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02.16.19

EPO Grants Fake European Patents — Including Software Patents — and European Courts Keep Rejecting These

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Everything under the sun becomes a European Patent

Snow under the sun

Summary: The demise of the legitimacy or perceived validity of European Patents is measurable and the system isn’t the same anymore; the EPO makes no effort to change this for the better, either

THE New® and Improved™ President of the European Patent Office (EPO), António Campinos, has done absolutely nothing to curtail patent trolls and improve patent quality. Nothing whatsoever. He arguably made things even worse, exacerbating quality as brain drain persisted and quotas were raised.

“…the EPO is disguising software patents as “medical”, knowing these are not patent-eligible but looking for excuses to grant such fake patents (as if they’re “life-saving”).”Another day passes and we have yet another example of EPO management promoting software patents in defiance of its governing principles/document. As we noted last week (and yes, it’s happening again), the EPO is disguising software patents as “medical”, knowing these are not patent-eligible but looking for excuses to grant such fake patents (as if they’re “life-saving”).

The latest tweet about it isn’t as vague as the previous one because they’ve just added “CII” when they wrote: “We will be looking at computer-implemented inventions in #MedTech and discussing the value of patents for SMEs at this event in Sweden…”

They still use “SMEs” to pretend it’s all about the “small guy”, not just “health”.

“We have discussed the challenges of drafting and prosecuting patent applications for AI inventions,” the EPO then wrote, in effect propping up software patents in Europe (see our older writings about this ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) hype).

This is the typical 2-3 EPO tweets per day that directly or indirectly promote software patents. It’s even worse now than it was under Battistelli.

“This is the typical 2-3 EPO tweets per day that directly or indirectly promote software patents. It’s even worse now than it was under Battistelli.”D Young & Co LLP’s Anton Baker now celebrates the granting of bogus European software patents under the guise of “AI”; this deviation from the law is rebranded “certainty” (“Patenting AI: certainty at last from the EPO?”); that’s is quite a joke! There’s no certainty in actual courts; rather the opposite. Lexology’s paywall obscures most of this nonsense, but it starts as follows: “In recent years the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has grown relentlessly as its application has spread…”

No, a lot of things that used these techniques for a number of decades just rebranded accordingly, mostly for marketing gain and patenting loopholes. This article is from a firm which describes itself as “European intellectual property firm, dedicated to protecting and enforcing our clients’ IP rights.” That’s just Team UPC’s mentality. It’s that familiar mindset of patent maximalism with increasing litigation in mind.

“A lot of these patents would be rendered invalid by courts (if challenged there).”We said we would no longer cover US affairs unless software patents make a comeback. Thankfully, that’s not happening. Bogus software patents continue to perish in the US and Charles Bieneman has several new examples of US courts rejecting software patents [1, 2]. We’ve come across several more.

A lot of these patents would be rendered invalid by courts (if challenged there). Joost Duijm has in fact just written this article about a European Patent that’s on shaky ground in the domain of medicine; A German court rejected this European Patent, whereas a Dutch court reaches another decision. Only lawyers benefit from this questionable presumption of validity and return to court. To quote:

On 16 January 2019, the District Court of The Hague ruled that the Dutch part of Eli Lilly and Company’s patent EP 1 313 508 is valid. The judgment was handed down in an invalidation action brought by Sandoz International GmbH.

[...]

At the end of the decision, the Dutch Court explicitly refers to the German decision by the Bundespatentgericht (BPG). The Dutch Court says that it is aware of the fact that it comes to a different outcome than the BPG. The Dutch Court suggests that this might be because the Bundespatentgericht based its decision on (partly) different (combined) prior art than the art in the Dutch proceedings, and because the debate at the BPG also seems to have been different on other points.

What will happen to all those software patents if or when they land in court? Florian Müller recently wrote about Blackberry‘s exploitation of highly dubious European Patents on software. Yesterday he carried on by writing: “Today the Seventh Civil Chamber (Presiding Judge: Dr. Matthias Zigann) held a first hearing in a BlackBerry v. WhatsApp & Facebook case that is part of a set of eight Munich patent infringement actions–over five different patents–against Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidaries. The patent-in-suit discussed today: EP1746790 on a “method of sharing an Instant Messaging history.” It’s undoubtedly a pure software patent, and Judge Dr. Zigann noted, diplomatically, that such patents are “at the margins of the scope of patent-eligible subject matter.” However, the focus of first hearings in Munich is on claim construction and infringement analysis (so the parties can prepare accordingly for the second hearing, which is normally a decisive trial), not on validity.”

“So the EPO has an extensive art collection, yet it can’t be bothered with prior art or with the EPC before granting outrageous patents that cause a lot of damage.”BlackBerry, probably inspired by the likes of Qualcomm, wants a German injunction; so software parent grants are now causing ridiculous embargoes (or attempts at embargoes) over rather basic implementations that are neither novel nor original. Blackberry lacks a real business strategy; as Benjamin Henrion has just put it: “Blackberry vs NTP was the lawsuit that created the “patent troll” term back in 2006, now failed Blackberry is turning into a troll, what a surprise.”

He then mentions Nokia, which Microsoft turned into a troll.

Müller has complained to me that corporate media isn’t covering the case. The EPO certainly wouldn’t want this noticed; watch what it published late on Friday as its weekly “highlight”: it’s this ridiculous fluff: (warning: epo.org link)

The EPO’s art collection comprises some 800 works. Founded in 1980 and dedicated to emerging art, the collection aims to provide a link to society and, at the same time, to enhance the workplace for EPO staff and reflect its multicultural nature.

So the EPO has an extensive art collection, yet it can’t be bothered with prior art or with the EPC before granting outrageous patents that cause a lot of damage.

Nobody But Patent Trolls and Litigators Will Benefit From the Corruption of the European Patent Office

Posted in EFF, Europe, Patents at 11:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

They profit from the chaos they are creating, abusing the authority given to them

EPO on a plane

Summary: IAM, EPO leadership, Iancu and the rest of these raiders are enabling corruption and facilitating or supporting a racket; that money they collect comes at the expense of future victims of their “clients” or “customers” (that’s what they call applicants, to whom they grant dubious monopolies as a matter of urgency)

THE DIRECTION the European Patent Office (EPO) has taken since António Campinos inherited Office is no different from Battistelli’s. One Frenchman just inherited another’s task. He inherited a policy that he has no problems with; he has also inherited all the worst elements of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), notably software patents which we will deal with separately in our next post.

“The EFF, as it turns out, belatedly realises Iancu was all along trouble.”About a week ago the management of the EPO made it obvious that it works for overseas patent trolls; European businesses aren’t a priority. As patent maximalists have just put it : “The EPO and the Licensing Executives Society International have signed a memorandum of understanding with the intention of enabling innovators to make better use of the EPO system [...] The president of the EPO, António Campinos, and the president of the Licensing Executives Society International (LESI), François Painchaud, have signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation at LESI’s Winter Planning Meeting in Miami.”

“Licensing” just means taxing and those who are doing this represent patent mills rather than innovators. On that same trip there were other revealing activities attributed to Campinos; he also met Andrei Iancu on that visit. Aseet Patel wrote in Watchtroll 2 days ago that “Andrei Iancu has led the charge to improve predictability of patent-eligible subject matter.” Rather the opposite; he promotes granting fake patents that are predictably bunk, reducing the legal certainty associated with US patents.

Over the weekend we’ve surveyed some of the latest software patents to be thrown out by US courts or get wrongly granted by the Office. This gross disparity shows that the USPTO departed from the rule of law (like EPO under Battistelli). The EFF, as it turns out, belatedly realises Iancu was all along trouble.

“The patent trolls’ lobby (IAM) responded to the EFF by speaking for trolls, heckling trolls’ exposers, and generally being strident as usual.”Authored by Joe Mullin under “Patent Trolls” (after had spent nearly a decade covering the subject) was this article (“Entrepreneurs Tell USPTO Director Iancu: Patent Trolls Aren’t Just ‘Monster Stories’”) on which he later expanded: “For 10 years as a journalist, I listened to entrepreneurs, big & small, complain of patent troll extortion. @uspto director Iancu is wrong to deny the harms that PAEs (trolls) cause. Proud to publish this letter from 24 biz owners who wouldn’t stay quiet…”

The EFF said: “The director of the @uspto has said patent trolls are nothing more than “monster stories.” Today, we’re publishing a letter signed by 24 small businesses that makes clear patent trolls are all too real.”

From the corresponding post:

Patent trolls aren’t a myth. They aren’t a bedtime story. Ask a software developer—they’re likely to know someone who has been sued or otherwise threatened by one, if they haven’t been themselves.

Unfortunately, the new director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is in a serious state of denial about patent trolls and the hurt they cause to technologists everywhere. Today a number of small business owners and start-up founders have submitted a letter [PDF] to USPTO Director Andre Iancu telling him that patent trolls remain a real threat to U.S. businesses. Signatories range from mid-sized companies like Foursquare and Life360 to one-person software enterprises like Ken Cooper’s. The letter explains the harm, cost, and stress that patent trolls cause businesses.

Patent trolls aren’t a thing that happens once in a while or an exception to the rule. Over the past two decades, troll litigation has become the rule. There are different ways to measure exactly what a “troll” is, but by one recent measurement, a staggering 85 percent of recently filed patent lawsuits in the tech sector were filed by trolls.

That’s almost 9 out of 10 lawsuits being filed by an entity with no real product or service. Because the Patent Office issues so many low-quality software patents, the vast majority of these suits are brought by entities that played no role in the development of the real-world technology they attack. Instead, trolls use vague and overbroad patents to sue the innovators who create products and services. This is how we end up with patent trolls suing people for running an online contest or making a podcast.

This is unfortunately what also happened at the EPO.

The patent trolls lobby (IAM) responded to the EFF by speaking for trolls, heckling trolls’ exposers, and generally being strident as usual. It wrote a bunch of tweets like this: “The @unifiedpatents report the EFF links to states that 60% of high-tech litigation was instituted by PAEs last year. The EFF chooses to claim that 85% was instituted by Trolls, which is actually the percentage Unified allocated to all NPEs. Maybe @joemullin could explain why.”

IAM is literally funded by patent trolls and also by the EPO’s PR firm. IAM is almost literally an extension of the EPO’s PR department and it’s also lobbying Iancu, who spoke alongside Battistelli at IAM events.

“The EPO’s President and Iancu really don’t seem to get it. They’re consciously aiding trolls.”Josh from CCIA ended up feeding the troll (or the patent trolls’ lobby) [1, 2, 3] by stating: “But a number of individual inventors operate as trolls. (Eg, Landmark Technology, which Unified classes as an NPE – individual inventors and which accounts for a significant chunk of that category all by itself.) [...] And the individual trolls tend to be far more prolific than actual individual inventors when it comes to lawsuits. So, while some portion of that 25% may be the kind of inventors you describe, the clear likelihood is that the majority are trolls. To me, Joe’s piece holds. [...] If an individual inventor doesn’t practice their patent and seeks to enforce it, aren’t they definitionally an NPE?” (they are, by definition)

The EPO’s President and Iancu really don’t seem to get it. They’re consciously aiding trolls. A day ago the EPO wrote (linking to its “SME” nonsense, pretending to exist in the name/interests of the “small guy”): Negotiation is the preferred way to solve potential infringement issues; litigation is regarded as a last resort.”

“Negotiation” is sometimes merely a euphemism for blackmail and extortion, I’ve told them — something that the EPO facilitates with low-quality and incorrect grants for patent trolls. These prey the most (or most effectively) on SMEs that aren’t able to afford a legal fight (day in court), so they end up settling over patents they know to be bogus.

There’s meanwhile this new article by Toby Hopkin and Mark Roberts (J A Kemp) in which they speak of PCT. They say that “granted EP patent may be used to streamline prosecution before other national patent offices of interest,” but what if this European Patent is a fake one? Only blackmailing patent trolls benefit. This goes back to Battistelli with his notorious “Early Certainty” (preliminary decisions before facts are even known). To quote:

In 2014, the EPO launched the Early Certainty initiative to speed up the patent granting process. This initiative has resulted in speedier establishment of search reports and a shorter examination procedure. As can be seen from the chart, the result is that the number of EP patents granted since the launch of the initiative has increased far more quickly than the number of patent applications filed. This is confirmed by our experience, in which a quicker turnaround time has been noticeable, with an increasing number of applications proceeding to grant directly after a response to the search report is filed.

While options exist to slow down prosecution if desired, this increased prosecution speed opens up a new possibility for an international filing strategy. The strategy proposed below shows that a granted EP patent can be secured before the 30/31m deadline for further PCT national phasing, especially where a positive WO-ISA is issued by the EPO.

The granted EP patent may be used to streamline prosecution before other national patent offices of interest, especially if a national patent office is part of a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement. For example, the IP5 PPH covers the five biggest patent offices, namely China, Japan, Korea, the United States and the EPO.

We’ve already written a great deal about the problems associated with “Early Certainty” and PPH. They’re basically rushed ‘judgments’ or leap towards conclusions before facts are even assessed. We’ve already seen how that’s misused for raids and embargoes, including at the EPO. Later it turns out that the underlying EPs are bogus.

WSL is a Misleading Acronym/Name Because There’s No Linux in It, It’s Just Windows

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 7:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Similarly, SQL Server does not run on GNU/Linux (it’s another Microsoft lie)

WSL comment
Why “Windows Subsystem for Linux” and not “GNU/Windows”? (from Microsoft GitHub, now in NSA PRISM)

Summary: When Microsoft says “Linux” (as in “Microsoft loves Linux”) what it actually means is Windows and/or Azure

TECHRIGHTS published a number of articles about the WSL entrapment when it was first announced (Canonical’s “gift” to Microsoft). Here’s one of the longer ones. It did not at all herald a change in attitude but a change in strategy. Microsoft’s managers (the Board, i.e. Bill Gates et al) try to prevent people from using proper GNU/Linux with the actual kernel, either as standalone operating system or dual-boot. They try to make things just about functional enough to prevent users from leaving the spyware, Vista 10. This is also about surveillance on one’s files, keys (e.g. SSH), keystrokes, and everything else. It’s about control. It is about back doors.

“Is Microsoft gradually cooking up a hybrid that’s called “Linux” but is actually Windows?”Yesterday we saw an article titled “Windows 10 Will Finally Offer Easy Access to Linux Files”; that’s misleading as there’s no “Linux” in it, WSL is not GNU/Linux and those files are actually on Windows. Is Microsoft gradually cooking up a hybrid that’s called “Linux” but is actually Windows? The confusion alone serves its interests, e.g. calling SQL Server on DrawBridge (Windows) SQL Server for “Linux” when it’s really just some Windows-centric blob. Remember what Steve Ballmer said: “I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows.”

Embrace and Extend
Credit: unknown (Twitter)

Links 16/2/2019: Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 4

Posted in News Roundup at 3:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Audiophile Linux Promises Aural Nirvana

    Linux isn’t just for developers. I know that might come as a surprise for you, but the types of users that work with the open source platform are as varied as the available distributions. Take yours truly for example. Although I once studied programming, I am not a developer.

    The creating I do with Linux is with words, sounds, and visuals. I write books, I record audio, and a create digital images and video. And even though I don’t choose to work with distributions geared toward those specific tasks, they do exist. I also listen to a lot of music. I tend to listen to most of my music via vinyl. But sometimes I want to listen to music not available in my format of choice. That’s when I turn to digital music.

  • Desktop

    • What To Do When Your Chromebook Reaches the End of Its Life

      Chrome OS is built on top of the Linux kernel, which is why newer models can install Linux applications. It also means that users can install Ubuntu and other Linux distributions. There are a few problems you may run into with installing other versions of Linux, but overall, it’s a great way to give your Chromebook a new life.

    • System76 refreshes Serval WS Linux laptop with 9th Gen Intel Core CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20-Series GPUs

      Nowadays, many consumers put a premium on having a thin and light computer. This is understandable, as no one wants to lug around a big and heavy notebook. With that said, some people only care about raw power — weight and size be damned. System76′s Serval WS is one such laptop — insanely powerful, but boy howdy, it is a biggun! The 15-inch model weighs 7.5 pounds, while the 17-inch variant tips the scales at 8.6!

      Today, System76 launches a refreshed version of the Linux laptop. It features desktop-class 9th Generation Intel Core processors, which is cool, but arguably more intriguing is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20-Series GPU options — 2060, 2070, or 2080. Yeah, this refreshed Serval WS is an absolute beast!

    • HP Chromebook X2 down to $399 for My Best Buy members

      Wow. I just heard from Scott, an About Chromebooks reader, who tipped me off to a $200 savings on the HP Chromebook X2. This is specifically for my Best Buy members as part of an early access President’s Day sale, which is open to all consumers starting Friday. Normally priced at $599.00, the HP Chromebook X2 is down to $399 until midnight tonight, central time.

  • Server

    • SUSE OpenStack Cloud 9 Release Candidate 1 is here!
    • The New News on OpenShift 3.11

      Greetings fellow OpenShift enthusiasts! Not too long ago, Red Hat announced that OKD v3.11, the last release in the 3.x stream, is now generally available. The latest release of OpenShift enhances a number of current features that we know and love, as well as a number of interesting updates and technology previews for features that may or may not be included in OpenShift 4.0. Let’s take a look at one of the more exciting releases that may be part of The Great Updates coming in OpenShift 4.0.

    • Red Hat Satellite 6.4.2 has just been released

      Red Hat Satellite 6.4.2 is now generally available. The main drivers for the 6.4.2 release are upgrade and stability fixes. Eighteen bugs have been addressed in this release – the complete list is at the end of the post. The most notable issue is support of cloning for Satellite 6.4.

      Cloning allows you to copy your Satellite installation to another host to facilitate testing or upgrading the underlying operating system. For example, when moving a Satellite installation from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. An overview of this feature is available on Red Hat’s Customer Portal.

    • NFV, virtualized central offices, and the Need for VNF Data Protection

      Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is designed to provide value around modularity and flexibility. NFV can allow different radio access networks and customer applications to run on one physical network so that the 5G revolution becomes a reality. Critical enterprise compliance requirements, including data protection and disaster recovery, must still be met during this race to modernization.

    • Little Backup Box: A Handful of Improvements and a Dash of PHP

      My every Little Backup Box improvement project starts with the same thought, It does the job but… This time around I wanted to fix and improve several things. Firstly, since the DLNA feature wasn’t working at all, I removed it altogether a while ago. Subsequently, I missed the ability to browse and view freshly backed up photos on many occasions. Secondly, I’m not a big fan of Python. There is no particular reason for that, I just never really warmed up to the language. On the other hand, PHP has always been my personal favorite and go-to scripting language, no matter what some professional developers think of it. So I wanted to swap the Python-based Little Backup Box web interface with a simpler, and arguably more elegant, version written in PHP. Finally, Little Backup Box theoretically can be installed on any Linux machine running a Debian-based Linux distribution. But due to some values hard-wired in the scripts, deploying Little Backup Box on any system other than Raspbian requires some manual tweaking. This is something I wanted to fix as well.

    • What is Oracle Linux? And where to Download it

      Oracle Linux is based on and fully compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux ( source code and binaries ). It has the exact same package as the same version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and has the exact same source code as the Red Hat distribution. There are approximately 1000 packages in the distribution. Even if the source code of the two is compared byte by byte, there is no difference. The only change is to remove the trademark and copyright information. So, that’s why we can call it an Oracle Enterprise Linux.

      Oracle Linux, the first version of Oracle released in early 2006, one of the Linux distributions, to better support Oracle software and hardware support. Because of the enterprise-level support plan UBL (Unbreakable Linux) provided by Oracle, many people called it an indestructible Linux.

    • Linux chops are crucial in containerized world, says Red Hat executive

      How are companies in 2019 going to make multicloud a practical reality? The jury seems to have selected containers (a virtualized method for running distribute applications). This is why legacies and startups alike are flooding the market with container products. Which should companies choose?

      Ever see those Red Hat Inc. T-shirts that say “Containers Are Linux”? That pretty much sums up Red Hat’s bid for the containerization championship.

      “As you move into that space of Kubernetes, and containers and orchestration, you really want someone who knows Linux,” said Stefanie Chiras (pictured), vice president and general manager of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux business unit, known as RHEL, at Red Hat.

      Chiras spoke with Dave Vellante (@dvellante) and Stu Miniman (@stu), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the IBM Think event in San Francisco. They discussed RHEL 8 and the crucial importance of Linux for containers. (* Disclosure below.)

    • Red Hat Delivers Unified Integration Platform for Cloud-Native Application Development
    • Red Hat Extends Datacenter Infrastructure Control, Automation with Latest Version of Red Hat CloudForms
  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.20.10

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.20.10 kernel.

      All users of the 4.20 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.20.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:

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

    • Linux 4.19.23
    • Linux 4.14.101
    • Linux 4.9.158
    • Linux 4.20.9

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.20.9 kernel.

      Stay away from this, use 4.20.10 instead.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.20.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:

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

    • Linux 4.19.22
    • Linux 4.14.100
    • Linux 4.9.157
    • Linux 5.1 Kernel Bringing New Option For Drivers To Be Async Probed

      This driver_async_probe option added by Intel Linux developers allows specifying a list of drivers for the given system that can be probed asynchronously. While the Linux kernel has supported asynchronous driver probing during boot time, some drivers still don’t behave properly in this context. As a result, using driver_async_probe= is a safe route for specifying drivers that can be probed asynchronously or for easily testing drivers to verify their async behavior.

    • Linux 5.1 To Deal With More Quirky Hardware From The Lenovo X1 Tablet To ASUS Transbook

      There’s no shortage of quirky HID hardware out there. With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle will be more fixes/workarounds for such consumer devices.

    • The Linux Vendor Firmware Service Has Served Up More Than 5 Million Firmware Files

      The Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS), which serves up system BIOS/firmware files from many different vendors as well as various devices so that hardware can see firmware updates under Linux and be updated via Fwupd, has served up more than five million firmware images.

      Richard Hughes, the lead developer behind Fwupd/LVFS among other interesting Linux desktop initiatives over the years, served up the interesting anecdote. As part of an administrative mailing list post, he mentioned the LVFS has already provided more than five million firmware files to end-users.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Intel’s OpenGL Mesa Driver To Better Handle Recovery In Case Of GPU Hangs

        It’s sure been a busy week in the Intel open-source graphics driver space… The latest improvement is a patch series providing better context restoration in the case of GPU hangs.

        Chris Wilson who usually deals with the Intel DRM kernel driver, including on the reset/restore front recently, sent out a set of two patches for improving the Intel i965 Mesa driver’s behavior following GPU hangs.

      • Intel’s Linux DRM Driver To Enable PSR2 Power-Savings By Default

        The Intel DRM/KMS kernel driver will soon see PSR2 panel self refresh capabilities enabled by default for allowing more power-savings on Intel-powered ultrabooks/notebooks.

        For a while now Intel’s Direct Rendering Manager driver has enabled Panel Self Refresh (PSR) by default as well as other power-savings features like frame-buffer compression (FBC). But the newer Panel Self Refresh standard, PSR2, for eDP displays has not been enabled by default.

      • Intel Linux Graphics Driver Adding Device Local Memory – Possible Start of dGPU Bring-Up

        A big patch series was sent out today amounting to 42 patches and over four thousand lines of code for introducing the concept of memory regions to the Intel Linux graphics driver. The memory regions support is preparing for device local memory with future Intel graphics products.

        The concept of memory regions is being added to the Intel “i915″ Linux kernel DRM driver for “preparation for upcoming devices with device local memory.” The concept is about having different “regions” of memory for system memory as for any device local memory (LMEM). Today’s published code also introduces a simple allocator and allowing the existing GEM memory management code to be able to allocate memory to these different memory regions. Up to now with Intel integrated graphics, they haven’t had to worry about this functionality not even with their eDRAM/L4 cache of select graphics processors.

      • Virgl Lands A Number Of Performance Optimizations In Mesa 19.1

        For those using the Virgl3D driver stack for having OpenGL acceleration within KVM guest VMs with VirtIO-GPU that is then accelerated by hosts, there are performance optimizations that have just landed in the Mesa 19.1 development code.

        Virgl has introduced a transfer queue along with being able to de-duplicate intersecting 1D transfers, which results in a texture upload micro-benchmark going from 64.23 mtexel/sec all the way to 367.44 mtexel/sec.

      • Panfrost Gallium3D Driver Gets Mali T600/T700 Midgard Update

        The Panfrost Gallium3D driver that was recently merged into Mesa 19.1 will soon have better support for the Mali T600/T700 series graphics.

        ARM’s Mali Midgard T600/T700 generations have always been part of the support target for the Panfrost driver, but the newer T860 is where the developers spend most of their reverse-engineering, open-source driver development resources. With a several hundred line patch, the Panfrost Gallium3D driver is receiving updated support for the older Mali Midgard hardware with tests done on the T760 while not regressing the newer T860 support.

      • Nouveau Driver Picks Up SVM Support Via HMM

        The Nouveau kernel driver has queued patches for introducing Shared Virtual Memory (SVM) support for this open-source NVIDIA driver as a step forward to its OpenCL/compute opportunities.

        The Nouveau DRM driver has support for SVM via the Heterogeneous Memory Management infrastructure that’s been part of the mainline kernel for a while. Nouveau patches have been worked on for a while but finally on trajectory for mainline. The NVIDIA proprietary driver has also been working to make use of HMM.

      • Mir 1.1.1 – release candidate

        I’ve just kicked off the process for a bugfix release of Mir. An initial release-candidate is currently building in ppa:mir-tream/rc.

      • Mir 1.1.1 RC1 Has Fixes For PostmarketOS, Demo Shells Using Wayland

        Mir 1.1 was released back in December as the first post-1.0 feature update while now preparing for release is the Mir 1.1.1 maintenance milestone.

        Canonical’s Alan Griffiths has tagged the Mir 1.1.1 release candidate today as the newest bug-fix release. Highlights include:

        - Fixing issues with PostmarketOS support, particularly around its usage of the musl C library rather than Glibc. PostmarketOS is the mobile Linux distribution derived from Alpine Linux that’s been having a steady following in recent times and running on the Nexus 5/7, Nokia N9, and other devices.

      • Wayland’s Weston 6.0 To Support XDG-Shell Stable, Helping Apps Like MPV Video Player

        While the current Wayland/Weston release cycle is a bit behind schedule, it has allowed time for another addition to be made to the Weston 6.0 compositor.

        Weston 6.0 now has support for the XDG-Shell stable protocol where as previously it only exposed the XDG-Shell v6 unstable protocol. The two versions of the XDG-Shell protocol are quite close so it wasn’t much work involved, but newer Wayland-supported apps like the MPV video player are explicitly looking for the stable version of the protocol.

    • Benchmarks

      • RadeonSI Primitive Culling Yields Mixed Benchmark Results

        Yesterday’s patches introducing RadeonSI primitive culling via async compute yielded promising initial results, at least for the ParaView workstation application. I’ve been running some tests of this new functionality since yesterday and have some initial results to share on Polaris and Vega.

        I’ve been running tests using a Radeon RX 590 and RX Vega 64 graphics cards. Tests were run with the latest Mesa Git branch of Marek’s that provides this primitive culling implementation. That Mesa version was built against LLVM 9.0 SVN, which is a requirement otherwise the very latest LLVM 8.0 release state otherwise this functionality will not work. Additionally, it depends upon the AMDGPU DRM-Next material in the kernel as well so I was running a fresh kernel build off Alex Deucher’s latest code branch.

      • Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB NVMe Linux SSD Benchmarks

        Announced at the end of January was the Samsung 970 EVO Plus as the first consumer-grade solid-state drive with 96-layer 3D NAND memory. The Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSDs are now shipping and in this review are the first Linux benchmarks of these new SSDs in the form of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB MZ-V7S500B/AM compared to several other SSDs on Linux.

        The Samsung 970 EVO Plus uses the same Phoenix controller as in their existing SSDs but the big upgrade with the EVO Plus is the shift to the 96-layer 3D NAND memory. Available now through Internet retailers are the 250GB / 500GB / 1TB versions of the 970 EVO Plus at a new low of just $130 USD for the 500GB model or $250 USD for the 1TB version. A 2GB model is expected to ship this spring.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Chakra GNU/Linux Users Get KDE Plasma 5.15 Desktop and KDE Applications 18.12.2

        Users of the Chakra GNU/Linux distribution have received yet another batch of updates that bring them all the latest KDE technologies and security fixes.

        Less than a week after the previous update, which brought the KDE Plasma 5.14.5, KDE Frameworks 5.54.0, and KDE Applications 18.2.1 releases, Chakra GNU/Linux users can now install the recently released KDE Plasma 5.15 desktop environment, along with the KDE Frameworks 5.55.0 and KDE Applications 18.12.2 open-source software suites.

      • A mobile Plasma Sprint

        I was last week in Berlin at the Plasma Mobile sprint, graciously hosted by Endocode, almost exactly 9 years after the first Plasma Mobile sprint in which we first started to explore Plasma and other software by KDE on mobile phones, which at the time were just starting to become powerful enough to run a full Linux stack (Hi N900!)

        Now the project got a wide breath of fresh air: the thing that impressed me the most was how many new faces came at the sprint and are now part of the project.

        [...]

        As for Plasma Mobile software in itself, we did many bugfixes on the main shell/homescreen to have a better first impact, and a significant improvement came in KWin about high DPI scaling when running on an Halium system.

        Also, many improvoements were done in the Kirigami framework, which is the main toolkit recommended to be used to build applications for Plasma Mobile: as developers of several applications that use Kirigami were present there, we could do very fast feedback and debug sessions.

      • Latte – Excellent KDE Dock based on Plasma Frameworks

        Let’s tackle the obvious starting question for 10. What’s a dock? I doubt this will ever be a question on the TV programme University Challenge…

        A dock is a graphical user interface element that allows the user to have one-click access to frequently used software. This type of utility also enables users to switch quickly between applications, as well as to monitor programs. This type of application is an excellent way of extending the functionality and usefulness of the desktop

        Latte is a dock based on plasma frameworks that aims to offer an elegant and intuitive experience for your tasks and KDE Plasma widgets. It animates its contents by using parabolic zoom effect and tries to be as unobtrusive is possible.

        The software is mostly written in Qt/QML and C++, but this project also heavily relies on KDE Frameworks 5.

      • Latte bug fix release v0.8.6

        Latte Dock v0.8.6 has been released containing important fixes and improvements!

      • The Long Road to Long-Term Goals

        If there is one thing you can learn from creative writing school, it is that you have to give your characters at least three good reasons before they should consider doing anything.

        KDE Promo contributors recently completed drafting and editing a document that lays out the long-term goals for the Promo workgroup.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME Security Internship – Update 5

        This project started with a simple on/off switch in control center that entirely enabled or disabled the USB protection. A respectively so called always on and always off.

        Later on we introduced a smarter protection level that was active only when the user session was locked.

        While an always on protection seemed a good idea on paper it turned out that the advantages compared to the lock screen protection were very slim.

        When the screen is locked both protections have the same behaviour. They only differentiate when the user session is unlocked.

      • Pick a clock, any clock.

        After listening to the latest episode of Emmanuel’s podcast on the History of GNOME, nostalgia got the better of me, and I decided to dig out the GNOME 1.4 usability study that we ran at Sun Microsystems in March 2001, and make it available online again.

      • Who wrote librsvg?

        The shitty thing about a gradual rewrite is that a few people end up “owning” all the lines of source code. Hopefully this post is a little acknowledgment of the people that made librsvg possible.

        The charts are made with the incredible tool git-of-theseus — thanks to @norwin@mastodon.art for digging it up! Its README also points to a Hercules plotter with awesome graphs. You know, for if you needed something to keep your computer busy during the weekend.

  • Distributions

    • Linspire CE 8.0 Office 365 Released [Ed: Linspire is still working for Microsoft one decade later]

      Today the Linspire team is pleased to announce the release of Cloud Edition 8.0 Office 365. This is an update to our CE Office – by far one of our most popular business releases for 2018. We have worked diligently to thoroughly integrate Microsoft’s web services into this product. Who was this designed for? For our business and education users who rely on Microsoft’s web services in their offices and classrooms. CE Office 365 offers the standard Microsoft Office online platform married to the stability and security of the Linux desktop.

    • Reviews

      • First Look: Tuxedo InfinityCube Linux Desktop PC With Intel Core-i7 8700

        I’ve played with Linux on several of my own machines, but I recently unboxed my first custom-built Linux PC courtesy of Tuxedo Computers. It’s called the InfinityCube v9, and it’s left me very impressed. In fact I’ve been leaning on it more than the beefy AMD Ryzen 1950X rig I built because it’s silent and super stable. Tuxedo Computers just launched the InfinityCube on their web shop, so let’s take a quick look at this new desktop along with some initial benchmarks.

      • elementary 5 “Juno”

        In the spring of 2014 (nearly five years ago), I was preparing a regular presentation I give most years—where I look at the bad side (and the good side) of the greater Linux world. As I had done in years prior, I was preparing a graph showing the market share of various Linux distributions changing over time.

        But, this year, something was different.

        In the span of less than two years, a tiny little Linux distro came out of nowhere to become one of the most watched and talked about systems available. In the blink of an eye, it went from nothing to passing several grand-daddies of Linux flavors that had been around for decades.

        This was elementary. Needless to say, it caught my attention.

    • New Releases

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

      • What’s New in Linux Mint 19.1 Xfce Edition

        Linux Mint 19.1 XFCE is the latest release of Linux Mint 19.1 that uses lightweight Xfce desktop environment 4.12. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop experience more comfortable.

        The Update Manager is able to list mainline kernels and to show their support status. The Software Sources tool was given a new look. Similar to the welcome screen, it’s now using an Xapp sidebar and a headerbar. The Language Settings and the Input Methods are now two separate applications and the user interface for the Input Methods tool was revamped. It uses an icon sidebar and now shows a dedicated page for each supported language.

        Based on Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS an powered by Linux Kernel 4.19, Linux Mint 19.1 Xfce edition also include pre-installed applications Thunar File Manager 1.6.15, Mozilla Firefox 65, Archive Manager 3.28, Gnome Disk 3.28, Hexchat 2.14, Thundebird 60, GIMP 2.8, Transmission Torrent Client 2.92, Rythmbox Music Manager 3.4.2, VLC Player 3.0.4, Xfce Dictionary 0.8, Libre Office Suite 6.0.6, Xfce Terminal 0.8, GNOME Fonts 3.28, Synaptic package Manager 0.84.

    • Gentoo Family

      • Redcore Linux Gives Gentoo a Nice Facelift

        like the overall look and feel of Redcore Linux. I generally do not use Gentoo-based Linux distros.

        However, this distro does a good job of leveling the field of differences among competing Linux families. I especially like the way the LXQt and the KDE Plasma desktops have a noticeable common design that makes the Redcore distro stand out.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • The ibmvnic driver with SR-IOV is now supported by SLES 12 and SLES 15 on IBM POWER9 processor-based systems

        The ibmvnic driver enables PowerVM Single Root I/O Virtualizations (SR-IOV) for improved network capabilities including reduced systems processor utilization, decreased network latency, and enforcement of network Quality of Service.

      • Voters Choose Two New Board Members and One Incumbent to openSUSE Board

        Out of 446 eligible voters, 46 more openSUSE Members than last elections, only 231 — 6 fewer than last elections — chose to cast their votes, leaving last spring’s elections holding the record both for most ballots cast and largest percentage of Members who took enough interest in openSUSE to take the time to cast their votes.

        Incumbent Christian Boltz aka cboltz garnered the most votes with a total of 141 votes — more than half of those who voted — confirming the Community’s confidence in him. He was followed closely by Marina Latini aka deneb_alpha with 119 votes — also more than half of the active voters — and Dr. Axel Braun aka DocB with 104 votes, almost half.

        As incumbent, Christian is already sitting on the Board and will continue his duties for his second two-year term. Marina and Axel are expected to join him and take their seats for their first two-year terms sometime within the next couple of weeks.

    • Slackware Family

      • Lumina Desktop will be removed from my -current repository

        The Lumina Desktop is part of the TrueOS project, a FreeBSD variant. I packaged version 1.4.0.p1 for Slackware and it is part of the Plasma5 variant of my Slackware Live Edition.

        I noticed a while ago that Lumina would no longer start but it was low on my priority list to try and fix it.

        Today I found the time to look into this, but a recompilation against the latest Qt5 and other libraries, altough error-free, would not make the Lumina Desktop start successfully: it will start to load, but then you’ll hear a beep and you’re dumped at the command prompt or at the graphical login screen without evidence of what happened.

      • Valentine present for Slackers

        Today is Valentine’s Day. A moment to give some extra attention to people that are dear to you.

        In my case, that’s everyone who loves, uses, supports, advocates or develops Slackware Linux. For all of you, I uploaded “KDE-5_19.02” to the ‘ktown‘ repository. There’s some updates in there that might interest you, see below.
        If you do not (want to) run or install Slackware-current, I will make sure that a new ISO of the Slackware Live Plasma5 Edition will be available around the weekend. That way, you can safely try it out without having to touch your hard drive.

        As always, these packages are meant to be installed on a Slackware-current which has had its KDE4 removed first. These packages will not work on Slackware 14.2.

    • Fedora

      • 10 Cool Software to Try from CORP Repo in Fedora

        In this article, we will share 10 cool software projects to try in Fedora distribution. All the apps or tools covered here can be found in COPR repository. However, before we move any further, let’s briefly explain COPR.

      • Proposed Change To EPEL Policies: Release based package lifetimes

        Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux is a sub-project of Fedora which recompiles various Fedora packages against various Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases. When EPEL was started, RHEL lifetimes were 5 years and it was thought that the repository could have similarly long lifetimes. Major rebasing of versions were not to be allowed, and fast moving software was frowned on.

        Over time, the lifetime of a RHEL release grew, and the way RHEL releases rebased themselved overtime also changed. This has meant that packagers in EPEL were bound to support software longer than RHEL did and unable to rebase like RHEL could.

      • Proposed Change to EPEL Policies: Minor Release Based Composes

        The change moves EPEL composes to biannual based composes and adds an updates tree for consumers. Package trees will have a naming structure similar to Fedora release names, and will be regularly archived off to /pub/archives after the next minor release.

        Package lifetimes will be similarly affected with the expected minimum ‘support’ lifetime of any package to be that of a minor release.

      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-07

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

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

      • Fedora 30 Might Enable DNF’s “Best” Mode By Default

        Under a late change proposal for Fedora 30, the DNF package manager’s “best” mode might be enabled by default.

        The –best option for DNF always tries to upgrade to the highest version available even if dependencies cannot be satisfied. While it may make sense for DNF to always try going for the latest and greatest package version which is in line with most other Linux package managers, the current behavior aims for the latest version where all package dependencies can be satisfied. If a newer package version is available but with unmet dependencies, the current default DNF behavior will silently ignore that newer version.

      • Bodhi 3.13.0 released
    • Debian Family

      • Debian on the Raspberryscape: Great news!

        I already mentioned here having adopted and updated the Raspberry Pi 3 Debian Buster Unofficial Preview image generation project. As you might know, the hardware differences between the three families are quite deep ? The original Raspberry Pi (models A and B), as well as the Zero and Zero W, are ARMv6 (which, in Debian-speak, belong to the armel architecture, a.k.a. EABI / Embedded ABI). Raspberry Pi 2 is an ARMv7 (so, we call it armhf or ARM hard-float, as it does support floating point instructions). Finally, the Raspberry Pi 3 is an ARMv8-A (in Debian it corresponds to the ARM64 architecture).

        [...]

        As for the little guy, the Zero that sits atop them, I only have to upload a new version of raspberry3-firmware built also for armel. I will add to it the needed devicetree files. I have to check with the release-team members if it would be possible to rename the package to simply raspberry-firmware (as it’s no longer v3-specific).

        Why is this relevant? Well, the Raspberry Pi is by far the most popular ARM machine ever. It is a board people love playing with. It is the base for many, many, many projects. And now, finally, it can run with straight Debian! And, of course, if you don’t trust me providing clean images, you can prepare them by yourself, trusting the same distribution you have come to trust and love over the years.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Released with Linux Kernel 4.18 from Ubuntu 18.10, More

            Initially planned for release on February 7th, 2019, the Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS operating system has been delayed by Canonical until Valentine’s Day, February 14th, due to a bug in the Linux 4.18 kernel inherited from Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish) causing boot failures with certain graphics chipsets.

            The kernel regression was quickly addressed in the Linux 4.18 kernel package of both Ubuntu 18.10 and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS systems, so Canonical now released Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (Bionic Beaver) with updated graphics and kernel stacks from Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish), as well as all the latest security and software updates.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Now Available With The New HWE Stack
          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS released

            The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the release of Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (Long-Term Support) for its Desktop, Server, and Cloud products, as well as other flavours of Ubuntu with long-term support.

            Like previous LTS series, 18.04.2 includes hardware enablement stacks for use on newer hardware. This support is offered on all architectures and is installed by default when using one of the desktop images.

            Ubuntu Server defaults to installing the GA kernel; however you may select the HWE kernel from the installer bootloader.

            This update also adds Raspberry Pi 3 as a supported image target for Ubuntu Server, alongside the existing Raspberry Pi 2 image.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS released

            The Ubuntu team has announced the release of Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS for its Desktop, Server, and Cloud products, as well as other flavors of Ubuntu with long-term support. Support periods vary for different flavors. “Like previous LTS series, 18.04.2 includes hardware enablement stacks for use on newer hardware. This support is offered on all architectures and is installed by default when using one of the desktop images.” Ubuntu Server installs the GA kernel, however the HWE kernel may be selected from the installer bootloader.

          • SUSE OpenStack Cloud v9, Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Released, Happy Birthday Steam for Linux, WebKitGTK v 2.23.90 Released, Future Support of Virtual Desktops Hinted at in Chromium Codebase

            After a bit of delay, Canonical just released the released Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (Bionic Beaver) packaged with a patched 4.18 Linux kernel to address the boot failure bug pushing its release by a week.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Released, Available to Download Now

            Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS is available to download, albeit a week later than originally planned.

            The update serves as the second point release in the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS ‘Bionic Beaver’ series, and brings an updated Linux kernel and graphics drivers with it.

            Ubuntu 18.04 LTS really is a long-term support release as it’s supported with ongoing updates until 2023 on the desktop.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • SVT-AV1 Already Seeing Nice Performance Improvements Since Open-Sourcing

    It was just a few weeks ago that Intel open-sourced the SVT-AV1 project as a CPU-based AV1 video encoder. In the short time since publishing it, there’s already been some significant performance improvements.

    Since the start of the month, SVT-AV1 has added multi-threaded CDEF search, more AVX optimizations, and other improvements to this fast evolving AV1 encoder. With having updated the test profile against the latest state as of today, here’s a quick look at the performance of this Intel open-source AV1 video encoder.

  • Events

    • SFK, OSCAL and Toastmasters expanding into Kosovo

      Back in August 2017, I had the privilege of being invited to support the hackathon for women in Prizren, Kosovo. One of the things that caught my attention at this event was the enthusiasm with which people from each team demonstrated their projects in five minute presentations at the end of the event.

      This encouraged me to think about further steps to support them. One idea that came to mind was introducing them to the Toastmasters organization. Toastmasters is not simply about speaking, it is about developing leadership skills that can be useful for anything from promoting free software to building successful organizations.

    • Julian Sparber: An other year, an other FOSDEM

      I have come a long way since my first time at FOSDEM a couple of years ago. The first time it was all new and unknown. I tried to attend as many talks as possible, but could only see half of the talks i wanted to go (amazing how many people there are at FOSDEM). Every year I listened to fewer and fewer talks, because conversations I had outside of talks are so much more fun and appealing. I think the biggest thing which changed is that I’m no longer just a user of free software, but an active contributor.

      This year, I spent a lot of the time at the GNOME booth, which is always fun. The GNOME beers event is also awesome, though it was really crowded this year (let’s hope we get a bigger space next year). On Friday we also had a great lunch at a Libanese restaurant. Thanks to Adrien for organizing, and thanks to Purism for offering lunch.

    • FOSDEM 2019 – Recorded presentations (videos)

      If you weren’t able to attend FOSDEM earlier this month, you’re in luck as all presentations were recorded! From the latest on Open Source projects Zink (OpenGL on Vulkan) and VirGL (virtual 3D GPU for QEMU), to a state of the union on GStreamer embedded, and a look at how the KernelCI project is getting a second breath, Collaborans presented in five devrooms at FOSDEM 2019. Below is the full list of talks given at Collaborans during the two-day conference in Brussels, with direct links to each recording.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Why Does Mozilla Maintain Our Own Root Certificate Store?

        Mozilla maintains a database containing a set of “root” certificates that we use as “trust anchors”. This database, commonly referred to as a “root store”, allows us to determine which Certificate Authorities (CAs) can issue SSL/TLS certificates that are trusted by Firefox, and email certificates that are trusted by Thunderbird. Properly maintaining a root store is a significant undertaking – it requires constant effort to evaluate new trust anchors, monitor existing ones, and react to incidents that threaten our users. Despite the effort involved, Mozilla is committed to maintaining our own root store because doing so is vital to the security of our products and the web in general. It gives us the ability to set policies, determine which CAs meet them, and to take action when a CA fails to do so.

        A major advantage to controlling our own root store is that we can do so in a way that reflects our values. We manage our CA Certificate Program in the open, and by encouraging public participation we give individuals a voice in these trust decisions. Our root inclusion process is one example. We process lots of data and perform significant due diligence, then publish our findings and hold a public discussion before accepting each new root. Managing our own root store also allows us to have a public incident reporting process that emphasizes disclosure and learning from experts in the field. Our mailing list includes participants from many CAs, CA auditors, and other root store operators and is the most widely recognized forum for open, public discussion of policy issues.

      • Extract Method Refactoring in Rust
      • Why should you use Rust in WebAssembly?

        WebAssembly (Wasm) is a technology that has the chance to reshape how we build apps for the browser. Not only will it allow us to build whole new classes of web applications, but it will also allow us to make existing apps written in JavaScript even more performant.

        In this article about the state of the Rust and Wasm ecosystem, I’ll try to explain why Rust is the language that can unlock the true potential of WebAssembly.

      • Extensions in Firefox 66

        I want to start by highlighting an important change that has a major, positive impact for Firefox users. Starting in release 66, extensions use IndexedDB as the backend for local storage instead of a JSON file. This results in a significant performance improvement for many extensions, while simultaneously reducing the amount of memory that Firefox uses.

        This change is completely transparent to extension developers – you do not need to do anything to take advantage of this improvement. When users upgrade to Firefox 66, the local storage JSON file is silently migrated to IndexedDB. All extensions using the storage.local() API immediately realize the benefits, especially if they store small changes to large structures, as is true for ad-blockers, the most common and popular type of extension used in Firefox.

        The video below, using Adblock Plus as an example, shows the significant performance improvements that extension users could see.

      • Jingle Smash: Geometry and Textures

        I’m not a designer or artist. In previous demos and games I’ve used GLTFs, which are existing 3D models created by someone else that I downloaded into my game. However, for Jingle Smash I decided to use procedural generation, meaning I combined primitives in interesting ways using code. I also generated all of the textures with code. I don’t know how to draw pretty textures by hand in a painting tool, but 20 years of 2D coding means I can code up a texture pretty easily.

        Jingle Smash has three sets of graphics: the blocks, the balls, and the background imagery. Each set uses its own graphics technique.

  • LibreOffice

    • Find a LibreOffice community member near you!

      Hundreds of people around the world contribute to each new version of LibreOffice, and we’ve interviewed many of them on this blog. Now we’ve collected them together on a map (thanks to OpenStreetMap), so you can see who’s near you, and find out more!

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Windows 10 Will Finally Offer Easy Access to Linux Files [Ed: No, this is more WSL entrapment. They try to prevent people from using proper GNU/Linux with the actual kernel, either standalone or dual-boot. This is also about surveillance on one's files, keys, keystrokes, everything.]
    • Zowe Makes Mainframe Evergreen [Ed: Swapnil Bhartiya greenwashing and openwashing 2-in-1]

      Zowe also offers a vendor-agnostic experience allowing users to mix and match tooling and technologies. It provides interoperability, through the latest web technologies, products, and solutions from multiple vendors, and it allows developers to use the familiar, industry-standard, open source tools to access mainframe resources and services.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Dating is a free software issue

      Many dating Web sites run proprietary JavaScript. JavaScript is code that Web sites run on your computer in order to make certain features on Web sites function. Proprietary JavaScript is a trap that impacts your ability to run a free system, and not only does it sneak proprietary software onto your machine, but it also poses a security risk. Any piece of software can be malicious, but proprietary JavaScript goes the extra mile. Much of the JavaScript you encounter runs automatically when you load a Web site, which enables it to attack you without you even noticing.

      Proprietary JavaScript doesn’t have to be the only way to use Web sites. LibreJS is an initiative which blocks “nonfree nontrivial” JavaScript while allowing JavaScript that is either free or trivial.

      Many dating apps are also proprietary, available only at the Apple App and Google Play stores, both of which currently require the use of proprietary software.

    • What I learned during my internship with the FSF tech team

      Hello everyone, I am Hrishikesh, and this is my follow-up blog post concluding my experiences and the work I did during my 3.5 month remote internship with the FSF. During my internship, I worked with the tech team to research and propose replacements for their network monitoring infrastructure.

      A few things did not go quite as planned, but a lot of good things that I did not plan happened along the way. For example, I planned to work on GNU LibreJS, but never could find enough time for it. On the other hand, I gained a lot of system administration experience by reading IRC conversations, and by working on my project. I even got to have a brief conversation with RMS!

      My mentors, Ian, Andrew, and Ruben, were extremely helpful and understanding throughout my internship. As someone who previously had not worked with a team, I learned a lot about teamwork. Aside from IRC, we interacted weekly in a conference call via phone, and used the FSF’s Etherpad instance for live collaborative editing, to take notes.

      The first two months were mostly spent studying the FSF’s existing Nagios- and Munin-based monitoring and alert system, to understand how it works. The tech team provided two VMs for experimenting with Prometheus and Nagios, which I used throughout the internship. During this time, I also spent a lot of time reading about licenses, and other posts about free software published by the FSF.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Governments Are Spending Billions on Software They Can Get with Freedom

      In the proprietary software world, when software is released, and when users buy that software, they don’t usually buy the entire software, but instead, they buy what’s known as an end-user license agreement (EULA). This EULA gives them the right to do only some specific things with that software. Usually, users are not allowed to copy, redistribute, share or modify the software, which is the main difference between proprietary software and free software (as in freedom).

      It’s extremely annoying and sad that in the 21st century, governments all around the world are still paying millions of dollars for software each year; It’s more sad, because they are not paying for software, they are paying for a license to use a software in a specific way on yearly basis. Now say you were a country with millions of machines, can you just imagine the amounts of money that we are spending worldwide just to get those computers working?

      More importantly, you don’t get the software. You just get a usage license that you must renew after a year. While free software gives you the 4 basic freedoms: The ability to read, modify, redistribute and use the software in any way you want.

      Choosing to run a proprietary software over free software-where alternatives do exist-is an extremely wrong decision that governments are doing worldwide. And by choosing proprietary software over free software, we are losing huge amounts of money that instead could’ve been spent on health, education, public infrastructure or anything else in the country.

      More importantly, the money that’s going to to pay for this software and its support could’ve been invested in developing alternative free solutions their selves; How about instead of spending $50M per year on the EULAs of Microsoft Office because “LibreOffice is not good”, that you just try to invest $25M in LibreOffice itself for one time only and see what happens? As a country, your technical infrastructure will develop if you turn it not just to a user of free software, but a producer as well. And only free software would allow you to do that.

      During the period of our investigation, we checked the financial reports of many governments worldwide and their spending on IT. The amounts of money that governments are paying per year for proprietary software is very huge. And most of it isn’t actually for the licenses of using that software, but for the support.

      It’s an issue, because it’s not going to end. Governments are claiming problems and issues in transferring to free software, and in doing that, they keep paying millions and millions of dollars each year, and continue to do so indefinitely; They have no plans to switch to free (as in freedom) locally-developed alternatives.

      Let’s see some examples of how governments worldwide are spending their money on software.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • GNU Health Federation message and authentication server drops MongoDB and adopts PostgreSQL

      Just after RedHat announced its plans to drop MongoDB from its Satellite system management solution because of it being licensed under SSPL, GNU has followed suit. Earlier this week, GNU announced its plans move its GNU Health Federation message and authentication server –Thalamus– from MongoDB to PostgreSQL.

      As listed on the post, the main reason for this switch is because MongoDB decided to change the license of the server to their Server Side Public License (SSPL). Because of this decision, many GNU/ Linux distributions are no longer including the Mongodb server. In addition to these reasons, GNU expresses their concerns that even the organizations like the OSI and Free Software Foundation are showing their reluctance to accept this idea. Adding to this hesitation of accepting the license; rejection from a large part of the Libre software community and the immediate end of support from GPL versions of MongoDB has lead to the adoption of PostgreSQL for Thalamus.

    • We’re Hiring: Techie Bookkeeper

      Software Freedom Conservancy is looking for a new employee to help us with important work that supports our basic operations. Conservancy is a nonprofit charity that promotes and improves free and open source software projects. We are home to almost 50 projects, including Git, Inkscape, Etherpad, phpMyAdmin, and Selenium (to name a few). Conservancy is the home of Outreachy, an award winning diversity intiative, and we also work hard to improve software freedom generally. We are a small but dedicated staff, handling a very large number of financial transactions per year for us and our member projects.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • RISC-V on the Verge of Broad Adoption

        There are major hurdles to overcome when bringing a new processor architecture to market. Today’s fast-paced development practices demand that processor offerings be stable with the promise of a long market lifetime. Further, they must come to market with substantial support in the form of development tools, software libraries, operating systems, emulators, debuggers, and more. The emerging RISC-V instruction set architecture has faced and is overcoming those hurdles and is poised to rapidly gain broad acceptance across the design industry.

        There are several reasons the RISC-V ISA has been garnering a lot of interest. For one, the ISA is open source, meaning that anyone can design a processor to implement the ISA without paying a licensing fee. This opens the ISA to a huge, worldwide design community that can review, correct, and enhance the architecture over time. Yet because only the ISA is open source, developers are free to safeguard their hardware design’s intellectual property and keep it proprietary for commercialization.

      • Data Conspiracy RISC | User Error 59

        Is the great hope for open hardware actually going to materialize or is RISC-V just hype? Are some conspiracy theories worth more than just passing disdain?

  • Programming/Development

    • Intake released on Conda-Forge

      Intake is a package for cataloging, finding and loading your data. It has been developed recently by Anaconda, Inc., and continues to gain new features. To read general information about Intake and how to use it, please refer to the documentation.

    • Introducing the Meson Quest
    • Eighth Annual PyLadies Auction at PyCon 2019
    • Episode #117: Is this the end of Python virtual environments?
    • Talk Python to Me: #199 Automate all the things with Python at Zapier
    • The world’s most advanced UNICs of Organizers

      I recently began using Emacs Org mode, a tool for keeping notes, maintaining TODO lists, planning projects, and authoring documents with a fast and effective plain-text system.
      Since I am a cosplayer I was looking for a repacement for Cosplanner, a non-free Android app. When I was still using Android, I once installed Cosplanner and found out that it has many nasty features. So I deleted my copy. Unlike Cosplanner, Orgmode uses a human readable text format that you can read with any text editor. This allows the user to store an Orgmode file in a git repository that can be synced between devices.

    • November 2018 ISO C++ meeting trip report (Core Language)

      The ISO C++ standards meeting in November 2018 was held in San Diego, CA. As usual, Red Hat sent three of us to the meeting: me (for the Core Language Working Group), Jonathan Wakely (for the Library Working Group [LEWG]), and Thomas Rodgers (for the Concurrency and Parallelism Study Group [SG1]). I felt the meeting was productive, though some features that had been expected to make it into C++20 are now in question.

    • PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 4

      Our fourth Early Access Program (EAP) version for PyCharm 2019.1 is now available on our website.

    • Recursive Programming

      Despite often being introduced early-on in most ventures into programming, the concept of recursion can seem strange and potentially off-putting upon first encountering it. It seems almost paradoxical: how can we find a solution to a problem using the solution to the same problem?

    • The developer’s dilemma: Choosing between Go and Rust

      If you were to make a list of important programming languages that have appeared in the past decade, Go and Rust would almost certainly be featured on it.

      Similarly, if you were to sit down and think about which programming languages are best suited to developing secure, microservices-friendly frameworks or applications today, you might find yourself debating between Go and Rust.

      If you’re struggling to decide whether Go or Rust is a better language for your development needs, keep reading. This post compares Go and Rust, explaining how they are similar, how they’re different, and what each can do for you.

    • pprint.isrecursive: Check if object requires recursive representation
    • Performance benchmark on mdds R-tree

      I must say that I am overall very pleased with the performance of R-tree. I can already envision various use cases where R-tree will be immensely useful. One area I’m particularly interested in is spreadsheet application’s formula dependency tracking mechanism which involves tracing through chained dependency targets to broadcast cell value changes. Since the spreadsheet organizes its data in terms of row and column positions which is 2-dimensional in nature, R-tree can probably be useful for speeding things up in that area.

    • In memory of Monty Hall

      To explore this a bit further and to have a nice exercise with R, a small simulation of games is created.

Leftovers

  • Bogart Weather

    Sunny California is dark and rainy, just like it so often was in the great films noirs Hollywood churned out in better cinematic times. The atmospheric river that has dispatched days and nights of storms across the state this past week and caused flooding in north and south, from mountains to sea, is like a rain-machine on a Warner Brothers soundstage or back lot. Sometimes the downpour is so heavy you can’t see three feet in front of you, but the next minute its bright and sunny—the deluge abating just in time for the closeup. So deftly managed are these sudden scene changes that you think it’s got to be a Howard Hawks of a weather god in his director’s chair who’s ordering up the effects as his shooting schedule demands them.

    Timed perfectly to coincide with these portentous weather patterns is a series begun last weekend and running through March 3rdat the Stanford Theatre on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto: Humphrey Bogart’s films of the 1940s and 50s.

    The movie house hosting the series was built in 1925 as an Orientalist fantasy—a roaring twenties mash-up of what looks to this untrained architectural eye like Greek, Moorish, and Egyptian elements: DeMille’s Ten Commandments (the first one from 1923) meets Valentino’s The Sheikh. This venerable, and now revived movie theatre has always promised escape: tourism to other places or just into other people’s lives—but without the carbon footprint.

    The Stanford was restored in the 1980s with money from the Packard Foundation, and under the guidance of David Packard (son of the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, also called David). In another bit of fortuitous scheduling, the theatre opened for renewed business just as I arrived in Palo Alto to embark on a Ph.D. in musicology at Stanford University. I saw scores of films there over the next seven years. Packard himself even told me—and rightly so—to get my feet off the seat at a Sunday night screening of Greta Garbo’s Queen Christina. Just as memorable was something that happened a few minutes later during the scene in which Garbo, dressed incognito as a man, finds herself about to be put up for the night with another cavalier, who appears interested in her/him romantically. Before the innkeeper leaves the two alone, a wag in the front row shouted “Threesome!” That night at the Stanford Theatre taught me not only to keep me feet off the upholstery, but also that there’s a moment in every classic film when shouting “threesome!” is funny.

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Agreement On SPC Manufacturing Waiver Reached, Benefitting EU Generic, Biosimilar Industry

      The European Council reached a political agreement today on the SPC Manufacturing Waiver, which will allow the manufacture of generic and biosimilar medicines in the European Union for export and stockpiling during the period of extended patent protection provided for by the EU. This waiver will enable EU generic and biosimilar industries to benefit from sales outside the EU where patents have already expired, and to prepare to provide the EU market as soon as the extended period of patent protection ends.

    • Jayapal Says Medicare for All Bill Coming in Two Weeks as Expert Calls Plan ‘Astonishingly Strong’

      In just two weeks, what is being heralded as an “astonishingly strong” plan to create a Medicare for All system in the United States will be introduced in the U.S. House.

      With energized grassroots activists, more than 90 congressional co-sponsors, and public opinion all firmly on her side, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) announced on Wednesday that she plans to introduce her 150-page Medicare for All bill the week after next.

      One healthcare justice organizer who has read a detailed overview of the bill said it should now be considered the new “baseline” for national single-payer legislation.

    • Analysis Shows Exposure to Monsanto’s Glyphosate-Based Roundup Increases Cancer Risk by More Than 40%

      A far-reaching new scientific analysis found that the weed-killing chemical glyphosate is far more dangerous than U.S. government officials admit, showing a 41 percent increased risk of developing cancer for people who have frequent exposure.

      Five scientists at the University of Washington conducted the study—analyzing all published data on glyphosate and its link to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from 2001 to 2018—and are now “even more convinced” that the chemical is behind many cancer diagnoses, according to Lianne Sheppard, one of the study’s authors.

      Focusing on people in each study who had high exposure to the herbicide, the researchers concluded that “the link between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is stronger than previously reported,” said the University in a press statement.

    • Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse

      In the struggle to address rising levels of opioid misuse and mortality, an unlikely ally has emerged: marijuana.

      The relationship between cannabis and opioid use is among of the best-documented aspects of marijuana policy. In short, the science demonstrates that marijuana is a relatively safe and effective pain reliever — and that patients with legal access to it often reduce their use of conventional opiates.

      Over 35 controlled clinical trials, involving over 2,000 subjects, have been conducted to assess the safety and usefulness of cannabis or its components for the treatment of chronic pain. Many of these trials specifically evaluate the plant’s ability to target hard-to-treat neuropathic pain.

      An exhaustive literature review of over 10,000 scientific abstracts by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined: “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis is effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.”

    • Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty

      Social media companies are putting profits before children, policy makers in the UK are arguing. Last week, Jackie Doyle-Price, the minister for mental health and suicide prevention, called for Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram to be treated like publishers that are responsible for the content on their platforms, following the suicide of British teenager Molly Russell, who was exposed to graphic images on Instagram and Pinterest. The move also follows a YouGov poll last week which found that social media is pressuring children to “succeed” and to compare themselves to others, while social media uses have noted that the platforms reinforce “those feelings of not being good enough, that you’re too fat.”

      While the policy proposals appear to be a step in the right direction, the underlying causes of social competitiveness and low self-esteem among children go well beyond social media. The global weight loss industry, for example, was worth a huge US$169 billion in 2016, and some of those profits came from children. Apps like Kurbo are making money from encouraging children and teenagers to track and control their weight, weight loss camps for kids are eerily common, while other weight-loss messaging is reaching children indirectly.

      A distorted sense of the importance of appearance is affecting girls particularly, at a much younger age than many assume. According to the U.S.-based Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image report, a majority of 6- to 8-year-old girls, and a third of boys of that age would say that their ideal bodies are thinner than they are. By the age of six, some children are aware of dieting and may have tried it. By 13, a majority of girls in the U.S. are unhappy with their bodies, and that figure grows to 78% by the time they reach 17. Australian studies have found children expressing dissatisfaction with their body size at eight years old.

      Beyond body size though, children (particularly girls) are taught to value and identify themselves through their appearance. Boys are taught to vocally judge girls’ appearances. Disney cartoon females, for example, have impossible waist-to-hip ratios, and the multinational consistently sends the message that “ugly” women are “bad” and that “ugly” includes older women, large noses, and less defined waists. Children’s toys are teaching gender roles, action figures and dolls are giving kids unrealistic body expectations, consumerism is guiding children into a logic of stuff and clothes equates to worth, and a pervasive rape culture and the trophy-cation of women in movies and advertising is teaching children to objectify females.

      In the long term, a child’s unhealthy body image can impact their social, emotional, and physical well being and lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, missing out on activities and experiences, and more.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Hacks.Mozilla.Org: Fearless Security: Thread Safety

      While this allows programs to do more faster, it comes with a set of synchronization problems, namely deadlocks and data races. From a security standpoint, why do we care about thread safety? Memory safety bugs and thread safety bugs have the same core problem: invalid resource use. Concurrency attacks can lead to similar consequences as memory attacks, including privilege escalation, arbitrary code execution (ACE), and bypassing security checks.

      Concurrency bugs, like implementation bugs, are closely related to program correctness. While memory vulnerabilities are nearly always dangerous, implementation/logic bugs don’t always indicate a security concern, unless they occur in the part of the code that deals with ensuring security contracts are upheld (e.g. allowing a security check bypass). However, while security problems stemming from logic errors often occur near the error in sequential code, concurrency bugs often happen in different functions from their corresponding vulnerability, making them difficult to trace and resolve. Another complication is the overlap between mishandling memory and concurrency flaws, which we see in data races.

      Programming languages have evolved different concurrency strategies to help developers manage both the performance and security challenges of multi-threaded applications.

    • Consistent security by crypto policies in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8

      Software development teams, whether open or closed source, are often composed of many groups that own individual components. Database applications typically come from a different team than ones developed by HTTP or SSH services, and others. Each group chooses libraries, languages, utilities, and cryptographic providers for their solution. Having specialized teams contributing to an application may improve the final product, but it often makes it challenging to enforce a consistent cryptographic policy on a system.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Hacker Exploits Snapd Flaw to Obtain Access on Linux System
    • Australian channel player finds big Linux bug
    • Flaw in runC could allow malicious containers to infect host environment

      A vulnerability discovered in the runC container management tool has exposed multiple privileged container systems to a potential exploit through which attackers could allow malware to escape a container and compromise an entire host system.

    • Here We Go Again: 127 Million Accounts Stolen From 8 More Websites

      Several days ago, a hacker put 617 million accounts from 16 different websites for sale on the dark web. Now, the same hacker is offering 127 million more records from another eight websites.

    • Hacker who stole 620 million records strikes again, stealing 127 million more

      A hacker who stole close to 620 million user records from 16 websites has stolen another 127 million records from eight more websites, TechCrunch has learned.

      The hacker, whose listing was the previously disclosed data for about $20,000 in bitcoin on a dark web marketplace, stole the data last year from several major sites — some that had already been disclosed, like more than 151 million records from MyFitnessPal and 25 million records from Animoto. But several other hacked sites on the marketplace listing didn’t know or hadn’t disclosed yet — such as 500px and Coffee Meets Bagel.

      The Register, which first reported the story, said the data included names, email addresses and scrambled passwords, and in some cases other login and account data — though no financial data was included.

    • Vendors Issue Patches for Linux Container Runtime Flaw Enabling Host Attacks
    • How did the Dirty COW exploit get shipped in software?

      An exploit code for Dirty COW was accidentally shipped by Cisco with product software. Learn how this code ended up in a software release and what this vulnerability can do.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Forty years on from Iran’s revolution: a judge’s tale

      The revolution which swept Iran 40 years ago this month united influential bazaar traders, intellectuals and people of all classes against the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s lavish lifestyle, secret police and Western-style social and economic reforms.

      Iran’s leaders still chant the trademark “Down with America” slogan of the revolt, sometimes in front of vast crowds, but they no longer inspire Mohammad Reza, and some other aged revolutionaries, who are now among the most vocal critics of the clerical leadership.

    • Cuba Warns US Moving Special Forces Closer to Venezuela Under Guise of ‘Humanitarian Intervention’

      As Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro urges the international community to condemn an ongoing U.S.-backed effort to overthrow him and calls for peaceful negotiations with critics led by self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó, the Cuban government—which supports Maduro—claimed on Thursday that the Trump administration is moving special forces closer to Venezuela “in preparation for a military adventure under the guise of a ‘humanitarian intervention.’

    • Following anonymous allegations of pedophilia, police search the home of the chemist who says he helped develop ‘Novichok’

      Vladimir Uglev, one of the chemists who says he helped develop the Soviet nerve agent “Novichok,” told the BBC’s Russian-language service that police in Anapa searched his home this week, after unknown persons started posting leaflets on his car and outside his home and office accusing him of pedophilia.

      The leaflets show Uglev’s photograph, full name, address, and date of birth, alleging that he uses candy to befriend children near schools and then solicits nude photos over Vkontakte. Uglev says three officers searched his laptop and tablet for evidence of child pornography, and also photographed his home. On February 15, he was fingerprinted and questioned at the local police station.

    • 1,200 Kids’ Gun Deaths Since Parkland: Did I Say I Love You?

      A year after the Parkland slaughter, a hopeful sliver of light with the House Judiciary Committee’s passage of a background checks bill, the first step forward in years thanks to the fierce and furious Parkland kids fighting for change by “laying the bleeding bodies of their classmates across the nation’s heart.” They have forged powerful connections with other still-healing survivors, advocates who insist on honoring the victims, and grieving parents who agonize over whether they told their kids they loved them that final day. The last year has also seen some 67 state gun safety laws passed, 40 gun lobby allies defeated in Congress, and a House majority elected that wants to end the carnage.

      Then again. A gutless, complicit, NRA-bought Senate remains awash in specious thoughts and prayers. Kids as young as five undergo traumatizing active shooter drills to keep them “safe” from bad men. And in the year since Parkland, nearly 1,200 more kids – roughly, inconceivably a Parkland every five days – were gunned down in this bloodstained country, according to figures from Gun Violence Archive data. (In grotesque truth, the number is likely higher, because it omits suicides.) Numbers from the Brady Campaign are even more shocking: They estimate 47 kids and teenagers a day are shot in murders, assaults, suicides or suicide attempts, accidents or police shootings; of those, 8 die, 39 survive. Asks a North Carolina paper, “What insanity is that?”

    • In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?

      Libya is in a state of anarchic turmoil, with various groups fighting each other for control of the country, and as the Wall Street Journal reported last September, “Islamic State is staging a resurgence in chaotic Libya, claiming more than a dozen attacks in the North African country this year and threatening to disrupt the flow of oil from one of the world’s most significant suppliers.” To such mainstream media outlets as the Wall Street Journal the fact that oil supply is being disrupted is much more important than the savage IS attacks that result in slaughter of so many innocent people who are only foreigners, anyway.

      The UN Security Council said it deplored the Islamic State’s “heinous and cowardly terrorist attack . . . in Tripoli on 25 December 2018” and expressed “deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the Libyan people and Government of National Accord, and wished a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured.”

      It is laudable that the Security Council should express such sentiments, but if Libya was not “fractured by a six-year civil war”, there would be no need for sympathy from anyone.

      The cause of the catastrophe in Libya in Libya was the seven month US-NATO blitzkrieg from March to October 2011 in which thousands of bombs and rockets smashed down on that unfortunate land which was governed by President Muammar Ghaddafi whom the West was determined to overthrow by assisting a rebel movement. In Ghaddafi’s Libya, as detailed by the World Health Organization, the government provided “comprehensive health care including promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services to all citizens free of charge through primary health care units, health centers and district hospitals.” Life expectancy was 75 years (as against 66 in India; 71 in Egypt; 59 in South Africa), and the CIA World Factbook noted that there was a literacy rate of 94.2% which was higher than in Malaysia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

      Ghaddafi was far from being a saint. He dealt with his enemies in the most brutal fashion and was guilty of numerous offences against humanity. But so were (and are) many others like that around the world whose countries are not subject to US sanctions or seven months of strikes by US-NATO planes and missiles.

    • Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism

      In the weeks since Jose Guaidó declared to a crowd of supporters in Venezuela that he was the new president of Venezuela a lot has happened and very little has happened. Washington, Brazil and Colombia—three of the most right-wing governments in the Americas—unsurprisingly declared their support of Guaidó. Others followed. Indeed, it is more than reasonable to assume that it was the United States that not only encouraged Guaidó’s declaration but was intimately involved in preparing it. As much as been verified by numerous news articles and even a few statements from US Secretary of State John Bolton.

      In essence, these actions by Guaidó, his supporters and the United States constitute an attempted coup. I say attempted because the process is ongoing. Many outside governments have registered their support for the move, but many others haven’t. Some governments and international agencies have even expressed their support for the legal and elected president Nicolas Maduro. Meanwhile, the US, UK and various other nations and banking institutions are preventing the elected government from obtaining its monies and simultaneously ramping up sanctions against those Venezuelans who support that government. Despite pressure from the United States, the Red Cross and other international aid agencies have refused to participate in politically motivated “attempts” to deliver aid to Venezuelans. One such attempt accompanied by photographs which purported to show semi-trailers blocking a bridge (and therefore aid) between Colombia and Venezuela was exposed as completely fraudulent. The photos proved to be photos of a bridge under construction.

      One consistency between this and other attacks on the Bolivarian Project in Venezuela by the Venezuelan upper classes and their US backers is the attempts to portray the Venezuelan president as a dictator. In defense of their position, the opposition’s propaganda writers show pictures of soldiers along roads during demonstrations and relay numbers of people killed during these protests. Left unsaid is that many of the dead and injured are either military members or Bolivarian supporters killed and wounded by the opposition and its armed members. If Maduro is a dictator, how does one explain the fact of a strong, occasionally quite violent opposition being allowed to exist, run candidates in elections, and own major newspapers?

    • Maduro Reveals Aide’s Secret Meetings With U.S. Envoy Abrams

      President Nicolas Maduro has invited a U.S. special envoy to Venezuela after revealing in an AP interview that his foreign minister recently held secret meetings with the U.S. official in New York.

      A senior Venezuelan official said the second of two meetings took place Feb. 11 — four days after the envoy, Elliott Abrams, said the “time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed,” and as the Trump administration publicly backed an effort to unseat the embattled Venezuelan president.

      Even while harshly criticizing Donald Trump’s confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting the U.S. president soon to resolve a crisis over the U.S.’ recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

      Maduro said that while in New York, his foreign minister invited Abrams to come to Venezuela “privately, publicly or secretly.”

    • An Obituary for the Republic

      What dreamers they were! They imagined a kind of global power that would leave even Rome at its Augustan height in the shade. They imagined a world made for one, a planet that could be swallowed by a single great power. No, not just great, but beyond anything ever seen before — one that would build (as its National Security Strategy put it in 2002) a military “beyond challenge.” Let’s be clear on that: no future power, or even bloc of powers, would ever be allowed to challenge it again.

      And, in retrospect, can you completely blame them? I mean, it seemed so obvious then that we — the United States of America — were the best and the last. We had, after all, outclassed and outlasted every imperial power since the beginning of time. Even that other menacing superpower of the Cold War era, the Soviet Union, the “Evil Empire” that refused to stand down for almost half a century, had gone up in a puff of smoke.

      Imagine that moment so many years later and consider the crew of neoconservatives who, under the aegis of George W. Bush, the son of the man who had “won” the Cold War, came to power in January 2001. Not surprisingly, on viewing the planet, they could see nothing — not a single damn thing — in their way. There was a desperately weakened and impoverished Russia (still with its nuclear arsenal more or less intact) that, as far as they were concerned, had been mollycoddled by President Bill Clinton’s administration. There was a Communist-gone-capitalist China focused on its own growth and little else. And there were a set of other potential enemies, “rogue powers” as they were dubbed, so pathetic that not one of them could, under any circumstances, be called “great.”

    • Investigation of Disasters Sparks Debate Over Navy’s Readiness and Responsibilities

      Since then, conversations about the Navy and its readiness to fight have sprung up all over the place: social media, the dining rooms on Navy ships, the halls of Congress. We’ve had active duty enlisted sailors, retired captains and admirals, family members of fallen sailors and our readers weigh in.

      If there’s a common theme, it’s about the Navy’s responsibility to the American people and its sailors. We have been struck by the thoughtfulness of many of these debates — even those that have taken issue with aspects of our pieces. Here, we are highlighting a collection of the reaction we’ve found in everything from formal publications to online chats that has interested and enlightened us. We hope you may find it a useful reading guide.

    • The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire

      The United States government’s new offensive against Venezuela is an act of naked imperialism.

      I predicted last year that Venezuela would be the first new country hit by the Trump administration’s indispensable need to establish its American-exceptionalist, “Presidentialist,” bona fides. It is the Goldilocks target. Not too small:It is, in fact, a significant country with world’s largest oil reserves, and a proclaimed socialist government that’s been a thorn in the gringo boot on Latin America for almost twenty years. Not too big: It’s no military match for U.S. & Latin American proxy armed forces, and nobody will start WWIII to defend it. Just right: A decisive win, at little apparent cost. And just the kind of amuse-boucheneeded to get the U.S. population’s juices flowing for a more costly and difficult attack on the ultimate target—Iran. At least, that’s the way they think.

      But I couldn’t anticipate the anger and frustration I would feel, seeing this crock of shit being shoved down the throats of the world, and being swallowed whole by the bipartisan political and media establishment, with nothing more than a few hard gulps from even most U.S. “progressives.”

      The United States is attempting to seize control of another sovereign nation, Venezuela. Having no speck of standing within Venezuela or in international law, the U.S. is resorting to regime change by edict. The Trump administration has simply proclaimed that the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, recently re-elected with over 6 million votes (68%), is now replaced by Juan Guaidó, who had not even run for the office and therefore received zero votes (0%), and whom 81% of Venezuelans had never heard of. But, like a good bench-warmer, Guaidó got the dreamed-for call from the coach—literally, a phone call from the offensive coordinatorU.S. Vice President—and the next day swore himself in as President of Venezuela, under the authority granted to him by the government of the United States. All The Right Moves.

    • A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set

      At the far end of Fort Santiago, I discovered a small museum dedicated to the memory of the Spanish dissident, José Rizal, who before the Spanish-American war of 1898 was imprisoned for advocating Philippine independence from Spain.

      Rizal was a charismatic opposition figure. He had traveled widely in Europe, and in his letters, poems, stories, and novels, he described well the local oppression and spelled out the necessary steps toward freedom from Spain. Even his love affairs captured the spirit of his political opposition.

      For the most part, the exhibit at Fort Santiago is devoted to Rizal’s last hours, his martyrdom for the causes of freedom. An ophthalmologist by training, he was on his way to Cuba to treat patients there when the Spanish removed him from his ship in Barcelona and threw him into prison. He was extradited to Manila and charged with sedition. Convicted, he was sentenced to death at the hands of a firing squad.

      The centerpiece of the Rizal exhibit is a recreation of the prison cell where he spent his last days. In this rendition, acceptable for school children, Rizal is depicted as a saint. The cell has his cot and trunk, and he is shown, under a single spotlight (God seems to be calling him out), seated at a small desk, writing the manifesto for which he is justly famous. It’s the civil equivalent of Jesus at his last supper, except that Rizal is holding a pen.

      A plaque on the wall reads: “In this cell Jose Rizal was detained prisoner from 3 November to the morning of 29 December falsely charged with rebellion, sedition and formation of illegal societies. After the reading of the court sentence at 6:00 A.M. 29 December, he was kept in an improvised chapel until his execution at 7:03 A.M. 30 December 1896 on the Luneta, Bagumbayan Field, Manila.”

    • Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer

      On February 11, Bloomberg News published an astonishing piece about the unfolding Venezuelan turmoil. It was apparently the result of a major investigative effort involving three reporters and five others providing “assistance”. You’ll notice I haven’t called it a piece of news (although that’s what it looks like), but I’m not sure what to call it. It’s a piece of something, but what?

      [...]

      A seventeenth source was Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela. It’s not clear, however, that any of Bloomberg News’ three reporters or the five others providing “assistance” actually interviewed Abrams or were simply quoting from a previous press conference: “Speaking in Washington last week, Abrams said…”

      So what was the focus of this piece? The intrepid reporters were picking up on a January 31st tweet by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who encouraged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to retire to “a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela” while he still had time.

      The Bloomberg News piece is entitled: “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela.” It got wide exposure, including in Canada’s National Post. [1] The eight reporters and aforementioned 16 sources imply that Maduro is frantically seeking a bolthole somewhere, anywhere – Cuba? Russia? Turkey? Mexico? France? – while appearing to hang on to power.

    • Dozens of armed men start enormous fight in Moscow café

      Yashar Aliev, the owner of the Neolit café in southeast Moscow, said 40 – 50 Chechen men entered the restaurant on the evening of February 14 and began attacking the establishment. The men were reportedly wearing masks and carrying firearms.

      Aliev was not present at the time of the attack, but employees told him there were only four or five people in the café, primarily couples having dinner. No serious injuries resulted from the attack and the conflict that followed. Aliev’s car, which was parked near the café, was found riddled with bullet holes. Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that one 49-year-old man, Arzu Makhmudov, sought medical help but declined to be hospitalized.

    • Britain’s Return to the South China Sea

      A startling case of Brexititis, marked by nostalgia for imperial grandeur, the singing of Rule Britannia when taking a shower, and an unhinged view of the world and Britain’s diminished role in it, was observed in London on February 11.

      On that day, Gavin Williamson, UK defense secretary, said there are plans to sail the country’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth across the oceans to put China in its place by cruising majestically into the South China Sea. China has claimed a huge amount of territory in the sea and built air bases and naval facilities on many of the islands. There is little the West can do about it militarily. It can, through diplomacy, get China to navigate a different course but a spanking new aircraft carrier from Britain, regardless of how up-to-date it is, will not make an iota of difference.

      And two military bases, Williamson added, in the Caribbean and Asia will be built to “strengthen our global presence,’’. OK, so far so good, that’s what defense chiefs say routinely, boost global presence, show the flag, it’s what they are paid to do to boost their budgets, but then he added “to enhance our lethality and increase our mass”. It does beg the question, what lethality and what mass?

      First of all, the carrier will enter active duty in 2021. Very sportsmanlike, very British, telling the “enemy” your plans two years in advance. The Chinese must be shaking in their boots and boats.

      Williamson said that the UK had to be ready to use “hard power” when he announced that the carrier’s first operational mission would take place in the South China Sea. Absolute tosh. Britain is in no position to take on China in that sea. Full stop.

    • Phyllis Bennis on Afghanistan Armistice?

      This week on CounterSpin: Every news report contains text—whatever new information is being conveyed—and subtext: a lesson it’s underscoring, or a pattern it fits. When it’s a foreign policy story, as in coverage of current negotiations on ending the war in Afghanistan, the subtext is that the US may naturally, legitimately unleash all the violent, life-shattering power it sees to fit to muster in those countries in which it deems itself interested, and the terms for cessation of that violence should be judged primarily, if not entirely, according to those interests. We’ll look at Afghanistan through a different lens with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, and author of, among other titles, Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer, with David Wildman, and Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror.

    • On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler

      Any public figure should understand that making a positive reference to Hitler is political suicide. This fact was lost on the young Republican political activist Candace Owens, who recently said, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, Ok, fine.” The statement was as insulting as it was horrible. Though Owens didn’t know it, however, she was hitting on a sentiment that was the prevailing view in Europe and the United States before 1 September 1939. That western governments held this view is no less horrible and should make us reconsider what we think about Hitler’s popularity in the 1930s.

      First, we should not forget the significance of Germany being awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics or the fact that Hitler was named Time’s Man of the Year in 1938. These are hardly the accomplishments of one who was supposedly a great danger to western civilization. In fact, Hitler’s Nazis had scored a huge victory over what many considered a greater evil: German communism. Winston Churchill summed up much of western business feeling about communism when he stated, “that the strangling of Bolshevism at its birth would have been an untold blessing to the human race.”

    • The Councils Before Maduro!

      Venezuela is fucked up. A nation hanging from the edge of a cliff by its broken and bloody fingernails. Thick noxious clouds of acrid black smoke gather around the capital of Caracas as the bodies continue to stack up. There is all out chaos in the streets as warring clans of half-starved people open fire on each other indiscriminately. The sides are ill-defined. There seem to be leftists, soldiers and cops in uniform on both ends of the melee. The government of Nicholas Maduro rounds up scores of hellions, holding the ones who don’t get shot in the streets indefinitely in unknown locations. Meanwhile the western vaunted opposition launches full blown terrorist attacks, killing scores of soldiers and civilians alike. There are no clean hands in this fist fight. Everyone has lowered their standards of human decency to meet the standards of their nations new era of depravity. Few things are clear here. The streets and social media alike are awash with rumors and hearsay. One thing that is clear is that we’re not in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela anymore. The once robust egalitarian experiment of Bolivarianism has devolved into violent statist hell and this was the point.

      Venezuela is fucked up because its been fucked up, subjected to a concerted campaign of economic sabotage that started long before Maduro’s absurd Dengist market socialist reforms. The United States launched this campaign through its numerous tentacles, public and private, in response to a democratic revolution that also began long before Hugo Chavez became its benevolent figure head. Under this relentlessly oppressive regime of crippling sanctions and monetary manipulation, a nation state of any kind would crumble beneath the pressure. Just add the constant threat of coup de tats and a return to the western sanctioned petro-fascism of past decades and even the most egalitarian experiments will take on increasingly statist and authoritarian policies to protect their revolution and the people it serves. The cruel irony being that by taking these desperate measures they adopt the very same attributes they’re attempting to stave off in the name of a revolution that these very trends betray. An almost operatic tragedy of the commons.

    • 30 years later, ‘Meduza’ answers key questions about the Soviet-Afghan War

      February 15 marks 30 years since the day the last Soviet soldiers were withdrawn from Afghanistan. The Soviet-Afghan War lasted nine years: it was Russia’s longest war in a century that also included a civil war, two world wars, and a number of international conflicts. Why did Soviet leaders decide to invade Afghanistan despite internal opposition? What role did the United States really play in the conflict? What do present-day Russian government officials think about the war? Meduza answers these and other questions below.

    • Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies

      It has been more than nine years since I resigned in protest over the escalation of the Afghan War from my position as a Political Officer with the US State Department in Afghanistan. It had been my third time to war, along with several years of working in positions effecting war policy in Washington, DC with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department. My resignation in 2009 was not taken lightly by my superiors and my reasons for opposing President Obama’s “surge” in Afghanistan found support amongst both military officers and civilian officials at senior levels in Kabul and Washington.

      I was repeatedly asked not to resign and was offered a more senior position within the State Department. Richard Holbrooke, then the President’s appointed representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan told me he agreed with 95% of what I had written and asked me to join his staff, while the US ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, told me my analysis was one of the best he had encountered and stated he would write an introduction endorsing my resignation letter if I remained with the US Embassy in Afghanistan for the remainder of my tour. In conversation with the US deputy ambassador to Afghanistan he agreed the war was not just unwinnable, but also corrupt, and stated he would not let his children serve in such a war. Further support for my views was provided by my counterparts who were serving as political officers in the most violent parts of Afghanistan: Kandahar, Helmand, Kunar, Nuristan and Oruzgan Provinces. These men and women made clear their agreement with my assessment and my resignation. The support from the military was equally effusive and genuine, often such support included apologies along the lines of “I’d like to resign too, but I’ve got kids heading to college in a few years…” (the golden handcuffs are an incredibly instrumental and integral aspect of the US Empire’s infrastructure). When I asked Karen DeYoung, the Washington Post correspondent who wrote the front page, above the fold story on my resignation for the Post, why she wrote such a piece about me, she replied she could not find anyone at the Pentagon, State Department or White House who disagreed with me.

    • Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?

      In 1973 the War Powers Resolution weakened the U.S. Constitution’s placement of the power to start and end wars with the first branch of the U.S. government, the Congress. The new law carved out exceptions to allow presidents to start wars. However, it also created procedures by which a single member or group of members of Congress could force a vote in Congress on whether to end a war. Despite weakening the written law, the War Powers Resolution may finally be about to prove itself to have strengthened the ability of proponents of peace to put an end to mass slaughter.

      Since 1973 we’ve seen numerous wars waged in blatant violation of both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, not to mention the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact. But we’ve also seen Congress members like my friend Dennis Kucinich force votes on whether to end wars. These votes have usually failed. And the Congress that ended this past December illegally refused (in the House) to even hold such votes. But debates have been created, people have been informed, and the notion that a law still exists that merits respect has been kept alive.

      Never yet have both houses of Congress jointly passed a War Powers Resolution bill to end a war. That may soon change. On Wednesday, the House voted 248-to-177 to end one of the many current U.S. wars, that on Yemen. (Well, sort of. Keep reading.) Back in December, during the previous Congress, the Senate passed the same resolution (or nearly identical). So, the big question is now whether the Senate will do it again. If you’re from the United States, I recommend calling (202) 224-3121, telling the operator what state you’re from, and asking to speak with the offices of each of your two senators. Ask them if they will vote to let the people of Yemen live! Or click here to send them both an email.

      [...]

      This would seem to suggest that members of the U.S. military cannot participate in any way in the war on Yemen.

    • Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy

      The US is accusing China of using college students studying in the US to spy for China, but that, even if true (there hasn’t been a trial yet), would be only half the story. The US, at great risk to those of us who work and travel abroad, also tries to enlist seemingly innocent Americans going abroad to spy for it.

      I learned this first hand back in the early 1990s when I spent a year in China teaching journalism at Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University as a Fulbright Program scholar. During that period there was a conference organized by the Fulbright program for us Fulbright professors then in China. It was held in Kunming, a city in the far south of China and a popular tourist designation. The embassy official who was the US press and cultural affairs officer in Beijing, who also oversaw the US Fulbright Program in China, shocked us all by telling us at that gathering that we should see ourselves as “behind-the-lines paratroopers” in the People’s Republic of China. I can tell you that was certainly not how any of us saw ourselves!

      It turned out that he, like many US officials in China, had been a US Special Forces officer (in Vietnam) prior to his working for the US State Department. I should note here that US Special Forces troops, while technically part of the US military, are intimately connected to and often operate under the direction of the CIA, not the Pentagon. The lines between military and spook can get pretty blurry, especially when it comes to secret ops.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Georgia Gov’t Employee Somehow Manages To Get Criminally Charged For Violating Public Records Laws

      Both misdemeanor charges are potentially worth $1,000 in fines and a year in jail, but we’re probably not going to see anyone locked up for screwing the public. We’ve only seen one other case like this in the history of Techdirt, and there’s nothing indicating any of the politicians indicted for public records law violations have been jailed for breaking the law. In fact, one felt so unthreatened by the charges, she filed for re-election while still under indictment.

      In this case, a pair of records requests led to the criminal charges. The first request was for water billing records, filed by journalists at Channel 2. The second request — filed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution(AJC) and Channel 2 — sought communications discussing the water billing records request. The second request was a goldmine for journalists and the impetus for criminal charges against Jenna Garland.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Fossil Fuels Are Bad for Your Health and Harmful in Many Ways Besides Climate Change

      Many Democratic lawmakers aim to pass a Green New Deal, a package of policies that would mobilize vast amounts of money to create new jobs and address inequality while fighting climate change.

      Led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, they are calling for massive investments in renewable energy and other measures over a decade that would greatly reduce or even end the nation’s overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels.

      As experts in environmental geography, sociology, and sustainability science and policy, we wholeheartedly support this effort. And, as we explained in a recently published study, climate change is not the only reason to ditch fossil fuels.

    • Court Throws out Energy Transfer’s ‘Racketeering’ Claims Against Dakota Access Pipeline Opponents

      A North Dakota federal judge dismissed Energy Transfer’s racketeering lawsuit against Greenpeace and all its co-defendants in a sharply worded ruling issued today, finding that the pipeline builder’s allegations fell “far short of what is necessary to establish a [racketeering] claim.”

      In August 2017, Energy Transfer filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act civil complaint against Greenpeace and other environmental groups who had opposed the company’s Dakota Access pipeline, claiming that the protests had caused $300 million in damages (and requesting three times that amount from the defendants).

      Today’s ruling flatly rejected Energy Transfer’s claims.

    • The Green New Deal Is Indeed a Big Deal

      The most visionary resolution to emerge from Congress in recent years, encompassing both the climate crisis and economic inequality, has captured the imagination of many Americans. In less than a year we went from having never heard the name Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to watching the impressive, young rookie congresswoman achieve more in a month than most of our representatives do in a year as she rolled out the Green New Deal (GND) resolution along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). While the resolution is not yet a full-fledged piece of legislation, it does lay out a blueprint for future bills.

      First, it is critical to understand that Ocasio-Cortez did not create the GND—rather, the idea was borne out of the same movement that birthed the Democratic lawmaker’s candidacy. An account of the proposal in Politico details how Justice Democrats, the organization that recruited Ocasio-Cortez and ran her campaign, was founded by young organizers who cut their teeth on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Another organization, Sunrise Movement—also created in 2016—crafted the GND proposal together with Justice Democrats. Just days after Ocasio-Cortez won her New York congressional seat last November, she addressed Sunrise Movement activists during their sit-in of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and effectively endorsed the GND that they were demanding.

      Varshini Prakash, the founder of the Sunrise Movement, explained to me in an interview that the GND “would tackle the twin crises of our lifetimes—the climate crisis and also the rampant and nauseating levels of wealth inequality in this country, and would really center racial justice, which was something that the original New Deal failed to do.” She described the resolution as a “blueprint,” which could, if passed, yield new legislation on a variety of climate and economic issues.

    • Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption

      Donald Trump: “America will never be a socialist country.”

      Too late. We already have socialism for the rich, with the nuclear power industry as a prime example.

      On a level playing field, nuclear power would go bust. Those owners get financial supports or subsidies that safe renewables like solar power, geothermal, and wind power don’t get. Two particularly large government handouts keep the reactor business afloat, and without them it would crash overnight.

      1) In a free market, the US Price Anderson Act would be repealed. The act provides limited liability insurance to reactor operators in the event of a loss-of-coolant, or other radiation catastrophe. The nuclear industry would have to get insurance on the open market like all other industrial operations. This would break their bank, since major insurers would only sell such a policy at astronomical rates, if at all.

      2) The US Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) would also be repealed. NWPA is the government’s pledge to take custody of and assume liability for the industry’s radioactive waste. Without NWPA the industry would have to pay to contain, isolate and manage its waste for the 1-million-year danger period. The long-term cost would zero the industry’s portfolio in a quick “correction.”

      Jeremy Rifkin: “From a business perspective, it’s over”

    • Melting polar ice sheets will alter weather

      The global weather is about to get worse. The melting polar ice sheets will mean rainfall and windstorms could become more violent, and hot spells and ice storms could become more extreme.

      This is because the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting, to affect what were once stable ocean currents and airflow patterns around the globe.

      Planetary surface temperatures could rise by 3°C or even 4°C by the end of the century. Global sea levels will rise in ways that would “enhance global temperature variability”, but this might not be as high as earlier studies have predicted. That is because the ice cliffs of Antarctica might not be so much at risk of disastrous collapse that would set the glaciers accelerating to the sea.

    • Blow to ‘Powerful Corporate Interests’ as Federal Court Throws Out Pipeline Company Lawsuit Against DAPL Water Protectors

      District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed (pdf) all claims against all defendants in a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which sought to hold the water protectors liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for millions of dollars in alleged damages.

      “Donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise,” Wilson wrote in his opinion. “Posting articles written by people with similar beliefs does not create a RICO enterprise.”

    • Our Food Is Killing the Planet — But It Doesn’t Have To

      The world needs to change the way it eats, not just as individuals but as a society.

      That’s the message from a groundbreaking report issued last month by the EAT-Lancet Commission, which made a series of societal recommendations to help the world’s ever-increasing human population ensure its food security in the face of global warming.

      The recommendations are all designed to accommodate a planet that is projected to contain 10 billion people by the year 2050. They include switching to a diet that’s low in meat and sugar but higher in whole grains, fruits and vegetables; cutting food waste; reducing fossil fuel use and emissions; and incentivizing small and medium farming.

      The changes, the report said, would lead to a healthier planet and healthier people, while also helping the more than 820 million people currently suffering from chronic hunger.

      Coincidentally, the report came out the same week as a challenging new book that makes many of the same recommendations, while also presenting some contrasting and complementary ideas.

    • The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Richard Nixon in 1970 as the official response to the nascent environmental movement. As laid out in the recently released Poison Papers, it was structured to be dependent on research from private firms that were paid by the chemical producers it regulates. Given the limited market for this research, these firms either produced research conducive to the interests of their customers or they went out of business.

      The EPA quickly became one of the first of the revolving door agencies in which regulators served time before moving on to the big paychecks in the private sector. This served two purposes. (1) it provided political cover for capitalist enterprise through the appearance of environmental regulation and (2) it created ‘the rules’ by which said regulation could be gamed. My town’s water supply was poisoned in full compliance with EPA regulations.

      Unbeknownst to most Americans, the nation’s forests were clear-cut from coast to coast in the mid-late nineteenth century. Photographs from the era show denuded landscapes— no trees, no animals, and streams still poisoned from the runoff in the present, for as far as the eye can see. The scars from nineteenth and twentieth century strip mining in Pennsylvania draw direct geographical and historical lines to the mountaintop removal that is taking place in West Virginia today.

    • Youth Climate Leaders Launch Campaign to Make McConnell Regret ‘Shameless’ Green New Deal Ploy

      While McConnell appears to believe that he can expose divisions in the Democratic caucus by forcing senators into an up-or-down vote on the Green New Deal, Sunrise campaigners declared that—with urgent organizing and mobilization nationwide—they can build enough support for the resolution to “turn the tables on Mitch and create a political earthquake.”

      “This is a shameless political ploy by Mitch McConnell to try to slow our momentum. He and his fossil fuel billionaire donors have no plan to stop climate change. They are calling this vote because they know this resolution is a powerful organizing tool, and they want to take it away,” Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash wrote in an email to supporters. “For the past two days, our organizing team has been charting out an ambitious plan to use this vote to put the Green New Deal in the national spotlight, and pressure all senators to back the resolution.”

    • World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal

      Free associate on “Donald J. Trump.” All sorts of words come immediately to mind. There is one for almost every letter in the alphabet: “asshole,” “bastard,” “conman,” “dick”…. and so on. For some, the words crowd each other out: “Islamophobe,” “imbecile,” “moron,” “motherfucker.”

      “World historical figure” probably won’t come up, however. It should.

      The reason is not just Trump’s nihilism. It is true that he has done and continues to do grave perhaps irreparable harm to nearly everything good and worth preserving in these United States. It is also true that as a confirmed kakistocrat, he has turned the American government over to the worst, the least able, and the least qualified among us.

      Thus, he has profoundly changed American and world history for the worse. But this is not why “world historical figure” should come to mind. The reason for that is his role in something abhorrent to him, something he never intended: bringing on a Green New Deal.

      There is no Green New Deal yet, of course – what could, and likely will, make it happen has just barely come to pass, and with all the obstacles in the way, it is possible that the process will stall out before the idea can be made real. But, at the very least, the idea is now out there in the mainstream. The importance of even just that is hard to overestimate.

      Were the Green New Deal idea to take root and grow, it would be the most welcome, perhaps the only welcome, development in American politics in at least the last eight decades.

      The Democratic Party establishment will do its best to keep that from happening – by cooptation, intimidation, or any other means its paymasters and party hacks deem necessary. The even more odious duopoly party will join them in that effort. But they will be working in defiance of history’s trajectory. Even in short time horizons, that isn’t easy to pull off.

      By calling Trump a possible world historical figure, I am, of course invoking, I hope not too facetiously or in too much of an oversimplified way, the great German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s (1770-1831) philosophy of history.

      Transitions from grand theory to lived political experience are always perilous and, if Hegel is right, inevitably premature.

    • The Kids Might Save Us

      I became involved in climate advocacy when I realized how dramatically my son’s life would be affected by climate change if we don’t do anything.

      He was three years old when I started to imagine what his world would be like when he graduates from school, when he gets his first job, when he wants to start a family, and when he’s ready to retire. In different ways, the impacts of climate change will affect all of these moments.

      Climate change will disproportionately affect my kid’s generation, and all future generations. And that terrifies me.

      I want my little boy to inherit a beautiful, healthy world — not just to grow up in, but also to grow old in. There are a lot of other issues I care about, but if we don’t address climate change, and soon, the rest won’t matter.

      At first I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do with my outrage and my worries. But I was lucky enough to meet like-minded individuals who were already fighting for a healthy planet and a hopeful future for humanity. Together we founded a local climate advocacy group and organized our first annual climate rally in Northern Virginia.

    • What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details

      Now that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Senator Markey have introduced their nonbinding Green New Deal resolution, the right-wing snowflakes are melting down while respectable centrists are calling the idea “crazy”. On one side, global political and economic elites are doing almost nothing to stop climate change from running out of control, and on the other side AOC and company are proposing a solution whose size and scale are up to the task. Which side is the crazy one?

      Ross Douhat complains that the Green New Deal is a plan to implement much of the Left’s boldest ideas. Exactly. The economy is not working for most people, the result being the rise of a troubling right-wing form of populism heavily tinged with racism. In order to avert these unhealthy trends, while engendering enough public support to do something about climate change, there needs to be something in it for just about everybody. Climate change will only be adequately addressed when it is wrapped in a wider set of policies designed to help most Americans and ensuring that the transition doesn’t disproportionately penalize workers in targeted industries and their communities.

      AOC and Markey’s nonbinding resolution lays out a wide list of aspirational goals that need to be implemented if we are going to prevent the worst of global warming, while at the same time endeavoring to improve the lives of the vast majority of our citizens. The details will apparently be filled in during the coming months. I have been researching and writing about just such an agenda for over 10 years, so I’d like to kick off the search for concrete Green New Deal programs that could fulfill the requirements laid out in the resolution. The idea of a Green New Deal will encounter many setbacks, frustrations, pushback and ridicule, so it needs as much intellectual support as possible.

    • Pro-Pipeline Front Group’s Propaganda Push is GAINing Steam

      Although pipelines have been facing a number of setbacks recently, pro-pipeline groups aren’t giving up. One of those is Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN), which came to our attention because it’s recently begun sponsoring the Washington Examiner’s daily energy newsletter.

      GAIN’s website simply describes the group as supporting strengthening infrastructure development and only mentions pipelines as one aspect of its focus, which also includes bridges, roads, etc. But the group’s blog, Twitter, and coverage in the media are pretty exclusively dedicated to pro-pipeline messaging. Hmmm, almost like it isn’t an all-around infrastructure group, and perhaps may have some ulterior motive…

      Which, of course, it does. GAIN was formerly known as the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), which Steve Horn at DeSmog reported was acting as a front group for DCI. You may remember DCI as the PR firm tied to the GOP: it’s got experience in creating front groups on behalf of Big Tobacco, it’s known for its role spearheading the modern Tea Party movement, and it’s also worked to discredit Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

    • Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World

      We are living amongst the largest generation of young people in history; young people who are better educated, better informed and more widely connected than ever before. Around 42% of the world’s population is under 25 years of age, 25% are under 15 – that’s 1.8 billion. The largest group is in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the median age is only 19, compared to 38 in America, and an aging 45 in Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe.

      This huge army of young people is cause for great optimism; they are more politically and socially engaged and certainly more environmentally aware than previous generations, are less conditioned by ideologies, and despite the widespread notion that anyone under 35 is self-obsessed and uncaring, in many cases they are the ones leading the global charge for change. They abhor dishonesty, don’t trust politicians and rightly believe that unity and tolerance of others are essential to right relationships and social harmony.

      Many feel frustrated at the state of the world they have been born into, are angry with inept politicians and unaccountable international institutions, and enraged at the environmental vandalism that is taking place throughout the world. Anger and disillusionment has led to committed engagement among large numbers of young people throughout the world; they swell the ranks of the global protest movement forming the vanguard at demonstrations for action on climate change, demanding social justice and freedom, rational changes in US gun law and an end to austerity and economic injustice.

    • Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy

      It’s easy for small news items to get lost amid the noise of the news cycle. Two stories I recently came across that piqued my interest have gotten almost no major media attention save for one or two easily missed articles.

      The first is an analysis by Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer and executive in the energy industry. His piece The World’s Most Productive Oil Field (Jan. 3, 2019) provides a compelling argument that, contrary to popular wisdom and general consensus, the Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia will not be the world’s most productive oil field for long. Instead, Rapier believes that the Permian Basin in West Texas, which is currently experiencing a boom due to shale deposits now being exploited by fracking, is likely to take over the world’s top spot.

      It’s hard to argue with Rapier’s logic. After plateauing in the mid-1970s, the Permian Basin (PB) has exploded with the introduction of fracking. In 2010, PB finally exceeded one million barrels per day (BPD), which is roughly half of the two million BPD level of the 1970s. For many, this was an unexpected development as conventional wisdom had been that the Texas oil boom was merely a chapter in history, part of a bygone era of wild west oil speculation.

    • 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Cheers ‘Beginning of Great Changes’ as Climate Strike Goes Global

      The world may be edging toward “environmental breakdown”—but 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sees signs for hope.

      Pointing to global walkouts planned for March 15, Thunberg—whose “school strikes for climate” helped galvanized similar actions worldwide—said, “I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful.”

      “I think enough people have realized just how absurd the situation is,” she told the Guardian. “We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it.”

      In a sign of that realization, thousands of students from dozens of communities across the United Kingdom skipped class on Friday to join the ranks taking part in the weekly climate actions.

    • ‘Our Generation Will Suffer’: Tens of Thousands of Students From 60+ UK Communities Join Climate Strike

      Speaking to Sky News in London’s Parliament Square on Friday, 12-year-old Theo said he is striking “because there are people in that building over there, going in week in and week out, and completely declining the fact that our world is dying out.”

      Theo added that he thinks U.K. legislators, who are failing to take necessary steps to address the crisis, “are completely obsessed…with money” and “are completely disregarding…the world.”

      Pointing to rising temperatures and visible changes in the global climate, Theo’s 11-year-old friend said he joined the strike because “it’s sort of scary to think about that when I’m older there might not be a North Pole or maybe no rainforest or anything.”

      [...]

      “While we’re failing to deliver the changes young people need, we can hardly blame them for taking action themselves. Education has today been flipped on its head. The young are teaching the old, and we should pay attention,” Greenpeace U.K. executive director John Sauven said in a statement to the Guardian.

      “Young people know that their lives are going to be changed dramatically by the impacts of climate change. The risks that older people hope they might dodge are the problems the young will inherit,” Sauven added. “And the longer the young wait for action to be taken, the harder it will be for them in future.”

      Jake Woodier, a member of the U.K. Youth Climate Coalition, noted that “youth voices are too often left out of the discussion when it comes to climate change.” As he told the Times, “Our current trajectory is completely incompatible with a clean, safe environment not only for ourselves, but future generations as well.”

    • The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer

      This week in Olympia, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 5671 to ban nontribal gillnetting in Washington state. The legislation would eliminate 445 small fishing businesses in rural and coastal areas.

      Despite the treacherous snow conditions throughout western Washington, commercial fishermen and tribal representatives packed the chamber and an overflow room, driving through the slush from far-flung places like Wahkiakum, Skamania, Ilwaco, Astoria, the San Juan Islands, Willapa and Bellingham. Also present was a sprinkling of red-hatted CCA sport fishers, hoping to drive a stake through the heart of the commercial fishing industry.

      As we line up outside the hearing room, I overhear one of the security detail refer to the fishing crowd in raingear, “These look like rough customers.” They maintain a close watch on us during the hearing.

  • Finance

    • Electricity does not change poor lives as much as was thought

      If electricity and light truly transformed people’s lives, it might make sense to offer large subsidies for solar systems and grid connections or even to give them away. It might bring benefits that people could not have imagined. Or they might know about the benefits but be unable to afford the upfront cost. But there is little evidence of this. Another study by Mr Grimm and his colleagues found that Rwandans who were given solar lamps responded by lighting their households more brightly, for more hours each day. They burned less kerosene, and their children studied a little more, especially at night. But the adults’ working lives changed hardly at all. Solar lamps appear not to rescue people from poverty.

      Nor even does a grid connection. A detailed study of rural Tanzania, where America’s Millennium Challenge Corporation built power lines and subsidised connections, found little effect on adults’ welfare. Offering cheap connections cut the proportion of people living on less than $2 a day from 93% to 90%—hardly a transformation. Children’s lives changed, but perhaps not in a good way. Those who were connected went from watching almost no television to one and a half hours a day, and did even less housework than before.

    • BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize

      In their mission statement, BuzzFeed News Union’s organizers said they want an agreement that “requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable severance amid layoffs, a competitive 401(k), rights to our creative works, and affordable health insurance.”

      It also calls on BuzzFeed News’ management to address pay gaps and give employees on contract, or “permalancers, who are paid through a third party but are functionally members of our team,” the same treatment as other staff.

    • Activision-Blizzard lays off 775 people after “record results in 2018”

      The layoffs, which will mostly be in non-game-development areas like publishing, will impact Activision, Blizzard, and King. In one case, an entire studio of 78 people was shut down—Seattle-based mobile game studio Z2Live. This is in spite of Kotick saying that the company achieved “record results in 2018.” Activision made a statement about exceeding its expectations, but other market-watchers clearly had higher numbers in mind.

    • Activision Blizzard axes 800 jobs despite record growth

      The company CEO Bobby Kotick announced the decision on an earnings call overnight in which he described “record results” for 2018. Analysts suggest that although the official line is that the group exceeded expectations, the reality is that it had hoped for more.

    • ‘Anything Is Possible,’ Declares Ocasio-Cortez After Defeat of ‘Amazon’s Corporate Greed’ in New York

      Months of tireless organizing, campaigning, and mobilization by ordinary New Yorkers was credited with Amazon’s decision on Thursday to cancel its widely condemned plan to locate a second headquarters site in Long Island City, New York.

      “Anything is possible,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the fiercest publicly-elected officials opposed to the deal. “Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cheers after Amazon scraps planned New York campus: “Anything is possible”

      Amazon announced it has scrapped its plans to build a second headquarters in New York, casting blame on “a number of state and local politicians” who “have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward.”

      The nearly $3 billion in government incentives offered to the retail juggernaut by Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, came under intense scrutiny from progressive activists and politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose constituents reside in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, where Amazon had scoped out its campus. The freshman congresswoman said Amazon’s withdrawal was proof that “anything is possible.”

      “Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted following the announcement, referring to CEO Jeff Bezos.

    • Not Welcome: ‘Petulant Child’ Amazon Cancels New York HQ Plans

      More than 200 cities across the U.S. fought for the prize of being Amazon’s second headquarters. As Erin Durkin wrote in The Guardian, the courting process included promises of “lavishing tax breaks and other goodies for the chance to host the tech giant’s HQ2.”

      In the end, the company split its affections between two winners, New York City and Arlington, Virginia.

      On Thursday, however, amid fierce opposition from local advocacy groups and politicians, one of whom called the promised $3 billion in tax breaks “obscene,” Amazon announced it canceled plans to build a 4-million-square-foot corporate campus on the Queens, New York, waterfront, The New York Times reported.

    • The Decline of the Left in Latin America

      Following the election of Hugo Chavez to the Venezuelan presidency, and the Cochabamba water wars, Latin American politics were radicalised and their governments populated with former activists and trade union leaders. In this book, renowned Latin Americanist Mike Gonzalez explores the course of the Left in Latin American politics.

      In the last few years, Latin America’s Left have suffered many setbacks and reactionary challenges, which has led many to wonder if the ‘Pink Tide’ is on the wane. Gonzalez argues that whilst left-wing developments have been widely celebrated, less has been written to address the problems that have arisen. Through examination of the successes and failings of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela, Gonzalez is able to identify weaknesses and strengths and suggest possible future pathways for the Left in nations across Latin America.

      Providing a critical but sympathetic analysis of the records of the left governments across the continent, Gonzalez offers a refreshing reflection on the prospects and future of Latin American politics, asking whether Chavez’s vision of twenty-first century socialism may ever be realised.

    • Following Three-Day Strike, Denver Teachers Score Latest Victory in Nationwide #RedForEd Movement

      After staging the country’s ninth major teachers’ strike in the past 12 months, teachers on Thursday scored the latest victory for their students, communities, and profession as they reached a tentative deal with the school district that they say will help combat the city’s teacher turnover crisis.

      The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) this week went on strike for three days, calling for changes to their compensation system which they say has been driving teachers away from the city as wages stagnate and housing grows more expensive.

      After an all-night bargaining session, the DCTA and Denver Public Schools announced that they had reached an agreement that would send teachers back to their classrooms as early as Thursday afternoon.

    • American investment manager detained in Moscow on multi-million-dollar fraud charges

      Here’s what we know so far about the criminal case against one of Russia’s biggest foreign investors, U.S. citizen Michael Calvey

      This Thursday, Russian police detained Michael Calvey, the U.S. founder of the private equity group Baring Vostok, on fraud charges. On Friday, February 15, prosecutors told a Moscow district court that Calvey and five other suspects stole 2.5 billion rubles ($37.5 million). If convicted, the men could face up to 10 years in prison.

    • Here’s what we know so far about the criminal case against one of Russia’s biggest foreign investors, U.S. citizen Michael Calvey

      This week, police in Moscow detained Michael Calvey, the U.S. founder of the private equity group Baring Vostok. The other suspects in the case are Baring Vostok partners Vagan Abgaryan and French citizen Philippe Delpal, investment director Ivan Zyuzin, First Collection Bureau CEO Maxim Vladimirov, and Alexey Kordichev, an adviser to Norvik Banka’s board chairman.

    • Of Stress and Inequality

      Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being” is a follow-up to their 2009 best-seller “The Spirit Level.” That book reviewed several hundred studies expounding on their book’s subtitle: “Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger,” and came to the breakthrough finding that “inequality affects the vast majority of the population, not only the poor minority.”

      The data also supported their contention that closing the wealth gap between the highest- and lowest-income citizens reduced the cost and impact of health and social problems, such as violence and drug abuse, for an entire society. They update this previous research to demonstrate ever more strongly that the United States is not “the land of opportunity,” but one of the world’s most unequal societies, offering less upward mobility than most other economically developed democracies.

    • CBS’s Horror Stories on National Debt Aren’t Actually All That Scary

      The first three countries are all in the euro zone. They do not have their own currency, but rather must adhere to rules set by the European Central Bank and the European Commission. Their situation is comparable to that of a state in the United States. No one disputes that it would be a big problem for Utah or California to run up very large debts.

      Japan is the country most comparable, but the textbooks CBS refers to seem not to be very reliable. According to the IMF, Japan’s per capita GDP has increased by an average rate of 0.9 percent annually between 1990 and 2018; while this is somewhat less than the 1.5 percent rate in the United States, it is hardly a disaster. In addition, average hours per worker fell 15.8 percent in Japan over this period, compared to a decline of just 2.9 percent in the United States.

      In spite of having a debt to GDP ratio that is more than twice as large as the US, Japan does not provide evidence to support the warnings CBS gives about large deficits. Its long-term interest rates are near zero, meaning the debt is not crowding out investment. Its interest payments on its debt are roughly 0.5 percent of GDP ($100 billion in the United States), indicating that they are not crowding out other spending priorities. And its inflation rate is just over 1.0 percent, indicating that profligate spending has not led to a problem with inflation.

    • Bezos Confronts Pecker, But Is Still a Greedy Di*k

      Jeff Bezos deserves props for standing up to blackmail by The National Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker, who threatened to print sexually explicit pictures and texts of the Amazon founder if he refused to issue a false statement that The Enquirer doesn’t have a pro-Trump political agenda.

      And Bezos also deserves props for buying The Washington Post and apparently keeping his hands off the editorial content, so far. In a changing media economy, there are a dwindling number of outlets like the Post which can afford the resources needed for the kind of in-depth local, national, and international news coverage that maintains an informed electorate a democracy needs.

      It does take some courage for Bezos to stand up to The National Enquirer’s threats, even if he is the richest man in the world. So unlike ordinary mortals, there’s not much The Enquirer can do to actually hurt Bezos, except cause temporary embarrassment. Bezos can afford to expend unlimited resources to defend himself and counterattack.

      To fight The Enquirer, Bezos has hired one of Hollywood’s toughest litigators, Marty Singer, who charges close to $1000 an hour. His clients have included Arnold Schwartzegger, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Bill Cosby, and Sharon Stone. For his private investigator and security consultant, Bezos hired Gavin de Becker, who services an equally rich, powerful, and famous clientele.

    • Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species

      In the wake of discussions regarding the progressive proposals of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) in news and social media and among billionaires at January 2019 Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland several people have asked my opinion on whether AOC’s life was in danger. Her proposals include tuition-free public college and trade school, abolishing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), ending privatization of private prisons, Medicare-for-all, and 70% tax on income beyond $10 million.

      AOC’s 70% tax idea has support of many people, including economist/New York Times’ columnist Paul Krugman, who’s not very liberal on important issues and is not against status quo.)

      AOC is one of the many fresh faces in the United States Congress who, like some of her new Democratic colleagues, is outspoken and critical of policies conducive to the wealthy class but extremely harmful to the general population. These policies have been enforced by Democrats and Republicans alike for a long time; of course, in the name of “people.”

    • Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism

      The Big Idea of the Green New Deal, suddenly widely supported among Democrats, is to take ideas raised by self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election–single-payer healthcare, free college tuition, taxing the rich, breaking up big banks–and fold them into a massive government financing program to create jobs for everyone by mandating a rapid and full transition to a renewable, clean, energy-efficient economy.

      Conservatives are either apoplectic (out of fear that it might succeed) or scornfully dismissive (out of bravado that its absurdity will be evident to voters). Either way, they paint it as a return to socialism, a collective vision of social, economic, and environmental justice they think represents the failed policies of the past.

      Let’s review what we know about socialism. It was a movement which came of age in the nineteenth century in response to the exploitation of workers by capitalists in an era of rapid industrialization. It promoted the organization of labor unions and political parties to achieve basic rights for workers (no child labor, an eight hour day, decent wages, pensions, etc.).

    • Amazon’s Decision To Pull Out of NYC Is a Massive Blow To Corporate Welfare

      Amazon announced Thursday the company has canceled its bid to acquire nearly $3 billion in public dollars to locate a facility in New York City—the most substantial setback for corporate welfare in recent memory.

      Significantly, Amazon states in its announcement of the decision that it will continue to expand its workforce in the New York City area, up from the 5,000 workers the company already employs in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. In other words, Amazon still plans to maintain a headquarters-sized presence in New York, the nation’s financial and economic hub. It just couldn’t win the political battle to obtain billions of dollars in subsidies from it.

      As In These Times reported, last week Amazon turned to the Washington Post, owned by its CEO Jeff Bezos, to float that it was reconsidering the proposed HQ2 headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, estimated to house 25,000 employees. This move was seen by many as a veiled threat to pack up and abandon New York if politicians didn’t turn over billions of dollars in tribute.

      But opponents in New York’s city council and the state legislature refused to buckle to Amazon’s demands. They doubted the necessity of handing over taxpayer cash to the world’s most valuable company, at a time when New York has struggled to fund public transit and affordable housing. Furthermore, they feared a worsening of congestion, gentrification and displacement in Long Island City.

    • Amazon Won’t Pay a Dime in Federal Taxes This Year

      Amazon won’t pay a dime in federal taxes this year—just as it didn’t pay a dime in federal taxes in 2017.

      According to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which examined Amazon’s public filings, the online retailer reported a $129 federal income tax rebate for 2018—good for a tax rate of negative 1 percent, or 22 percent below the federal corporate income tax rate. As of last September, Amazon was valued at over $1 trillion.

      “When Congress in 2017 enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and substantially cut the statutory corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, proponents claimed the rate cut would incentivize better corporate citizenship,” the report reads. “However, the tax law failed to broaden the tax base or close a slew of tax loopholes that allow profitable companies to routinely avoid paying federal and state income taxes on almost half of their profits.”

      So what exactly does Amazon contribute? HuffPo’s Antonia Blumberg reveals that the multinational paid a total of $412 million in federal, state, local and foreign taxes in 2017; two years prior, it paid $273 million. Blumberg also notes that Amazon has effectively avoided sales taxes by passing them off to the consumer in all 45 states where they exist, along with Washington, D.C.

    • Could This Be the Humane Housing Policy We’ve Been Waiting For?

      For decades, U.S. housing policy has neglected homeless people with substance abuse disorders by relying on a treatment-first “linear model” barring them from subsidized or government-supported housing. But a new plan is showing promising results in servicing this overlooked community, and it already has the backing of both Democrats and Republicans.

      The Housing First model is radically straightforward: provide homes to the homeless. Unlike other approaches to ending homelessness, the model neither predicates itself on sobriety nor on the completion of services or programs—a sharp departure from the linear model, which requires individuals to complete treatment for substance abuse before granting eligibility for permanent housing.

      Housing First has garnered attention from federal officials since 2014, but many have been surprised that Ben Carson, the conservative secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has upheld its standards under the Trump administration. HUD’s Housing First requirements ensure that homeless assistance service providers comply before receiving a portion of the record-breaking $2 billion in federal funding allotted to such programs earlier this month.

      Perhaps unsurprisingly, the homeless population is disproportionately affected by drug abuse. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.7 percent of Americans age 12 and older met the criteria for illicit drug use disorder, and 10.6 percent of survey participants reported drug use within the past 30 days. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports even higher rates of drug abuse—26 percent—among homeless individuals. Yet another study, from the American Public Health Association, finds that as much as two-thirds of the homeless population have a lifetime history of alcohol and drug abuse.

    • On Valentine’s Day, An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance With New York

      Stuart Appelbaum of the retail union, who participated in what turned out to be the final meeting between Amazon and lawmakers, said the company had refused to compromise even on a demand that it not actively work against the unionization of its New York workers, and rumor has it they didn’t like activists talking about exploitation in their warehouses and their workplaces out of state.

      In the #MeToo era, intimacy requires informed consent. So, too, development. City residents didn’t fancy an arranged marriage. The Amazon deal required answers to some basic questions: who will get what for what kind of compensation, and how do city taxpayers know they won’t be left high and dry when the fun is over, the profits are gone, and it’s time to clean up the mess?

      Cities these days are getting smarter about their options. As viewers of my show saw when I visited with residents this January, Long Island City is not short of potential. What would development look like if the place and its people were courted with as much care and attention as a visiting corporate suitor? An investment of $3 billion—the estimated value of the subsidies offered to Amazon—could go a long way invested locally.

      Amazon may be jilted, but it’s not going anywhere. It can’t afford to. Even the company itself is saying it will still grow in New York. Lady Liberty’s a hot date. She’s found her voice, and she’s getting to know her worth. Good for her.

    • New York HQ Fiasco and $0 in Federal Taxes, Say Critics, Confirm Amazon’s Status as Deadbeat Corporation

      A day after Amazon announced it was canceling plans to establish a new headquarters in New York City, critics pointed to a new report on the company’s federal taxes for 2018 as more evidence that its exit was no loss for New York.

      The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) on Friday released data showing that despite making more than $11 billion in profits in 2018, Amazon paid zero dollars in federal corporate taxes for the second year in a row. The company contributed nothing to public coffers thanks to President Donald Trump’s tax plan that was passed into law in 2017 as well as tax credits for executive stock options.

      The news follows Amazon’s announcement that it was backing out of a deal in which New York State was to give the company nearly $3 billion in tax incentives if it went ahead with building a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio had offered the incentives during Amazon’s 14-month nationwide search for a new home—denounced as a “race to the bottom” by critics.

      American cities were pitted against each other to see which government would offer the company—run by the world’s richest man—the biggest savings.

      As Good Jobs First director Greg LeRoy said Thursday, the competition exposed corporate tax incentives to the larger public as an exercise in out-of-control corporate greed aided by politicians.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The courts will likely let Trump declare an ‘emergency,’ even if it’s made up
    • How YouTube Drives Shane Dawson and Other Creators to Conspiracy Theories

      Many YouTubers, including Dawson, have realized that fringe content—like conspiracy theories and far right political beliefs—are successful on the site. Because they are rewarded with engagement and views, YouTubers are incentivized to create videos that edge further and further to the extreme. This phenomenon doesn’t have an easy fix because it’s built into the structure and model of YouTube as a platform.

      Becca Lewis, a political subculture researcher for [Internet] research group Data & Society, told Motherboard that across the platform, there are incentives for YouTubers to create more extreme content.

    • ‘Constitutionally Illegitimate’: McConnell Confirms Trump Will Declare National Emergency to Build Wall

      McConnell said that he would support the bill that was negotiated with Democratic leaders—which will provide $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences in Southern Texas and boost the budget of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by over $500 million—as well as the the emergency declaration.

    • Senate OKs Border Deal; Trump Will Sign but Declare Emergency

      The Senate resoundingly approved a border security compromise Thursday that ignores most of President Donald Trump’s demands for building a wall with Mexico but would prevent a new government shutdown. The White House said Trump would sign it but then declare a national emergency and perhaps invoke other executive powers to try to shift money to wall-building from elsewhere in the federal budget.

      Congress’ Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House and Chuck Schumer in the Senate, quickly branded such a presidential declaration “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall.”

      House passage and Trump’s signature were assured for the basic spending bill compromise, which for now would stamp a bipartisan coda on a nasty melee that’s dominated the initial months of power sharing in Washington.

    • National Emergencies: Constitutional and Statutory Restrictions on Presidential Powers

      When a president threatens to exercise the power to declare a national emergency, our system of checks and balances faces a crucial test. With President Trump threatening such a declaration in order to build his proposed physical border wall, that test could be an important one that could quickly implicate your right to privacy and a transparent government.

      Like the Constitution, statutory powers do not justify a presidential declaration of emergency powers to build a proposed border wall.

      EFF has long tangled with governmental actions rooted in presidential power. From mass telephone records collection to tapping the Internet backbone, and from Internet metadata collection to biometric tracking and social media monitoring, claims of national crisis have often enabled digital policies that have undermined civil liberties. Those policies quickly spread far beyond their initial justification. We have also seen presidential authorities misused to avoid the legislative process—and even used to try to intimidate courts and prevent them from doing their job to protect our rights.

      So when the President threatens to use those same emergency authorities to try paying for a border wall after Congress has refused, we watch closely. And so should you.

    • New Hampshire Is Trying to Stop College Students From Registering to Vote

      Voting is my right. I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to exercise it.
      Growing up, my parents taught me that voting is not only a right, but a privilege. They voted in every local, midterm, and presidential election, and every time they did so they were sure to show me their “I voted” sticker.

      As I grew older, they discussed propositions or candidates with me, asking me what I thought and even providing me with sample ballots. My dad and I would talk about why our opinions were the same or different, and what information we were basing those votes on. When 2016 rolled around, I still wasn’t old enough to vote – but I knew I would be going to college in the fall and could register to vote in the state that would be my home for the next four years.

      I soon decided that would be New Hampshire. One of my first orders of business upon enrolling at Dartmouth College was to register to vote in my new state, a process which required my student and home state IDs – simple enough.

      The first ballot I ever cast was the 2018 primary. Walking out of the voting booth, I was filled with both excitement and gratitude. It was incredibly satisfying to finally cast my vote.

    • Volunteers sifted through tens of thousands of hours of footage to spot election fraud near Moscow. Here’s what they found.

      In the months since Russia’s nationwide gubernatorial elections on September 9, 2018, Moscow Oblast has emerged as one of the regions with the most widespread record of election fraud. As early as December, news emerged of massive “carousels,” or systems by which voters circulate among precincts and vote multiple times in each, in the city of Balashikha on Moscow’s outskirts. Carousels require the cooperation of election officials, and the violations in Balashikha led to multiple investigations and resignations. To find the “carousel riders,” election observers used recordings from surveillance cameras posted in voting sites. Here, Meduza reports on what might be an even more notable instance of mass corruption near Moscow on Election Day. Observers in the city of Roshal told Meduza that official turnout figures there far exceeded the turnout they observed on camera not just in one but in all eight of the city’s precincts.

    • Contrary Creatures

      As a preschooler I liked some stories about Dr. Dolittle, who could speak with animals, and especially his pushmi-pullyu, a “gazelle/unicorn cross” with two heads, one at each end, pulling in opposite directions. And that resembles Germany’s current politics.

      Take the multi-lane Autobahn network. On much of it there is no speed limit. Those with Porsches, Mercedes or their Italian rivals can, if they wish, tool along at 120 mph or more. The ecology folk now demand a limit, perhaps 70 or 80. Masses of indignant speed demons, even with slower Opels, shout angrily, “They want to curb our freedom!” It’s not hard to guess who’s pulling this unicorn.

      Much larger issues are affected in the push-pull situation involving Nord Stream 2, a second Russian gas pipeline extending 760 miles through the Baltic Sea to northeast Germany. It is to brace up the energy supply while renewable energy phases out dirty lignite coal. But ecology hardly matters here; what matters are relations with Russia and the USA.

      The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, sent threatening letters to German companies, threatening: “We emphasize that companies involved in Russian energy exports are taking part in something that could prompt a significant risk of sanctions.”

    • Progressives Need to Ignore the Noise and Stay Ambitious

      The Green New Deal isn’t the only such proposal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s estate tax, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent income tax over $10 million, Rep. John B. Larson’s Social Security expansion, jobs programs from Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Ron Wyden, universal health coverage plans from every Democratic senator running for president (which is itself a sizable subset of the party’s caucus). None of these ideas will become law through this Congress because that’s just the political reality of divided government.

      So what’s the point of offering them?

      All these proposals elevate vital alternatives to the status quo, on everything from the economy to the environment to racial justice to the basic functions of our democracy. Those of us who agree with the need for changes can, and should, debate the best alternatives. But we must be careful not to let those debates diminish or shut down their urgency.

      One challenge we face is that it’s harder than it should be to recognize the urgency of the moment. Unemployment is 4 percent and, at the national level, job and wage growth appear solid.

      But it doesn’t take much to see the cracks in the veneer.

      As Kathleen Bryant and I have described, during the 35-day government shutdown, workers with middle-class jobs were seen to be living paycheck-to-paycheck. A 2017 survey by the Federal Reserve found that 4 in 10 adults would be unable to meet an unexpected expense of $400 without “selling something or borrowing money.” The scientific community is in wide agreement that the impact of global warming is already being felt in the increased volatility of temperatures and intensity of storms. Wealth concentration is close to levels last seen in the late 1920s, and need I remind you: That didn’t end well.

      The deterioration of democratic institutions should be setting off daily alarm bells, but instead, we feel like things must be working, because Congress appears to have agreed on Monday not to shut the government down on Friday (though the president had yet to agree). Talk about lowering the bar!

    • The Shutdown as Shock Doctrine

      As the dust settles from the last long government shutdown, it’s time to reflect on some fundamental truths about our political system.

      First, during the last shutdown, the government forced 420,000 of its own employees to work without pay indefinitely, while another 380,000 were furloughed. A government that cares so little about the economic security of its own employees obviously cares even less about people experiencing poverty in the wider public.

      Second, all this happened as a result of the president’s demonstrably false claims of a “crisis” of migration — and his demands to further militarize an already militarized border with a neighboring country that, the last time I checked, we aren’t at war with.

      But there’s a third set of reasons we should be outraged and worried about the shutdown. The stories that form the nucleus of this narrative have all been in the news, but the common thread that ties these stories together is not widely understood or discussed, and it should be.

      Consider this juxtaposition. During the last shutdown, the National Park Service, an agency of the Interior Department, couldn’t do its job looking after our national parks because its employees weren’t considered “essential” and were furloughed. This had some serious consequences, including permanent damage to the namesake trees in Joshua Tree National Park.

      But while parks closed, other agencies of the Department of the Interior were busy leasing oil and gas drilling rights on public lands, including in the ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The department even recalled furloughed employees to process drilling permits, which is potentially illegal.

      Meanwhile, at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), work on the US-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which deals with issues, such as toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie that affect water quality for hundreds of thousands of people, was stalled. (These blooms are a direct consequence of fertilizer runoff from our polluting food production system, exacerbated by climate change impacts, such as warmer water and heavier rains that increase runoff.)

      Decades of neoliberal ideological dominance have turned the pro-corporate, anti-regulation agenda on display here into “common sense.”

      And in North Carolina, communities devastated by Hurricane Florence — an event whose damaging impacts were amplified because of climate change — couldn’t access reconstruction funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development because of the shutdown. Remember that the people hurt most by Hurricane Florence were disproportionately Black or Native, and low-income.

    • After Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, Legal Scholar Says, Initiate Impeachment ‘Immediately’

      While Democrats are preparing to propose a joint resolution challenging President Donald Trump’s expected national emergency declaration in order to obtain funding for a border wall, one legal scholar is among those arguing the time has come to pursue a far more direct and effective method of combating the president’s lawlessness: impeachment.

      With Trump’s national emergency declaration expected Friday morning, international law professor Francis Boyle said there is no time to lose.

      “This should be initiated immediately,” said Boyle. “All you need is one brave member of the U.S. House of Representatives to meaningfully assert that body’s Power of the Purse. Trump’s indications that he will override that legislative power and the seeming acquiescence by some Democrats is illegitimate and dangerous and subverts a fundamental premise of the Constitution.

    • Trump Moves the World Closer to “Doomsday”

      In 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union adopted the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in an effort to eliminate missiles on hair-trigger alert for nuclear war due to their short flight times. It was the first time the two countries agreed to destroy nuclear weapons. That treaty outlawed nearly 2,700 ballistic or land-based cruise missiles with a range of roughly 300 to 3,000 miles.

      The Trump administration thought nothing of pulling out of the INF. On February 2, the United States suspended its obligations under the treaty, starting a dangerous chain reaction that brings us closer to nuclear war. Russia followed suit and pulled out of the treaty the next day.

      Then the three countries with the largest nuclear arsenals quickly test-launched nuclear-capable missiles. France conducted a test of its medium-range air-to-surface missile on February 4. The next day, the United States fired a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). And an hour and a half later, Russia launched an RS-24 Yars ICBM.

    • Former Trump Officials Are Openly Flouting Rules Against Lobbying

      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.”

    • Here’s the 3-Part Rapid Response Plan to Defeat Trump’s “Full-Fledged Attack on Democracy”

      President Donald Trump has officially declared a national emergency to construct his “racist” border wall, and progressive groups have a plan to fight back.

      After Trump on Friday issued the emergency declaration in a rambling and lie-filled speech on the White House lawn, grassroots progressive organizations announced nationwide protests and a massive pressure campaign urging Congress to block the president’s “anti-democratic power grab.”

    • Is Trump’s National Emergency a Step Toward Fascism?

      President Trump has now declared a national emergency to fund his long-sought border wall. It is no surprise that when a fascistic president like Trump starts throwing around the idea of a national emergency, media outlets like Esquire start asking whether “it might be time to start fireproofing the Reichstag,” a clear allusion to Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933. But is the comparison justified? Is Trump’s declaration of a national emergency a threat to American democracy?

      The short answer is: National emergencies are normal … until they’re not. The United States has been in a state of nearly continual national emergency since the passage of the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Trump’s national emergency would be the 32nd national emergency currently in effect. Others include selective embargoes on Syria, Libya, and South Sudan and opposition to the “Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Congress can override a president’s national emergency, but only with a two-thirds majority vote.

      More broadly, parliamentary governments typically enact emergency provisions that limit civil liberties and enable the centralization of authority in order to protect themselves from social upheaval, natural disasters, and other unforeseen calamities. A political interpretation of such measures was coined “militant democracy” by the political theorist Karl Loewenstein in 1935.

    • Immigrant Activists: Democrats Are Capitulating to Trump by Approving Border, DHS Funding

      President Trump is expected to declare a national emergency today to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border despite opposition from Congress, after he signs the latest spending bill, which includes nearly $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of new border barriers out of steel, far less than the $5.7 billion he requested. Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib issued a statement that they voted against the bill because it gives more funding to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “That is the right thing to do. We’ve been pushing for Democrats to do the right thing, to stop playing [Trump’s] games,” says our guest Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

    • Calling It “Gross Abuse of Power,” Democrats Vow to Move Swiftly to Nullify Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

      Bypassing Congress, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday morning to access funding for “his racist and wasteful wall”—a move Democrats decried as a “gross abuse of power” and vowed to quickly nullify.

      “The only emergency facing the American people right now is the president’s intent to subvert the separation of powers and the rule of law,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement announcing his support for a joint resolution to terminate such a declaration.

      Trump made the announcement from the White House Rose Garden in a typically rambling speech in which he falsely asserted that there is a “national security crisis at our southern border” and an “invasion of drugs and criminals.” He’ll use the declaration, along with the $1.375 billion Congress agreed to Thursday, to square away roughly $8 billion for the xenophobic barrier.

      “We won’t stand for this,” responded fellow Democratic Judiciary Committee member Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), writing on Twitter, “A national emergency declaration for a non-emergency is not legal.”

    • Calling Emergency Declaration a ‘Patently Illegal Power Grab,’ ACLU Sues Trump

      President Donald Trump’s prediction that he’ll be taken to court over his national emergency declaration proved correct on Friday afternoon, with the ACLU announcing it would file one of several lawsuits against the Trump administration over the “blatantly illegal” move.

      The organization noted in a statement that the president openly admitted the national emergency declaration, which he made to obtain funding for a wall at the southern U.S. border is unnecessary—bolstering the ACLU’s case.

      “By the president’s very own admission in the Rose Garden, there is no national emergency,” said executive director Anthony Romero. “He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress, and decided to move along his promise for a border wall ‘faster.’ This is a patently illegal power grab that hurts American communities and flouts the checks and balances that are hallmarks of our democracy.”

    • Dictator Trump

      A president who claims he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency and spend government funds that Congress has explicitly refused to appropriate for the ends he seeks, is assuming the role of a dictator.
      A president who shuts down government in order to get his way on a controversial issue, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico, and offers to reopen it as a concession when and if his opponents give in, is treating the government of the United States as a bargaining chip. This, too, is the behavior of a dictator.

      As is spouting lies over what Trump terms an “undeniable crisis” at the southern U.S. border, which is in fact no crisis at all.

      Donald Trump is violating the Constitution. He is negating our system of government based on the rule of law. He is violating a president’s core responsibility to protect American democracy.

      But the threat to American democracy is not just from Trump’s dictatorial moves. And real threat to American sovereignty is not coming from Trump’s fantasized hordes seeking to cross the Mexican border.

    • ‘I Didn’t Need To Do This’: Watch That Little Moment in Bizarre Speech When Trump Admits National Emergency Is a Sham

      Amid the bizarre calvacade of lies, false assertions, exploitive tropes, and sing-song explanations of the likely legal battle to come over his national emergency declaration on Friday morning at the White House, President Donald Trump let one little thing—obvious to many—slip.

      “I didn’t need to do this,” Trump declared – a central admission in which he further explained that he just wanted his wall, which Congress has repeatedly and in a bipartisan manner refused to fund, “faster” than the legislative process will allow. A very strange thing to say about an emergency.

    • Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband

      A year ago, my husband Jorge was torn from our family and deported to Mexico after living peacefully in the United States for nearly 30 years, working and raising a family with me in suburban Detroit. Just a few weeks later, I was invited by my congresswoman to attend President Trump’s State of the Union address and listened carefully to his words as he promised to “protect” Americans from immigrants like my husband.

      In his State of the Union speech this year, Trump again ratcheted up his divisive message and fear-mongering. But his attacks on immigrants don’t make us safer, and they do nothing to help the millions of American citizens who are struggling financially.

      Let me tell you from firsthand experience here in Michigan: Immigrants don’t steal jobs. Jobs are lost when corporate executives decide to close factories and cash in while workers are laid off.

      My husband never posed a threat to anyone in his entire life. He had no criminal record, not even a parking ticket. We spent a lot of time and money on lawyers for years trying to find a way for Jorge to become a citizen. He was a good provider and good neighbor. Both America and my family were diminished the day he was taken from us.

    • Trump Declares National Emergency to Build Border Wall

      Battling with one branch of government and opening a new confrontation with another, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday to fulfill his pledge to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      Bypassing Congress, which approved far less money for his proposed wall than he had sought, Trump said he will use executive action to siphon billions of dollars from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts for the wall, aides said. The move drew immediate bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill and is expected to face rounds of legal challenges.

      Trump made the announcement from the Rose Garden, as he claimed illegal immigration was “an invasion of our country.”

      Trump’s move followed a rare show of bipartisanship when lawmakers voted Thursday to fund large swaths of the government and avoid a repeat of this winter’s debilitating five-week government shutdown. Trump’s insistence on wall funding has been a flashpoint in his negotiations with Congress for more than two years, as has the resistance of lawmakers in both parties to meeting the president’s request. West Wing aides acknowledged there was insufficient support among Republicans to sustain another shutdown fight, leading Trump to decide to test the limits of his presidential powers.

    • There Is No ‘National Emergency’ at the Border, and Trump’s Declaration Is Illegal

      President Donald Trump admits he’s making his move because he didn’t get his way with Congress, and in the process, he hurts American communities.
      After more than a month of threats, a government shutdown, and bipartisan action by Congress, President Trump has finally declared a national emergency to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on his border wall obsession. In response, the ACLU will file a lawsuit early next week challenging this blatantly illegal executive action.

      Let’s get something straight upfront: There is no emergency. Members of Congress from both parties, security experts, and Americans who live at the border have all said so. What the president is doing is yet another illegal and dangerous power grab in service of his anti-immigrant agenda.

      Trump’s declaration damages the rule of law and violates the constitutional checks and balances that protect us, the people, from a president’s abuse of power. The Constitution provides that Congress has the power to spend federal funds — our taxpayer dollars. And Congress has enacted a law that gives the president limited power to spend federal funds without a congressional appropriation when he declares a national emergency. That law lets the president spend taxpayer money on military construction when “necessary to support” the emergency use of armed forces.

    • We Have a National Emergency, All Right. Its Name Is Donald Trump.

      We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.

      The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency—to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall—is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.

      It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try.

      Let’s be clear: There is no emergency. Arrests for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border peaked in 2000, nearly two decades ago, at more than 1.5 million a year. They declined sharply under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and, in 2017, were at their lowest point since 1971. In 2018, apprehensions ticked up slightly — but still barely climbed above 400,000.

    • We Need to Defend Progressive Politicians From Right-Wing Attacks

      By “us” I mean those engaged in community organizations and grassroots campaigns, and labor and workers struggles. If we are able to sustain the growing culture of collaboration and coalition-building that has emerged in recent years, Chicago can be a model for a new “freedom city,” a place without the obscene disparities that now exist, where cops don’t shoot our kids in the street, our teachers are supported and affirmed, and our immigrant neighbors feel it is their city too. But this depends on a VOTE+ strategy. In other words, what happens the day after the upcoming election is as important as the election itself. This is true locally and nationally.

      Last weekend I had the honor and pleasure to meet newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib in a small group setting. She was the antithesis of the stodgy and seasoned politician: open, candid, vulnerable, fierce, savvy, smart and principled. She would have answered Ella Baker’s perennial question — who are your people? — in a heartbeat. Coming from a low-income, majority Black district in Detroit, the eldest of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrants, Rashida knows who her people are. For some, her election to the U.S. Congress was an anomaly, much like the election of her predecessor by more than a generation, Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968. Closely allied with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and her sister-colleagues are under attack largely because they have not conformed to what the old guard has demanded of them. In other words, they have remembered who their people are. But are we fully prepared to defend them, and defend the people they represent, who are our people too?

      [....]

      Whatever happens in Chicago’s historic municipal elections on February 26, or in the possible runoff in April, we will have a reconfigured political landscape in a major American city, which will have national significance. Even if one of the more mainstream candidates wins City Hall, they will be forced to at least lean left, or pretend to, under pressure from a growing and unrelenting Chicago movement. Even the former top cop in the city, who is one of the many mayoral hopefuls, feigns opposition to a new police academy, a project the #NoCopAcademy coalition has been organizing around. In other words, the frame of debate is changing.

    • White Nationalist Authoritarianism Is the Emergency

      On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency in a bid to spend billions of dollars not authorized by Congress to build more walls along the US-Mexico border. Trump’s declaration follows Congress’ explicit refusal to fully fund his efforts to build a border wall. Voces de la Frontera issued the following response:

    • Why We Must Stop an Unstable Trump and His Dangerous National Emergency Declaration

      The United States is a constitutional democracy, not a monarchy. If the Republican, Democratic and Independent members of the U.S. Congress are to uphold their oath of office, they must act immediately to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, the Congress can override the president’s emergency declaration. The House of Representatives is very likely to pass such a resolution; and if it does, then the Senate must take it up. With several Republican senators having stated their opposition to the emergency declaration, there is a real chance it can pass, with enough public pressure.

      There is no serious claim to be made of an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border to justify construction of a wall. Every halfhearted and palpably fabricated rationale to justify claims of emergency has been thoroughly and embarrassingly debunked: Unauthorized immigration is not surging, there is no terrorist invasion from Mexico, illegal drug traffic is channeled through legal ports of entry, not open border areas. The only crisis at the border is the buildup in Mexico of families seeking asylum in the United States – but those people are seeking legal entry into the United States, and the crisis is due to the Trump administration’s refusal to afford them humane treatment.

    • Suddenly, It’s Completely Normal for Women to Run for President

      Something new is happening in the 2020 presidential election cycle. For the first time ever, running for president is a normal thing that women do.

      In the past several election cycles, there’s been a token woman in the running in both major parties. In 2000, Senator Elizabeth Dole ran as a Republican. In 2004, Senator Carol Moseley-Braun ran as a Democrat. Neither was considered a serious candidate with an actual shot at the presidency.

      In 2008, Hillary Clinton mounted a serious bid for president but was defeated by Obama in the primaries. That year, John McCain added Sarah Palin to his ticket as his running mate. In 2012, Representative Michele Bachmann ran in the Republican primary.

      In 2016, Carly Fiorina ran as a Republican, and Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote as a Democrat, but lost the electoral college.

      In each election cycle, women have gotten increasingly closer to the Oval Office. And it appears there’s been an unspoken quota of one woman per party per election cycle.

      This time, that’s changed.

    • The VA Is Paying for a Top Official’s Cross-Country Commute

      The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $13,000 over a three-month period for a senior official’s biweekly commute to Washington from his home in California, according to expense reports obtained by ProPublica.

      The official, Darin Selnick, is a senior adviser to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and has played a key role in developing the administration’s controversial new rules on referring veterans to private doctors. The proposal, announced last month, has drawn opposition from some lawmakers and veterans groups.

    • How Scott Walker Made Wisconsin the National Poster Child for Dark Money Corruption

      Transparency in campaign spending is overwhelmingly popular with both Democrats and Republicans, because average folk know that dirty deeds go on behind closed doors.

      But the billionaires are battling back. The Koch brothers have a virtual cottage industry funding groups to advocate for “donor privacy,” and they are campaigning hard against any state or federal law that dares to suggest dark money groups should be required to report their funders.

      Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation funds propagandists like the Wall Street Journal’s opinion writer, Kim Strassel, to pen books that argue that it’s the little guy that will be hurt by dark money transparency, not the billionaires in the Koch Network who regularly pledge to spend $400 million to sway campaigns and elections. Her book “Intimidation Game” never speaks of the dirty deals that can go on behind closed doors when voters have no idea who is ladling on the cash to aid politicians. Instead, she argues, that in pushing for good campaign and ethics laws, the left is bullying and harassing the right and attempting to “silence free speech.”

    • Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast

      He avoided the Vietnam War with five deferments, said that his “ ‘personal Vietnam’ “ was “the danger he faced from getting sexually transmitted diseases,” and that he was “ ‘lucky’ “ not “to have contracted diseases when he was sleeping around . . . with multiple women.” He added, “ ‘It’s a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. . . . I feel like a great and very brave soldier.’ ” (“Draft-Dodger Trump Said Sleeping Around Was My ‘Personal Vietnam,’” By Tim Mak, www.thedailybeast.com, Feb. 2, 2016)

      At the National Prayer Breakfast, before evangelical Christian and other faith and political leaders and foreign dignitaries, he spoke out of the other side of his mouth: “We see the Lord’s grace in the service members who risk their lives for our freedom. “ Also, “Soldiers, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, airmen, and Marines have spent long months away from home defending our great American flag.” [Applause] And, “Together, as Americans, we are a tireless force for justice and for peace.” (“Remarks by President Trump at the 66thAnnual National Prayer Breakfast,” www.whitehouse.gov, Feb. 8, 2019)

      As a presidential candidate, he said “that he would kill the families of terrorists to win the war against ISIS.” Asserting that “the U.S. is being too ‘politically correct’ in its fight against ISIS,” he declared, “ ‘You have to take out their families . . . They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.’ ” (“Donald Trump on Terrorists: ‘Take out their families,’ “ By Tom LoBianco, CNN, Dec. 3, 2015) (Never mind that ISIS was formed as a reaction to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi family members former president George W. Bush killed in his illegal, falsely-based invasion of Iraq.)

    • Ralph Nader: The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS

      Recently an elderly gentleman asked me about my opinion on NPR and PBS, knowing of my vigorous support in the nineteen sixties for these alternatives to commercial radio and television stations.

      Here is my response:

      Congress created NPR and PBS to provide serious programming, without any advertisements, for the American people. Former media executive Fred Friendly and others worried that the commercial stations were not meeting the 1934 Communications Act requirement that they operate for the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”

      In 1961, before a shocked convention of broadcasters, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Newton Minow called commercial television “a vast wasteland.”

      Over the decades, NPR and PBS have produced some good programming – original features (among the best coming from Boston affiliate WGBH) and interviews. NPR has the largest radio audience in the country. David Brancaccio, the bright host of Marketplace Morning Report, has a daily listening audience of 11 million.

    • Putting Trump to Shame Without Ever Saying His Name

      “In a second I’ll tell you how little / Writing rescues,” writes Terrance Hayes in the opening poem of his most recent collection, “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin.” Written in the days after Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Hayes’ sonnets have an urgency and a potency that will leave readers’ heads spinning. And while it can be hard for this reader to be grateful for anything remotely related to Trump, I must say that if the anger he inspired erupted into poetry this powerful, I am thankful, at the very least, for Hayes’ verses.

      Using Wanda Coleman’s revision of the 14-line form commonly reserved for romance, the author slashes open the all-American wounds of racism and sexism that never quite seem to heal. The point is not to salve them or save us through verse (remember, reader, this book isn’t about rescue), but to acknowledge the violentlegacy that’s been eating our country alive since before the Constitution was even drafted.

      Every one of the 65 poems in the book is titled “American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin,” as if assassination, which has played such a prominent role in our nation’s story, is Americans’ destiny. Certainly, for the speaker in the Hayes’ poems, violence in many forms, including murder, police brutality and suicide, is a daily reality that cannot be separated from any poetry that is truly labeled “American.” How can it be otherwise in a country where gun ownership is rampant and where, in 2018, a mass shooting took place on average once a day? This quotidian American violence is an even more common occurrence in the lives of people of color, who suffer additional harm from systemic racism embedded in the legal system as well as the national psyche. In a poem that explores the ideas behind the poetic form itself, Hayes points to other uniquely American phenomena: mass incarceration and Jim Crow laws.

    • Why We in Colombia and Elsewhere Reject US Intervention in Venezuela

      Humanity is experiencing times characterized by change, instability and above all, fear. It’s experiencing a structural transition which, in the case of Latin America, is causing panic. Failing to understand that our society requires transformation, anachronistic forces currently governing us are engaged in desperate attempts to avoid the reforms our society demands thereby rendering it ever more fragile. In this regard, the apparent danger of a foreign military invasion of Venezuela would initiate an absurd war, impacting the entire region.

      Most of the Colombian people, as victims of armed conflict for more than half a century, have no desire to open a new front of bellicosity, this time against a neighboring country, and oppose the current threats of armed confrontation. They are joined by politicians, intellectuals and social activists everywhere who have also raised their voices in opposition to the possibility of a war. While it is true that the United States-sponsored Lima Group and others support Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez’ aspirations in Venezuela, we Latin Americans are not by nature interventionists and the majority would not accept a war that ultimately primarily responds to United States, rather than Venezuelan interests.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • The chilling legacy of the Rushdie affair

      When he published The Satanic Verses in 1988, at the age of 41, he regarded it as among the least political of his works. Though he was a lauded figure in literary circles, he was not a celebrity. But in the weeks following the book’s publication, Muslim protests and threats swelled in Britain (Rushie’s home country) and abroad. On 14 February 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader, saw a Pakistani protest on TV and issued an edict declaring the book to be against Islam and calling on Muslims everywhere to murder Rushdie and anyone who had assisted in the book’s publication.

    • Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler freed on bail

      Ms Ressa is a veteran Philippine journalist who was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her work holding power to account in an increasingly hostile environment.

    • Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh eyewitness accounts of the incident involving Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block

      After much careful consideration, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh has decided to release some of the eyewitness accounts of the incident involving Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson …

    • Formal Internet Censorship: Copyright blocking injunctions

      Copyright-blocking injunctions have one major advantage over every other system except for defamation. They require a legal process to take place before they are imposed. This affords some accountability and that necessity and proportionality are considered before restrictions are put in place.

      However, as currently configured, copyright injunctions leave room for problems. We are confident that court processes will be able to resolve many of these. Further advantages of a process led by legal experts are that they are likely to want to ensure that rights of all parties are respected, and appeals processes in higher courts and the application of human rights instruments can ensure that problems are dealt with over time.

      A process led by legal experts offers further advantages, including that it will be likely to ensure that rights of all parties are respected and that appeals processes in higher courts and the application of human rights instruments will ensure that problems are dealt with over time.

      Copyright blocking injunctions are usually open-ended. There is not usually an end date, so they are a perpetual legal power. The injunction is against the ISPs. Rights-holders are allowed under the standard terms of the injunctions to add new domains or IP addresses that are in use by an infringing service without further legal review. ISPs and rights-holders do not disclose what exactly is blocked.

    • EFF to State Department: Respect Freedom of Speech of Chinese Students

      EFF joined a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opposing a proposal to deploy stronger vetting procedures against Chinese students intending to study in the United States because the procedures would threaten the free speech interests of both Chinese students and their American associates.

      Reuters reported that the Trump administration is considering “checks of student phone records and scouring of personal accounts on Chinese and U.S. social media platforms for anything that might raise concerns about students’ intentions in the United States, including affiliations with government organizations.”

      In opposing the vetting proposal, we argued that “[p]rospective students may self-censor whom they talk to or what they say on social media out of fear that political discussion about China or the United States will harm their academic prospects—a result sharply at odds with our national commitment to academic freedom and free expression,” and that “monitoring the phone and social media activity of Chinese students also threatens the free speech rights of their American associates—whether family members, friends, or fellow students.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The Payoff From California’s “Data Dividend” Must Be Stronger Privacy Laws

      California Governor Gavin Newsom, in his first State of the State Address, called for a “Data Dividend” (what some are calling a “digital dividend”) from big tech. It’s not yet clear what form this dividend will take. We agree with Governor Newsom that consumers deserve more from companies that profit from their data, and we suggest that any “dividend” should take the form of stronger data privacy laws to protect the people of California from abuse by the corporations that harvest and monetize our personal information.

      [...]

      Some observers have speculated that by “Data Dividend,” Governor Newsom means payments by corporations directly to consumers in exchange for their personal information.

      We hope not. EFF strongly opposes “pay-for-privacy” schemes. Corporations should not be allowed to require a consumer to pay a premium, or waive a discount, in order to stop the corporation from vacuuming up—and profiting from—the consumer’s personal information. It is not a good deal for consumers to get a handful of dollars from companies in exchange for surveillance capitalism remaining unchecked.

      Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is guaranteed by the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court has ruled that this constitutional protection “creates a right of action against private as well as government entities.”

      Pay-for-privacy schemes undermine this fundamental right. They discourage all people from exercising their right to privacy. They also lead to unequal classes of privacy “haves” and “have-nots,” depending upon the income of the user.

      The good news is that the CCPA contains a non-discrimination rule, which forbids companies from discriminating against a consumer because the consumer exercised one of their CCPA privacy rights. For example, companies cannot deny goods, charge different prices, or provide different level of quality. The bad news is that the CCPA’s non-discrimination clause has two unclear and potentially far-reaching exceptions. This year, privacy advocates will seek to eliminate these exceptions, and some business groups will seek to expand them.

    • Can Amazon, Facebook, Google be tamed by being forced to share their data? [Ed: What about Microsoft? The company that puts back doors in everything and which turned its OS into a keylogger? ZDNet and parent company CBS paid/bribed enough to look the other way?]

      Facebook, Amazon and Google have become extremely powerful off the back of users’ data, she said, and use their control of that data to enforce monopolies that stymie startups and hurt consumers.

      On Wednesday, the SPD firmed up the idea by releasing a draft discussion paper, maintaining that “a democratic digital order needs truth and competition, and to generate wealth and distribute it equitably”.

    • Moscow police reportedly testing facial recognition glasses

      Moscow’s municipal Department of Information Technology is testing augmented reality glasses with embedded facial recognition capabilities, a source in the city government told RBC. The company Ntechlab, which is known for creating the unusually powerful facial recognition tool FindFace, is reportedly behind the project.

    • Facebook Just Can’t Stop Getting FINED!!!

      However, the FTC and the blue network are still under negotiations over the exact fine the company would have to pay, sources told The Post. Also, Facebook is expected to make some changes in its business practices.

      If Facebook fails to live up to the expectations of the regulatory body, then the matter would be dragged to court. Where, of course, the Zuckerberg-led firm would have tons of money to turn the table around.

    • More Border Surveillance Tech Could Be Worse for Human Rights Than a Wall

      President Trump wants a border wall — a symbolic monument to xenophobia and hate. But Democrats’ counterproposal could be even more dangerous for human rights.

      Rather than challenge Trump’s baseless insistence that there is a crisis or push back on the notion that immigrants are criminals who should be targeted, opponents have focused on how Trump’s plan is “medieval” or outdated. Top Democrats have repeatedly advocated for a “smart wall” or “technological wall” as an alternative to a physical barrier at the southern border. The House majority whip, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), made a case for a “technological barrier too high to climb over, too wide to go around, and too deep to burrow under.”

      These are more than just TV talking points. During the most recent round of negotiations to avert another government shutdown, Democratic lawmakers came in not just with a conciliatory offer of more than $1.3 billion for fencing, but also proposals to fund a swath of invasive surveillance technologies. Expanding these programs will simply shift migration routes to more remote terrain, leading to more unnecessary suffering, dehydration and death at the border. They also pose a grave threat to millions of citizens’ privacy and civil liberties across the nation.

    • Powerful Permissions, Wimpy Warnings: Installing a Root Certificate Should be Scary

      Last week, Facebook was caught using a sketchy market research app to gobble large amounts of sensitive user activity after instructing users to alter the root certificate store on their phones. A day after, Google pulled a similar iOS “research program” app. Both of these programs are a clear breach of user trust that we have written about extensively.

      This news also drew attention to an area both Android and iOS could improve on. Asking users to alter root certificate stores gave Facebook the ability to intercept network traffic from users’ phones even when that traffic is encrypted, making users’ otherwise secure Internet traffic and communications available to Facebook. How the devices alert users to this possibility—the “UX flow”—on both Android and iOS could be improved dramatically.

      To be clear, Android and iOS should not ban these capabilities altogether, like Apple has already done for sideloaded applications and VPNs. The ability to alter root certificate stores is valuable to researchers and power-users, and should never be locked-down for device owners. A root certificate allows researchers to analyze encrypted data that a phone’s applications are sending off to third-parties, exposing whether they’re exfiltrating credit-card numbers or health data, or peddling other usage data to advertisers. However, Facebook’s manipulation of regular users into allowing this ability for malicious reasons indicates the necessity of a clearer UX and more obvious messaging.

    • Designing Welcome Mats to Invite User Privacy

      The way we design user interfaces can have a profound impact on the privacy of a user’s data. It should be easy for users to make choices that protect their data privacy. But all too often, big tech companies instead design their products to manipulate users into surrendering their data privacy. These methods are often called “Dark Patterns.”

      When you purchase a new phone, tablet, or “smart” device, you expect to have to set it up with the needed credentials for it to be fully usable. For Android devices, you set up your Google account. For iOS devices, you set your Apple ID. For your Kindle, you set up your Amazon account.

      Privacy by default should be the goal. However, particularly worrisome practices have been paired with the on-boarding process for many different platforms that serve as an obstacle to this aspiration.

      What are “Dark Patterns”?

      Harry Brignull, a UX researcher, coined the term “Dark Patterns.” He maintains a site dedicated to documenting the different types of Dark Patterns, where he explains: “Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to.”

      The Norwegian Consumer Council (the Forbrukerrådet or NCC) builds on this critical UX concept in a recent report that criticizes “features of interface design crafted to trick users into doing things that they might not want to do, but which benefit the business in question.”

    • Facebook uses its apps to track users it thinks could threaten employees and offices

      In early 2018, a Facebook user made a public threat on the social network against one of the company’s offices in Europe.

      Facebook picked up the threat, pulled the user’s data and determined he was in the same country as the office he was targeting. The company informed the authorities about the threat and directed its security officers to be on the lookout for the user.

      “He made a veiled threat that ‘Tomorrow everyone is going to pay’ or something to that effect,” a former Facebook security employee told CNBC.

      The incident is representative of the steps Facebook takes to keep its offices, executives and employees protected, according to more than a dozen former Facebook employees who spoke with CNBC. The company mines its social network for threatening comments, and in some cases uses its products to track the location of people it believes present a credible threat.

    • Facebook Tracks Your Location If You Comment Against Mark Zuckerberg

      Facebook is a trove of an unimaginable amount of data, and by now, we are aware that the company can track us individually by using it. In a startling revelation by CNBC, it has been found that Facebook also keeps track of the location of all those users who threaten its employees and the company.

    • “Catastrophic” hack on email provider destroys almost two decades of data

      The damage, Romero reported, extended to VFEmail’s “entire infrastructure,” including mail hosts, virtual machine hosts, and a SQL server cluster. The extent of the damage, he suggested, required the hacker to have multiple passwords. “That’s the scary part.”

    • Project Raven: What Happens When U.S. Personnel Serve a Foreign Intelligence Agency?

      The Reuters report explains that Cyber Point hired a group of ex-NSA employees to work in the UAE in support of the UAE signals intelligence service, under the name of “Project Raven.” Later, the Project Raven team was transferred in some fashion from the Cyber Point contract to a contract with the UAE-based firm DarkMatter. Along the way, the Americans came to appreciate that their efforts at times did indeed include surveillance of political opponents of UAE authorities, and further that the UAE service at times targeted Americans despite assurances that this would not occur (or at least that the operations Project Raven in particular conducted or supported would not be directed at Americans). They probably should not have been surprised by any of that. But be that as it may, the story understandably has excited concern that the United States lacks a sufficient policy-and-law framework to regulate situations of this kind.

    • Ios and Android app stores both host Saudi government app that lets men track their spouses’ movements

      Notable: there is no campaign calling on Google and Apple to eliminate apps that allow parents to track their children (including teens) with an accuracy and totality once reserved for paroled prisoners. The adoption curve for oppressive technology goes: refugee, immigrant, prisoner, mental patient, children, welfare recipient, blue collar worker, white collar worker (think, for example, of video surveillance cameras). By this model, the Saudis aren’t so much guilty of a horrific program of oppressive misogyny as they are of simply being a decade or so ahead of schedule (and maybe not even that long).

    • Selling 911 location data is illegal—US carriers reportedly did it anyway

      Three of the four major wireless carriers have been accused of breaking US law by selling 911 location data to third parties.

    • Redditors are less valuable than Facebook and Twitter users

      It’s debatable if Reddit actually is a social network in the traditional sense, but either way, its latest valuation of $3bn is dwarfed by other “Web 2.0″ platforms, based on its user base.

      [...]

      eddit, which is still comparitively niche, despite offering a much more granular way to interact with likeminded people has yet to comment, but it is understood that their investors include Chinese giant Tencent, which has joined the charge for Series D, as well as venture capitalists Sequoia, Fidelity and Andressen Horowitz.

    • US Air Force Defector Allegedly Helped Iran [Crack] Americans

      In 2019, an indictment of Iranian hackers targeting American government officials barely raises an eyebrow. But in one remarkable case, those [crackers] had an unusual advantage: the alleged help of an American defector with top secret clearance.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Interview With Writer Barry Eisler On Political Thriller, ‘Killer Collective,’ And More

      If you would like to support the show and help keep us going strong, please become a subscriber on our Patreon page.
      Hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola welcome author Barry Eisler to the show. He spent three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and he has written several best-selling espionage novels. His most recent book is The Killer Collective.

      During the show, Eisler talks about developing the story for Killer Collective. He is an avid reader of independent news media and describes how news headlines and perspectives from these sources influence his work.

      Eisler previously tweeted, “I could spend all day tweeting about Putin hysteria. It’s become that omnipresent. For many liberals, there are no other frameworks for understanding reality anymore. Putin the Puppet Master has eclipsed everything else.” He talks about this framework, as well as “information laundering,” which establishment news media outlets do constantly.

    • How an indigenous, female opposition candidate became Russia’s most popular mayor

      On September 9, 2018, the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk was the only regional capital in Russia to elect an opposition mayoral candidate. Forty-eight-year-old Sardana Avksentieva defeated Alexander Savvinov of the nationally dominant United Russia party to become the first woman ever to lead the city. After taking office, Avksentieva launched a campaign to implement what she says is her “popular mandate”: cutting spending on City Hall, firing shady officials and contractors, and selling off the luxury cars registered to the mayor’s office. As a result, Avksentieva has already gained national prominence, and her popularity online even has the Kremlin’s political strategists interested. Meduza’s special correspondent Taisia Bekbulatova visited Yakutsk to learn more about Avksentieva’s surprising victory and what awaits her as the city’s mayor.

    • ICE Set Up A Fake College To Bust Immigrants For Trying To Legally Stay In The Country While They Earned Degrees

      This is ICE’s take on the arrests. What actually happened here is something bordering on entrapment.

      The students seeking to attend the fake university had expiring visas. They were allowed to stay in the US and work as long as they continued their education. As long as these students continued working towards approved degrees, they were allowed to stay in the country. A limited supply of H-1B visas means attending school or exiting the country for most of the immigrants involved.

      The government portrays this as “staying in the US without proper authorization.” But the university offered proper authorization under this immigration program. Rather than do nothing and sweep up students whose visas were expired, ICE decided to set up a bogus university as a honeypot for foreign students working against the clock to get their stays extended.

      The emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press show an ugly, calculated move by ICE to both rob immigrants of their money and their chance to stay in the United States. The agency went so far as to obtain bogus accreditation from a national accreditation agency in order to better dupe unaware immigrants.

    • Farmington Hills fake university set up by ICE to nab foreign students

      The Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university in Farmington Hills to target foreign students who wanted to stay in the U.S. without proper authorization, according to federal indictments unsealed in Detroit on Wednesday.

      Eight people were arrested and indicted in an immigration fraud case for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit, said the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider.

    • If Northam Wants to Do Better on Racism, Standing Against Confederate Monuments Is an Easy First Step

      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.”

    • FBI’s Internal Investigations Of Shootings By Agents Clears Agents 98% Of The Time

      It’s impossible to say if any of these might be one of the five incidents the FBI found problematic. The agency refused to comment on any of these shootings when questioned by NBC.

      Very little information can be obtained by those seeking to hold the FBI responsible for wounding them or killing their loved ones. Even as the FBI has tentatively encouraged other law enforcement agencies to be more proactive in releasing information about officer-involved shootings, it hasn’t applied the same level of transparency to its internal investigations. What has been released is heavily-redacted, giving readers little to work with but a few raw numbers.

      This is especially of concern to Junior Valladares, whose father was shot by an FBI agent during a hostage situation in Houston, Texas. His father was the hostage. According to the FBI, an agent poked a gun through a window to try to shoot the man holding Junior’s father hostage. The gun was grabbed by someone in the room, resulting in the agent firing two shots into the room. One of those two bullets struck and killed Ulises Valladares, who was tied up on the couch.

    • Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die

      The traditional depiction of Lady Justice is a woman wearing a blindfold to demonstrate impartiality. In her right hand she wields a sword (symbolizing swift punishment for the guilty). Her left arm holds aloft a scale to weigh the opposing sides’ cases — publicly, for all to see.

      Over time, American judges have become increasingly inclined to demand that the public itself wear the blindfold, and that the opposing parties wear gags.

      Headline, New York Times: “Supreme Court Stays Out of Secret Case That May Be Part of Mueller Probe.”

      The Court refused “to intercede in a mysterious fight over a sealed grand jury subpoena to a[n unidentified] foreign corporation issued by a federal prosecutor who may or may not be Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia affair.”

      Headline, Sacramento Bee: “California judge will keep Planned Parenthood names sealed.”

      The judge says he’ll “punish” anyone who reveals the names of the alleged victims in the prosecution of two anti-abortion activists charged with secretly taping them in conversations regarding procurement of fetal tissue.

    • Texts Show Police and Far-Right Extremist Collusion: Oregon Official

      A member of Portland’s city council said Thursday a newspaper’s report that the commander for the police rapid response team exchanged friendly text messages with a leader of far-right protests that have rocked the city confirms collusion exists between some police and right-wing extremists.

      “I am not shocked, and I am not surprised at today’s reporting of Lt. Jeff Niiya’s collaboration with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson over text to provide aid and support for their hate marches,” Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty said in a statement.

      Willamette Week obtained text messages through a public records request between Niiya and Gibson. The texts purportedly show Niiya had a friendly rapport with Gibson, frequently discussing Gibson’s plans to demonstrate.

      In one text reported by the newspaper, Niiya tells Gibson that he doesn’t see a need to arrest his assistant, Tusitala Toese, who often brawls with antifascist protesters, even if he has a warrant, unless Toese commits a new crime.

      “Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention,” Niiya texted Gibson on Dec. 9, 2017, Willamette Week reported. “If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason.”

    • U.S. Border Patrol Detained U.S. Citizens for Speaking Spanish in Montana

      Illegal arrests and seizures reflect an out-of-control agency emboldened by Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.
      For Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez, May 16, 2018, began like any other in Havre, Montana: work, school, and a trip to the gym once their kids were in bed. They stopped by Town Pump — a local convenience store — to pick up groceries. While in line, the friends were chatting in Spanish, just two people having an ordinary conversation. But the Customs and Border Protection agent standing in line behind them did not see it that way.

      He demanded to know where Ana and Mimi were born. After they said they were born in Texas and California, he forced them to turn over their driver’s licenses. He detained them by his patrol car, in full view of neighbors, for an extended period before finally letting them return to their homes and families. Ana and Mimi walked away from the interaction humiliated and afraid that they might again be stopped, detained, and interrogated at any time.

    • Border Patrol Detained Me for Speaking Spanish in Montana. Then My Town Turned Against Me.

      Customs and Border Protection violated our rights as U.S. citizens just for speaking Spanish in a grocery store.

      I moved to Havre, Montana — near the U.S.-Canada border — in 2014 with my husband and our two young children. Home to around 10,000 people, I’ve always found Havre to be a friendly town, one where I felt good about raising my kids. But that all changed last May when my friend and I were illegally targeted and detained by a Customs and Border Protection agent, just for speaking Spanish to each other in a convenience store.

      I didn’t think it was possible for one incident to change our lives, but that’s exactly what happened.

      It started in the Town Pump, a local convenience store, where my friend Mimi and I were waiting in line to pay for eggs and milk. There was a Border Patrol agent standing behind us in line, which is not uncommon since there are a lot of Border Patrol in Havre. Mimi said hello to him — it’s that kind of small town — but instead of saying hello back, he commented that she had a strong accent and asked where we were both born.

      The question didn’t feel friendly, and I was taken aback. I asked, “Are you serious?” And he responded that he was “dead serious.”

    • Amid Alarm Over National Emergency Declaration, Border Deal Denounced as ‘Betrayal of Immigrant Communities’

      “This fundamentally bad deal represents an attack on immigrant communities and their allies and a gift to Trump and his deportation force,” CREDO Action co-director Heidi Hess declared in a statement early Thursday. “It is a betrayal of immigrant communities and the Democratic Party’s progressive base.”

      The 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed the GOP-controlled Senate 82-16 on Thursday before heading to the House, where it faces a less certain fate. If the measure makes it to Trump’s desk—McConnell also confirmed on Thursday that the president is willing to sign it—the bill would provide $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing in Southern Texas and would increase Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) budget by hundreds of millions of dollars.

      Hess charged that “the failure to explicitly block ICE from continuing to reprogram funds amounts to handing this rogue agency a blank check to detain far more people than Congress has explicitly authorized.”

      José Flores, president of Voces de la Frontera, concurred, arguing that the results of the 2018 midterm elections prove that the American people oppose any legislation that “builds more border walls and increases ICE’s capacity to imprison and separate immigrant families.”

      “During this time of abuses at the border and terrifying raids throughout the country like the raid last September in Wisconsin, we need Congress to use their power of the purse to hold ICE and Customs and Border Patrol accountable for their abuses and stop Trump’s campaign of terror against immigrant communities,” he added. “This bill will cause more deaths at the border and wills separate more families in places like Wisconsin, and so we are urging our elected representatives to oppose it.”

    • National Emergency? Here Are the Real Emergencies an Outraged Nation Tells President Trump

      With President Donald Trump expected to issue a national emergency declaration as early as Friday in an attempt to subvert Congress and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president is facing potent and angry opposition from all sides—with legal action almost certain, mass public protests being planned, and renewed talk of impeachment—as critics argue that while Trump has created a fake emergency to fulfill his xenophobic campaign promise about the wall, the real emergencies are ones he created himself and others he and Republicans continue to ignore.

      “Our real national emergency is Trump & [Senate Majority Mitch] McConnell’s racist lies about Latinx & Mexican immigrants,” declared civil rights leader and anti-poverty campaigner Rev. William Barber II in a tweet late Thursday night. “It’s their denial of healthcare, racist voter suppression, & addiction to low wage jobs, ecological devastation & militarism.”

    • Trump Administration Is Illegally Forcing Asylum Seekers Out of the United States

      The administration is once again breaking the law in order to shut the door on immigrants.

      Last September, Bianca* was forced to flee Honduras because her partner’s father threatened to kill her for being a lesbian. Bianca could not go to the police in Honduras because they do not protect LGBTQ people from harm. So she left home to save her life.

      After traveling through Guatemala and Mexico, Bianca reached Tijuana, where she got in line to enter the United States through the border station and ask for asylum. After weeks of waiting, Bianca’s number finally came up on Jan. 29. Before last month, after entering the country, Bianca would have been interviewed by an asylum officer to determine if she had a potential asylum claim, and once she passed that, her case would have proceeded in immigration court.

      She would only be deported from the United States if she did not succeed in her asylum application — that is, if she could not show that her fear of persecution was well-founded.

      However, because of a new Trump administration policy, border officers sent Bianca back to Mexico without even evaluating her request for asylum. They said her immigration court process would go forward in the United States while she was in Mexico, and Bianca would have to return to the border port a few hours before each court date so that she could be brought to court and then dumped back in Mexico to await her next hearing. Unless and until she actually won her asylum case, she’d be marooned in Mexico.

    • This Valentine’s Day, Let’s Choose Love Over Borders

      “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” —Ernesto Che Guevara
      I’m spending this Valentine’s Day leading visionary fiction workshops with my sister Autumn in Northern Ireland. Inspired by Octavia’s Brood — the anthology of speculative fiction stories from social justice movements that I co-edited — the workshops focus on collective storytelling based on contemporary political and social issues.

      As I listen to the emerging stories, I hear how close conflict and heartache are to the surface here in Northern Ireland, and how aware people still are of difference in each encounter.

      I am reminded of South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, and of course, the U.S. Each of these places has had moments, led and pushed by revolutionaries, where it seemed they were evolving beyond a greed-centered society. And each one has faced the long challenges of governance, the depths of corruption, the stronghold of false supremacies, the resilience of greed and competition. In this place, within that global context, I am learning a lot about love:

      Love is boundaries, not borders. Boundaries give us room to recover from harm, to realize what we must let go of in order to move forward, to act from real agency. But boundaries are not borders — walls of stone manned by armed guards, constructed by fear, never to be crossed. Borders perpetuate a myth of separation that is not true to how resources or life flow on our planet.

    • Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate

      Growing up in a small town in New England, I never thought much about anti-Semitism. I was, however, aware of the differences that marked the Jewish presence in a town in which most residents were first and second-generation children or grandchildren of immigrants who had come from Canada, Ireland, Portugal, and from several countries in Eastern Europe. One black family lived in the town where I grew up. Most residents earned their living from textile mills, or from running shops in the business district. I never felt very uncomfortable because of the differences in background. People learned to get along with imperfection. The small Jewish community in which I grew up had seen dwindling numbers following World War II, but shopkeepers and a few professionals gave me the sense I belonged to a group that defined its own identity and was not molested in any way.

      The textile mills in town had seen labor strikes decades earlier.

      By the time I worked in public schools the sense of being different because of the strong presence of ethnocentrism was obvious. Before leaving public schools for work in community colleges, the kinds of anti-Semitism that I experienced were substantial. A neighbor with whom I had had a minor dispute said, “I’ve read your articles in the newspaper and Hitler should have killed all of the Jews.”

      I had lost an adjunct teaching position at a college for what a colleague called out as being brash enough to address women’s rights in a school founded on sectarian principles, but this was only a minor issue since I had full-time employment to fall back on.

      Despite the loss of that job, I never felt that my identity as a Jew was ever under any serious threat. I even felt confident challenging Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

      Now with Trump, all of this has changed for the worse. Anti-Semitism has escalated to levels that make putting hate into perspective impossible. A few days ago, a probable anti-Semitic incident took place at an Orthodox-Jewish school in the Catskill region of upstate New York, with fire damage and swastikas spray painted on the outside walls of a school building. Visions of Nazi Germany came to mind as they had when 11 worshipers were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018. Readers will remember that the gunman in Pennsylvania identified an immigrant aid society as one of the reasons for his attack.

    • Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism

      Mike Pence believes, with all his heart, that every single Jewish person on the planet will — and should — burn in the ovens of Hell for all eternity … unless they stop being Jews and accept his own version of the Christian faith. There is no equivocating here. Pence is a passionate evangelical Christian. He believes that the Bible is the literal word of God, and that his sect’s interpretation of that word is true, correct and everlasting. I know his type of Christianity very well, for I was raised in it. There can be no question what Mike Pence, and millions of Americans, believe about Jews and their ultimate fate.

      So let’s continue. Mike Pence not only believes that every Jew alive today will be tortured and tormented for eternity, but that every single Jew since the time of Jesus Christ is right now burning and writhing in undying flames — unless, again, they had cast off their cursed Jewishness at some point and become Christians.

      Thus Mike Pence believes that every Jewish person killed in the Holocaust — with a few exceptions (see note 2 below) — is even now, right this minute, screaming madly with unbearable pain as they feel the fire searing into their flesh: fire that never stops lashing, flesh that never burns away. Mike Pence believes that almost all of the Jews killed in the Holocaust went directly from the torment of the gas chamber or the shooting pit into the fires of Hell, where they are even now undergoing tortures and abominations far worse than the Nazis could ever inflict.

      It’s

    • Asylum Seekers Are Being Imprisoned in an Abandoned Factory in Mexico Under Trump Admin Policy

      As Trump plans to declare a national emergency, we look at what some have called the real humanitarian crisis at the border. Riot police in northern Mexico blocked hundreds of desperate Central American migrants Wednesday as they tried to escape an abandoned factory complex where they’ve been imprisoned while waiting for the U.S. to process their asylum claims. More than 1,700 migrants have been held in the maquiladora in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras since February 5, after they arrived in a caravan of people seeking asylum in the U.S. The vast majority have remained prisoners at the site, after the Trump administration adopted a “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers—processing just 15 asylum applications per day at the nearby Eagle Pass border crossing. We hear from a migrant adult and child who spoke with the Texas-based immigrant rights group RAICES, and get an update from Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

    • Jesus Christ’s Lesson for the 21st Century

      The biblical story of the good Samaritan is one that Tom Catena not only knows well, but strives to live by. A devout Catholic and Ivy League-educated doctor, Catena realized early on that he would dedicate his time on earth to helping those in need, though he couldn’t have predicted the heroic path his life would take.

      In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Catena tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer how he ended up searching for and finding meaning as well as love in an African war zone. “I went [to the Nuba Mountains] as a [medical] missionary,” he tells Scheer. “The way I look at things is, I want to go somewhere where whatever abilities I have can be used to the most effect. … This is a very remote place with nearly no health care at all.”

      Catena, the subject of Kenneth Carlson’s film, “The Heart of Nuba,” is the only doctor in a region in Sudan with a population of 750,000. There, despite facing bombings by the authoritarian government at war with rebels in the region, the American doctor works relentlessly to treat patients in a hospital he helped establish. But his ultimate goal has not been solely to practice medicine, but to train locals in the field so they will be able to care for their community when he’s gone.

      Not that Catena plans to leave any time soon. Not only does the medical missionary say he “find[s] great fulfillment in [the] work” he does there, he’s become a part of the community in a number of ways, most recently through his marriage to a local nurse. Catena has also found spiritual meaning in his work and holds that religion should always be “countercultural,” blueprints for which can be found in the lives of Jesus Christ and St. Francis of Assisi. Acknowledging that there is objectively a lot of harm that religion has done throughout history, Catena tells Scheer he also thinks religions such as Catholicism “can be used for such a great force for good,” a goal he hopes to achieve with his own missionary work.

      Listen to Catena and Scheer discuss faith and service in the face of great adversity, as well as heart-wrenching scenes the doctor has witnessed in the Nuba Mountains. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the media player.

    • What happened at the Brooklyn jail is part of a deeper human rights crisis

      Recent headlines over the plight of people imprisoned in the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn begs for a deeper look into the conditions of confinement in the U.S. prisons, jails, and juvenile and immigrant detention facilities. Although the electricity and heat are back on at the Brooklyn federal facility, the continuing and staggering neglect that led to this humanitarian crises continues – and will continue. Not only did the federal officials lie about conditions at the facility, they refuse to acknowledge the situation as part of a deeper human rights crisis.

      For the staff and volunteers at the AFSC Healing Justice and Prison Watch Programs, what happened in Brooklyn reflects the heart-rending testimonies we receive daily from prisoners and their families throughout the country. We hear about how prisons use isolation for immigrants, distribute poor-quality food made being provided by companies, lack appropriate physical and psychological medical care, and neglect the elderly and youth. The culture of cruelty from one human to another is often beyond understanding, and certainly beyond being acceptable.

      In the same week that the MDC prisoners called out of their windows to protestors and family members that they were without heat, hot water, electricity and sanitation, we received word of arsenic being found in the water of the Atlanta federal facility.

      In another letter, we received the following testimony from South Woods State Prison in New Jersey: “THIS IS A PLACE FOR INMATES THAT ARE VERY SICK AND WAITING TO DIE. They can’t get out of bed to use the bathroom and are forced to do it in the bed. Medical staff lets them lay for days in their own waste. Inmates for days don’t get showers and those that are aging in wheel chairs have no nurses to help them clean themselves. No one cares about the beating of inmates, or those laying in bed crying for help. I believe that this is because this prison is 85% white staff and the units are 90% black inmates.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Oakland Renters Deserve Quality Service and The Power To Choose Their ISP

      If you live in Oakland and have had trouble acquiring service from the ISP of your choice, EFF wants to know.

      Even in cities like Oakland where many residents ostensibly have a choice, thousands of renters are denied the power of that option.

      For years, renters have been denied access to the Internet Service Provider of their choice as a result of pay-to-play schemes. These schemes―promoted by the corporations in control of the largest Internet Service Providers―allow powerful corporations to manipulate landlords into denying their tenants the ability to choose between providers who share their values, or have plans that provide the best service meeting a customer’s needs and budget. This concern was only exacerbated when the FCC repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order. Chairman Pai and the FCC claimed that net neutrality protections were not necessary, as the free market would prevent exploitative practices by allowing customers to vote with their dollars. But with more than half the country only having one option of high-speed Internet Service Provider, this illusion of choice has never been based in reality. Even in cities like Oakland where many residents ostensibly have a choice, thousands of renters are denied the power of that option by real estate trusts and management firms that restrict access to their properties to any provider other than the one with the most enticing landlord incentives.

    • 5G Has Become The Magic Pixie Dust Of Tech Policy Conversations

      Fifth generation wireless (5G) has quickly become a sort of magical carrot on a stick in tech and telecom policy circles. Telecom lobbyists and the Ajit Pai FCC have spent the better part of the last two years trying to claim that unless we gut consumer protections like net neutrality, America will somehow fall behind in the “race” to 5G. U.S. companies have also convinced the government that if America doesn’t want to lose said race (whatever that means), we most assuredly should ban cheaper Chinese networking gear from the country (the protectionism angle of this is entirely coincidental, they’ll insist).

      More recently, Sprint and T-Mobile have been telling anybody who’ll listen that their competition and job eroding merger is the only way to ensure that America doesn’t fall behind on 5G. Despite the fact that both companies are on record clearly stating they both could have easily deployed 5G independently, that same argument popped up again this week during merger hearings on Capitol Hill.

    • Court Strikes Down FCC’s Mean-Spirited Effort to Reinforce Digital Divide

      A federal appeals court has overturned FCC chair Ajit Pai‘s attempt to gut the subsidy that makes it possible for low-income communities to access broadband. For reasons known only to themselves, the FCC’s Republican majority voted last fall to make it much harder for people, including tribal residents, to obtain a subsidy provided by a program appropriately called Lifeline.

      Lifeline helps people who qualify with a $9.25 monthly subsidy to buy phone and Internet service; for those living on tribal lands, the subsidy is $25 in recognition of additional hurdles to access they face. Nearly 11 million people subscribe, which still just represents 28 percent of eligible households.

    • Can Russia Actually ‘Unplug’ From The Internet?

      Of course, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Over the past few years, Russia has made a bunch of fairly significant moves leading up to this. In 2014, it passed a new law demanding that user data remain on Russian soil, and threatened multiple US companies for failing to do so. Also, almost exactly two years ago, a top Putin adviser hinted at a similar plan to experiment with disconnecting the country from the internet to see how resilient a domestic Russian internet would be.

    • Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet

      Such measures were always going to come on the heels, and heavily so, of the utopians. Where there is Internet Utopia, Dystopia follows with dedicated cynicism. Where there are untrammelled means of searching, there will be efforts to erect signposts, usually of a warning nature. Like the librarian ever worried of her reader finding something inappropriate, material will be kept in a different section of the library, forever filed, concealed and kept from overly curious eyes. The library, however, will never close.

      Like many of President Vladimir Putin’s projects, tackling the internet has all the elements of the improbable, the boastful and the grand quixotic. It also has a certain Icarus, waxwing quality to it, and may end up melting when approaching its sunny objective. Be that as it may, the Russian Internet Isolation Bill is simply another one for the books, another project in authority’s efforts to control, in the name of security, the way the world wide web works. It seeks to impose further restrictions on traffic and data, routing it through state-controlled points to be registered with Roskomnadzor, the federal communications regulator. To this will be added a national Domain Name System, enabling the internet to function even if severed from foreign links.

      The obvious and sensible point here shared by all states with an interest in using, exploiting and controlling the internet is how best to preserve an information web function that is sovereign and resistant to attack. The Russian suggestion here is somewhat bolder than others: to hive off and keep RuNet (the state’s internet infrastructure) safe from any cyber mauling. This would effectively link the Russian segment to a switch. Even after an attack, the internet within the country might still function in its provision of online services, minimising internal chaos.

    • Meme of the day: Russian Twitter teams up the sign bunny with its swole cousin

      An apparently original Russian meme has taken Twitter by storm in recent days. In the meme, the ASCII sign bunny that gained international popularity in 2014 before surging again last year is joined by another ASCII rabbit: the buff bunny, which also saw a brief resurgence in 2018.

    • The FBI Is Dismantling Its War Crimes Unit

      The FBI is dismantling a special unit that investigates international war crimes and hunts down war criminals – including suspected torturers and perpetrators of genocide, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.

      The unit, which was created a decade ago and has its roots in federal efforts to hunt Nazis living in the United States after World War II, has had a hand in many high-profile prosecutions.

      Most recently, its investigators helped take down the Liberian warlord Thomas Woewiju, whom agents found living a quiet life in Philadelphia. At trial, witnesses said Woewiju’s men herded civilians through checkpoints decorated with severed heads and strings of human intestines. He was convicted of perjury in July.

      Now, human rights advocates worry that criminals like Woewiju could evade justice.

      “These are difficult cases to prove because they need rock-solid investigations,” said Beth Van Schaack, a law professor at Stanford University who was deputy ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues in the Obama administration. Scrapping the FBI unit “is inevitably going to jeopardize prosecutions,” she said.

      In a statement, the FBI confirmed the shuttering of the war crimes unit but argued its dissolution “in no way reflects a reduced commitment by the FBI” to enforce human rights law. The agents previously dedicated to human rights work will continue that work as members of the FBI’s civil rights program, the agency said.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Unified files IPR against US 8,964,847 owned by Velos Media, LLC

      On February 14, 2019, Unified filed a petition (with Baker Botts serving as lead counsel) for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 8,964,847, owned by Velos Media, LLC (Velos) as part of Unified’s ongoing efforts in its new SEP Video Codec Zone.

      The ‘847 patent and its corresponding extended patent family is the largest family known to be owned by Velos and represents approximately 2.3% of Velos’ known U.S. assets. Including this petition, Unified has now challenged patents representing 12% of Velos’ total known U.S. assets.

    • Automated Delivery Notification is Ineligible Subject Matter

      The Southern District of Florida recently granted a motion to dismiss in favor of Minted LLC, and a motion for judgment on the pleadings in favor of ShoppersChoice.com LLC based on lack of patent-eligible subject matter, under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo test. At issue wasclaim 11 of U.S. Patent No. 9,373,261, directed to a system for automating notification of delivery or pickup of a good or service. Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC v. Minted, LLC, No. 16-81669-CIV (S.D. Fla. Jan. 18, 2019); Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC v. ShoppersChoice.com, LLC, No. 16-81677-CIV (S.D. Fla. Jan. 18, 2019). Claim 11 of the ‘261 patent was ineligible because the claim was directed toward the abstract idea of “providing advance notification of the pickup or delivery of a mobile thing,” and the claim recites “purely generic and conventional computer equipment” that operates in a “routine and conventional” manner.

    • NASDAQ Patent Doesn’t Claim Covered Business Method

      The PTAB has declined to institute a Covered Business Method (CBM) review for a patent, owned by NASDAQ, claiming a computerized system for executing securities transactions. Investors Exchange LLC v. NASDAQ, Inc., Case CBM2018-00038 (Patent 7,895,112 B2). According to the PTAB, the Petitioner did not meet its burden of showing that the claims were not a technical solution to a technical problem, and therefore did not meet the requirements of Section 18(d) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”).

    • What Kind of Technical Improvement Is Enough for Patent Claims to Survive Alice?

      Three patents directed to improving wireless digital signal transmission by “protecting data from loss due to transmission errors” have survived a summary judgment motion seeking to invalidate claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the two-part Alice/Mayo test. The California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Ltd., (C.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2019). The court found that claims of US Patent Nos. 7,116,710, 7,421,032, and 7,916,781 “improve[d] on previous data encoding methods by allowing for more efficient data transmission,” and that this was a patent-eligible technical solution.

      The three patents had a common priority claim and a common specification. At risk of oversimplification, the specification described, and the claims purportedly embodied, the technical improvement of manipulating bits of data to provide error correction codes to improve accuracy without bloating the amount of data being transmitted.

    • Technological Improvement in Roof Imaging is Patent-Eligible

      Can claims directed to correlating images into a three-dimensional model provide a technological improvement sufficient to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101? Yes, says the Court in Eagle View Techs., Inc. v. Xactware Sol’ns, Inc., No. 15-07025 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2018).

      Plaintiffs’ asserted patents (U.S. Patent No. 8078436 is representative) for providing a roof repair estimate based on aerial images. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claims are invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as an abstract idea without significantly more. The Court denied the motion, holding under the 2-part Alice test that the claims were directed to a technological improvement, and thus not an abstract idea.

    • Patent-Eligibility Not Supported by an Ordered Combination of Generic Technology Elements

      Patent claims reciting “buying and selling an item relating to unique subjects” unsurprisingly could not meet the patent-eligibility bar of 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo test when the patent owner appealed a lower court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal. VOIT Technologies, LLC v. Del-Ton, Inc., No. 2018-1536 (Fed. Cir. Feb 8, 2019) (non-precedential). The trial court had found the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,226,412 directed to the abstract idea of buying and selling products without an additional inventive concept. The Federal’s circuit agreed.

      Turning first to part one of the applicable patent-eligibility test, whether the claims are directed to an abstract idea, the court stated that the claims of the ’412 patent

      are directed to the abstract idea of entering, transmitting, locating, compressing, storing, and displaying data (including text and image data) to facilitate the buying and selling of items.

    • USPTO Further Delays PKI Certificate Termination Date [Ed: technically incompetent still]

      In a Patent Alert e-mail distributed earlier today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that “[d]ue to recent technical issues, the PKI authentication and migration deadlines associated with the authentication change for EFS-Web and Private PAIR are no longer applicable until further notice.” The Office had announced in late December that the initial December 31, 2018 deadline for the retirement of PKI certificates was being postponed until February 15, 2019. The Office has not yet set a new deadline for retirement of PKI certificates.

    • Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Research Corporation Technologies, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that the claims of U.S. Reissue Patent No. RE38,551 challenged in inter partes review were not unpatentable for obviousness, in Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Research Corporation Technologies, Inc.

      The claims of the ’551 reissue patent were directed to compounds for treating epilepsy (as well as other central nervous system disorders).

      [...]

      Finally, the opinion rejected Petitioners’ contention, at oral argument (and rebuttal at that, timing that seemed to annoy the Court), that the Court should remand the case to the PTAB in view of the Supreme Court’s intervening decision in SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, 138 S. Ct. 1348 (2018), finding that issue to have been waived as in PGS Geophysical AS v. Iancu, 891 F.3d 1354, 1362–63 (Fed. Cir. 2018), due to untimeliness.

      In addition to the SAS aspect, this case illustrates the capacity of the PTAB to enter a decision, after oral argument and Patent Owner’s opportunity to present evidence, contrary to the decision to institute. This makes invalidation much less of a foregone conclusion in IPRs, which must be seen by Patent Owners as a welcome development.

    • A Written Description of the Invention (including how it is made?)

      The district court dismissed this infringement lawsuit on summary judgment — finding the asserted claims invalid for lack of written description or not infringed (or both). On appeal the Federal Circuit reversed that determination — finding both issues ripe with “genuine disputes of material fact.”

      The patent at issue here claims the use of ultrasound signals to track location of a mobile device (typically a patient in a hospital). U.S. Patent 8,604,909. There are several reasons why ultrasound can be a better option than WIFI or infrared (IR) signals for location detection within a small area. For example, the steeper proximity decay makes it much less likely that a distant base-station would pick-up the signal. Thus, location can be discovered and without needing triangulation or highly precise equipment. Both the patentee and accused infringer deal in ultrasonic location equipment.

      [...]

      In its invalidity decision, the district court focused on the testimony of no example device and concluded that the mere mention of ultrasonic techniques was not sufficient to satisfy the written description requirement. The court explained, for instance, that the claims include timing synchronization elements that were explained for IR, but that timing could be quite different for ultrasound of speed (speed of light vs speed of sound) and reflection differences.

      [...]

      the district court also dismissed the case for lack of infringement. The claims require use of wireless computer network, including a backbone, Wi-Fi access points, and server hardware. The accused infringer does not supply this material but instead piggy-backs its systems as an add-on to the already existent network. The district court found that no single entity had “made” the system and so Sonitor could not be liable as a direct infringer.

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit rejected that analysis — finding material evidence that Sonitor was the “final assembler” of the system and thus could be held liable for “making” the invention. I’ll note here that the hospitals themselves could be held liable, but the patentee would rather extract rents from its direct competitor rather than its potential clients.

    • Apple to ship iPhones with only Qualcomm chips to German stores

      Apple Inc said Thursday that it will resume selling older iPhone models in its stores in Germany, where they were banned last year due to a patent infringement ruling.

    • Trademarks

      • Scammers Are Filing Fake Trademarks to Steal High-Value Instagram Accounts

        Usually when you think of someone taking over an Instagram account, you probably imagine a hacker breaking in with an unearthed password, or tricking the victim into giving up their credentials. But Instagram scammers have another, sometimes more effective method too: just asking Instagram to hand over the account.

        Scammers do this by creating fake companies and trademarks to convince Instagram they should be the legitimate owner of a username in question, with fraudsters using “trademarking,” as the technique is known, to get ahold of sought-after, valuable handles, according to posts and evidence of the process in action obtained by Motherboard. The scammers can then keep these handles as digital mementos, brag about their acquisition, or resell them at a profit in a thriving underground community.

    • Copyrights

      • EU Copyright Directive: rejection of entire bill or of Article 13 only realistic options for opponents of idiocy

        I’m a copyright hardliner regarding the scope of copyrightable works, a reasonably narrow exception for fair use, and remedies. I can say so without fear of contradiction from those who read my postings on copyright on this blog, particularly on Oracle v. Google, or who debated the Blizzard v. bnetd DMCA case with me back in the day. Copyright has been the basis of my livelihood ever since I started writing articles for computer magazines first, then computer books, while in high school. Meanwhile I’ve spent a lot of time and money developing software, and I’ve written tens of thousands of trivia questions (even thousands in recent years).

        It says something about the utter lunacy that the EU’s proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (“EU Copyright Directive”) is when a staunchly pro-copyright blogger and creator of copyrightable works like me opposes it–obviously not every single word of it, but, at a minimum, Articles 11 (“link tax”) and 13 (“upload filter”). The only other occasion on which I felt like this involved the EU as well: the CJEU’s outrageous link liability decision.

        The purpose of this post is to provide some unsolicited advice to the companies, industry bodies, NGOs and activist groups thinking about their strategy in a situation in which there’s every reason to assume, based on the information available, that the “trilogue” (EU-style backroom negotiations between Commission, Council (= Member States), and Parliament) resulted in a very bad deal.

      • South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill Still Moving

        Copyright law stakeholders and pundits are keeping a close watch on the progress of South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill, as it makes its way to the National Council of Provinces in Parliament this week for further deliberation.

      • Gigi Hadid faces another Copyright Infringement Claim after posting picture of herself on Instagram

        Social media is a real spanner in the IP works, since it’s all about sharing content that IP is in the business of restricting. Social media platforms were crowned a haven for counterfeited goods by the UK IPO report Share and Share Alike, and they can also cause havoc for copyright holders as their content is shared without permission, not to mention the dubious terms and conditions! Recently GiGi Hadid has found herself in the hot seat for sharing images on Instagram, and not for the first time.

        [...]

        Xclusive have now brought a civil complaint against Hadid in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking a trial by jury and damages for copyright infringement under the copyright laws of the United States (17 U.S.C. § 101). In the claim Xclusive argue that Hadid’s Instagram account includes at least fifty (50) examples of uncredited photographs of Hadid in public, at press events, or on the runway, posted by Hadid without license or permission from the copyright holder. The claim states that Xclusive believes these acts of infringement are willful and intentional, in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of copyright holders.

      • Wrestler Booker T Sues Activision For Copyright Infringement Over Fairly Generic Character Depiction

        It’s old hat by now to point out that on matters of copyright far too many people are unaware of the nuances of the law as to what constitutes infringement and what doesn’t. While this is generally true, it’s all the more so when it comes to how copyright covers specific characters or settings. For instance, George Lucas may have a copyright claim on the specific character of Darth Vader, but he most certainly does not have any claim to the more generic black-armored space-magician with a laser sword and a bad attitude. Copyright covers expression, in other words, not mere ideas.

      • Good Luck, Japan: Government About To Make All Copyright Infringement A Criminal Offense

        We often bemoan the sheer volume of copyright infringement lawsuits that occur here in America. With an overly protectionist mentality coupled with a culture of ownership, the civil courts are frankly bursting with these lawsuits when there are so, so many more efficient ways we could do things. But we can at least take some comfort in the fact that in America copyright infringement is largely a civil matter, with criminal copyright infractions being relegated to true commercial uses of infringing activities, or those over a certain dollar amount. This saves an insane amount of undue headache for our criminal justice system.

        But not every country does it this way. In Japan, for instance, copyright law has long been such that any copyright infringement having to do with music and movies has been the subject to potential criminal prosecution. This has already resulted in citizens being hauled into court by the government under potential sentences of two years in prison for the downloading of a single movie or music file. That outlandish disparity in crime and punishment has resulted in call outs from groups like the EFF. And, yet, despite such clapback, the Japanese government is currently recommending that this exact same criminalization and punishment regime be rolled out to every instance of copyright infringement, rather than relating only to music and movies.

      • Appeals Court Takes No Time At All In Rejecting Patent Troll’s Ridiculous Lawsuit Against Cloudflare

        You may recall that back in May of 2017, a patent trolling operation called Blackbird Technologies picked on the wrong internet company to troll. Having built up some success blasting frivolous lawsuits at other internet companies, it chose to go after Cloudflare. That was a mistake. Cloudflare didn’t just hit back, it promised to destroy the patent trolling firm, Blackbird Technologies. It opened up a campaign to crowdsource prior art not just on the patent at issue in its lawsuit but on every patent that Blackbird Technology claimed to hold.

        Almost exactly a year ago, Cloudflare won its case with the court invalidating the patent. It was such an easy decision that it took US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria barely over a page explaining why the patent was so clearly invalid and the case was dismissed.

        Blackbird, for reasons that escape me, decided to appeal to the Federal Circuit. Now, we’ve spent the better part of two decades mocking the Federal Circuit and its history of nutty decisions, but there are some cases so obviously bad that even the CAFC can’t fuck them up. This is one. A CAFC panel heard the case last week and found the situation so utterly stupid that it only took a few days for it to affirm the lower court ruling. Indeed, its ruling is even shorter than the district court’s ruling. The CAFC opinion doesn’t even say anything other than: “Affirmed.”

      • Calling Out Copyright Troll Mathew Higbee

        Over the last few months, I’ve been hearing an awful lot about a copyright trolling operation that goes by the name Higbee and Associates. We had written about them years back when they (incredibly) threatened Something Awful for using a photo in a movie review (which was clear fair use). A few months back we wrote about them again when they (you guessed it) threatened Something Awful again over someone in its forums hotlinking a picture of Hitler that was actually hosted on Imgur.

        While that’s all we’ve written about the firm on Techdirt, Higbee’s name keeps coming up in other conversations — among copyright lawyers who have been seeing a massive increase in Higbee demand letters, and even from some friends who have received such letters (which nearly always involve clearly bogus threats). One thing that has happened over and over with Higbee claims that I’ve been privy to is that they are over unregistered images, meaning that Higbee is unlikely to actually be able to sue over those images, and even if they could, it wouldn’t be for statutory damages. And yet, the threat letters tend to allude to statutory damages are part of the scare tactic.

      • Study Reinforces How Much The Internet Has Enabled Content Creators To Make Money

        A year ago, we wrote about a wonderful study that showed how the internet and its various platforms were (contrary to the stories that the legacy entertainment industries keep spreading) enabling more content creators to make more money than ever before. That study, by the Re:Create Coalition has just published an updated version of that study, again showing how important the internet has been in enabling creative people to make money from their creations.

      • Sony Using Copyright To Take Down Its Own Anti-Piracy Propaganda

        Sony has apparently decided that you can’t see its anti-piracy propaganda, because it might be pirated.

        There are a few iconic sitcoms I remember from my childhood and What’s Happening!! is probably near the top of that list. What I had forgotten, is that the show once included a two part episode all about the evils of bootlegging, with guest stars, the Doobie Brothers. In that “very special episode,” the character of Rerun is caught trying to secretly tape the Doobie Brothers playing a show at their high school.

      • Sony: We Are Totally Open For Crossplay, Game Developers: No, You Totally Are Not

        t’s a really dumb saga that has gone on for far too long, but Sony has built for itself a public history of not allowing gamers to cross-play multiplayer games on their Playstations with players on other consoles. This is all an attempt to get Playstation owners to convince their friends to also buy Playstations so that they can game together, which is exactly the kind of protectionist hardball that makes Sony, you know, Sony. The backlash against Sony last summer was bad enough that Microsoft and Nintendo, rivals in the console space, decided to put out joint advertisements together along with a social media campaign essentially trolling Sony over the issue, while pointing out to gamers worldwide that owners of Nintendo and Xbox consoles very much could play with one another.

        In one of the all-time underwhelming responses to a PR crisis in the history of gaming, Sony did enable crossplay… for exactly two games. Fortnite and Rocket League have crossplay enabled, but literally nothing else. Which made it somewhat baffling that the Chairman of Sony Interactive managed to claim in a recent interview that the lack of crossplay at this point was all the developers’ fault.

      • Downloading Any Pirate Content To Be Made Illegal in Japan

        Japan is set to make it illegal to download any infringing content from the Internet after the government adopted the policy this week. The law currently covers movies and music but will be extended to encompass games, manga, and other copyrighted content. Infringers will face up to two years in jail.

      • EU Reaches Deal on Article 13 and Other Copyright Reform Plans

        The European Parliament and Council agreed on the final text of the EU Copyright Directive. This includes the controversial Article 13, which opponents fear will lead to broad upload filters. The full package will now go to the European Parliament for a final vote, which is expected to take place in March or April.

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.

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