assurance, design and marketing.

      Collateral events such as the social dinner and the hackfest, which are a tradition of the LibreOffice Schedule, have not yet been scheduled.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Programming/Development

    • snekde — an IDE for snek development

      I had hoped to create a stand-alone development environment on the Arduino, but I’ve run out of room. The current snek image uses 32606 bytes of flash (out of 32768) and 1980 bytes of RAM (out of 2048). I can probably squeeze a few more bytes out, but making enough room for a text editor seems like a stretch.

      As a back-up plan, I’ve written a host-side application that communicates with the Arduino over the serial port.

    • 3 new ways to contribute code to Ansible

      Here are the three ways that have me excited for would-be contributors to the Ansible community.

    • Introducing the Small Scale Scrum framework

      Scrum is a leading candidate for the implementation of Small Scale Agile for many reasons, including its popularity, developers’ preferences, high success rates for scrum adoption and project deliveries, and strong principles and values including focus, courage, openness, commitment, and respect.

      Small Scale Scrum can be best described as “a people-first framework defined by and for small teams (a maximum of three people) and supporting planning, developing, and delivering production-quality software solutions.” The proposed framework centers around the concept of team members occupying multiple roles on any project.

      Small Scale Scrum is valuable due to its strong support for the small, distributed teams found in organizations all over the world. Small teams need new ways to meet customers’ continuously growing expectations for rapid delivery and high quality, and Small Scale Scrum’s guidelines and principles help address this challenge.

    • GCC 8/9 vs. LLVM Clang 7/8 Compiler Performance On AArch64

      With Clang 8.0 due out by month’s end and GCC 9 due for release not long after that point, this week we’ve been running a number of GCC and Clang compiler benchmarks on Phoronix. At the start of the month was the large Linux x86_64 GCC vs. Clang compiler benchmarks on twelve different Intel/AMD systems while last week was also a look at the POWER9 compiler performance on the Raptor Talos II. In this article we are checking out these open-source compilers’ performance on 64-bit ARM (AArch64) using an Ampere eMAG 32-core server.

    • How Clear Linux Optimizes Python For Greater Performance

      Clear Linux’s leading performance isn’t limited to just C/C++ applications but also scripting languages like PHP, R, and Python have seen great speed-ups too. In a new blog post, one of Intel’s developers outlines some of their performance tweaks to Python for delivering greater performance.

      Last April, Victor Rodriguez Bahena of the Intel Open-Source Technology Center and longtime Clear Linux developer began shedding more light on their “magic” performance work for the distribution’s out-of-the-box performance. Finally this week the second post in that series is out as he details the optimizations made to their Python implementation.

    • Boosting Python* from profile-guided to platform-specific optimizations
    • Full integration to Salesforce with Red Hat Integration (Part 2)
    • Coding in Python 04 – Setting up Variables
    • Testing isn’t everything, but it’s important
    • Python, For The love of It – part 3 (What I Built With It)
    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #355 (Feb. 12, 2019)
    • Qt 5.13 Alpha Released With WebAssembly Preview, Qt Lottie Technical Preview

      The Qt Company has announced the alpha release of the forthcoming Qt 5.13 tool-kit.

      Qt 5.13 is slated for release in May and is another Qt5 feature release ahead of the transition to Qt6 planned for late 2020.

    • Qt 5.13 Alpha Released

      I am happy to inform that Qt 5.13 Alpha is released today. You can download Qt 5.13 Alpha via online installer (both source and prebuild binary packages). Source packages are also available for commercial users in the Qt Account portal and in the download.qt.io for open-source users.

      Qt 5.13 New Features page contains information about most important changes coming with the release. Please remember creating the list is still in progress so something important can still be missing. List should be completed by Beta1.

      Target is to release Beta1 within coming weeks, when API reviews are concluded. And as with previous releases we will release regular beta n releases until we are ready for RC. Target for Beta1 is 26.2.2019, see whole schedule from Qt 5.13 wiki.

    • Defaulting New Projects to Python 3

      New projects that are just getting started with Read the Docs will now use Python 3 by default. While it is still possible to configure your project to use Python 2.7 with our configuration file, we think it’s important to help push the Python ecosystem towards adopting Python 3.

      Our default Python version is currently Python 3.7. Projects can also select Python versions 3.6 and 3.5 using our default build image. We will eventually remove support for building projects with Python versions 3.3 and 3.4, however it is still possible to select a build image with support for either version.

      To select a specific version of Python, other than our default, you can use our configuration file to specify a Python version, using the python.version configuration option.

    • Real Python: Supercharge Your Classes With Python super()

      While Python isn’t purely an object-oriented language, it’s flexible enough and powerful enough to allow you to build your applications using the object-oriented paradigm. One of the ways in which Python achieves this is by supporting inheritance, which it does with super().

    • Two demos of programming inside the Web browser with Theia for Java and PHP, using Docker

      Theia is a Web IDE that can be used to offer a development environment displayed in a Web browser.

      I’ve recorded 2 screencasts of running Theia inside Docker containers, to develop Java and PHP applications, respectively using Maven and Composer (the latter is a Symfony application).

    • Why and how I have just redesigned my (other) website
    • How to Learn Python for Data Science In 5 Steps
    • Coding in Python 06 – Converting Data Types
    • Coding in Python 05 – Lists and Dictionaries
    • Developer’s Toolkit – The Most Useful Tools for Programmers

      The most useful tools that every programmer should know and use. These tools are essential to every coding working and also increase productivity.

Leftovers

  • Jeremy Hardy: an Irreplaceable Comedic Voice

    Jeremy Hardy during a recording of the BBC Radio 4 programme You’ll Have Had Your Tea

    The late British stand-up comedian, radio commentator, radio-show panelist, scriptwriter (early on he did scripts for the award-winning puppet show Spitting Image), and Guardian columnist Jeremy Hardy had no American, or indeed British, equivalent.

    If one can imagine an individual X with a politics well to the left of Michael Moore, who combined this politics with surrealistic alternations between the ferocity of a Lenny Bruce and an “oh so English” polite self-deprecation, there in an approximative nutshell was Jeremy Hardy and his comedy.

    There are of course other British comedians who share Hardy’s political orientation. The superb Alexei Sayle, for instance, joined the British Communist Party as a teenager in 1968, though he let his membership lapse subsequently (while retaining his Marxism).

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Validity of a Supplementary Protection Certificate. Testing the boundaries in a new ruling by the Swiss Tribunal Federal

      The two plaintiffs are Genzyme Corporation (holder of supplementary protection certificate No C00716606/01), and its licensee, Sanofi-Aventis (holder of the authorizations for the products Renagel and Renvela). The defendant, Salmon Pharma, commercializes a generic version of the product “Renvela”, which includes the same active ingredient and falls under the scope of protection for the SPC. After being sued for infringement, the defendant claimed the SPC is invalid, based on the fact that the plaintiff, having missed the deadline for filing an SPC, thereafter requested a reinstatement of the deadline. Although there is no statutory basis to reinstate the deadline for an SPC application, the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (FIIP) did so, thereby allowing the application for the SPC to be submitted.

    • ‘No More Paying For The Rich World’s Medicine’ – White House

      The Trump administration yesterday made some firm statements about reducing health care and drug prices for American consumers and making costs more transparent. The statements again appear to focus on other countries paying more for US-made drugs but also promote generic drugs.

    • Malaysia Still Under Pressure To Make Hepatitis C Medicine More Expensive

      The government of Malaysia continues to face pressure from the United States pharmaceutical industry and potentially the US government to undo an action taken to make a key hepatitis C medicine more affordable in the country. Now Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) has weighed in to defend the government’s right to use a patent flexibility in global trade law that allows them to take such actions on behalf of their citizens.

    • Americans Cross Border Into Mexico To Buy Insulin At A Fraction Of U.S. Cost

      When Michelle Fenner signed up to run this year’s Los Angeles Marathon, it got her thinking: Tijuana, Mexico, is only a 2½-hour drive from L.A. Why not take a trip across the border and buy some insulin for her son?

      “It’s so easy to just go across the border,” mused Fenner.

      This idea had been in the back of Fenner’s mind for a while. Her son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, meaning he needs daily injections of insulin to live. The list price of the modern generation of insulin has skyrocketed since his diagnosis. On one trip to the pharmacy last year, Fenner was told that a three-month supply of insulin would cost her $3,700.

      That same supply would cost only about $600 in Mexico.

      So, when she booked her trip to Los Angeles, Fenner said, “I decided we need to update our passports and go and get more insulin.”

      Fenner is not the only one thinking like this. The U.S. government estimates that close to 1 million people in California alone cross to Mexico annually for health care, including to buy prescription drugs. And between 150,000 and 320,000 Americans list health care as a reason for traveling abroad each year. Cost savings is the most commonly cited reason.

    • Ralph Northam’s Yearbook Photo Is a Symptom of Racism in Medicine

      For centuries, this phrase has guided doctors as a solemn principle acknowledging the sacred trust placed in us by the communities we serve. When we violate this trust, we betray this intimate social contract.

      Dr. Ralph Shearer Northam, governor of Virginia and renowned pediatric neurologist and public servant, has betrayed this contract.

      Despite many calls from leaders and presidential candidates across the political spectrum, Governor Northam has refused to resign following the outrage erupting from a photo released recently from his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School “student-produced” yearbook. He has denied that he is either of the two young men posing, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe, though he has admitted to wearing blackface in the past. This comes as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted wearing blackface in the past and now Governor Northam is embarking on his apology tour in attempts to focus on racial inequity and save his political career.

      However, the gesture is an affront to many African Americans, especially to those who elected Northam. Once lauded for his progressive policies, Northam’s confirmed participation in this racist image — and his subsequently bizarre “sorry-not-sorry” denial, complete with an abandoned Michael Jackson moonwalk — has made him the subject of a national embarrassment.

      While Northam is under political fire, his profession should be under fire as well.

    • Seeking Treatment for Mental Health Should be Applauded

      A few weeks ago, some friends and I planned to meet up for drinks. One person was cagey about what time she was available to hang out that evening, and another said nothing at all — and then didn’t join.

      Ultimately it turned out the former had an appointment for mental health counseling and she was embarrassed to admit it, and the latter was in recovery. She wanted to spend time with friends, but didn’t wish to risk her sobriety.

      In my view, neither friend should have any need to feel embarrassed. People who take their mental health into their own hands like they have should be applauded, not stigmatized.

      I respect each of these people more for taking care of themselves, not less. (Also, I would have been glad to switch to a non-alcoholic activity if it meant I could have enjoyed my recovering friend’s company that evening. Friends are worth more than wine or beer.)

    • The Red Cross Crossroad

      A recent interview in a local Geneva newspaper with the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Yves Daccord, and a letter/response from a former ICRC delegate, Thierry Germond, represent the tip of the iceberg of a crisis at the ICRC and within the humanitarian community. While a superficial reading of the arguments could be summarized as “tradition vs. change,” there is much more below the surface.

      The focus of the controversy revolves around the ICRC’s President Peter Maurer’s membership on the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The arguments for Maurer’s membership – access to decision-makers and potential donors – have been contrasted with the impartial, independent and neutral history of the Red Cross’ humanitarianism. Although ICRC founder Henry Dunant was searching for financial backing when he came upon the Battle of Solférino in 1859, humanitarianism has always prioritized the separation of the humanitarian from business and politics. Dunant never found sponsors, but he did start an organization that has won three Nobel Peace Prizes.

      Has Maurer’s membership sullied the ICRC’s image and put in peril the organization’s reputation? An article in Le Monde complements the Daccord interview and Germond’s response and highlights the importance of the controversy. The issue has even been raised in the Swiss parliament.

      The ICRC has a double mandate; to develop humanitarian law and make sure it is respected (“respecter et faire respecter”), and to have access to victims of war and other situations of armed violence.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • We Are Not in Treblinka

      Because of my pronounced skepticism of war, my friends often prod me to consider whether there are any historic acts of mass violence that, given the opportunity, I actually would have supported. One such act always comes to mind, and its morally relevant characteristics are certainly not unique to it. This happened in 1943, well after the Nazis had made their genocidal intentions clear. The Allies had been faring well in battle, and prisoners in the Treblinka extermination camp—emboldened by Allied victories but simultaneously fearful that the embittered, flagging Nazis would move quickly to “finish the job” of Jewish annihilation—decided to strike their fascist captors before it was too late.

      Following months of anxious, painstaking preparation, a prisoner inaugurated the rebellion one August afternoon with a gunshot to the air. Several of the conspirators at that point lured Ukrainian sentinels into a death trap with offers of pilfered gold. After lighting buildings on fire and killing dozens of guards, hordes of prisoners bolted for their lives, many with weapons stolen from an arms cache that the rebels had opened with a counterfeit key. Although the surviving guards chased after them, roughly 70 prisoners avoided recapture and lived to see the end of the war.

    • “Bombing Toward Peace” in Afghanistan

      George Carlin said: “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” Given the timing I assume he was referring to how the Nixon Administration ramped up bombing in order to strengthen its hand against the North Vietnamese at the upcoming 1972 Paris peace talks. Thousands of residents of Hanoi were killed with no practical effect at the negotiating table. “The wording of the [final peace] agreement was almost exactly the same as it had been at the beginning of December—before the Christmas bombing campaign, Rebecca Cesby wrote for the BBC.

      Henry Kissinger, the chief U.S. negotiator in Paris, admitted as much. “We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions,” said Nixon’s secretary of state, never missing a chance to be droll while bathing in the blood of innocents.

      Here Donald Trump goes again.

      “U.S. Heightens Attacks on Taliban in Push Toward Peace in Afghanistan,” read the headline in the New York Times on February 8th. One wag on my Facebook page commented: “It’s like the headline writers aren’t even trying anymore.”

    • U.S. Airstrikes Said to Kill at Least 10 Civilians in Afghanistan

      At least 10 civilians were killed and several others were wounded over the weekend during American airstrikes in southern Afghanistan, local officials and residents in Helmand Province said on Sunday.

      Two residents of the Sangin district of Helmand said eight members of a single family were killed by airstrikes in one house and two more in a nearby structure, among them women and children. Mohammad Hasim Alokozai, a member of Parliament from Helmand, put the death toll higher, saying in an interview that 14 civilians were killed and six wounded in the two houses.

    • What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan

      Hossein, a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APV), which hosted my recent visit to Afghanistan, rolled up his sleeve to show me a still-healing three-inch wound. Thieves had broken into his family home in Kabul. When they were discovered, one of the robbers stabbed Hossein.

      An APV coordinator, Zekerullah, was robbed and beaten by assailants in broad daylight. Ata Khan lost his camera and mobile phone to a gang of young thieves who accosted him and eight other people in a public park during the daytime. Habib, a recent young graduate of the APV Street Kids School program, suffered blows from several attackers a month ago.

      “I didn’t have anything they wanted to take,” he said, assuring me he is OK even though his lower back, where they beat him, is still sore.

      Attacks like these—which all happened within the last six months—are predictable in a chaotic war-torn city that absorbs new refugees every day. Some have been forced off their land by drought and food scarcity, while others flee the terror of violence carried out by various warring parties, including the United States. In 2018, the United States dropped 7,632 bombs on Afghanistan, more than any other full calendar year since the U.S. Air Force began documenting its attacks in 2006.

    • A Preference for Peace: Not the Same Thing as Support for the Bogeyman of the Week

      I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a peacenik. I think war is a bad thing. I’ve seen it up close and personal as an infantryman, and I’d like to see less of it, preferably none at all, either up close or from a distance.

      In part, this desire also makes me a “non-interventionist.” That is, in a world with 195 “sovereign nations,” it makes sense that the political officials in each one should mind his or her own state’s business and not try to decide who gets to run the other 194, or how they should do so.

      And this, in turn, leads to scolding claims that I am “soft on” politicians from states who happen to be at odds with the politicians from “my” country, the USA.

      If I don’t want a return to Cold War with what’s left of the former Soviet Union, I’m Vladimir Putin’s puppet.

      If I don’t support US sanctions on Iran, it must mean that I support whatever agenda my critic imputes to “Supreme Leader” Ali Khameni.

      If I don’t support the US invasion/occupation of Syria, I’m clearly a fan of president Bashar al-Assad.

      If I don’t think the US government should waste American treasure (and conceivably even American blood) trying to get Venezuelans to rally behind Juan Guiado’s “interim president” claim, it’s obvious that I want Nicolas Maduro and the Chavistas left in charge.

      Well, no, not at all. Not in any of those cases, nor in any of the other places around the world where American presidents, American Congresses, and American bureaucrats continuously try to seize control of the wheel from the people who, you know, live there.

    • London Gangs: a Tragic Remnant of British Colonialism

      London is plagued by street gangs. By the year 2016 there were an estimated 3,600 gangsters. According to government figures, these form some 225 gangs. Of these, 58 gangs are regularly active and are thought by police to be responsible for two-thirds of gang-related offences, including assault, theft, murder and, most of all, drugs. Ethnically, gangsters are mainly white, Asian, black and Eastern European. In the absence of official data, on-the-ground reports suggest that the majority of gangsters dealing in drugs, where the most violent crimes occur, are young black males, particularly Jamaican. This is not only a symptom of how successive British governments have failed young ethnic minorities, it reflects the tragic legacy of colonialism.

      The British Empire left Jamaica and its other regional colonies poor and devastated .One book on the topic notes that emancipation from slavery “removed the gross features of the slave system without basically upsetting the underlying class-colour differentiations.” Likewise, a London School of Economics report notes that although Jamaica’s Constitution of 1944 introduced so-called democracy, it was “overlaid onto a set of administrative structures and doctrines which had developed since the imposition of Crown Colony rule in 1866.”

      Jamaica’s pre-Independence gangs, like The Yardies, emerged from the poverty of the 1950s. Caribbeans experienced similar hardships when they and their parents moved to the UK after the Second World War. According to the British National Archives, between 1948 and 1970, almost half a million people from the West Indies (including the Caribbean) came to Britain, many of them on government initiatives, “to run the transport system, postal service and hospitals. Other West Indians were returning soldiers who had fought for Britain during the Second World War.” Most of the immigrants settled in London. One academic paper notes that “Britain’s experience of West Indian immigration” was “traumatic … Both first and second generations in the U.K. have experienced open hostility” from media, politicians and the public. Inner city violence, including white gangs vs. black gangs, affected Liverpool in the north, Handsworth in the Midlands and, in London, Brixton, Notting Hill and Tottenham.

    • Venezuela’s Maduro Denounces Warmongering by ‘White Supremacist’ Trump and His ‘Gang of Extremists’ Promoting Fascism Worldwide

      Calling President Donald Trump a person who is “publicly and openly” a white supremacist and accusing the current U.S. government of being run by a racist “gang of extremists,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called on the people and leaders of the world to speak out against foreign intervention and instead back efforts for the nation to solve its problems peacefully from within.

      In an interview with the BBC that aired Tuesday night, Maduro characterized U.S. efforts—including recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as “interim president” and gestures of foreign aid—as part of a “political war of American empire” being pursued by the “interests of the extreme right” (which he equated with the Klu Klux Klan) who are “warmongering in order to take over” his country.

      Trump, said Maduro, “has encouraged fascist tendencies, the neo-fascists and the neo-Nazis, in the United States, in Europe, and Latin America. It’s an extremist grouping that hates the world. They hate us and they belittle us because they only believe in their own interests and in the interests of the United States.”

    • Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Secretly Shipping Arms After Weapons Found on Plane with Possible CIA Ties

      A North Carolina-based air freight company has halted flights to Venezuela following a report by McClatchy linking it to possible arms smuggling. Last week, Venezuelan authorities claimed they had uncovered 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges and 90 military-grade radio antennas on board a U.S.-owned plane that had flown from Miami into Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city. The Boeing 767 is owned by a company called 21 Air based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The plane had made nearly 40 round-trip flights between Miami and spots in Venezuela and Colombia since January 11, the day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in to a second term. The flights ended after McClatchy first reported on them. Venezuela accused the U.S. government of sending the arms as part of its attempt to topple the Maduro government. While no definitive links between 21 Air and the U.S. government have been established, McClatchy reports the chairman of 21 Air, Adolfo Moreno, as well as another employee at the company have ties to Gemini Air Cargo, which was involved in the CIA’s rendition program during the administration of George W. Bush. We speak to McClatchy reporter Tim Johnson, who broke the story. Johnson was part of a team that shared a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Panama Papers.

    • The Deep Hurt: Lessons From American Coups

      Even swash-buckling Teddy Roosevelt was influenced, losing his zest for the idea of conquest. When he charged into the White House he held two views simultaneously, intervene to help other people, without oppressing them. Kinzer thinks that this dichotomy “torments our national psyche” (p. 229). In the early parts of the book Kinzer sets out the anti-imperialist (Mark Twain) and pro-imperialist visions (Henry Cabot Lodge). These speeches are worth gathering round for reflection.

      During the following hundred years much of what the anti-imperialists predicted has come to pass. The United States has become an “actively interventionist power. It has projected military or covert power into dozens of countries on every continent except Antarctica”(ibid.). George Frisbie Hoar was right, Kinzer points out, when he “warned that intervening in other lands would turn the United States into a ‘vulgar, commonplace empire founded upon physical force”” (ibid.).

      Anti-imperialists also predicted that an “aggressive foreign policy would have pernicious effects at home” (ibid.). Military budgets have soared to heights unimaginable in the days of fervent expansionism in the 1898 war with the Philippines. The armaments industries wield extraordinary clout. The wealth-soaked elites dominate politics. The invasion and overthrowing of distant regimes resides in the hands of a few decision-makers. And militaristic values and rituals saturate American life and expunge peaceful ones.

    • While State Leaders Make War, Spanish Children March for Peace

      Seven hundred and seventy primary and elementary school children, aged three to 12, walked and skipped three kilometers to the main square (Plaza de España) here in this town located n in Spain’s Andalusia province, and back to their municipal school, Jacaranda.

      On this 30th march for international peace in commemoration of the day that Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated (January 30, 1948), the children sang “No to War”, “Yes to Peace”, “Save the Children,” “Friendship Yes, Violence No”. (The event was postponed a week due to a storm.)

      They were accompanied by their 29 classroom teachers and about 100 parents and grandparents.

      For a week each January, these students study peace, solidarity and friendship values, and how to protect Mother Earth from man-made pollution. The day dedicated to “Save the Children” includes students asking their parents for donations of funds and clothing for poor children. Since 2011-2, they have raised some 7500 Euros ($8500). A committee of teachers and parents decides where to send the donations, sometimes in Spain and sometimes abroad.

      The students also make designs for banners and T-shirts. A committee of students and teachers decides what designs are used. The municipal marine sports and water firms donated 3000 Euros to manufacture 1000 T-shirts that the students and teachers wear.

    • ACTION ALERT: MSNBC’s ‘Resistance’ to Trump’s Venezuela Coup Ranges from Silence to Support

      Given MSNBC is the largest, most influential liberal platform in the US—one that has long marketed itself as a progressive counter to the lies and ruthless right-wing onslaught of the Trump government, one would think they’d be leading the charge against Trump’s old school, Cold War–style coup-mongering in South America.

      But a FAIR survey of MSNBC since Trump threw the US’s support behind self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó (the effective start of the attempted coup) finds coverage has ranged from outright support to virtual silence—with only one five-minute segment on All In With Chris Hayes (1/29/19) broaching objections to Trump’s Venezuela policy. The only segment that comes close to criticizing Trump’s attempted coup, Hayes’ “Is Trump Moving Toward War in Venezuela?” largely framed his opposition as “just asking questions,” and had on Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro to insist the “timing” for sanctions and regime change wasn’t right.

    • ‘Don’t Listen to This War Criminal!’: Peace Activists Arrested at Elliott Abrams Hearing on Venezuela

      “Don’t listen to this war criminal!”

      So declared CodePink peace activists on Wednesday, as Trump-appointed special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, before they were ushered out of the room and arrested.

      “Venezuela needs negotiations, not a coup or military intervention,” said CodePink national co-director Ariel Gold, the first to be arrested, as she decried ongoing U.S. intervention in the Latin American country. “Don’t let Abrams take us down a path of war.”

    • Unhinged From Reality: the President and the Body-Slamming Congressman

      Last week Montana’s lone congressman, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, gave an address to the Montana Legislature. Perhaps best known for body-slamming a reporter, then lying about it and finally buying his way out of a serious and well-deserved assault charge, Gianforte echoed President Donald Trump’s agenda of cutting taxes and regulations as the path to a robust economy. Unfortunately, Gianforte appears as unhinged from reality as his fellow mega-millionaire now sitting in the White House.

      “Imagine if Montana took a page from our national pro-growth playbook,” said Trump parrot Gianforte, claiming that government should “get out of the way so all Montanans and Americans can prosper again.”

      Ironically — but actually rooted in reality — Gianforte’s call for getting government “out of the way” came only a day after Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality released a whopping estimate of at least $700 million to remediate Colstrip’s ash ponds. Perhaps Gianforte would like to step forward and pick up the tab since Colstrip’s ability to generate such an enormous sum to deal with the pollution the plants’ 50 years of operation has left behind is seriously in doubt.

      It’s even more incredulous that Gianforte claimed: “Government does not create prosperity, the private sector does.” Yet, what it actually appears the private sector has created in Montana are enormous, ongoing and incredibly expensive industrial pollution problems. There’s the largest Superfund site in the nation, the Butte-Anaconda-Clark Fork mining and smelting disaster now entering its fourth decade of so-called “cleanup” efforts with no end in sight — and not much “cleanup” either.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Voters Can’t Elect the Right Prosecutors if These Elected Officials’ Records Aren’t Made Public

      America’s locally elected prosecutors wield enormous and, all too often, unaccountable power. They have the authority to reinforce mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal legal system or combat these injustices. Across the country, voters are beginning to recognize the extent of this power, and they want them to use it for good.

      Nearly 90 percent of Americans want an elected prosecutor who will prioritize reducing incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal legal system. And we’re starting to see that impact at the ballot box. In recent years, voters in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas have all elected prosecutors who ran on platforms of reforming the criminal justice system so that fewer people go to jails and prisons. But change takes time, in large part because the vast majority of Americans represented by one of America’s 2,400 elected prosecutors have no way of knowing if their prosecutor shares their priorities.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘This Is What Dem Leadership Looks Like’: Minnesota Gov. Praised for Backing Fight Against Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline

      “Minnesotans have clearly voiced that they do not want this dirty pipeline, and Governor [Tim] Walz and Lieutenant Governor [Peggy] Flanagan showed today that they are listening,” declared Greenpeace USA tar sands campaigner Rachel Rye Butler.

      “By committing to refile the state’s appeal to Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline expansion,” Butler said, “he’s rightly putting Indigenous rights, our global climate, and the water resources for thousands of Minnesotans before fossil fuel industry profits.”

    • Can California’s Iconic Redwoods Survive Climate Change?

      California’s most iconic trees can live for centuries — but can they survive in a warming world?

      Populations of the state’s two redwood species — coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) — have already declined by 95 percent since 1850 due to logging and development. Now scientists want to know how climate change and drought will affect them in the near future.

    • The Age of Environmental Breakdown: We need the Green New Deal Now!

      Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Lesley Rankin and Darren Baxter Februhe at the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain are warning in a new study as frantically as they can that “the extent, severity, pace and closing window of opportunity to avoid potentially catastrophic outcomes has led many scientists to conclude that we have entered a new era of rapid environmental change. We define this as the ‘age of environmental breakdown’ to better highlight the severity of the scale, pace and implication.”

      That is, we are not understanding our planetary climate emergency and not swinging into action nearly fast enough given the epochal severity of the catastrophe.

      Half of the carbon being flooded into the atmosphere is being produced by the richest 10 percent of the world. The authors insist we need a rapid, thorough and transformational response, and that to be effective it most come above all in the industrialized nations.

    • ‘Bring It On’: Green New Deal Champions Welcome McConnell’s Cynical Ploy for Up-or-Down Vote

      After McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to hold a floor vote the Green New Deal plan unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), environmentalists and progressive members of Congress argued that rather than revealing deep rifts in the Democratic Party, an up-or-down vote will spotlight the GOP’s total opposition to a widely popular policy that represents the best hope of adequately confronting the climate crisis.

      “Republicans don’t want to debate climate change, they only want to deny it,” Markey said in a statement after McConnell’s announcement. “They have offered no plan to address this economic and national security threat and want to sabotage any effort that makes Big Oil and corporate polluters pay.”

      Since the Green New Deal resolution was introduced last week, President Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers, and right-wing pundits have spread hysterical falsehoods about the measure and decried it as a “socialist fever dream” that would be political suicide for Democrats to support.

    • Enbridge Gave Massachusetts Studies by Climate Denier, ALEC Associate in Gas Project Assessment

      As part of an ongoing health evaluation of a proposed and contested Boston metro area gas compressor station, the energy distribution company Enbridge shared with the State of Massachusetts materials from dubious and controversial sources. As documents obtained by DeSmog reveal, these include studies by a climate change denier and an official associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group working to undermine environmental regulations.

    • The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn on the Green New Deal

      “I REALLY DON’T like their policies of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ or ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!’”

      So bellowed President Donald Trump in El Paso, Texas, his first campaign-style salvo against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey’s Green New Deal resolution. There will surely be many more.

      It’s worth marking the moment. Because those could be the famous last words of a one-term president, having wildly underestimated the public appetite for transformative action on the triple crises of our time: imminent ecological unraveling, gaping economic inequality (including the racial and gender wealth divide), and surging white supremacy.

      Or they could be the epitaph for a habitable climate, with Trump’s lies and scare tactics succeeding in trampling this desperately needed framework. That could either help win him re-election, or land us with a timid Democrat in the White House with neither the courage nor the democratic mandate for this kind of deep change. Either scenario means blowing the handful of years left to roll out the transformations required to keep temperatures below catastrophic levels.

      Back in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a landmark report informing us that global emissions need to be slashed in half in less than 12 years, a target that simply cannot be met without the world’s largest economy playing a game-changing leadership role. If there is a new administration ready to leap into that role in January 2021, meeting those targets would still be extraordinarily difficult, but it would be technically possible — especially if large cities and states like California and New York escalate their ambitions right now. Losing another four years to a Republican or a corporate Democrat, and starting in 2026 is, quite simply, a joke.

      So either Trump is right and the Green New Deal is a losing political issue, one he can smear out of existence. Or he is wrong and a candidate who makes the Green New Deal the centerpiece of their platform will take the Democratic primary and then kick Trump’s ass in the general, with a clear democratic mandate to introduce wartime-levels of investment to battle our triple crises from day one. That would very likely inspire the rest of the world to finally follow suit on bold climate policy, giving us all a fighting chance.

    • On the Front Lines of the Climate Change Movement: Mike Roselle Draws a Line

      The beard is graying. The hair is clipped military-short. He is a large man, oddly shaped, like a cross between a grizzly and a javelina. It’s Roselle, of course, Mike Roselle—the outside agitator. He and a fellow activist have just spread an anti-coal banner in front of a growling bulldozer in West Virginia on a cold February morning in 2009. He’s in this icy and unforgiving land to oppose a brutal mining operation and will soon be arrested for trespassing. Massey Energy, the target of Roselle’s protest, is the fourth largest coal extractor in the United States, mining nearly 40 million tons of coal in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee each year.

      The arrest was nothing new for Roselle, who cut his teeth in direct action environmental campaigns decades earlier as a co-founder of Earth First!, a top campaigner for Greenpeace US and later as the wit behind the tenacious Ruckus Society. Unlike most mainstream environmentalists, you are not likely to see Roselle sporting a suit and lobbying Washington insiders on the intricacies of mining laws—you are more apt to see this self-proclaimed lowbagger (one who lives light on the land, works to protect it and has few possessions to show for their hard work) engaged in direct, but nonviolent, confrontations with the forces of industrialization, using tactics honed during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. And his dissent in West Virginia is more than justified.

      The mountaintops of the Appalachia region, from Tennessee up to the heart of West Virginia, are being ravaged by the coal industry—an industry that cares little about the welfare of communities or the land that it is chewing up and spitting out with its grotesque mining operations.

      The debris from the mining pits, often 500 feet deep, produce toxic waste that is then dumped in nearby valleys, polluting rivers and poisoning local communities downstream. Currently, no state or federal agencies are tracking the cumulative effect of the aptly named “mountaintop removal,” where entire peaks are being blown apart with explosives, only to expose tiny seams of the precious black rock.

  • Finance

    • Bitmain S15 Firmware “Very Buggy”, Will This Claim Affect BTC Prices?

      Although Bitmain is a central player in the ASIC mining sphere, their latest firmware S15 has a weakness, a Twitter user has revealed. Luckily, BTC prices are steady, and with a combination of favorable candlestick arrangements and fundamentals, Bitcoin may end up trending above $3,800.

    • To Fix System That Let Trump Stop Paying Social Security Taxes 40 Minutes Into 2016, Sanders Says ‘Time to Scrap the Cap’

      “Donald Trump claimed that he made $694 million in 2016,” Sanders said, with the caveat that the president doesn’t always tell the truth about his finances. “If that is accurate, he stopped paying Social Security payroll tax 40 minutes into January 1st of that year.”

      “Meanwhile, the average middle class person paid Social Security taxes for the entire year,” the Vermont senator continued. “That is absurd, and that has got to end.”

      Under the current system, all income above the $132,900 cap is completely exempt from the Social Security payroll tax. Denouncing this approach as “absolutely regressive,” Sanders declared on Wednesday, “It is time to scrap the cap.”

      The Social Security Expansion Act, which Sanders introduced on Wednesday alongside several congressional Democrats, would subject all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax—a far more progressive tax structure that would help fund more generous benefits to low-income retirees while also ensuring the popular program’s solvency for more than five decades.

    • Popular Russian game show is rocked by cheating allegations

      Ilya Ber, the chief editor behind the television game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” has accused “What? Where? When?” veteran contestant Alexander Drouz of trying to cheat his way to a large cash prize. In his show’s LiveJournal community, Ber wrote that Drouz contacted him ahead of taping in November 2018 and asked him for an advance copy of the questions and correct answers in exchange for a share of the 3-million-ruble ($45,630) winnings.

    • Here’s How Much America’s Rising Income Inequality Is Costing Social Security

      Just a few weeks into the 116th Congress, Democrats’ takeover of the House of Representatives has already exposed the huge gulf between what American voters want and what the previous House leadership and the Trump administration have thrust upon them in recent years. Congressional Democrats’ bold agenda—such as higher taxes on the rich, universal health care, and expanding Social Security—has strong support not just among progressives but also across party lines. This popularity is a direct rebuke to Trump’s and his congressional colleagues’ massive 2017 tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations; Trump’s ongoing efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid; and Trump’s and congressional Republicans’ continued efforts to cut Social Security.
      Perhaps nowhere is the gulf between voters’ wishes and the policies Trump and his colleagues in Congress are pursuing greater than when it comes to Social Security—a program that voters overwhelmingly want to see expanded rather than cut. A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that 95 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans preferred to maintain or expand Social Security. Yet, despite promising not to cut Social Security on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget would have slashed $72 billion from the program—cruelly targeting people with disabilities—over the coming decade. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) didn’t even wait until the ink was dry on their $2 trillion tax giveaway to begin insisting that everyday Americans face cuts to Social Security to pay for their deficit-busting tax bill.
      Fortunately, American voters finally have champions in the growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers calling for expanding Social Security. Their approach fits seamlessly into the growing calls for higher taxes on the wealthy from congressional leaders and 2020 presidential contenders: It pairs benefit increases with commonsense revenue raisers such as lifting the payroll tax cap so that higher earners pay into Social Security all year, just like other workers do. This is a move that more than two-thirds of Americans support and reflects the common desire of both voters and progressive policymakers to tackle the nation’s sky-high inequality by putting everyday workers and families—not the uber-rich—first.

    • The Robots Taking the Jobs Industry

      There is an old saying that the economy is too simple for economists to understand. There is plenty of evidence of this all around. After all, almost no economists could see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which gave us the great recession. Back in the stock bubble days of the late 1990s, leading economists in both political parties wanted to put Social Security money in the stock market based on assumptions of returns which were at the least incredibly implausible, if not altogether impossible.

      The endless scare stories of robots taking all the jobs, or the threat of automation, fit this mode. While this is a recurring theme in major media outlets, it basically makes zero sense.

      Replacing human labor with technology is a very old story. It’s called “productivity growth.” We’ve been seeing it pretty much as long as we have had a capitalist economy. In fact, this is what allows for sustained improvements in living standards. If we had not seen massive productivity growth in agriculture, then the bulk of the country would still be working on farms, otherwise we would be going hungry.

      However, thanks to massive improvement in technology, less than 2 percent of our workforce is now employed in agriculture. And, we can still export large amounts of food.

    • Atlanta School Cheating Scandal: The Untold Story of Corporate Greed & Criminalization of Teachers

      As teacher strikes in Denver and Los Angeles join a wave of recent labor actions bringing attention to the plight of the American public school system, we take a fresh look at one of the largest public school scandals in U.S. history. Public schools in Atlanta, Georgia, were thrown into chaos in 2015 when 11 former educators were convicted in 2015 of racketeering and other charges for allegedly facilitating a massive cheating operation on standardized tests. Prosecutors said the teachers were forced to modify incorrect answers and students were even allowed to fix their responses during exams. The case has fueled criticism of the education system’s reliance on standardized testing, and elicited calls of racism. Thirty-four of the 35 educators indicted in the scandal were African-American. We speak with Shani Robinson, one of the 11 convicted teachers, who has written a new book on the cheating scandal with journalist Anna Simonton. It’s titled “None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators.”

    • As Macron Prepares New Repressive Measures, Yellow Vests and Red Unions Strike Together

      On Tuesday, February 5, as the Macron government pushed harsh repressive laws against demonstrators through the National Assembly, the Yellow Vests joined with France’s unions for the first time in a day-long, nation-wide “General Strike.”

      At the very moment when in Paris the lower house was voting to implement Macron’s proposed laws designed to suppress public demonstrations (a legal right protected in both the French Constitution and the U.N. Human Rights Declaration) tens of thousands of their constituents were out in the streets all over the country demonstrating and striking against Macron’s authoritarian, neo-liberal government. The demonstrators’ demands ranged from better salaries and retirement benefits, restoration of public services, equitable tax codes, an end to police brutality, and banning the use of “flash-balls” on demonstrators, to Macron’s resignation and the instauration of participatory democracy.

      Deaf to the angry people’s legitimate grievances, unwilling to deal with them, Macron has given himself no other choice than to legislate new repressive legal restrictions to suppress their continued free expression. This resort to open repression can only serve to discredit the government’s handling of a crisis largely of his own making, treating a spontaneous social movement among the 99% as if it were a terrorist or fascist conspiracy. The unpopular President’s repressive tactics will inevitably backfire on him. The French are extremely jealous of their liberties, and Macron’s monarchical arrogance can only remind them of how their ancestors dealt with Louis XVI.

    • Are We Heading Towards a Synchronised Global Slowdown?

      When the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its World Economic Outlook Update in January 2018, the future looked bright. Indeed, even the title of the update was very optimistic: Brighter Prospects, Optimistic Markets, Challenges Ahead. And under the cheer-leadership of the IMF, an overwhelming consensus was formed. The cyclical upswing underway since mid-2016 had continued to strengthen, producing in 2017 the broadest synchronised global growth upsurge since 2010, and the growth would last as far as the eye could see. Here, what is meant by global growth is the growth of the world gross domestic product (GDP) or the world income.

      It turned out that 2018 was a major disappointment and the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Update in January 2019, A Weakening Global Expansion, was a bit cautious.

    • Millionaires of New York to Governor Cuomo: Raise Our Taxes
    • Tax Refund Amounts Take a Dive Under GOP Tax Plan

      When Congress passed the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late 2017, President Donald Trump bragged it had “reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages and massive tax relief for American families and for American companies.” Tara Golshan, writing in Vox, was less bombastic, calling it “a far cry from the simplified tax code that Republicans have long been promising” but still “a substantial reshaping of the nation’s tax base.”

      By June of 2018, The Washington Post reported, the bill didn’t deliver higher wages. In fact, as reporter Philip Bump wrote, “Year-over-year, the real average hourly earnings number has dropped by 0.1 percent,” according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Now, as America enters the first tax season under the new tax plan, it’s a chance to see whether it has resulted in greater returns for American taxpayers. Early results, however, are not promising. As Lisa Lambert reported at Reuters on Monday, 2019’s tax season “got off to a slow start in the first week, with data released on Friday showing a significant drop in returns and refunds.”

    • How a 70 Percent Marginal Tax Rate on Top Earners Can Reduce Inequality

      In recent weeks and in quick succession Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promoted a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent on the part of incomes of the super-rich over $10 million, Elizabeth Warren proposed a wealth tax on ultra-millionaires and billionaires, and Bernie Sanders revealed his “For the 99.8%” proposal that would expand the estate tax on the wealthiest 0.2 percent of families. These proposals are not schemes to soak the rich, nor are they primarily about collecting revenue. Rather, they provide the basis for meaningful tax reform whose twin goals are reducing extreme income and wealth inequality and protecting American democracy from the predations of wealthy plutocrats.

      In the 34 years between 1946 and 1980, New Deal policies that included progressive income and estate taxation as well as financial reforms that regulated the accumulation of wealth led to rising wages for ordinary workers, a decline in income inequality, and a more equal distribution of wealth. In the years since 1980, tax cuts for the wealthy, the near extinction of the estate tax, and the rollback of financial regulations have led to a boom in incomes and an explosion of wealth for America’s ultra-rich families. Together with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed large political contributions, big corporations and rich individuals have used their wealth to protect their interests and to engage in philanthropy that indulges their impulses and imposes their preferences on society without any accountability to the public.

      The recent tax proposals seek to redress this situation by reducing income and wealth inequality, preventing the emergence of an aristocracy of inherited wealth, and defending American democracy against an army of lobbyists and lawyers paid to undermine it. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate on annual income above $10 million will begin to reverse this.

    • To Ensure Dignity for ‘Most Vulnerable’ Among Us, Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to Expand Social Security

      In an effort to strengthen one of the nation’s most popular programs as the GOP pushes for cuts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and several congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced the Social Security Expansion Act to ensure that seniors can retire in dignity and “everyone with a disability can live with the security they need.”

    • Why Bezos Exposed Trump’s Pecker

      Jeff Bezos could be the world’s greatest exhibitionist.

      He’s certainly the world’s richest exhibitionist. He also might be the world’s smartest exhibitionist, having figured out how to make his (thus far) unseen dick pic into a cause célèbreof the Resistance and anyone whose privacy has been violated.

      In case you’ve been under a rock or that “log” that Jeff B. so majestically “rolled over” to “see what crawls out,” here’s the salacious and inspiring story in a nut (yep, those nuts) shell: A few hours after the Amazon founder and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, officially announced that they were amicably divorcing, the National Enquirer published an “exposé”of Jeff’s affair with media personality, Lauren Sanchez (who looks remarkably like MacKenzie, but that’s another fetish). The tabloid mentioned that it also had some photos in its possession that were “too” explicit to publish, though it did rummage up the moral justification (something to do with Bezos’ “fitness” to be a multi-billionaire) to publish a number of private, passionate sexts, such as:

      “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon”

      “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.… I want to kiss your lips…. I love you. I am in love with you…”

    • Venezuela’s Popular Sectors and the Future of a Country

      Whereas protests in past years against the government have tended to be centered in wealthier neighborhoods, in January of this year, protests against Maduro began to break out across a number of poor and working-class neighborhoods, in places like Catia, La Vega, El Valle, and Petare. At the end of that month, we began conducting research on the recent turn of events connected to these protests.

      For some in the popular sectors, like previous confrontations between Chavismo and the opposition, this latest juncture is evidence that now more than ever one must stand firm against imperialism. Cristina, a single mother in her 30s who lives in the 23 de Enero neighborhood of Caracas and has supported the Bolivarian Revolution since her youth, says she has no more faith in Juan Guaidó—the current face of the opposition—than she did in Leopoldo López, leader of the hardline opposition party Voluntad Popular (Popular Unity), or Pedro Carmona, who the military appointed President during the two-day military coup in 2002. For her, they all represent a struggle to roll back the advances made by the revolution, to return power to the hands of the old guard.

      However, perhaps a more general sentiment in many popular sectors is that neither “side” can be trusted; in other words, the desconfianza (distrust) that made it difficult for some to support the opposition a few years ago has contaminated Chavismo as well. This is the sentiment that we have noted while conducting preliminary research in Catia, a poor and working-class sector in west Caracas, on perceptions of the current political situation in the country. As part of this research, we organized a conversation in Catia with eight women from the neighborhood of Los Magallanes about their thoughts on Maduro’s second inauguration amid allegations of unfair electoral practices, Juan Guaidó’s proclamation as president on January 24, and what it means for the future of the country. The women live in the same neighborhood but have diverse political histories. Two of the women, whom Hanson has known for eight years, were ardent Chavistas until a few years ago. Others had been long-time opposition supporters.

    • There’s Something Eerily Familiar About the West’s Approach to Venezuela

      The closest I ever came to Venezuela, many years ago, was a transit connection at Caracas airport. I noticed a lot of soldiers in red berets and a clutch of goons, and it reminded me, vaguely, of the Middle East.

      Now, sitting in the rain squalls of the wintry Levant, I flick through my newspaper clippings of our recent local autocrats – Saddam, Assad, al-Sisi, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman (you can fill in the rest for yourself) – and I think of Nicolas Maduro.

      The comparisons are by no means precise. Indeed, it’s not the nature of the “strongmen” I’m thinking about. It’s our reaction to all these chaps. And there are two obvious parallels: the way in which we sanction and isolate the hated dictator – or love him, as the case may be – and the manner in which we not only name the opposition as the rightful heir to the nation, but demand that democracy be delivered to the people whose torture and struggle for freedom we have suddenly discovered.

      And before I forget it, there’s one other common thread in this story. If you suggest that those who want presidential change in Venezuela may be a little too hasty, and our support for – let us say – Juan Guaido might be a bit premature if we don’t want to start a civil war, this means you are “pro-Maduro”.

      Just as those who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam”, or those who thought the west might pause before it supported the increasingly violent opposition in Syria were labelled “pro-Assad”.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Media Promised Better Coverage of the 2020 Race, and All I Got Was Kirsten Gillibrand’s Fried Chicken

      But Gillibrand has struggled to gain traction in the ever-growing, just-list-who-isn’t-running field of Democratic candidates. Some of that might be rooted in concern over how the upstate New Yorker morphed from a pro-gun centrist into an avatar of the Trump Resistance, and that’s a valid question. But that’s not exactly how the journalists following the 2020 race framed any doubts over Gillibrand’s viability over the weekend. Instead, they presented voters with #FriedChickenGate.
      The political trope about the candidate awkwardly gobbling down ethnic food is as old as pastrami itself, probably dating back to the penny press ripping John Adams for the way he gnawed on a fried possum. OK, I made that up, but I’m not making up how reporters parlayed any serious coverage of how a President Gillibrand might get us out of the giant mess that’s been created at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into an analysis of what happened when she met African-American leaders at a joint called Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles in the critical early-primary state of South Carolina.
      The fact that Gillibrand started eating her chicken with a knife and fork, but then switched to her fingers after noting that all her companions were using their hands, wasn’t portrayed as the natural awkwardness that every sentient human being has felt at some social gathering where messy could-be finger food like greasy chicken or slathered barbecued ribs is on the table. No, the moment was a Grand Metaphor for a candidate who was “contrived,” who changed her stance on the Fried Chicken Question just like she’d changed her position on amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

    • A Preliminary Ranking of the Democratic Primary Contenders

      Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders by twelve points, and Sanders leads Kamala Harris, in third place, by ten points in this week’s #10at10 preliminary rankings. Launched on social media on January 14, the model emphasizes two particular factors – how a candidate is polling on average versus other announced or potential Democratic candidates and how she or he is polling on average against Donald Trump. The model also allows some wiggle room in a bonus points section. The #10at10 preliminary rankings will be updated each week on Monday on Twitter in this thread and usually also in a column here on Wednesdays.

    • ‘For Billionaires, Things Are Already Fine’: Ocasio-Cortez Pinpoints Why Howard Schultz Has No Serious Tax Plan

      It did not take Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) long to figure out why former Starbucks CEO and “independent centrist” Howard Schultz didn’t want to talk about the specifics of higher tax rates on the ultra-wealthy during his CNN town hall Tuesday night.

      The reason, she noted on Twitter, is because for billionaires like Schultz “things are already going fine”—and therefore, his real plan for higher taxation on the rich is that there is no plan at all.

    • Finally One of Trump’s Racist Dog-Whistles May Come Back to Bite Him

      As a study in contrasts, it will be educational to watch the Democratic contenders in next year’s primary debates. Unlike the 2016 Republican debates in which Donald Trump insulted, intimidated and lied his way to the GOP nomination while making up degrading nicknames for his various opponents, I strongly suspect U.S. senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar will refrain from calling each other insulting names and commenting on each others’ appearances.

      In the meantime we can expect to hear the commander-in-chief continue to employ racist and childish nicknames for the Democratic contenders, most famously, his penchant for calling U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”

      Warren had hoped to deter Trump from using the racist nickname by taking a genetic test to prove she has Native American DNA. And, indeed, the test did show “strong evidence” that Warren had a Native American ancestor approximately six to 10 generations ago.

      If there is one thing I have learned over the past two years it’s that Trump and his base don’t give a damn about 1. Science and 2. The Facts. So it was no surprise that the test turned out to be a huge public relations disaster for Warren and another win for Trump. Native American groups criticized Warren for the stunt, while the test only served to give Trump more ammunition. “She doesn’t have any Indian blood,” Trump told his supporters in the small Southern Illinois town of Murphysboro. “I have more than she does, and I have none. Right? I have none, but it’s more than her.”

      Now as we brace for another two years of dog-whistles, the dynamic may have changed slightly. The president last week gave Warren a gift in the form of another racist tweet. The tweet may show a way for Warren to fight back, a way that won’t backfire like the genetic test.

    • Unity and Exceptionalism: Trump’s State of Union Flurries

      “Trump is hated by everyone,” comes one unnamed former official in an account to Vanity Fair, one supposedly sourced after the President’s State of the Union Address. Another claimed that all was wretched in the White House: “It’s total misery. People feel trapped.” Off record stuff, unnamed and, as ever, doing nothing to concern a leader whose interests have always lain elsewhere. Whatever the chronic dysfunction affecting the West Wing, what mattered for Donald Trump was simply getting his State of the Union address going. And long it was too – 82 minutes, making it the third longest in history.

      The address saw Trump return to what he is most comfortable with: campaign mode. Governance is less important than combat. When there are troubles, and when there is crisis, he searches for the rally, the reassurances of his formidable and, it would seem, unshakeable base still ignored on either side of the coast. The speech was seen by Susan Glasser of The New Yorker as “sort of gauzy” with hints of “World War II triumphalism”.

      The language was, in the main, thin puffery, that of the exceptional nation which had “saved freedom, transformed science” and done more than its bit to redefine “the middle class standard of living for the entire world to see.” In a sense, this is true: the paradox of US living is that it supposedly reconciles middle class living with horrendous swathes of indigence and an active food stamp culture, a true glory to the distortions of Social Darwinism.

    • ‘The National Popular Vote Movement Is Winning”: Colorado Bill to Scrap Electoral College Advances

      The movement to end the electoral college and select the U.S. president by popular vote—reinvigorated after President Donald Trump won the 2016 election despite Hillary Clinton receiving more than 3 million more votes—is poised to claim another victory as a bill in Colorado is close to becoming law.

      A state House committee voted 6-3 for the state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, voting on party lines. The bill now moves to the Democratic-controlled state House and, if approved, is expected to be signed by Demoocratic Gov. Jared Polis.

      As Common Cause noted on Twitter, the proposal is popular among Colorado voters, with 84 people volunteering to testify before the House committee in favor of joining the compact.

    • Why Ann Coulter Has Power: U.S. Politics are Authoritarian by Design

      Recently a correspondent from overseas wrote to ask me how it is that Donald Trump perseveres with his absurd nativist demand – replete with threats of a second government shut-down or a Declaration of National Emergency – for a completed wall to stop a fake and racist brown menace on the southern United States border despite the fact that his demand and his threats are opposed by a solid majority of U.S.-Americans.

      The demand and the threats are still very much on the table in the wake of a State of the Union Address in which Trump made literally not a single mention of the 35-day nativist shutdown he ordered (at no small cost to hundreds of thousands of federal workers) last December and January.

      The short answer to my correspondent’s question is that Trump has strong support for his terrible Know Nothing Wall from white-nationalist Republicans who are granted political leverage far beyond their numbers by the nation’s militantly undemocratic political system

    • What is Democratic Socialism and Does America Need to be “Protected” from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez?

      That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have – we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

      For Sanders, economic justice and leveling the opportunity and income gap between the rich and poor is what part of what it means to be a democratic socialist. Yet historically the term has meant more that economic justice, it also included democratic control of the economy.

      Democratic socialism emerges as a political movement in response to Karl Marx’s criticism of capitalism in the mid nineteenth century. To simplify, Marx had argued that the core problem of capitalism was a class exploitation and struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat where the latter sells labor power which is extracted as surplus value by the former. The bourgeoisie own the means of production and over time in their race to maintain profits they increasingly replace human labor power with machines, they drive down wages placing more and more individuals into poverty. This process creates an economic crisis, intensifying class struggle, and eventually creating conditions for a capitalist struggle. As the theory was eventually amended by Engels, it suggested an economic inevitability for the revolution. With Lenin, the communist party would serve as a vanguard movement to lead the revolution. As further amended by Stalin, this party in practice was highly undemocratic.

      Starting in the late nineteenth century individuals such as Eduard Bernstein in Evolutionary Socialism argued that the revolutionary tactics and economic inevitability of the revolution were not practical or certain. He and others agreed with much of the basic criticism of Marx but instead tied the future of a classless society to parliamentary democracy. Specifically, the emphasis was upon linking universal franchise to socialist ideals with the hope that socialism could be brought about by elections. For Bernstein, socialism was an ethical imperative, it was about treating everyone with respect, and it was grounded in the French Revolution ideas of promoting “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” It was taking the ideals of political liberalism and translating them into economic democracy. In effect, workers would have democratic control not just of the government but of the economy.

      There was serious debate over whether parliamentary socialism was possible, with writers such as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Kautsky, and Leon Trotsky reaching various conclusions. But the core argument about what constituted democratic socialism centered on democratic control of the marketplace–it was democratic control of capitalism. It was about ensuring that workers and not capitalists made decisions about what to invest, not letting the choice simply remain in the boardrooms of corporate executives.

    • New Hampshire Law Illegally Targets Young Voters Ahead of 2020 Primary

      The state wants students to face criminal penalties if they don’t pay to change their out-of-state licenses after voting.
      The New Hampshire 2020 primary is still almost a year away, but state legislators are already working to disenfranchise voters. HB 1264, a law set to go into effect in July 2019, will change the definition of what it means to be a “resident” of New Hampshire, forcing people with out-of-state driver’s licenses or car registrations to switch to the state versions if they register to vote.

      While it may sound like an archaic DMV issue, it’s actually a burden on the right to vote. In New Hampshire, students are lawfully permitted to vote in the town where they live while attending school.

      By requiring people to pay up to hundreds of dollars in vehicle registration fees if they register to vote, the law unconstitutionally restricts voting rights and, in particular, targets New Hampshire’s students and young people to dissuade them for voting. That’s why we just filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Dartmouth College students, both of whom were eligible to vote in the 2018 elections but now would be forced to update their driver’s licenses if they participate in 2020.

      For our plaintiffs, this fight is about having a voice in the issues that matter most to them. Caroline, a sophomore, is heavily involved in get-out-the-vote efforts on her campus. She’ll be living in New Hampshire until at least 2021 and wants to make sure her voice will be heard by legislators in New Hampshire on the issues she cares about.

    • Did the Senate find “no direct evidence” of collusion? That doesn’t mean what Trump wants it to

      Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican and former Trump campaign adviser, told CBS News last week: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” That comment didn’t garner much notice on its own, since Burr said exactly the same thing last September. But yesterday NBC News reported that the committee as a whole had concluded that there was no evidence of collusion and that Democrats on the panel were in agreement.

      [...]

      The NBC report’s headline said that the committee had found no “direct evidence” of conspiracy, which is a more specific legal term. Former U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg pointed out on MSNBC on Tuesday that it’s very rare to find “direct evidence” of conspiracy. He said, “In fact, in the dozens and dozens of cases I tried to a jury, only once ever did I have direct evidence of a conspiracy. You almost never see that.” He added that circumstantial evidence is just as important as direct evidence and “to say that there’s no direct evidence of a conspiracy is really not all that damning on the facts of the case.”

      This past week we learned that there may definitely be evidence of conspiracy that we haven’t heard about before — and it’s big. This report in Tuesday’s Washington Post compellingly lays out a narrative suggesting that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort may have “directly” conspired with his former employee and suspected FSB officer Konstantin Kilimnik, who was likely working on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate and ally of President Vladimir Putin.

      We’ve seen previous hints pointing in this direction. But this latest information, gleaned from a redacted transcript of a court hearing about Manafort’s cooperation agreement, makes it appear as if Manafort met with Kilimnik during the heat of the campaign and may have given him some valuable polling data which Kilimnik presumably passed on to Deripaska. What they would or could have done with that information, we do not know.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Russian legislators hope to multiply fines for posting ‘fake news’ and disrespecting the government

      As two State Duma bills that would penalize spreading “fake news” or disrespecting authorities online approach their second reading, some deputies are asking for the proposals’ fines to be increased by several times. TASS reported on the proposed increases and circulated a copy of the amendments supported by a group of Duma deputies.

      The original bills proposed a fine of 3,000 – 5,000 rubles ($46 – $76) for ordinary citizens and 30,000 – 50,000 rubles ($460 – $760) for public figures who share “unreliable” stories online or show disrespect on the Internet for state symbols or government figures. Deputies are now hoping for fines of 30,000 – 100,000 rubles ($460 – $1,522) for private citizens who violate the bills and 60,000 – 200,000 rubles ($913 – $3,043) for public figures.

    • The ‘Peacekeeper’ Vigilante Website and Freedom of Speech in Ukraine

      The 2013-2014 pro-European Union protest movement in Ukraine known as the ‘Euromaidan’ is officially celebrated in Ukraine and is largely recognized in the West as a pro-democratic, peaceful, popular revolution against the ‘corrupt autocratic regime’ (according to the mainstream Western and Ukrainian media) of president Victor Yanukovych. Ukrainians should now breathe more freely, live better and enjoy the rule of law and freedom of speech. And yet today, under the supposedly democratic, post-Euromaidan government, there is much less freedom in Ukraine and much more political violence.

      Examples abound. They include the official banning of Russian social networks, movies, books and other cultural products; persecutions and imprisonment of citizens holding dissenting opinion; searches of the offices of media outlets that dare to criticize the new Ukrainian power holders; attacks by ultra-right nationalists against journalists and media offices with the connivance of the state; cyber-bullying of journalists and bloggers who hold alternative opinions, carried out by so-called porokhoboty – bloggers and opinion leaders who propagate the ‘official’ truth with the informal support by the administration of President Petro Poroshenko; increasing state control of television channels through the oligarchic owners of these channels. And the list goes on and on. (For a detailed and well-researched analysis on freedom of speech and opinion in Ukraine, I refer the reader to the recent report presented to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe by the Ukrainian human rights platform Uspishna Varta in September 2018.)

      One of the new forms of intimidation of journalists and citizens who do not agree with the ‘official’ version of what is happening is Ukraine is the public exposure of their personal data by anonymous denunciators using the snitch Ukrainian website with the telling name ‘Myrotvorets‘, which translates as ‘Peacekeeper’ from Ukrainian. The website lists the names of journalists, Ukrainian citizens and foreign citizens accused of holding anti-Ukrainian and ‘pro-Russian’ views, foreigners who joined the military forces of the non-recognized ‘peoples republics’ of Donetsk and Lugansk, names of Russian volunteers assisting the republics or fighting on their side, and people who have entered Crimea through the territory of Russia instead of Ukraine. The Myrotvorets vigilantes cast their net really large: even a reposting from a Facebook group supporting the Anti-Maidan resistance movement in Ukraine is grounds for accusation of “treason”. The listing of persons on the website includes his/her profile on social media, home address and phone number, and personal data of relatives.

    • Well-Known URI vs DNS-SD for routing distributed web service discovery around internet censorship

      In this article, I want to discuss the use of Well-Known URIs and DNS based service discovery (DNS-SD) methods for mapping domain names to resources on the distributed web. I’ll focus on the different method’s ability to route around internet censorship and their centralization, and talk about some suggestions for improving the current implementations used by distributed web projects.

      There are two primary methods used to auto-discover services offered on a domain: you either send it a web request to a predetermined service-discovery address or you can query the Domain Name System (DNS) for a predetermined service-discovery record. The distributed web, like the regular web, relies on these two methods to discover the resource addresses used to retrieve content by a domain name in various distributed networks. I’ll discuss each of these methods in turn.

      Well-Known URIs (RFC 5785) are really simple to implement on any web server where you control the root of the domain and can expose files on the domain root. The Dat project and the Beaker Browser uses this method to discover websites that offer a distributed Dat archive by requesting the archive’s hash fingerprint from a file served at https://example.com/.well-known/dat.

    • Why Do Some Websites Block VPNs?

      One of the only ways to protect your right to privacy and information online is to use a VPN. Some websites infringe on those rights by blocking VPNs, but they do it for a good reason.

      The big names that are notorious for blacklisting VPNs are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and the BBC. It’s hard to figure out exactly how many websites block VPN access, but the number could be in the thousands. Most of these sites aren’t actively at war with VPNs, but they manage to blacklist a lot of VPN IP addresses over time passively.

    • Obsolete Hot News Doctrine Back In The News As Bloomberg Is Sued For Reporting Too Quickly

      It’s been a few years since we’ve really talked about the Hot News doctrine, which was a mostly obsolete and, frankly, bizarre attempt to turn the idea of publishing a similar news story too quickly after the original reporters broke the story into a form of “misappropriation.” It stems from the International News Service v. Associated Press case from a century ago (literally: 1918), in which the AP argued that even though there is no copyright in facts, having INS release a similar story too quickly to AP’s articles was a form of “misappropriation” of its “hot news.” Incredibly, the court agreed. However, multiple later cases, plus the entire rewriting of copyright law in 1976 had most people believing that the entire concept of “hot news” was obsolete and effectively dead.
      Indeed, in 2003, Judge Richard Posner suggested that the entire concept “can be jettisoned” and he later committed to that in some of his rulings. However, around 2010, a variety of hot news cases popped up, and yet basically all of them have been losers (the one exception I can think of being a default judgment where the defendant didn’t even show up).

    • Utter Bullshit: Reporter Maria Ressa Arrested Over Bogus Charges For Her Critical Reporting

      We’ve written about reporter Maria Ressa, who started the successful news site The Rappler in the Philippines. Ressa, herself, is a force of nature, who has upset a lot of people with her incredibly detailed and thorough reporting. Last year, we wrote about how the Duterte government was trying to intimidate and silence her with bogus charges, claiming that because she had accepted grant money from US foundations, she was engaged in tax evasion.

      Today things ramped up quite a bit with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) (the Filipino equivalent of the FBI) coming to arrest Ressa at her offices, claiming that she violated a “cyberlibel” law. Incredibly, the article that the government claims is libelous… was written four months before the law they claim it violated actually became law.

      [....]

      This is why in the US (and other countries) we have what’s known as the single publication rule, in that the date of original publication is the date at which any statute of limitations clock starts ticking (mostly). Yet, it appears the Philippines is arguing for no single publication rule and that “continuous publication” means liability can last forever. Furthermore, even if this was libelous (which sounds questionable), shouldn’t libel be a civil matter between two private parties, rather than involving the criminal justice system?

    • Mozilla Open Policy & Advocacy Blog: Mozilla Foundation fellow weighs in on flawed EU Terrorist Content regulation

      As we’ve noted previously, the EU’s proposed Terrorist Content regulation would seriously undermine internet health in Europe, by forcing companies to aggressively suppress user speech with limited due process and user rights safeguards. Yet equally concerning is the fact that this proposal is likely to achieve little in terms of reducing the actual terrorism threat or the phenomenon of radicalisation in Europe. Here, Mozilla Foundation Tech Policy fellow and community security expert Stefania Koskova* unpacks why, and proposes an alternative approach for EU lawmakers.

      With the proposed Terrorist Content regulation, the EU has the opportunity to set a global standard in how to effectively address what is a pressing public policy concern. To be successful, harmful and illegal content policies must carefully and meaningfully balance the objectives of national security, internet-enabled economic growth and human rights. Content policies addressing national security threats should reflect how internet content relates to ‘offline’ harm and should provide sufficient guidance on how to comprehensively and responsibly reduce it in parallel with other interventions. Unfortunately, the Commission’s proposal falls well short in this regard.

    • Reddit Posts With Openload URLs Getting ‘Shadowbanned’
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Creeped out by Facebook’s algorithms? Just wait until you see this new facial recognition tool released by anonymous Russian programmers.

      On February 11, Russian Internet users discovered a website, searchface.ru, that allows anyone to search the massive social media network VKontakte using a single image. The site’s functionality was simple: after uploading a photograph that included someone’s face, users could see a list of links to VKontakte pages with photographs that may depict the same person. On February 13, after the social media network announced that it would sue SearchFace for “gross violations of [VKontakte’s] rules,” the algorithm’s creators removed profile links from the site’s search results but retained the rest of its functions.

    • How to Get Settlement Money If You Bought a Vizio Smart TV

      Last year, Vizio was sued for reportedly spying on customers and using this data to target ads. This resulted in a $17 million class-action lawsuit that is now paying customers who bought a Vizio smart TV between February of 2015 and February of 2017.

      Starting now, owners of Vizio smart TVs can sign up to be part of said lawsuit and get their piece of the pie. Don’t expect a huge take here, of course, as the average payout is expected to be $13 to $31. You’ll just need to give them your name, address, phone number (which is how you’ll get the payment), and email address. They also want to know when you purchased your TV and what model it is if you know those things, but they’re not required.

      To collect your coin, head over to the Vizio TV Settlement website, click the “File a Claim” button, then fill out out the form with all the aforementioned information.

      After that, you’re good to go—just hang out and wait for your lunch money to show up. You don’t even have to be in a hurry here, either, as you have until April 29th to get it done. If you don’t do it before then, you give up your right to get anything from the settlement or sue Vizio for this in the future.

    • Kushal Das: Tracking my phone’s silent connections

      The first thing to notice is how the phone is trying to find servers from Apple, which makes sense as this is an iPhone. I use the mobile Twitter app a lot, so we also see many queries related to Twitter. Lookout is a special mention there, it was suggested to me by my friends who understand these technologies and security better than me. The 3rd position is taken by Google, though sometimes I watch Youtube videos, but, the phone queried for many other Google domains.

      There are also many queries to Akamai CDN service, and I could not find any easy way to identify those hosts, the same with Amazon AWS related hosts. If you know any better way, please drop me a note.

      You can see a lot of data analytics related companies were also queried. dev.appboy.com is a major one, and thankfully algo already blocked that domain in the DNS level. I don’t know which app is trying to connect to which all servers, I found about a few of the apps in my phone by searching about the client list of the above-mentioned analytics companies. Next, in coming months, I will start blocking those hosts/domains one by one and see which all apps stop working.

    • As Trump Prepares Ban On Huawei, Few Notice The Major Holes In The Underlying Logic

      During the Trump era, the government has dramatically ramped up claims that Chinese hardware vendor Huawei is a nefarious spy for the Chinese government, blackballing it from the U.S. telecom market. From pressuring U.S. carriers to drop plans to sell Huawei phones to the FCC’s decision to ban companies from using Huawei gear if they want to receive federal subsidies, this effort hasn’t been subtle.

      This week, there are rumblings that the Trump administration is about to take things further with a total ban on Huawei gear anywhere inside of the United States. The news is to be formally announced ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, likely with a heavy emphasis on how the move will cement U.S. dominance in the “race to 5G,” a largely nonsensical concept drummed up by networking hardware vendor marketing departments.

      The problem: there’s still no public evidence Huawei uses its network gear to spy on Americans, and much of the motivation for this assault on Huawei has been proven to be largely about protectionism, not national security.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • ‘The US Government Has Scarred My Daughter and Me for Life’: Families Sue Trump Over Deliberate and ‘Inexplicable Cruelty’

      Accusing the Trump administration of deliberate and “inexplicable cruelty” perpetrated against them under it’s so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policy, six families have filed suit against the U.S. government for the harm and “lasting trauma” they continue to suffer.

      In the filing, six mothers described having their children torn away from them, with officials giving them little to no information about where their children were, if they were safe, and when they would be reunited—treatment that the lawyers involved in the suit argue fit the legal definition of intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

      “It was the worst moment of my life, when officers tore my crying daughter from my arms. I didn’t know where she was going or when I’d see her next—and I couldn’t tell her she’d be safe. It was four months and one day until I saw her again,” said Leticia, one of the mothers. “We came to the U.S. because we feared for our lives in Guatemala, but rather than offering us safety, the U.S. government has scarred my daughter and me for life.”

      The American Immigration Council and the National Immigrant Justice Center were joined by two law firms in filing the lawsuit against the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health & Human Services (HHS) on Monday.

      The families are demanding $3 million each in compensation for the suffering inflicted on them and their children, who were as young as five years old when they were separated—but advocates stressed that no amount of money can undo the harm caused by the family separation policy.

    • The Lure of the Past

      I recently read a very interesting but disturbing essay about history: past, present and the future. The author was the Russian writer Vladimir Sharov. He rejects any prospects we are capable of studying, much less learning, from history.

      He was probably so poisoned by his Soviet experience of enormous violence and death, he only sees manipulation of the past for the ephemeral needs of the present. As for the future, Sharov says, it is “cold, shorn of all detail, all the silliness and absurdity that distinguishes the living from the dead.”

      I don’t agree with the elimination or fabrication of history. In fifth-century BCE Athens, Euripides, a great dramatic poet, equated the study and learning of history with science and happiness and citizenship. People with historical knowledge, he said, are the protectors of democracy.

      The other reason I dispute the downgrading and indifference of history is that I earned a doctorate in history. So, I am biased in my love of history.

    • Google, Apple Called Out For Hosting Saudi Government App That Allows Men To Track Their Spouses’ Movements

      Seems like this would be something that would go without saying: if you’re an American tech company, don’t willingly assist oppressive regimes in the oppression of their populace. Twitter is forever helping the Turkish government silence critics and journalists. Facebook has allowed governments to weaponize its moderation tools, quite possibly contributing to government-ordained killings.

      Now, Ron Wyden is calling out both Apple and Google for making it easier for Saudi Arabian men to treat their spouses (and employees) like possessions, rather than people.

    • The Suffering of the Iranian People Has “Made in USA” Stamped on It

      So much terrible history rammed into one sentence: The brutal U.S.-backed regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; the 1979 revolution and the 444-day hostage crisis that roiled the 1980 presidential election; four decades of turmoil, sanctions, secret deals and Cold War manipulation; a ray of hope after the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran that was slapped down by the Trump administration; a return to ruinous sanctions; and, as ever over these 40 years, a looming threat of war.

      There is a name missing from that Al Jazeera report, just as there is a name missing from this Washington Post report on the anniversary that nearly drips derision from its deliberately hidebound rewrite of history. That name is Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran who was deposed and imprisoned at the behest of powerful interests by Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill over access to Iranian oil.

      Western politicians and the mainstream journalists who cover them shy away from the name Mosaddegh, for his name is an incantation summoning the bloody specter of blowback and the carnage that comes whenever the game of thrones is played for petroleum in the battered birthing bed of civilization. “Mosaddegh” is a condemnation, a warning, and a lesson yet to be heeded by those in Washington, D.C., who believe their power and wealth means they can outrun consequences.

    • The Iranian Revolution Turns Forty: Dare to Know, Have the Courage to Act!

      Legend has it that in 1972 when the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was asked about the impact of the French Revolution his response was that “it’s too soon to say.” Although the accuracy of the story has been questioned, I believe that legendary response remains historically apposite. What revolutions do, their failure or success, their lasting impact, their tangible and intangible achievements are often expressed in contradictory terms and difficult to ascertain. The Iranian revolution of 1979 is not an exception. Iranians mark the fortieth anniversary of their revolution at a moment that cries of regret are commonly heard all over the country, in rural areas as well as in urban centers. These voices are openly heard on the streets of big cities and small towns, among the downtrodden and affluent classes alike. The discontent is also echoed and encouraged by a host of exilic media, American and European Persian TV and radio networks, mourning the revolution and romanticizing the ancien régime. These broadcasts highlight ongoing corruption, repression, cultural and social alienation, gender and ethnic discrimination, economic hardship, and regional destabilization. And of course, every year on the anniversary of the revolution the question is asked for how much longer the regime will last, a question that is as old as the revolution itself.

      Those grievances are legitimate, particularly the problem of corruption and the deepening of social inequality. This is not a secret. It is discussed in every single session of the Iranian Parliament and widely written about in newspapers and op-ed pieces inside Iran. Almost invariably in these discussions, intellectuals, pundits, government officials, and members of the parliament still invoke the authority of revolutionary discourse to warn about the growing cleavage between the promises of the revolution and the realities of everyday life in the country. Long are gone the days that Ayatollah Beheshti, the once powerful Vice Chair of the Constitutional Assembly and the influential Head of the Judiciary until his assassination in 1981, set goal of the distribution of wealth in society to a one-to-three ratio between the lowest and the highest income. That egalitarian mantra lives but only as a shibboleth with no correspondence with the facts of life.

      All that is true. But should one question the wisdom of revolutionary transformation that ended the autocratic rule of the Shah, repositioned Iran as a regional power, and turned Iran into a vibrant, rights-conscious, participatory, and engaged society? The revolutionary will that once toppled the fifth largest military in the world with bare hands and marching feet also brought a historical awakening to Iran that shapes the collective consciousness of the nation to this day. That consciousness continues to manifest itself in different forms of dissent and civic engagement.

    • Following recent jail sentence, prominent human rights activist’s organization is blacklisted as ‘foreign agent’ for second time

      The 77-year-old activist said the Justice Ministry’s decision to reinstate the foreign agent label stemmed from his arrest on December 5 for promoting an unsanctioned rally. Ponomarev posted on social media to express support for protesters, who were demanding the release of young Russians accused of extremism. The Justice Ministry’s document check began later that month, and Ponomarev pointed out that his name was “mentioned multiple times” in a meeting between Russia’s federal human rights council and President Vladimir Putin after the human rights activist was sentenced to 25 days in jail.

    • Incarcerated Immigrants Are Being Tortured

      In El Paso, Texas, not far from where President Trump delivered a speech riddled with falsehoods and jingoism at a pro-wall rally on Tuesday, at least nine Sikh men reportedly fleeing persecution in India have been on hunger strike in an immigration jail for weeks.

      The asylum seekers are protesting their detention and the conditions of the jail, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have responded by force-feeding the men, throwing them in solitary confinement and threatening them with deportation when they refused the force-feeding, according to the Detention Watch Network.

      Force-feeding at the immigration jail involves tying the striker to a bed and pumping liquid nutrients down the nose and esophagus. Last week, human rights officials at the U.N. said the treatment of the strikers could constitute torture under international law. In a statement to Mother Jones, ICE denied placing the strikers in solitary confinement, but supporters of the striking Sikhs say they have continued to face abuse as retaliation for resisting the feeding tubes.

      Ruby Kaur, an attorney for the hunger strikers, said in a statement Friday that the hunger strikers have scars on their arms from IV needles, are suffering rectal bleeding and find blood in their vomit, in addition to experiencing “persistent stomach, chest and throat pain.” Liz Martinez, a spokesperson for Freedom for Immigrants, one of the groups supporting the strikers, told Truthout on Tuesday that the strikers are currently facing the same treatment.

      “We’re calling on lawmakers to conduct oversight in the facility,” Martinez said, adding that the strikers are demanding to be released and allowed to continue their asylum cases outside of jail. “We’ve got so many reports from there about not just force-feeding but other abuses by the staff.”

    • In Prison, the Power’s On, But There’s No Accountability

      The power is back on at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and the street outside is relatively silent, but it shouldn’t take a week without heat during a polar vortex and hour after hour of hands hammering on windows, to sound an alarm about conditions in federal lock up.

      The Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn is a holding jail mostly for people awaiting federal trial, just a few miles from downtown Manhattan. It’s a grim, recreation-less place, more like warehouse than house, rife with abuse, including sexual abuse, even in the best of times.

      The end of January, as a record breaking freeze hit the Northeast, were not the best of times in the lock up. For at least a week, as far as we know, as many as1,600 inmates at MDC lost heat, light, electricity and access to phone and internet and attorneys and family visits.

      We don’t know for sure how many shivered in the cold for how long because although it’s a federal facility, which is to say, it’s publicly funded, it’s the opposite of public. City officials got access last week, but only after a protest, only after those hands started hammering on those walls and windows in panic.

    • Global Condemnation After Journalist Who Blamed Trump for Duterte’s Attacks on Free Press Arrested in Philippines

      Just a few months after directly blaming U.S. President Donald Trump for fueling crackdowns on the press in her country, award-winning Filipina journalist Maria Ressa—a long-time critic of the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte—was arrested Wednesday for what reporters and media advocates around the world denounced as “trumped-up and politically-motivated” libel charges designed to intimidate and silence Ressa and her colleagues.

      In November, while accepting an award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ressa said: “Our problems are partly caused by yours: American social media technology platforms, once empowering, now weaponized against journalists, activists, and citizens, spreading lies across borders; and, a president so much like ours whose attacks against the press (and women) give permission to autocrats (like ours) to unleash the dark side of humanity and extend their already vast powers with impunity, especially in countries where institutions have crumbled.”

    • Explaining Virginia’s Crisis (to Japanese People)

      The governor of the state of Virginia, Ralph Northam, is probably going to have to resign in a scandal involving a photo of him as a medical school student in 1984, either wearing blackface or dressed as a Klansman.

      This would normally mean that the vice-governor, Justin Fairfax, would succeed him. It was briefly speculated that the succession of an African-American might heal some of the pain caused by the revelations about his predecessor. But Fairfax may have to resign due to accusations of assault by two women in 2000 and 2004. The Virginia Senate looks set to impeach him, based on the allegations which he denies.

      Fairfax is thus probably out; this would normally mean that the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, would succeed as governor. But Herring has admitted to wearing brown makeup “at a party” in 1980 as a nineteen-year-old while trying to imitate a rapper. This makes him as unsuitable as Northam for many.

      The Democrats have long since adopted a zero-tolerance level for people with these kinds of skeletons in their closets. This is to enhance the party’s appeal among voters most energized around—increasingly safe, uncontroversial, mainstreamed—identity politics, while diverting attention from the fundamental problems of capitalism and imperialism. (The party bosses are terrified by the election of “socialists” on their ticket, and scrambling to marginalize newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes.) Hence the immediate condemnation of Fairfax by all his colleagues.

    • Russian government begins charging young activists for including minors in protests

      Russia’s State Duma approved a bill in mid-December that created administrative penalties for those charged with involving minors in unsanctioned protests and rallies. Now, 18-year-old activist Ivan Luzin has become the first protester to be charged under the new law. Luzin volunteers for the national opposition politician Alexey Navalny in the city of Kaliningrad and is also a volunteer for Russia’s Libertarian Party.

      Alexander Dobralsky, Luzin’s attorney, said officials have accused the teenager of organizing a picket on February 7 that included two underage women. Dobralsky said both women were also volunteers from Navalny’s local headquarters.

    • Paris Live: Who Will Protect Us From the Police?

      We sat on the steps of the Madeleine while the sirens skrieked and the scene unfolded like a ritual with no humans, like one of those unhappy films about the future where everything moves in choreographed, hypnotic motion, the narrative pulsing to a high pitch of danger and fear. You would have thought that Paris was on terror alert or at least some European director with a fat account was restaging the Nazi ballet for the umpteenth time.

      It was Acte XII on the new French (Gilets Jaunes) calendar and the police were ready this time – no surprises! – from the Arc de Triomphe all the way to Concorde : flexible barriers you couldn’t drive a truck through on the Elysée, at other places barricades or fences, tanks, a cordon of police at entry points, Rue Royale almost completely deserted. (How to get to Maxim’s for that drink with F. Scott ? Scheisse.) You could stroll through the gardens, if you could somersault over the guardians of the peace. If the whole acronym army in their riot gear didn’t scare you off such a harmless pasttime.

      The only problem was – there were no demonstrators, no Gilet Jaunes anywhere. These humble spectres, apparitions of the anti-Etat, were elsewhere. It was strange to sit there and watch it unfold, this display carried out so shop owners could get an extra hour’s sleep and nervous tourists could stand on line for the museums without fretting

      that something extraordinary might happen to them on their harmless holiday. We stared down Royale which leads straight to Concorde, and from our vantage, the entry to the Champs, Saint Honoré where the shops were open but no one was going in, the pastisserie packed and everything at twice the price…Which of us was going to race down Royale, slip into Concorde and – supposing we got that far – stand on the spot where Louis XVI got his, give the rebel yell, scream something incomprehensively obscene ? Not worth the weekend in jail. We already know what it’s like to the cops on your tail.

    • The Disappearing of Generation X

      Generation X — Americans born between 1961 and 1974 — have been “disappeared“ from the media like a fallen-out-of-favor Soviet apparatchik airbrushed out of a picture from atop Lenin’s tomb.

      Gen X was an important facet of the start of my career. I used to write and draw a lot about Gen X. I authored a seminal Gen X manifesto, Revenge of the Latchkey Kids (1996). For a while there, it seemed like we were going to take our rightful place as the third-biggest generational cohort—not the biggest by any means but at least…extant.

      Now the Internet is talking about a CBS News infographic in which zero Americans were apparently born between Boomers and the Millennials. CBS listed four generations:

      “The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)”

      “Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)”

      “Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (23-37 years old)”

      “Post-Millennials: Born 1997-present (0-21 years old)”

    • Robert Reich: Trump’s Attacks on Warren Can’t Be Tolerated

      Elizabeth Warren is one of the most talented politicians and policy leaders in America. We must not allow Trump or anyone else to “swift-boat” her because she identified herself as an American Indian three decades ago.

      At worst, Warren may have stretched the bounds of the definition of whiteness. That’s understandable. She grew up in Oklahoma, a state created from Indian Territory. She probably witnessed the disrespect and occasional brutality that Native Americans were, and still are, subject to. Her own genetic test showed at least one Native American ancestor. She has stressed that she is not a member of a tribal nation.

      Warren didn’t call Mexicans rapists. She didn’t call nations populated primarily by black or brown people “shitholes.” She didn’t assume all Muslims are terrorists. She didn’t characterize black neighborhoods as war zones. She didn’t assert that an American president was born in Africa. She has not sexually assaulted anyone. She has not paid hush money to prostitutes. She hasn’t insulted Native Americans by calling a leading politician “Pocahontas” and joking about the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

      Warren got no career benefit from her self-designation. At every step of her exceptional rise in the legal profession, those responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman. The fact that she claimed Indian descent on a Texas bar form that was meant to be confidential is further evidence that her identification arose from sincere belief.

    • Howard Schultz and the Media’s Unlearned Lesson

      A BILLIONAIRE FLIRTS with a run for president and gets grossly disproportionate free airtime. We all know the punchline. Howard Schultz, the running-but-not-yet-running former CEO of Starbucks, has attracted intense media interest over the past two and a half weeks, sitting for a string of newspaper and broadcast interviews, including a profile on 60 Minutes. Last night, he became the second potential 2020 candidate, after Kamala Harris, to get CNN’s town-hall treatment. In the run-up, prominent media-watchers criticized the network’s decision to offer Schultz such an elevated platform; CNN’s own polls, they pointed out, have Schultz way down. “These decisions can have a big effect on a candidacy,” Jay Rosen, a professor at NYU, told The Daily Beast. “But there’s no coherent logic to them.”

      As had been the case in his recent interview round, Schultz offered little of substance last night: he repeatedly bashed “far left” and “far right” bogeymen without proposing specific, distinctive solutions of his own. It took 10 minutes of biographical soft soap to get to a policy question at all. When one came, on immigration, Schultz’s answer was clichéd and contradictory—“We should be building bridges and allow people in,” but also securing the border to “not allow bad people in”—yet no request for clarification was made. Much later in proceedings, Poppy Harlow, CNN’s moderator for the night, did start asking for details. When she pushed him, however, Schultz simply sidestepped, and the conversation moved on. “What would you do to fix it?” Harlow asked on veterans’ healthcare. “You have to put the quality people in charge,” Schultz replied.

    • Traffic Calming and Immigration

      I just saw two Central American women with one baby each standing on a speed bump in the semi-rural central Mexican town in which I live making gestures to passersby to indicate that they were hungry. I walked home and returned with about half of the little food that I had on hand. (This is not to say that I’m poor but that I am not well-organized enough to keep a lot of food in the house.)

    • Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized

      There were about 10 of us in the group. Some looked around wondering if it was a trick question, while others blurted out, “Abraham Lincoln!” After some time, the docent finally offered his response: “Enlisted slaves freed themselves, with the help of Union soldiers.”
      I had a powerful reaction to this response, because history tells a different story of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.”
      The truth is, President Lincoln knew the Union army would be unsuccessful in its Civil War campaign without more able bodies to defeat the Confederate army.
      When he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, he didn’t merely announce the end of slavery in rebel territories. Lincoln also asked Blacks to enlist in the Union army, inviting “people so declared to be free” to be “received into the armed service of the United States.” Lincoln knew he needed troops, but he also knew he couldn’t make such a request without freeing the slaves.
      My ancestors didn’t go to war to help the Union army, or to prevent the South from seceding. Nor did they fight alongside Union soldiers because of a shared cause for a country undivided. My ancestors fought in the Civil War because freedom was the reward after centuries of enslavement.
      Blacks knew what was at stake. This wasn’t about politics, nor was it about patriotism. This was about freedom — freedom for themselves, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren — and freedom for me, a distant descendant. There was no other way around it. Sadly, war was their only hope.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • On the General Architecture of the Peer Web (and the placement of the PC 2.0 era within the timeline of general computing and the greater socioeconomic context)

      There is a common misconception (perhaps owing to its stated aims or a conflation with the nature of some of the fundamental protocols of the Internet) that the World Wide Web is decentralised. It is not and never has been.

      The fundamental architecture of the Web has always been client/server. In other words, centralised. The Centralised Web era was, in effect, a return to mainframe computing. The only difference is that the mainframes are now global in reach. Our new mainframes are household names like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat (and lesser-known data brokers and surveillance companies that lurk behind the scenes like Acxiom and Palantir).

      The Web today is an oligopoly of multinational corporations with business models based on surveillance and ownership of people by proxy. It was the Centralised Web that ushered in the socioeconomic system we call surveillance capitalism. Capitalism, of course, has always relied on some level of surveillance and ownership of people, all the way back to its basis in slavery. What is different today is the nature and scope of the surveillance and ownership.

      It is crucial that we understand that even in the early days, the Web was centralised. The centres (the servers) were just closer to each other in size. That changed when the Web was commercialised. The injection of venture capital with its expectation of exponential returns for Vegas-style high-risk betting provided the enzymatic pool that incentivised the centres to grow in tumour-like fashion until we got the monopolies of Google, Facebook, and their ilk. A new era of people farming was born. And while we diagnosed the tumours early, instead of recognising them as a threat, we started celebrating them and paving the way for a new type of slavery by proxy to sneak in through this digital and networked backdoor. This new slavery, let’s call it Slavery 2.0, is not as crude as Slavery 1.0. In Slavery 2.0, we no longer need physical possession of your body. We can own you by proxy by obtaining and owning a digital copy of you.

      Here’s how it works: The so-called consumer technologies of today, with few exceptions, have two facets. There is the face you see: the addictive, potentially useful one that you interact with as “the user” and the one you don’t see. The one that’s watching you and taking notes and analysing your behaviour so that it can use the intimate insight it gleams from this constantly-evolving profile of you as a digital proxy with which to manipulate and exploit you. In retrospect, the World Wide Web is a most fitting name for the construct that enabled this. It’s a web with a giant spider in the middle. The spider goes by many names… Google, Facebook, Snapchat…

      It’s also no coincidence that the centralised Web evolved alongside a period of unprecedented global concentration of wealth and power within the hands of a tiny group of billionaires. Surveillance capitalism, after all, is the feedback loop between capitalism (accumulation of wealth) and surveillance (accumulation of information). Surveillance capitalism is what you get when those with accumulated wealth invest that wealth in systems that result in the accumulation of information within the same hands which they then exploit to accrue further wealth.

      The power differential between the haves and the have nots in surveillance capitalism is compounded not just by a widening gap in the wealth of the former versus the latter but also by the information the former has on the latter. To put it simply, if I know everything about you and you know nothing about me, I essentially own you by proxy. If, further, I dictate the tools you use to experience the world around you, I get to filter (and thus create) your reality. In the film The Matrix, people’s minds inhabit a virtual reality while their bodies are farmed in physical space. On Earth, circa 2019, we inhabit a physical space while our minds are farmed from a virtual reality. But, as in any good science fiction story, there is hope that a band of plucky rebels might just turn the tide in the face of overwhelming odds… and that brings us to the present day where we find ourselves witnessing and helping shape the next era of technology: the Personal Computing 2.0 era.

      [...]

      Hypha has no release date, no big reveal, and makes no promises. It’s what I’m calling my current work on as I continue to tackle the general problem I’ve been working on in one shape or other for the past six years. At this point, I’m not looking for collaborators as I’m still working through the basic concepts on my own. But if you’re a developer and you want to start playing with some of the code, please do. Although it would probably be a more useful introduction to the space if you take the Kappa Architecture Workshop and the Learn Crypto Workshop (find my work files here), start hanging out in the Dat chat room, exploring the Dat project, checking out the Dat blog and reading through the excellent documentation and reference material.

      We’re at the very beginning of the Peer Web (PC 2.0) era. I saw yesterday that my blog, which is also available over Dat (use Beaker Browser to view that link), is currently the most popular Dat site on the Internet. Out of the ten that the researcher was able to find by scouring the top 2.4 million domains, that is. And Ind.ie’s web site (dat link) is the third most popular. That tells you just how nascent this all is. If you want to help write the next chapter of the Internet, now is the time to pick up your quills and join us in hyperspace.

    • Distributed web not ready for Runet cutoff from the Internet

      Russia is preparing a nation-wide experiment where the whole country temporarily disconnects from the global Internet to see if the country can rely on Runet alone. The effort is supposed to help Russia prepare for potential digital warfare against the nation, but some analysts are also speculating whether this is the first step towards deploying a nation-spanning censorship machine like “the great firewall of China.”

      This will likely cause major disruption to online services in Russia. However, I’m more interested in looking at how prepared the distributed web is for such a cut off and whether these networks will even remain operational.

      The promise of the distributed web (dweb) is that it will make us less dependent on just a few huge internet infrastructure companies and enable anyone to publish globally available resources.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • 250 million consumers v. Qualcomm: trial in 2019 no longer realistic

      Only two things worked out well for Qualcomm on the litigation front this year: the Lasinski cross-examination and the fact that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowed Qualcomm’s interlocutory appeal of Judge Lucy H. Koh’s certification of a class of up to 250 million consumers suing Qualcomm for a partial refund of what those people paid for their smartphones (seeking $5 billion in total, or roughly $20 on average per person who bought a smartphone in the U.S. during the relevant period, which started in March 2011).

      Other than that, the first month and a half of this year have been a near-total disaster for Qualcomm, especially since its Chinese and German injunctions appear to have been worked around and some of Qualcomm’s offensive cases have recently failed.

    • Case Dismissed: No Standing When Deal Fell Through

      In this recent decision, the Federal Circuit dismissed Momenta’s appeal — finding that the company lacks standing to appeal its loss before the PTAB. The decision stands on fairly controversial grounds and in some tension with Supreme Court jurisprudence on appellate jurisdiction requirements. Still, I suspect it will be cabined-in by its facts and not have a large precedential impact.

      In 2015, Momenta petitioned for inter partes review of US Patent 8,476,239 owned by BMS. The patent covers a particular immunosuppressive formulation sold as ORENCIA . At the time, Momenta was exploring an ORENCIA biosimilar as part of a partnership with Mylan. And, over the years, Momenta has apparently conducted clinical trials on aspects of the product. According to Momenta, during that time the ‘239 patent has been a clear obstacle to the project’s success.

    • Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Last week, in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC, the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision by the District Court for the District of Massachusetts, holding claims 6-9 of U.S. Patent No. 7,267,820 invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The Federal Circuit also affirmed the District Court’s dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) of a complaint filed by Athena Diagnostics, Inc., Oxford University Innovation Ltd., and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaften E.V. against Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC for infringement of the ’820 patent.

    • NPEs Continue To Leave Their (Land)mark On Small Businesses

      There were 3,447 new patent lawsuits in 2018. Of those, around 35% were filed against SMEs. And of that 35%, around 40% are filed by non-practicing entities (NPEs) like Landmark. That means that, in 2018 alone, there were around 480 patent lawsuits involving an SME being sued by an NPE. Even if we assume that the average expenditure by an SME defendant is $150,000, far less than the cost to take a case through the initial motions phases, that’s still $72,000,000 SMEs will have spent defending against NPE lawsuits—most of which will fail.

      And of course, that ignores the significant number of patent demands which don’t wind up with infringement litigation. By one estimate, around 70% of all patent demands are never litigated, meaning that those 480 lawsuits are likely to represent at least another 1,120 unlitigated demands. And even an unlitigated demand has significant economic impact on a targeted company. Combining our previous conservative estimate of $31,600 per unlitigated demand with the 1,120 additional demands, that’s another $36,000,000. The real total is likely higher, but $108,000,000 is a reasonable lower bound for the negative financial impact on SMEs created by NPEs.

      [...]

      The best estimates show that the AIA and Alice decision have only reduced patent litigation to levels similar to those around the time the AIA passed—they’ve stopped the increase, but haven’t eliminated the problem that already existed. Efforts (like the soon to be re-introduced STRONGER Patents Act) to roll back inter partes review, overturn Alice, or re-institute automatic injunctions would reverse those successful reforms and impose new burdens on all American innovators and businesses ranging from Azure to U.S. Safety to Zillow (another Landmark target, back in 2015.)

    • A burden to bear – a brief comparison of Lyrica and the test for sufficiency in Australia and UK

      Two recent decisions in the UK and Australia in the long-running pregabalin litigations demonstrate the different approaches in these jurisdictions to determine if a patent specification has sufficiently disclosed an invention. Readers will recall that the judgments concerned Warner-Lambert’s Swiss-style claims for the use of the compound pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica) in the treatment of pain.

      On 14 November 2018, the UK Supreme Court handed down its judgment in Warner-Lambert Company LLC (Appellant) v Generics (UK) Ltd t/a Mylan and another (Respondents) [2018] UKSC 56. The Court found that Warner’s Lambert’s claim for a second medical use failed for insufficiency as the relevant patent claims did not meet the threshold for plausibility for the treatment of neuropathic pain of any kind.

      However, on 23 February 2018, the Full Federal Court of Australia (Full Court) in Warner-Lambert Company LLC v Apotex Pty Limited (No 2) [2018] FCAFC 26 had found that the equivalent claim sufficiently disclosed the invention.

      [...]

      The “plausibility” requirement reflects UK case law’s harmonisation with the practice and decisions of European Patent Office (EPO). On the other hand, the Full Court clarified that “classical insufficiency” is the relevant test in Australia.

Battistelli’s Bodyguard, Part IV: Suspected Offenses of Forgery and Possible Falsification

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Falsification scandals have been common at the European Patent Office as well

Mediapart selfie
Source: En pleine présidentielle, Benalla dégaine son arme pour un selfie

Summary: In a very underworld fashion, Benalla continues to break the law and create yet more scandals

THIS is the fourth part of a series of 5 English translations of French publications regarding the Benalla affair. Benalla had worked clandestinely at the European Patent Office (EPO) before the so-called ‘Benallagate’ broke out.

This article from 4 weeks ago deals with diplomatic passports granted to the armed-and-dangerous Benalla:

Alexandre Benalla in custody in the investigation of his diplomatic passports

The investigation was also extended to the offences of “forgery” and “use of forgery” after a report by the Presidency of the Republic.

Alexandre Benalla was taken into custody on the morning of Thursday 17 January in the investigation into the use of his diplomatic passports after his dismissal from the Elysée this summer, the Paris prosecutor’s office said, confirming information from the Le Parisien.

This investigation, opened on 29 December, in particular for “breach of trust”, “unauthorised use of a document proving professional status” and “carrying on an activity in conditions likely to create confusion in the mind of the public with the exercise of a public function”, was also extended on Wednesday 16 January to the offences of “forgery”, “use of forgery” and “improper obtaining of an administrative document” after a report from the Presidency of the Republic, the public prosecutor specified.

President Emmanuel Macron’s former collaborator has already been at the origin of a political storm last summer, after being identified on videos violently arresting demonstrators in Paris on May 1, 2018, while he was present alongside the police as an “observer”. For these facts, he has been charged twice.

Suspicions of falsification

The Benalla affair had bounced back in December, after the revelations of Mediapart and Le Monde that the former Elysée employee still had diplomatic passports despite his dismissal and that he was travelling on business with African leaders. This information led to the opening of a new preliminary investigation at the end of December, and the resumption of the work of the Senate committee investigating this case since July.

On Wednesday, before this committee, the director of the cabinet of President Patrick Strzoda said that after his dismissal from the Elysée, Mr Benalla had used diplomatic passports some 20 times between 1 August and 31 December 2018.

Mr. Strzoda also reported that Mr. Benalla had been in possession of two service passports, the first issued in 2016, “well before” his arrival at the Elysée, the second on 28 June 2018. Both were invalidated on 31 July 2018.

The Director of Mr. Macron’s Private Office added that the request for the second service passport had been made by Alexander Benalla to the Ministry of the Interior by a letter headed by the Chief of Staff of the Elysée, but “typed” and unsigned. In other words, “we suspect that Mr. Benalla made a forgery,” Mr. Strzoda said, before stating that the case had been brought to court.

These statements contradict the statement made by Alexandre Benalla at his own sworn hearing on 19 September that he had left the diplomatic passports in his Elysée office after his dismissal. The former head of mission is to be heard again by the Senate’s committee of inquiry on Monday 21 January.

Previously in the Benalla affair in relation to the EPO:

  1. Alexandre Benalla, Macron’s Violent Bodyguard, Was Also Battistelli’s Bodyguard
  2. It Wasn’t Judges With Weapons in Their Office, It Was Benoît Battistelli Who Brought Firearms to the European Patent Office (EPO)
  3. Benoît Battistelli Refuses to Talk to the Media About Bringing Firearms to the EPO
  4. Guest Post on Ronan Le Gleut and Benalla at the French Senate (in Light of Battistelli’s Epic Abuses)
  5. The Man Whose Actions Could Potentially Land Team Battistelli in Jail
  6. French Media Confirms Alexandre Benalla Just One of Six Battistelli Bodyguards, Employed at the Cost of €8,000-€10,000 Per Month (for Benalla Alone!)
  7. Corrupt Battistelli Paid a Fortune (EPO Budget) for Outlaw/Rogue ‘Bodyguards’ From Firm Linked to Russian Oligarch Iskander Makhmudov

The final part will be published by week’s end. It will include a video.

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