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02.14.19

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.

02.10.19

25,000 Blog Posts and Record Traffic

Posted in Site News at 1:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Techrights design

TechRightsSummary: At a pace of nearly 2,000 posts per year (since 2006) we continue to grow and can use readers’ help

TO longtime readers it may not seem like it, based for example on the number of comments (a decade ago the culture of commenting was different and people did not need to sign in to comment), but over the past month or so we saw unprecedented traffic levels in this site. In a matter of weeks (a week or two) we will have published our 25,000th blog post and in a matter of months our IRC channels turn 11. Techrights itself is turning 13 later this year.

“Our transition to the new server environment wasn’t easy, but it’s pretty much complete now.”At the start of the year we stopped covering U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) affairs as much as we had done before, seeing that software patents were going away in the US and becoming more of a problem at the European Patent Office (EPO). We decided it would be better use of time to resume covering Free software and GNU/Linux affairs (as we did a decade or more ago). Our transition to the new server environment wasn’t easy, but it’s pretty much complete now. As usual, those willing to help us bear the hosting costs can donate. We don’t want to beg, but the option is always there. Other ways to support the site include linking to it or recommending it to others.

01.28.19

Everyone Has Something to Hide. It’s About Self Determination, Not Hiding Crimes or Ethical Breaches.

Posted in Site News at 1:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A letter from the FBI

A letter from the FBI

Summary: Secrets do not always imply one is committing a crime or an offense. This is a short discussion about secrets of Techrights, too, notably its sources.

ONE week ago (today) the US celebrated MLK Day. As the famous letter above serves to remind us, his government tried to cause him to commit suicide after it had spied on him (enabling blackmail, with infidelity as a common theme). There are two types of people in the world: those who pretend to have “nothing to hide” and those who openly acknowledge that everyone has something to hide from someone (employer, spouse, parent etc.) at some point in time. This is why everybody uses passwords.

“People who push for the end of privacy are also, perhaps unwittingly, lobbying against investigative journalism. This, by extension, erodes justice in the world.”In our previous post we focused on privacy aspects of operating systems. Earlier today we also wrote about Linux as opposed to freedom (not the same thing). Techrights has always been super-transparent. All our IRC logs have always been published (since 2008); they got published in full, bar redactions (e.g. of IP addresses) where these were needed to guard identity of sources.

People who say that privacy doesn’t matter are liars. People who say groups/organisations that have something to hide are up to no good are also wrong (if not liars). In order to do our reporting, and in order to offer confidence to our sources, we have always needed some level of privacy. People who push for the end of privacy are also, perhaps unwittingly, lobbying against investigative journalism. This, by extension, erodes justice in the world.

01.27.19

Just Because It’s Linux Doesn’t Mean It’s Free (as in Freedom)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Patents, Site News at 11:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One does not follow or imply the other

Sand freedom

Summary: The corrosive effects of technology on human rights and freedom will again occupy more of our time, bearing in mind that it’s a growing issue and high priority

TWO decades ago I became aware of “Linux”. I was in high school back then. I didn’t know about GNU, which had already been around since the early/mid eighties. The concept of “Open Source” was still associated with intelligence-gathering activities (sharing thereof) and “free software” typically meant freeware or warez and gamez — things one could share over floppy disks, compact disks, the Web, or BBS (depending on the year).

“Technology has in many ways turned against human rights and Linux powers just about everything (except most laptops), so it is integral to the workings of society or the operations of corporations.”Techrights has several types of readers and among those are patent professionals (e.g. examiners) and GNU/Linux enthusiasts, who are often themselves scientists and engineers, so there’s an overlap. This post is not about my childhood but about my interpretation of how technology develops. I worry greatly seeing how Linux gets ‘adopted’ — as in “winning!” — in drones, listening devices, surveillance-intensive back ends and so on. Technology has in many ways turned against human rights and Linux powers just about everything (except most laptops), so it is integral to the workings of society or the operations of corporations.

Several weeks ago I remarked rather briefly about the issue of freedom (not in the Libertarian sense) as it pertains to cars, which are now being spun as “smart” or “self-driving” or “computerised” and whatever…

“My personal belief is that the Linux Foundation just serves the Linux Foundation (i.e. its nontechnical staff) and by extension its sponsors; there’s no concept of “community” there and it is entirely detached from a moral compass.”Over the years we wrote many articles about GNU and we have, with little restraint, warned about the growing corporate influence in the Linux Foundation. My personal belief is that the Linux Foundation just serves the Linux Foundation (i.e. its nontechnical staff) and by extension its sponsors; there’s no concept of “community” there and it is entirely detached from a moral compass. Money talks. Money also gags (self-censorship). This is a problem.

More than half a decade ago, even when we harshly criticised Florian Müller, he said that we were more independent and purer than the FSF. He said this after he had pointed out corporate ties that jeopardised independence. We’ve managed to maintain our independence all these years; we recently moved to hosting in an environment that was offered to us free of charge by a GNU/Linux developer, ensuring our continued independence. Hosting would otherwise cost us about $10,000 for 3 years (we checked).

“At the end of 2018, seeing the site was becoming a tad repetitive in its position against software patents, we made the decision (after consultation with some longtime members) to focus again on GNU/Linux, with the usual emphasis on freedom.”But I digress…

The main point to make here is that it’s easy to lose sight of the original goals as put forth 35+ years ago by the GNU project. It is easy to be lured into the idea that to “win” is to gain a lot of “market share” or attract a lot of corporate funding — the very toxic (or intoxicating) trap many have fallen into. Persistence with one’s core values and pursuit of software freedom or societal solidarity (e.g. privacy, sharing) is the thing to strive for. Back in 2007 people wrongly assumed that we were tied to the FSF or were an FSF project, perhaps conflating Techrights with the FSF because of the strong stance on software patents.

At the end of 2018, seeing the site was becoming a tad repetitive in its position against software patents, we made the decision (after consultation with some longtime members) to focus again on GNU/Linux, with the usual emphasis on freedom. The month of January has thus far showed no signs of regressions on the 35 U.S.C. § 101 front. This will hopefully help clear time for more technical posts, at the expense of legal(ese)-oriented ones. And no, it won’t be blind cheerleading for “Linux!” but sceptical scrutiny of underlying issues and various players (like we did Red Hat yesterday). If some feathers get ruffled, so be it.

01.06.19

One Week After Site Migration

Posted in Site News at 8:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bunch of servers

Summary: January 1st marked an important milestone/accomplishment: managing to fully migrate Techrights to the new environment (datacentre) with zero downtime, just in time for the new year

TODAY IS MONDAY. Last Monday was the day we moved to the new datacentre, which happens to make the site even faster. We still have occasional hangups on the VMs. But we have identified the causes and are working to reduce unexpected downtimes. We have also started/resumed covering Microsoft/Linux news, leaving aside some of the focus on legal cases in the US. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) will be watched closely for their policy. We depend on sources.

For those who might be curious about numbers, our WordPress database is 4,527,656,147 bytes in size (nearly 25,000 posts). Post attachments in the Techrights blog (images, PDFs, editable documents, leaked documents/mails etc.) now weigh at 21GB in total. The Wiki database is 640,046,205 bytes in total size and the front page (Drupal) 220,979,813 bytes in total. There are many customisations which made the migration far from trivial; testing wasn’t straightforward either. Readers are advised to inform us upon encountering any problems (possibly migration issues we’ve failed to spot and need pinpointing).

01.04.19

Links 5/1/2019: Wine 4.0 RC5, Hyundai Joins the Linux Foundation

Posted in Site News at 8:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • The top 5 Linux and open-source stories of 2018

    Last year was among the best of times for Linux and open-source. It was also the worst of years. The top five Linux and open-source stories tell it all.

  • A 2018 retrospective

    We started with a vague prediction that there would be an increase in introspection as we think about what our projects and our industry should be trying to achieve in the world. On the industry side that has certainly happened; technology companies have lost their halo and find themselves under increasing levels of scrutiny, and some have had to change course as a result. Whether that process has extended to the free-software community is debatable, though. Some actions, such as the removal of the questionable Speck encryption algorithm from the kernel, show concern about the world we are creating, but there aren’t a huge number of examples to point to.

    The prediction that we would see more hardware vulnerabilities was published before the disclosure of Meltdown and Spectre, so we could perhaps claim a major success there. By January 2, though, when that article was published, it was obvious that something of that nature was about to surface, so the amount of credit that is due is limited. Whether the level of interest in open hardware has increased as a result is not really clear. The RISC-V architecture has indeed seen such an increase, but that may be more a result of commercial forces than security concerns, and whether RISC-V processors will truly be more secure has yet to be proven.

    Concerns about a major security incident at a cloud provider were not realized — so far as we know. Even the various rounds of hardware vulnerabilities appear to have been handled well enough. Serious security breaches continued to surface elsewhere, of course, to nobody’s surprise.

    Work on alternative container runtimes continued as predicted, as did blockchain hype; no surprises there. The collapse in the prices of many cryptocurrencies and the lack of other convincing blockchain applications suggests that some of the shine has come off of some blockchain-based technologies, though.

    The prediction that vendors would move closer to mainline kernels was a bit controversial at the time, but things do indeed seem to be moving in that direction. The Android project, in particular, is working hard to make that happen. We are still some distance from being able to run mainline kernels on our mobile devices, but there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

    Did alternative kernels like Fuchsia gain prominence this year? That may or may not have happened, but those projects have certainly not gone away. It is still true that Linux developers take our domination of small, embedded systems for granted; they can be heard saying that no vendor will want to bother qualifying another kernel for its hardware. Perhaps that is true, but perhaps that is the pride that goes before the fall in that piece of the market.

    Wayland support did grow as predicted, but “the long reign of the X Window System” seems far from an end. It probably is true that Python 3 adoption has reached a turning point; those who are still running Python 2 applications are generally thinking seriously about moving forward.

  • Vigilance

    It is getting harder to write this column. I used to have a ready supply of topics, with all the outrageous things that were happening to Linux: Microsoft’s disinformation, SCO’s lawsuit, patent licenses, the Novell/Microsoft pact – big things that threatened the very existence of the Linux community.

    Dear Reader,

    It is getting harder to write this column. I used to have a ready supply of topics, with all the outrageous things that were happening to Linux: Microsoft’s disinformation, SCO’s lawsuit, patent licenses, the Novell/Microsoft pact – big things that threatened the very existence of the Linux community.

    I was trying to think up a new topic today, and it occurred to me that there used to be way more in the news on an average day that could rile up a Linux guy. That’s the good news, because Linux is in a safer place and is no longer faced with the threat of imminent destruction. Microsoft is playing nice (sort of); SCO has collapsed under the weight of its own imagination deficit. But are we really walking on easy street now? Surely some other threats must be out there? Are there still factors that are threatening the livelihood of the Linux community, and if so, what are they?

  • Desktop

    • Asus Enters the Small but Growing Chrome OS Tablet Market

      Full tablets powered by Google’s Chrome OS are thin on the ground, but with the Pixel Slate now making its way to users’ hands, it’s growing faster. Asus, frequent Chromebook manufacturer, is introducing its first model at CES.

      The Chromebook Tablet CT100—which, yes, is a tablet and not a “book” of any note-like description, and lacks a keyboard—shares a lot of similarities with the first Chrome OS tablet from Acer. Its 9.7-inch, 2048×1536 screen runs on top of a Rockchip ARM-based processor with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage, making its hardware closer to an entry-level iPad than a Pixel competitor. Expansion comes from a MicroSD card slot and a USB-C port.

      Asus claims that it’s designed the CT100 with “young kids” in mind, and to that end has coated the body with rubber that can stand a drop from a meter. 2MP and 5MP cameras on the front and rear are nothing to write home about, but the included stylus slides into its own bay in the tablet, something that’s not always a given in today’s market.

    • 7 Things Desktop Linux Needs in 2019

      The new year is upon us, which means yet another year has gone by in which Linux has not found itself dominating the desktop. Linux does many things very well, and in the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at the some of the very best distributions to suit your various needs, but for now, let’s take a step back and revisit this old issue.

      For some, the idea of Linux dominance on the desktop has fallen to the wayside; instead, users simply want what works. The Linux operating system, however, does “just work.” And when you stop to realize that the typical user spends the vast majority of their time working (or playing) within a browser, it stands to reason that Linux (with its heightened security and reliability) is primed to become the dominant platform on the desktop market.

    • Linux Apps on Chromebooks Getting Display Scaling for High-Res Devices

      In retrospect, the entire project bringing Linux apps to Chrome OS has been a relatively smooth, fast, and painless process for end users. Unlike the years-long Play Store transition (which is still playing out in quite a few ways even a few years later), bringing Linux apps to Chromebooks has been a process that has evolved quite rapidly.

    • Insiders! The good news: Windows 10 Sandbox is here for testing. Bad news: Microsoft has already broken it

      No, Windows Insiders, that isn’t your New Year’s hangover kicking in. After unveiling Windows Sandbox to much fanfare, Microsoft promptly broke it with a cheeky cumulative update.

      We noted the imminent arrival of Windows Sandbox just before Christmas. Microsoft dropped a fresh fast ring build in the form of 18305 shortly after, which let its army of unpaid testers have at the new toy.

      Sandbox itself allows apps to run in splendid isolation and works well, albeit with some limitations. It’s a breeze to set up (for Pro and Enterprise users at least), not requiring fiddling with Hyper-V and VHDs to get working. The thing is both impressively lightweight and able to tidy up after itself. Nothing persists after closure.

      But even though it is a step in the right direction, it is a bit clunky – it is, after all, a desktop within a desktop at the moment.

    • A Good Walled Garden | User Error 56

      Android vs iOS, turning users into contributors, and good vs bad in the world.

  • Server

    • Red Hat’s David Egts: Open-Source Training, ‘Sense of Mission’ Could Help Agencies Address Cyber Skills Gap

      David Egts, chief technologist for Red Hat’s North American public sector, has said there are several options the federal government can consider to build up its workforce’s cybersecurity and information technology skills and one of those is to explore open-source training.

      “The proliferation of open source software has changed the training landscape dramatically,” Egts wrote in a Nextgov piece published Wednesday.

    • Red Hat to Keynote PBExpo 2019 with Insights on Open Source Technology Used in Aviation and Aerospace
    • Suse, Red Hat, IBM, SAP: It’s Linux Versus Linux Now

      Undoubtedly, the answer can only be Suse. The European company has been with SAP since the beginning. Red Hat has been sleeping on the SAP enterprise business for a long time, but it is catching up now. In the course of an internal meeting in North America, Red Hat managers have emphasized their wish to work more closely with SAP. If this wish was influenced by IBM could not be verified.

      Consequently, this creates a complex situation and entanglement of relationships. On the one hand, IBM does not like SAP all that much, because the leading ERP provider forces the IBM enterprise data base DB2 out of the SAP community with its Hana data base. On the other hand, IBM has been very successfully selling its Power servers for Hana. However, these servers run on Suse Linux, which is the better Linux variant at the moment.

      Now, IBM has decided to acquire Red Hat, meaning that SAP customers can expect interesting package deals consisting of Power and Red Hat. Worldwide, SAP customers will have to opt for Hana and simultaneously for the tried and tested IBM server Power – but now with Red Hat Linux.

    • Handling the Kubernetes symbolic link vulnerability

      A year-old bug in Kubernetes was the topic of a talk given by Michelle Au and Jan Šafránek at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America, which was held mid-December in Seattle. In the talk, they looked at the details of the bug and the response from the Kubernetes product security team (PST). While the bug was fairly straightforward, it was surprisingly hard to fix. The whole process also provided experience that will help improve vulnerability handling in the future.

      The Kubernetes project first became aware of the problem from a GitHub issue that was created on November 30, 2017. It gave full detail of the bug and was posted publicly. That is not the proper channel for reporting Kubernetes security bugs, Au stressed. Luckily, a security team member saw the bug report and cleared out all of the details, moving it to a private issue tracker. There is a documented disclosure process for the project that anyone finding a security problem should follow, she said.

    • Kubernetes Guideposts for 2019

      Having been open sourced in 2014 and used in production by enterprise teams today, Kubernetes is now better understood. We are entering the third era of Kubernetes, meaning users will be looking at ways to bring in more automation around operations. Operation teams will be looking for the qualities typically associated with hosted services, such as automated updates, automated back-ups, auto-scaling and self-tuning, to be available on any environment, whether on a cloud provider’s infrastructure, or on their own premises.

      In 2019, more and more, the automation of these operations will manifest themselves as Operators: Operators take human operational knowledge of a given application or service and encode it into software. They help to codify operational processes into Kubernetes-native infrastructure and services running on top of it, providing a more efficient way of managing Kubernetes-native applications at scale. What’s more, this codification will be implemented by subject matter experts with deep hands-on experience operating these infrastructures and services themselves.

    • Leveraging OpenShift or Kubernetes for automated performance tests (part 2)

      This is the second of a series of three blogs based on a session I hold at EMEA Red Hat Tech Exchange. In the first article, I presented the rationale and approach for leveraging Red Hat OpenShift or Kubernetes for automated performance testing, and I gave an overview of the setup.

      In this article, we will look at building an observability stack that, beyond the support it provides in production, can be leveraged during performance tests. This will provide insight into how the application performs under load.

      An example of what is described in this article is available in my GitHub repository.

    • Getting started with predictive analytics in DevOps

      Data—it’s the new currency. Many years ago, we measured the volume of data we processed in gigabytes; then we quickly moved to terabytes. Due to the influence of the smartphone and mobile devices, our volume of data is rapidly increasing to petabytes.

      In addition to managing the size of our data, we need to process various kinds of data and begin to understand what data can tell us. One opportunity in DevOps is to analyze this large amount of machine data. More importantly, machine data, such as logs and metrics of multiple infrastructure-monitoring tools, can continue operating the current IT system throughout the hybrid cloud. Another opportunity is to use this machine data to quickly respond to problems and identify when human involvement may be needed.

    • Red Hat ups ante for OpenJDK on Microsoft Windows

      Red Hat has, of course, been busy becoming the new IBM version of Red Hat since the firm’s recent acquisition.

      That corporate reality hasn’t stopped the open source platform company still pressing ahead with its wider approach to platforms and tools.

      As we closed up last year, the firm announced the availability of long-term commercial support for OpenJDK on Microsoft Windows.

      As many readers will know, OpenJDK is OpenJDK is a free and open-source implementation of the Java Platform Standard Edition (SE) and it dates back to early beginnings under Sun Microsystems in 2006.

    • What’s New in Red Hat Application Migration Toolkit 4.2 including OracleJDK to OpenJDK Migration

      Application migration and modernization can be a daunting task. The release of Red Hat Application Migration Toolkit 4.2.0 has made this process easier with a number of new capabilities. This release continues the mission of helping you understand the scope, dependencies, complexity and risks that may be associated with your software migration project.

    • Devops predictions for 2019

      Devops thinking is arguably mainstream today, and there were plenty of developments afoot in 2018 that suggest 2019 will be an intriguing year to follow the space.

      Loosely defined, devops is the combination of developer and operations teams through an organisational culture change, assisted by automation tooling with the goal of releasing software as quickly as possible.

      Naturally this makes it an enticing proposition to enterprises, especially those who may be at the start of their “digital transformation”, even though they may currently be working a devops project at the micro level and aren’t yet fully scaled out. There is also some allure in “streamlining” (or “downsizing”) existing team numbers here too.

      As the executive director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation Abby Kearns notes, acquisitions in the open source space such as IBM-Red Hat and VMware-Heptio suggest further consolidation of the cloud-native market.

    • Confused Deputies Strike Back

      A few weeks back Kubernetes had its first really severe security issue, CVE-2018-1002105. For some background on this, and how it was discovered, I recommend Darren Shepherd’s blog post, he discovered it via some side effects and initially it did not appear to be a security issue just an error handling issue. Of course we know well that many error handling issues can be escalated, but why was this one so bad?

    • Kata Containers – A form of art

      November was a productive month for us. As you’ve already glimpsed in the KDE snaps article, we hosted a Snapcraft Summit in our London offices, during which we worked with engineers from major companies on building snaps. Hailing from Intel, Julio Montes joined us to improve the Kata Containers snap, to make it easier for community members to participate and contribute to the project. Kata Containers is a new open source project building extremely lightweight virtual machines that seamlessly plug into the containers ecosystem. So what have we done?

    • Monitoring application performance with Performance Co-Pilot

      In this article, we will build up on top of the basic setup from the previous article. One additional detail if you are using the pcp-zeroconf package in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6: pmlogger will be configured in /etc/sysconfig/pmlogger to log metrics in 10sec steps. The default setting uf 60sec provides less granularity, but also stores less data.

    • [Older] Red Hat Open Innovation Labs Hosts First Japan Residency With Fukuoka Financial Group

      Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced that Fukuoka Financial Group, Inc. (“FFG”), a banking and financial services company based in Japan, has completed a residency with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs, the first residency completed in Japan. During the residency, the teams worked to improve corporate competitiveness and advance the company’s digital transformation efforts.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Episode 11: Moving the Chairs

      Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Petros Koutoupis about his Deep Dive articles, storage, blockchain, and moving chairs.

    • Back to our /roots | TechSNAP 393

      In a special new year’s episode we take a moment to reflect on the show’s past, its future, and say goodbye to an old friend.

  • Kernel Space

    • Unit Testing in the Linux Kernel

      Brendan Higgins recently proposed adding unit tests to the Linux kernel, supplementing other development infrastructure such as perf, autotest and kselftest. The whole issue of testing is very dear to kernel developers’ hearts, because Linux sits at the core of the system and often has a very strong stability/security requirement. Hosts of automated tests regularly churn through kernel source code, reporting any oddities to the mailing list.

      Unit tests, Brendan said, specialize in testing standalone code snippets. It was not necessary to run a whole kernel, or even to compile the kernel source tree, in order to perform unit tests. The code to be tested could be completely extracted from the tree and tested independently. Among other benefits, this meant that dozens of unit tests could be performed in less than a second, he explained.

    • C-SKY CPU Architecture Port Updated For Linux 4.21

      Back during the Linux 4.20 kernel cycle, support for the C-SKY CPU architecture was introduced while now for Linux 4.21 it has seen its first round of improvements.

      C-SKY is a 32-bit CPU architecture out of China intended for embedded devices from DVRs to printers to media boxes and other low-power consumer electronics. C-SKY Microsystems has joined the RISC-V Foundation, but this architecture added to Linux 4.21 is not RISC-V based but their own home-grown design with support for 16/32-bit variable length instructions, 70+ core instructions, and is a two-stage pipeline processor.

    • Linux in mixed-criticality systems

      The Linux kernel is generally seen as a poor fit for safety-critical systems; it was never designed to provide realtime response guarantees or to be certifiable for such uses. But the systems that can be used in such settings lack the features needed to support complex applications. This problem is often solved by deploying a mix of computers running different operating systems. But what if you want to support a mixture of tasks, some safety-critical and some not, on the same system? At a talk given at LinuxLab 2018, Claudio Scordino described an effort to support this type of mixed-criticality system.

      For the moment, this work is focused on automotive systems, which have a bunch of non-critical tasks (user interaction and displaying multimedia, for example) and critical tasks (such as autonomous driving and engine control). These tasks can be (and often are) handled with independent computers running different operating systems, but there is a lot of interest in combining these computers into one. The result, should this effort be successful, would be a system that is both cheaper and more flexible.

    • Linux Technology for the New Year: eBPF

      In the year to come, we will start to see a change in the Linux kernel architecture, as a new component, eBPF, starts taking over more monitoring, security and networking duties from individual kernel modules.

      eBPF is “Linux’s newest superpower,” said SAP Labs’ developer Gaurav Gupta, during a talk that he gave about using the technology for low-overhead tracing at KubeCon in Copenhagen earlier this year.

      A virtual machine for the Linux kernel, eBPF could set the stage for advanced, low-overhead tracing inside the kernel itself, offering insight into I/O and file system latency, CPU usage by process, stack tracing and other metrics useful for debugging. It could also play a role in system security, potentially offering a way to thwart DDOS attacks, to monitor for intrusion detection, and even replace IPtables. It also offers a cleaner alternative to installing drivers.

    • Raspberry Pi gets official touchscreen support via Linux 4.21

      The official Raspberry Pi touchscreen will be supported in the mainline Linux kernel, as this Wednesday pull request by Google engineer Dmitry Torokhov provides support for the 7-inch, 800 x 480 display. The touchscreen has existed for several years, though prior to now, support was provided either by customized kernels for distributions like Raspbian-which specifically targets the Raspberry Pi-or by custom kernel patching.

      Though external displays typically do not require custom drivers, the Raspberry Pi touchscreen connects via the DSI port, rather than HDMI, with power provided via GPIO pins.

    • 5 Bad Reasons to Update Your Linux Kernel

      A Linux kernel update is not to be taken lightly—change means risk. Whatever reasons you think you might have, there is really only one that matters. Igor Seletskiy, CEO of CloudLinux, tells you what it is in this blog post.A Linux kernel update is not to be taken lightly—change means risk. Whatever reasons you think you might have, there is really only one that matters. Igor Seletskiy, CEO of CloudLinux, tells you what it is in this blog post.

    • Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman discuss the state of Linux

      Linux creator Linus Torvalds describes some recent challenges and opportunities for the Linux kernel – and stable branch maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman joins in with thoughts on diversity and competition.

      In what’s becoming an annual event, I sat down with Linus Torvalds at the Open Source Summit, Vancouver (Canada) to talk about the state of Linux. We chatted for over an hour and Greg Kroah-Hartman (maintainer of the stable branch of the Linux Kernel) also joined us. We talked about a wide range of topics, including the sustainability of Linux, threats to Linux (both from inside and outside), the state of security in the kernel world, the success of Linux on the desktop, his outbursts on the Linux kernel mailing list, privacy, diversity, and much more.

      Following is an edited version of my interview with Linus, along with a special appearance from Greg Kroah-Hartman.

    • Linux Kernel Support Revived For Hibernation Encryption & Authentication

      The kernel work has been revived for supporting encryption and authentication of hibernation snapshot images for better security.

      Last summer an Intel developer posted patches supporting in-kernel hibernation encryption so that the memory pages dumped to disk during the hibernate process could be secured and verified on resume. We hadn’t seen anything from that patch series in the months since until SUSE’s Lee Chun-Yi has sent out a revised version of this work for encryption/authentication of hibernation images.

      The goal of this work remains to ensure that any snapshot images were not modified while on disk. The authentication can be done using a TPM’s trusted key or a user-defined key.

    • FBDEV Is Still Alive In 2019, Picking Up A Few Minor Improvements In Linux 4.21
    • Linux Foundation

      • It’s a Linux-powered car world

        Linux is everywhere including your car. While some companies, like Tesla, run their own homebrew Linux distros, most rely on Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). AGL is a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for connected cars with over 140 members.

        This Linux Foundation-based organization is a who’s who of Linux-friendly car manufacturers. Its membership includes Audi, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Mercedes, Suzuki, and the world’s biggest automobile company: Toyota.

        Why? “Automakers are becoming software companies, and just like in the tech industry, they are realizing that open source is the way forward,” said Dan Cauchy, AGL’s executive director, in a statement. Car companies know that while horsepower sells, customers also want smart infotainment systems, automated safe drive features, and, eventually, self-driving cars. Linux and open-source company can give them all of that.

      • Hyundai Advances Connected Car Technologies and Open Source Collaboration by Joining Automotive Grade Linux and the Linux Foundation

        Automotive Grade Linux, a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for the connected car, has announced that Hyundai has joined Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) and the Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source.

        “Hyundai has been active in open source for years, and their experience will benefit the entire AGL community,” said Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of Automotive Grade Linux at the Linux Foundation. “This is a significant milestone for us, as the rapid growth of AGL proves that automakers are realizing the business value that open source and shared software development can provide. We look forward to working with Hyundai as we continue on our path to develop open source solutions for all in-vehicle technology.”

        AGL is an open source project at the Linux Foundation that is changing the way automotive manufacturers build software. More than 140 members are working together to develop a common platform that can serve as the de facto industry standard. Adopting an open platform across the industry enables automakers and suppliers to share and reuse the same code base, which reduces development costs, decreases time-to-market for new products and reduces fragmentation across the industry.

      • Hyundai Joins the Linux Foundation To Embrace AGL’s Open Source Connected Car Tech

        According to a case study published by AGL, a connected car uses some 100 million lines of code, which is about 11 times more than the number that went into the F-35 fighter jet. Getting on AGL’s bandwagon would also help Hyundai speed up development of its in-car technologies.

      • Hyundai joins the Linux Foundation to embrace AGL’s open source connected car technologies

        Hyundai has become the latest car company to explore serious open source alternatives for developing its in-car services. Ahead of CES 2019, the South Korean automotive giant today announced that it has joined the Linux Foundation and the nonprofit’s seven-year-old Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) effort as it looks to contribute to — and reap benefit from — software developed by over 140 companies.

        The announcement underscores the growing popularity of AGL, which has attracted dozens of car manufacturers and other companies in recent years. Members of AGL, which include Toyota, Ford, Honda, Suzuki, Intel, Nvidia, ARM, and LG, work in tandem to develop open source software for infotainment, telematics, and instrument cluster applications.

      • The Linux Foundation in 2019: Can’t-Miss Educational Programs, Events, and Training Opportunities Offer Something for Everyone

        There’s a pervasive myth surrounding open-source software, and squashing it will unlock incredible opportunity, said Clyde Seepersad, General Manager, Training & Certification at the Linux Foundation.

        “We have to let go of this strange, almost macho, idea that you’re a weakling in open-source if you have to be trained on it — that you’re supposed to figure it out yourself,” he said. “Open-source software is just like any other software: You learn it best if you’re actually taught it. If we expect our employees to magically figure it out on nights and weekends, we’re fooling ourselves.”

    • Graphics Stack

      • Is It Worth Releasing X.Org Server Updates For Old Branches To Help Vintage Hardware?

        Is there enough interest in seeing new point releases for older X.Org Server release branches to ship fixes almost exclusively aimed at improving decades old graphics/display hardware? We’ll see, but at least one person wants to work on such releases.

        Kevin Brace got involved with the open-source graphics driver scene by being the lone one left/interested in working on OpenChrome for VIA x86 graphics hardware. He’s learned along the way and managed to provide various fixes to the DDX and has also been working on the OpenChrome DRM/KMS driver though that effort seems to have stalled on getting mainlined as it would require porting to the atomic mode-setting interfaces.

      • NVIDIA 410.93 Linux Driver Released With Quadro RTX 8000 Support, 4.20 Kernel Compatible

        The NVIDIA 410.93 Linux driver is out today as the company’s first Linux driver release of 2019.

        While the NVIDIA 415.25 Linux driver was released back in December with support for the new Turing-based Quadro RTX 8000 graphics card, 415 is the current short-lived driver series. With 410 being the current “long-lived” driver series with a longer support period, the NVIDIA 410.93 driver was released this morning with Quadro RTX 8000 series compatibility and other fixes.

      • NVIDIA have put out the 410.93 driver for Linux today

        Arriving today, NVIDIA have their first bug-fix release of the year with the 410.93 driver as part of their longer supported series.

        NVIDIA currently run a few different driver series, with the 410.93 driver being a “long-lived branch release”. This means it will see bug fixes for a longer period, while not adding in breaking changes which would be reserved for their short-lived branch releases.

    • Benchmarks

      • The Ryzen 7 1800X Linux Performance Evolution Since The AMD Zen Launch

        With it quickly approaching two years since the launch of the original AMD Ryzen processors and complementing our other end-of-2018 Linux performance benchmarks, in this article are some fresh benchmarks seeing how the Linux performance at the start of 2017 on the Ryzen 7 1800X compares to the latest Linux performance at the start of 2019.

        As some interesting benchmarks to kick off the new year, on the same AMD Ryzen 7 1800X + MSI X370 POWER GAMING TITANIUM system I re-ran benchmarks using Ubuntu 17.04 to represent the Linux performance back when these “znver1″ processors first debuted with the Linux 4.10 kernel, Mesa 17.0.3, and GCC 6.3 compiler. After running the benchmarks on that old Ubuntu configuration, I did a fresh daily snapshot install of Ubuntu 19.04 “Disco Dingo” in its current development state. On top of the Ubuntu Disco development build I also pulled in the Linux 4.21 development Git kernel as of 3 January and also built a fresh snapshot of the GCC 9.0.0 compiler that has the latest AMD Zen microarchitecture optimizations.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Bastian Ilsø Hougaard: 2019 – New directions

        GNOME Release Videos Needs New Hands!

        It’s hard for me to let go, but reason tells me that it is time to pass on the torch with release video production for the time being. 10 videos is a great round number and a good place for me to step down. None of them were ever a stand-alone project and I deeply thank everyone for their contributions, small and big! I’m far from convinced that I have hit the right magic release video flavor yet, but they require a large concentration of time that I no longer have on my hands to give. That said, get in touch if you are interested in being the next video production person! I will gladly supervise, pass on necessary details and give feedback in the process of it all. I’m unfortunately hard to get hold off on IRC/matrix these days, but quiet easy to get hold of on telegram and e-mail.

  • Distributions

    • Compilation of GNU/Linux Distros Which Provide Source ISO CD Downloads

      If you want to redistribute (or, sell) GNU/Linux distros in CD or USB media, it’s safe to include it with source code CDs. The problem is, some very popular GNU/Linux distros like Manjaro or even PureOS does not provide source code ISO (at least for now), so you can not easily download the source ISO to burn them to CD (you should do it manually from source repositories). In order you want to know which popular distros with source code ISO CD available, I compile this list for you. Among them are Trisquel, Debian, Slackware, Ubuntu, and KDE Neon. I include here their respective download links and some additional information.

    • New Releases

      • Sparky 5.6.1 Special Editions

        There are new live/install iso images of SparkyLinux 5.6.1 “Nibiru” GameOver, Multimedia & Rescue available to download. Sparky 5 follows rolling release model and is based on Debian testing “Buster”.

        GameOver Edition features a very large number of preinstalled games, useful tools and scripts. It’s targeted to gamers.

        Multimedia Edition features a large set of tools for creating and editing graphics, audio, video and HTML pages.

        The live system of Rescue Edition contains a large set of tools for scanning and fixing files, partitions and operating systems installed on hard drives.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Arch Family

      • Manjaro Deepin 18.0.2 Released, Tons of Packages Updated

        Additionally, updates were performed on MSM, Wine, Firefox, and all the regular Haskell, php, and python updates. QT5 was updated to 5.12 LTS, which brings full Qt support for Python developers. All of the Qt APIs are now available for Python developers, which allows them to create complex graphical applications and UIs.

        Mesa is updated to 18.3.1, which is a fairly tiny update that disables the VK_EXT_pci_bus_info extension that was previously introduced – basically a botched Vulkan extension.

        KDE Frameworks was updated to 5.53.0, while KDE Apps was updated to 18.12.0.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • How to disable GUI in SUSE Linux

        Sometimes when installing with ISO you end up in booting Suse Linux system in GUI mode. In this short article, we will walk you through how to disable GUI and how to enable GUI in Suse Linux.

        For demonstration we used SUSE12 in this article. You can use system control systemctl to set default for next reboot. We will be using this feature to enable or disable GUI in SUSE Linux

      • No Candidates? Board might be forced to hand pick new Board Members

        There are less than 10 days left to apply as a Candidate for the openSUSE Board Elections, yet as of this date, no eligible Candidates have stepped up to run for the three vacant Board Member Seats. If there are no Candidates by the closing date of January 13, 2019, the three remaining members of the openSUSE Board will be tasked to choose new Board Members, based on their own personal choices, to fill those three vacant seats.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 30 To Finish Polishing Off Their Flicker-Free Boot Experience

        Fedora 29 succeeded at a long elusive and rather mystical flicker-free boot experience that has continued to improve since release. With Fedora 30, that flicker-free boot experience should be in even better standing.

        The flicker-free boot experience is about making use of an Intel graphics driver feature option to avoid useless mode-sets during the initialization/boot process, preserving the initial UEFI boot screen until reaching the GDM log-in manager, smooth transitions, and all-around making it an experience on-par with Windows and macOS compared to the days of flickering when launching the X.Org Server, extra mode-sets making for a less than sleek boot experience, etc.

      • Fedora 30 Aims To Make UEFI The Default Boot Means On ARMv7

        Fedora 29 aimed to provide UEFI support for ARMv7 given the maturing support to U-Boot and other components, but that didn’t turn out as planned so is now being worked on for Fedora 30.

      • Fedora Council December 2018 Hackfest Report

        In December, the Fedora Council met in Minneapolis, Minnesota for several days of meetings. With the holidays now behind us, here’s our summary of what happened.

      • 2018 blog review

        I managed to wake up early in most of the days, but, I spent that time in reading and experimenting with various tools/projects. SecureDrop, Tor Project, Qubes OS were in top of that list. I am also spending more time with books, though now the big problem is to find space at home to keep those books properly.

      • F29-20190103 updated isos
    • Debian Family

      • Mike Gabriel: My Work on Debian LTS/ELTS (December 2018)

        In December 2018, I have worked on the Debian LTS project for 21 hours and on the Debian ELTS project for 5 hours as a paid contributor. The originally planned 11 LTS hours (one hour carried over from November) had been extended to 21 hours. Of the originally planned 6 ELTS hours I carry over one hour to January 2019.

      • Debian CoC Applies To Planet Debian Blog Posts & Other Updated Rules

        For Debian Developers and other contributors that list their personal blog(s) on Planet Debian, there is a new set of rules for DD blogs being aggregated by their site.

        Most notable with the revised policy for Planet Debian is the clear communication that the Debian Code of Conduct should be followed for material being circulated on Planet Debian.

      • Update to Planet Debian policy
      • Debutsav Kochi 2018

        This year we, the members of FSCI had been trying to have a mini-debconf or a Debutsav down in South India for sometime now. First, preparations were made for August 2018 to have Debutsav in Kochi, Kerala but then the Kerala Floods happened and the organizers were forced to push it back to November end.

        So somewhere around end-October there was a CFP announced with two tracks, one on general FOSS technologies and one for the Debian track. I submitted few topics and 2 of my talks were accepted. and the final schedule was known about one or one and a half week before the Event.

        Before venturing ahead, I would like to thank Balasankar, Kiran and the whole team of volunteers at CUSAT for taking such good care of all the speakers.
        If you look at the schedule you would see lot that at least on Day 1 there were quite a few parallel sessions so it was not possible to cover all the sessions as they were happening at the same time. I am covering only those which I was able to cover or was able to take time from the presenter to know her or his presentation.

      • “debhelper-compat (= 12)” is now released

        A few days ago, we released debhelper/12 and yesterday uploaded it to stretch-backports (as debhelper/12~bpo9+1). We deliberately released debhelper/12 so it would be included in buster for the people, who backport their packages to older releases via stable-backports. That said, we would like to remind people to please be careful with bumping the debhelper compat level at this point of the release cycle. We generally recommand you defer migrating to compat 12 until bullseye (to avoid having to revert that change in case you need an unblock for the buster release).

      • Debhelper 12 Released With Meson+Ninja Build System Support

        Debhelper, the package offering various scripts to assist in the creation of Debian packages, has reached version 12 in time for Debian Buster.

        The Debhelper 12 update brings support for the increasingly used Meson+Ninja build system, which is quite common now by GNOME components as well as some X.Org/Mesa projects and a growing number of other open-source projects. CMake paired with Ninja is also now supported too by Debhelper.

      • Debian Enters Freeze State For Buster Release

        Debian testing enters freeze state for the release of the next Debian stable version called Buster. The current stable version of Debian is Stretch which is versioned 9. So you can correctly guess Buster version is gonna be the number 10. If you aren’t a Debian testing user, worry not, there are tons of exciting new stuff to expect in the next stable Debian version.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Pulled In $110 Million, Down To ~440 Employees During Their Last Fiscal Year

            For Canonical’s fiscal year ending 31 March 2018, the company behind Ubuntu just filed their latest financial documents in the UK on Thursday. These documents with UK’s Companies House offer a first look at the financial performance of Canonical since their 2017 shift to focus on profitability and doing away with Unity 8 and mobile/convergence work while laying off a sizable portion of their staff in the process.

          • Exploring Ubuntu 18.10 “Cosmic Cuttlefish”

            Ubuntu Linux gets back to basics with the Ubuntu 18.10 release – an appealing and practical distro that isn’t worried about conquering the world.

            Ubuntu is back. The same Ubuntu that I loved back in 2011 before Unity and Gnome 3 happened. Both were great projects, but they broke my workflow, so I moved to openSUSE and Arch Linux with the Plasma desktop.

            Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Canonical’s dream of taking over Microsoft (Windows), Google (Android), and Apple (iOS) didn’t materialize, and they decided to reduce their focus on the consumer space.

          • Mark Shuttleworth on success with OpenStack

            As one of the founding members and most popular distributions in OpenStack the conferences, now the Open Infrastructure Summit, are a valuable event that Canonical uses to meet with the open source community.

            During the final OpenStack Summit, Mark Shuttleworth, CEO, Canonical spoke about success with OpenStack being about the OPEX.

            Speaking with TelecomTV, Shuttleworth also discusses the specific requirements of telcos relating to open source deployment, and how these impact the overall direction of the OpenStack community.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Blender celebrates its 25th birthday!

    Blender, a free and open source 3D computer graphics software, celebrated its 25th birthday yesterday. Blender team celebrated the birthday by publishing a post that talked about the journey of blender from 1993 to 2018, taking a trip down the memory lane.

  • Apache Groovy 3.0.0 Released, as Downloads Top 100 Million

    Apache Software Foundation (ASF) project contributors have released version 3.0.0 of Apache Groovy, the dynamic language for the Java platform, saying download numbers topped an impressive 100 million in 2018 for the first time.

    The latest release on January 1 will be the last “alpha” release of Groovy 3.0.0 the Apache Groovy team said, saying it includes 138 bug fixes/improvements, helped by the contributions of 30 new participants to the long-running project.

    The rise in the open source project’s popularity (first created by James Strachan – now at CloudBees working on Jenkins X – in 2004) comes as developers seek tools that can add flexibility to the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

  • Syncthing 1.0.0 released as open-source P2P sync tool, finally leaves beta

    If you’re looking for an open, trustworthy and decentralized alternative to cloud sync platforms, then Syncthing is the tool for you. And today is a milestone — after five long years in beta, Syncthing 1.0.0 (32-bit) and Syncthing 1.0.0 (64-bit) has been released for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android.

    The new release has been given a new code name: Erbium Earthworm, continuing the tradition of alphabetic code names (the previous release was Dysprosium Dragonfly). It’s also been dubbed “Graduation Day” by lead developer Jakob Borg.

    [...]

    The decision to bump to Syncthing to a stable release comes from lead developer Borg’s realization that the application is now over five years old, and should no longer be considered unsuitable for production use given each previously ‘stable’ beta release gets over a million downloads from GitHub alone.

  • Growing Pains: For Organizations Moving to Open Source, It’s a Tough Transition

    For organizations used to the old ways of doing business, open source can be a tough transition.

    Open source requires self-sufficiency, new relationship skills and vigilance against new kinds of risks, say technologists working at telcos, cloud providers and enterprise IT who’ve embraced open source.

    Open source culture also requires a thick skin against criticism.

    “Open source is developed in a radically different methodology than most enterprises are used to when it comes to producing software,” says Justin Shepherd, CTO, private cloud, at Rackspace , a managed cloud computing company which pioneered OpenStack open source software for cloud infrastructure, and also supports Kubernetes and other open source projects. (See Rackspace Launches Kubernetes-as-a-Service.)

  • Open source the winner in 2018

    And unlike proprietary software, in open source there is no need for an enterprise leader. It is about having a community focus and pooling resources as required.

    This community-led approach has always been one of the strengths of open source. But even considering this [community] growth, there are still ample enterprise open source opportunities in the market to give traditionalists peace of mind.

    Ultimately, 2018 has seen open source become part of boardroom discussions the world over. The coming year will be even more significant as implementations start growing and more business benefits start materialising.

  • Sweet Home 3D 6

    It all starts with a simple plan. You create rooms by creating 2D polygons, just as you would with a drawing app like Inkscape. Select Add walls and you can snap vertical walls onto your creation. As you make all these changes, the 3D preview updates in real time, so you can see what your abode will look like from a first-person view. This extends to when you start furnishing your creation by dragging and dropping elements from the vast library of models that are categorized by room. There are two living room armchair types, for example, and three staircase types. Double-click on one of these objects, and you can change its size, its orientation, its shininess, and even its texture and material. It’s easy to lose hours trying to get everything exactly right, or changing options to see what things look like in a different color or with a different theme.

    Sweet Home 3D has been in development since 2005, which is why it has such a rich set of features and such a huge library of objects. Version 6 is a major update with lots of new models, many replacing older and more dated versions, all released under a GPL or CC-BY license. This added detail extends to changeable screens on the laptop model and the picture frame, and even a mirror that actually reflects. But our favorite is the mannequin object that you can drop into your scene. Double-click on this and select Modify deformation, and you can drag the mannequin’s limbs around to put them into the exact position you need, whether that’s lounging on the sofa or playing the arcade machine.

  • The NSA to Release a Free Software Reverse Engineering Toolkit

    The US’s National Security Agency (NSA) is releasing a software reverse engineering tool for free public use in March, in an unusual step – although the tool had already been leaked by Wikileaks as part of its Vault 7 batch of CIA leaks.

    Dubbed GHIDRA and understood to have been in use internally at the NSA for over a decade, it will be publicly demonstrated – and made freely available – for the first time on March 5 at the RSAC 2019 conference by senior NSA advisor Robert Joyce.

    [...]

    The release will happen in a session at the conference in San Francisco titled “Come Get Your Free NSA Reverse Engineering Tool!”

    The session note says the tool provides “an interactive GUI capability [that] enables reverse engineers to leverage an integrated set of features that run on a variety of platforms including Windows, Mac OS and LINUX and supports a variety of processor instruction sets.”

    It adds: “The GHIDRA platform includes all the features expected in high-end commercial tools, with new and expanded functionality NSA uniquely developed.”

  • Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8.1 kernel source code are now available

    Only in April of last year did HMD Global start releasing the kernel source code. Back then, the company was widely known for not releasing kernel source code and actively going against the development community. While the company still is doing that, releasing kernel source code is a step in the right direction for sure. HMD Global once said that they would unlock the bootloaders of devices “one model at a time”, yet we’ve only seen one unlocked thus far. It’s possible that the company may eventually unlock more devices, but for now, there’s not a huge amount that can be done with the kernel source code. If you’d like to check it out anyway, you can check out the links below for the Nokia 7 Plus and the Nokia 8.1.

  • Musings on business models for open source software

    Okay, so we’ve got some quick and dirty business model definitions laid down. The majority of the companies in this space are open core, and it’s not hard to see why. Selling proprietary software is a relatively straightforward model. Customers pay for a license to use, they become dependent on functionality which can only be found in that software, and they usually become locked in, securing a recurring revenue stream of license renewals and forced upgrades to newer versions.

    And yet, the most successful company (by financials) in this space, Red Hat, is not open core. Having been at Red Hat since 2001, I think the primary key to our success has been that we have deeply invested in delivering value to our customers and to our open source communities. The open source model allows for us to leverage a development pool far beyond what we can staff in house, incorporate the improvements of the participants in that community, and deliver offerings to our customers that put them entirely in control.

    When I was in Red Hat Sales, I learned very quickly that the top value for open source for our enterprise customers was that control. They hated the lock-in model of proprietary software, not because they had to pay, but more specifically, because they were stuck on software that was not entirely meeting their needs and for which the vendor was not providing good value for the money. After all, if your customers are locked in, it is easy to reach a point where you have no real business case for improving the software, either via new features, improved usability, or bug fixing. Customers get wedged in a painful state where it is even more painful to abandon the software, trapped in a poor experience and growing to despise their vendors. Even if a customer was never going to make a change to the source code, or even look at it, the knowledge that they could (or that they could hire anyone else to maintain it for them) was empowering. They paid Red Hat because we delivered value beyond binary deliverables.

    The open core model has always seemed odd to me, a sort of “half-pregnant” state. On one hand, companies must believe there is value in the open source development model, otherwise, why not simply work from an entirely proprietary stack? I suppose some companies might see the open source core as a cheap foundation for their offerings, but I think that if they treat it as such, they only get a one-time boost from it, and fail to benefit significantly over time. Regardless, open core assumes that a company could not generate revenue (or could not generate as much revenue) from open source alone. My experiences at Red Hat provide evidence that this is not the case, though, I’m careful not to assert that this is never true.

  • Haiku OS Was Working On A Lot Of Interesting Projects At The End Of 2018

    While the long-awaited Haiku R1 Beta debuted back in September, development activity didn’t lighten up after that point but the developers of this open-source BeOS-inspired operating system were very busy through the holidays.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Thunderbird desktop email client to get UI refresh, better Gmail support
      • Mozilla Says It Didn’t Make Any Money From Booking.com

        Mozilla has been taking heat for promoting Booking.com via a snippet on Firefox’s New Tab page. Contrary to speculation, Mozilla told us that “zero money changed hands.” Also, Firefox didn’t share any data with Booking.com, and the snippet wasn’t targeted.

        This is all very interesting because Mozilla’s previous statements didn’t do much to clear this up. Despite Mozilla claiming this “experiment” wasn’t an advertisement or paid placement, Firefox users speculated that Mozilla had an affiliate relationship with Booking.com and Mozilla was receiving payment whenever a Firefox user booked a hotel.

      • MOSS 2018 Year in Review

        Mozilla was born out of, and remains a part of, the open-source and free software movement. Through the Mozilla Open Source Support (MOSS) program, we recognize, celebrate, and support open source projects that contribute to our work and to the health of the internet.

        2018 was a year of change and growth for the MOSS program. We worked to streamline the application process, undertook efforts to increase the diversity and inclusion of the program, and processed a record number of MOSS applications. The results? In total, MOSS provided over $970,000 in funding to over 40 open-source projects over the course of 2018. For the first time since the beginning of the program, we also received the majority of our applications from outside of the United States.

      • Socorro in 2018

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

      • Mozilla Looks to Improve Email With 2019 Thunderbird Roadmap

        Mozilla, an organization that is best known for its Firefox web browser, is starting 2019 by renewing focus on its Thunderbird email client. It’s a move that comes after a meandering 20-year path for the open-source organization’s email efforts.

        Email is not a new thing for Mozilla, and to understand how long the organization has been grappling with developing an email client, it’s important to go back and look at the history of the internet itself. Mozilla has its roots in the Netscape browser, which in its final years had a full suite known as Netscape Communicator that included both email and web browser applications. The original Mozilla suite that debuted in 1998 included both email and browser capabilities.

        In 2003, Mozilla split its email and browser efforts into two groups, one for browsers that led to Firefox and the other effort for email, which is where Thunderbird comes in. So yeah, Mozilla has been trying to build traction for its stand-alone email client for 16 years, with a lot of ups and downs along the way.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Cloudera is gearing up to take on Amazon, but investors are skeptical

      Cloudera and Hortonworks were bleeding cash as the two data software providers spent years going head-to-head to lure businesses onto their fledgling technology. As of Thursday, they can join forces against a common enemy: Amazon.

      The all-stock deal unites the two most prominent vendors of Hadoop open-source software, which customers can use to store, process and analyze many different types of data. Valued at $5.2 billion when the merger was announced in October, the companies are worth just a combined $3 billion as of its official close.

      The stocks plunged in the fourth quarter amid the market sell-off and specific concerns about whether Cloudera — the name of the combined entity — has a compelling enough story to take on Amazon Web Services. For all of 2018, a year that was a boon for many cloud stocks, Cloudera shares fell 33 percent and Hortonworks dropped 29 percent.

  • LibreOffice

    • Marketing in Vendor Neutral FLOSS Projects #2

      In order to understand how we can best shape the ecosystem to drive LibreOffice’s success – it is helpful to understand first what products and services companies currently sell, and then consider how we want to shape the environment that they adapt to to encourage behaviors that we want.

    • Video playlist: Main room of LibreOffice Conference 2018

      We’ve finished editing and uploading all the videos from the main room of the LibreOffice Conference 2018 in Tirana, Albania.

    • SmartArt improvements in LibreOffice, part 3

      I recently dived into the SmartArt support of LibreOffice, which is the component responsible for displaying complex diagrams from PPTX. I focus on the case when only the document model and the layout constraints are given, not a pre-rendered result.

  • BSD

    • Simplifying SSH

      EasySSH lives up to its name and starts SSH connections at the click of a mouse.

      Most experienced Linux users are familiar with Secure Shell (SSH), with some being regular users. The protocol supports encrypted connections with remote devices via TCP/IP according to the client-server principle. Typically, you connect to servers that do not have a graphical user interface (GUI). However, with the appropriate bandwidth, you can manage tools with a GUI using X forwarding.

    • Future of ZFS | BSD Now 279

      The future of ZFS in FreeBSD, we pick highlights from the FreeBSD quarterly status report, flying with the raven, modern KDE on FreeBSD, many ways to launch FreeBSD in EC2, GOG installers on NetBSD, and more.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Molly de Blanc: Free software activities (December, 2018)

      December was a fairly quiet month for my free software activities (and my life in general). There was a lot of continued discussion around the Server Side Public License and the Commons Clause. People around me debated the relationship between open source and software freedom and the role of open source to support corporate activities.

    • Free Software Foundation $1 Million Bitcoin Donation Reduced by $140,000 Before Conversion

      According to the blog post written by the its founder, Richard M. Stallman, the foundation, which was given two separate donations of $1 million each, will use the funding to bolster its operations and ramp up its workforce as it seeks to expand its scope to include “work that always needed doing but that we could not undertake.”

  • Public Services/Government

    • European Union announces bug bounty program

      Payouts have ranged from 25.000,00 € for a Digital Signature Services (DSS) vulnerability to 90.000,00 € for a PuTTy vulnerability.

      “The issue made lots of people realise how important Free and Open Source Software is for the integrity and reliability of the Internet and other infrastructure,” Reda said in an announcement. “Like many other organisations, institutions like the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission build upon Free Software to run their websites and many other things.”

    • EU primes open source bug bounty effort

      Security researchers have welcomed a European Union-funded scheme to offer bug bounties on free and open source software projects that begins its roll-out this month.

      The bounty scheme is an extension of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project, and will reward ethical hackers who uncover flaws in key components of internet technologies such as Drupal and Apache Tomcat as well as consumer utilities such as the VLC Media Player.

      Maximum payouts will range between €25k and €90k under a total of 15 programs, administered by either HackerOne or Intigriti/Deloitte, funded in large part by the EU.

    • Europe to Fund Open Source Software Bug Bounty Programme

      From Monday 7 January the European Commission (EC) will start paying out bug bounties to security researchers who find vulnerabilities in 14 open source projects.

      The funding pot is part of the EU Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project, overseen by the EC’s Directorate General of Informatics (DIGIT).

      The bounty programmes, run on the HackerOne and Intigriti platforms, cover open source software (OSS) used in European infrastructure, including streaming software Apache Kafka, content management framework Drupal and puTTY; a free SSH and telnet client for Windows.

      But the project has not been without its critics, who have warned it will place a growing workload on volunteer-led projects, potentially alienating code maintainers who will see little personal benefit as a result.

    • Open Source Software Needs Funding, Not Bug Bounty Programs

      While the European Union’s latest bug bounty program for widely used open source projects sounds like a step towards improving the security of the overall Internet ecosystem, these programs may wind up complicating efforts to secure these applications.

      The European Union has committed to pay €850,000 (nearly $1 million) in bug bounties for vulnerabilities found in 15 open source projects as part of the edition of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project, said Julia Reda, a member of the European Parliament representing the German Pirate Party. The projects are 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PuTTY, the Symfony PHP framework, VLC Media Player, and WSO2. Six of the projects will accept vulnerability reports until the summer, six until the end of the year, and three will accept reports through 2020. Drupal, a powerful content management system, and PuTTY, a terminal emulator, serial console and network file transfer application, have the largest amounts allocated under this program, at €89,000 ($101,000) and €90,000 ($102,000), respectively.

    • EU Launches Bug Bounty for 15 Open Source Projects

      Working in partnership with HackerOne and Intigriti, the EU announced that the European Commission will launch a bug bounty program as part of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA).

      The third edition of FOSSA will include 15 software programs: 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PHP Symfony, PuTTY, VLC Media Player and WSO2, according to EU Parliament member Julia Reda.

      Reda, who has written extensively about the security risks in Open SSL, launched the FOSSA project with her colleague Max Andersson in 2015, which is moving into phase three. The first 14 bug bounty projects will commence in January 2019, with the final project beginning in March.

    • EU to launch bug bounties for 14 open source projects

      Starting this month the European Commission (EC) will kick off a series of bug bounties aimed at finding and patching security bugs in open source software (OSS).
      Each of the bug bounties, which offer prize pools of between €25,000 and €90,000 (AUD$40,518 and AUD$145,868), target open source programs that are widely used within the EC.
      The EC selected software it would fund bug bounties for based on previous inventories of software usage within the EC and a public survey about what projects should be supported.
      Open source projects that will get EC-incentivised attention in coming months include Filezilla FTP software, the KeyPass password manager, Drupal CMS software, and the Apache Software Foundation’s implementation of Java technologies, Apache Tomcat.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • RISC-V architecture development

        As open source software development for the RISC-V architecture moves ahead, maddog says stop complaining and start contributing to the project.

        Recently a colleague sent me a link to an online article about the RISC-V Foundation and the Linux Foundation agreeing to work together to advance Linux and other open source software on top of the RISC-V architecture.

        RISC-V, for those of you who do not know about it, is a relatively new architecture that originated at the University of California, Berkeley (the same people who developed the Berkeley Software Distribution, also known as BSD).

      • Libre RISC-V M-Class

        All of these turn out to be important for GPU workloads.

        One of the most challenging aspects of Simple-V is that there is no restriction on the “redirection.” Whilst one instruction could use register five and another uses register ten, both of them could actually be “redirected” to use register 112, for example. One of those could even be changed to 32-bit operations whilst the other is set to 16-bit element widths.

        Our initial thoughts advocated a standard, simple, in-order, SIMD architecture, with predication bits passed down into the SIMD ALUs. If a bit is “off,” that “lane” within the ALU does not calculate a result, saving power. However, in Simple-V, when the element width is set to 32-, 16-, or 8-bit, a pre-issue engine is required that re-orders parts of the registers, packing lanes of data together so that it fits into one SIMD ALU, and, on exit from the ALU, it may be necessary to split and “redirect” parts of the data to multiple actual 64-bit registers. In other words, bit-level (or byte-level) manipulation is required, both pre- and post-ALU.

        This is complicated!

      • More Details On The Proposed Simple-V Extension To RISC-V For GPU Workloads

        With the proposed Libre RISC-V Vulkan accelerator aiming to effectively be an open-source GPU built atop the open-source RISC-V ISA there were recently some new details published on how the design is expected to work out.

        For this very ambitious libre RISC-V SoC design. that EOMA68 developer Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wants to pursue through crowdfunding, it’s just not a matter of spinning his own RISC-V design but for making the SoC suitable for GPU workloads he has talked of a “Simple-V” extension he envisions.

      • MIPS Joins RISC-V as Second Open Source Alternative to Arm

        The open source silicon space has suddenly become more crowded. Shortly before Christmas, Silicon Valley AI startup Wave Computing, which is developing hardware for running deep learning applications in data centers and offices, announced plans to open source its MIPS instruction set architecture, or ISA, under what it’s calling the “MIPS Open” program. When the process is completed in the first quarter, participants will have full access, with no licensing fees or royalties, to the most recent versions of the 32-bit and 64-bit MIPS ISA, along with licensing for MIPS’s “hundreds of existing worldwide patents.”

        According to Wave, open sourcing the design will open the door for semiconductor companies, developers, and universities to adopt and innovate using MIPS for next-generation system-on-chip (SoC) designs.

  • Programming/Development

    • GitLab user? Maybe start your year with an update

      Now available GitLab 11.6.1, 11.5.6, and 11.4.13 fix a couple of security vulnerabilities affecting versions as far back as 8.0 – an upgrade is strongly recommended.

      One of the vulnerabilities can result in the exposure of source code belonging to projects with repositories which are supposed to be available to team members only. It was pinpointed to a missing authorization control and affects users of community and enterprise versions 8.17 and later.

    • Announcing a new course: Intro Python — Fundamentals

      Python is one of the hottest languages out there. People can’t get enough Python, and companies can’t get enough Python people.

      This means that learning Python is a great move for your career. (Also, it’s just plain ol’ fun to use.)

      If you’ve always wanted to get started with Python, or if you’ve been using it by combining good guesses with many visits to Stack Overflow, then I’m happy to announce the release of my new course, “Intro Python: Fundamentals.”

    • Python Context Managers

      One of the most “obscure” features of Python that almost all Python programmers use, even the beginner ones, but don’t really understand, is context managers. You’ve probably seen them in the form of with statements, usually first encountered when you learn opening files in Python. Although context managers seem a little strange at first, when we really dive into them, understand the motivation and techniques behind it, we get access to a new weapon in our programming arsenal. So without further ado, let’s dive into it!

    • Python gets a new governance model

      Back in late October, when we looked in on the Python governance question, which came about due to the resignation of Guido van Rossum, things seemed to be mostly set for a vote in late November. There were six Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs) under consideration that would be ranked by voters in a two-week period ending December 1; instant-runoff voting would be used to determine the winner. In the interim, though, much of that changed; the voting period, winner-determination mechanism, and number of PEPs under consideration are all different. But the voting concluded on December 16 and a winner has been declared; PEP 8016 (“The Steering Council Model”), which was added to the mix in early November, came out on top.

      Right around the time of our previous article, a new thread was started on the Python committers Discourse instance to discuss the pros and cons of various voting systems. Instant-runoff voting fell out of favor; there were concerns that it didn’t truly represent the will of the electorate, as seen in a Burlington, Vermont mayoral election in 2009, for example.

    • Relief for retpoline pain

      Indirect function calls — calls to a function whose address is stored in a pointer variable — have never been blindingly fast, but the Spectre hardware vulnerabilities have made things far worse. The indirect branch predictor used to speed up indirect calls in the CPU can no longer be used, and performance has suffered accordingly. The “retpoline” mechanism was a brilliant hack that proved faster than the hardware-based solutions that were tried at the beginning. While retpolines took a lot of the pain out of Spectre mitigation, experience over the last year has made it clear that they still hurt. It is thus not surprising that developers have been looking for alternatives to retpolines; several of them have shown up on the kernel lists recently.
      The way to make an indirect call faster is to replace it with a direct call; that renders branch prediction unnecessary. Of course, if a direct call would have sufficed in any given situation, the developer would have used it rather than an indirect call, so this replacement is not always straightforward. All of the proposed solutions to retpoline overhead strive to do that replacement in one way or another, though; they vary from the simple to the complex.

    • Refactor with Clang Tooling at code::dive 2018

      This was a fun talk to deliver as I got to demo some features which had never been seen by anyone before. For people who are already familiar with clang-tidy and clang-query, the interesting content starts about 15 minutes in. There I start to show new features in the clang-query interpreter command line.

    • PyPy for low-latency systems

      Recently I have merged the gc-disable branch, introducing a couple of features which are useful when you need to respond to certain events with the lowest possible latency. This work has been kindly sponsored by Gambit Research (which, by the way, is a very cool and geeky place where to work, in case you are interested). Note also that this is a very specialized use case, so these features might not be useful for the average PyPy user, unless you have the same problems as described here.

      The PyPy VM manages memory using a generational, moving Garbage Collector. Periodically, the GC scans the whole heap to find unreachable objects and frees the corresponding memory. Although at a first look this strategy might sound expensive, in practice the total cost of memory management is far less than e.g. on CPython, which is based on reference counting. While maybe counter-intuitive, the main advantage of a non-refcount strategy is that allocation is very fast (especially compared to malloc-based allocators), and deallocation of objects which die young is basically for free. More information about the PyPy GC is available here.

    • Python For Windows 10 Now Available For Download From Microsoft Store
    • Python can be now downloaded from Microsoft Store
    • Solving tic tac toe problem with python
    • Move the enemy ship up and down
    • qsslint – A linter for Qt stylesheets
    • Quick Tip: Comparing two pandas dataframes and getting the differences

      There are times when working with different pandas dataframes that you might need to get the data that is ‘different’ between the two dataframes (i.e.,g Comparing two pandas dataframes and getting the differences). This seems like a straightforward issue, but apparently its still a popular ‘question’ for many people and is my most popular question on stackoverflow.

      As an example, let’s look at two pandas dataframes. Both have date indexes and the same structure. How can we compare these two dataframes and find which rows are in dataframe 2 that aren’t in dataframe 1?

    • Popular Programming Language For Kids “Scratch 3.0” Now Available

      After spending months in Beta version, Scratch 3.0 has been finally released. It brings major changes such as support for tablets and implementation of an HTML, CSS, and JavaScript-based extension system instead of the previously used Flash.

      This visual programming language was created to teach kids how to code. After more than a decade since its launch in 2007, Scratch has established itself as the only kids’ programming language which is actually worth using.

    • ImportPython Newsletter – Issue 188
    • How to Use Date Picker with Django

      In this tutorial we are going to explore three date/datetime pickers options that you can easily use in a Django project. We are going to explore how to do it manually first, then how to set up a custom widget and finally how to use a third-party Django app with support to datetime pickers.

    • Performance gains with goroutines

      In the Go language, program parts that run simultaneously synchronize and communicate natively via channels. Mike Schilli whips up a parallel web fetcher to demonstrate the concept.

      I often wonder why some developers seem committed to designing new programming languages. Of course, the young guns today are all hungry for slight improvements in the syntax, while hipsters enthuse over smart ideas for compact code. But the effort of building an ecosystem and setting up a community is immense!

      Alas, since processors stopped running faster every year some time ago and only simulate more speed with cores running in parallel, one thing is very important: Your choice of language has to be able to coordinate parallel program parts easily. When I visited the WhatsApp team at Facebook in Menlo Park after work a few months ago, I learned what the secret of the small team’s success was when they used a handful of machines to text millions of users. They used the old-fashioned Erlang language, which has parallelism as a native feature.

    • Multiple item search in an unsorted list in Python

      I was reviewing simple algorithms with a view to using some as examples or exercises in my Python programming course. While doing so, I thought of enhancing simple linear search for one item in a list, to make it search for multiple items.

    • Fedora 30 Is Planning To Go With Golang 1.12

      The latest change/feature proposal is to ship Fedora 30 with Go 1.12.

      This though should come as little surprise considering Fedora is known for always shipping the latest and greatest packages in its release. With Go 1.12 expected for release in February, it should come as little surprise to find it in the May release of Fedora 30 but the standard Fedora change policies are being followed.

Leftovers

  • 5 public speaking resolutions for 2019

    Conference proposals are a lot like hockey: You’re more likely to score if you take more shots on goal. When you’re submitting to a conference’s call for proposals/papers, submit more than one proposal. You’ll increase your chances of getting a talk accepted, and you’ll give the conference organizers a more diverse pool of talks from which to choose.

    This also means that you’ll start collecting more proposal rejections. This is a good thing! It shows you’re putting effort into trying to get a talk accepted. Also, every rejection is an opportunity to ask for feedback on your proposal so you can learn and improve.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Now That Everybody Is for Medicare for All, Opponents Say Let’s Dilute It

      A strange phenomena has appeared in the US debate over universal healthcare: a big majority favors a well-known reform—Medicare for All—as the pundits, insurance and pharma lobbyists, and political insiders denied it (since 1992!), then since 2016 opposed it and all of sudden want to re-define it.

      The appearance of Medicare for All in the New York Times just before the New Year—as the subject of an in-depth Robert Pear story on December 29th, the type of work he consistently devotes to the hottest healthcare issues in Washington, but rarely has done so about MFA—and in a letters to the editor special on the 30th, featuring readers remedies for the healthcare system, “not surprisingly,” said the Times, Medicare for All “topped the list.”

    • ‘A Giant Step’ Toward Humane Healthcare as Democrats Announce First-Ever Hearings on Medicare for All

      “It’s a huge step forward to have the Speaker’s support,” Jayapal said in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday. “We have to push on the inside while continuing to build support for this on the outside.”

      According to the Post, Medicare for All legislation is set to receive hearings in the Rules and Budget committees, both of which are chaired by Medicare for All supporters—Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), respectively.

      While dates for the hearings have not been officially announced, Jayapal said House Medicare for All supporters expect to release legislation in “the next couple of weeks.”

      “This will ensure that Medicare for All is part of the 2020 Democratic presidential platforms,” said Jayapal, who will sponsor the House bill.

    • Preparing Medical Students for a Warmer World

      The World Health Organization has called climate change “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Similarly, the United Nations’ ninth Secretary-General, António Guterres, refers to climate change as “the most systemic threat to humankind.” The scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is “unequivocal” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations.

      As medical students and future medical professionals, my peers and I feel a profound responsibility to keep our future patients safe and healthy — and the links between climate change and health present a compelling argument for including climate change in /medical curriculum to prepare doctors for a changing ecological landscape of disease.

      As the medical community becomes more open to the idea of including climate change in the medical curriculum, it’s critical that educational institutions figure out strategies to effectively teach climate and health concepts in an already crowded course load.

    • Walking on the Aussie Wild Side: The Counterculture Down Under with Michael Wilding

      You’re either in it or out of it. In this case “it” is the cannabis bubble. If it’s a bubble in California and elsewhere in the U.S., it can feel much the same around the world, including Australia, as Michael Wilding knows. Smoking a joint is smoking a joint whether one is in Sydney or Sacramento, Melbourne or Modesto.

      An Englishman who settled in Australia in the early 1960s, Wilding has helped—through his writing—to move cannabis away from the periphery and toward the mainstream.

      Many of the same words that are used in the U.S.—grass, weed, dope, marijuana, pot, reefer, cannabis and more—are used “Down Under,” Wilding explains, though the land Down Under doesn’t have a history of African Americans jazz men and woman, such as Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, or Hollywood stars like Robert Mitchum, who smoked reefer and went to jail.

      American cannabis activists might pat themselves on the back and insist that they’re in advance of the Aussie movement for legalization, but as history, culture and language show, Americans and Aussie are in the same boat, though separated by a vast ocean.

  • Security

    • When Open Source And Cyber Security Bonds: Kali Linux, The Go-To OS For Penetration Testing

      When we talk about hacking, the first thing comes to our mind is a guy in a hoodie who is involved in data fraud, identity theft, and maybe even cyber terrorism (thanks to Hollywood!) However, this is not the scenario all the time; not all hacking is necessarily the criminal, destructive act.

      There is one form of hacking that is not related to any kind of criminal activity and organisations or institutes often use it to check their defences — Ethical Hacking or Penetration Testing. Today, with cybercrime gaining prominence, the concept of ethical hacking has become popular.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Software Security Predictions: What to Watch for in 2019

      Security breaches regularly made headlines this year, while advancements in DevOps, application security testing tools, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud adoption, and the Internet of Things race forward. 2019 promises to be another busy year in technology and digital transformation, but what will that look like for software security?

    • [Crackers] Accessed Smart TVs to Play PewDiePie Propaganda Videos

      Owners of some Chromecasts and smart TVs might see an unusual message on their screens: A message and propaganda video imploring them to subscribe to PewDiePie on YouTube.

      [...]

      The devices are exposed to the [I]nternet, which allowed the duo to [crack] them and play their own media on them.

    • How our InfoSec Professionals stay one step ahead

      Our team knows the hacking world. We’ve recruited ethical hackers, OSCP-certified engineers, and seasoned IT professionals, all of whom are watching the dark web and its subversive operatives, watching how threats evolve and how attacks are planned. We routinely monitor zero-day exploits, examining use-cases thoroughly and responding with robust mitigation strategies.

      The fruits of intensive research and development are augmented by both human experience and machine learning. This sharpens our ability to produce timely and targeted WAF rule sets and blocking strategies in ways that no other security solution provider can match. To do our work, we must adopt the devious mind-set of a hacker. But we stay firmly attached to the ethical anchor of a trusted name in the Linux hosting world, CloudLinux.

    • No More Ransom, a global anti-ransomware initiative, announces ESET as new partner

      ESET has been announced as the latest partner of No More Ransom, an international initiative between Europol, the Dutch National Police and major cybersecurity organizations in the fight against ransomware. The collaborative project helps victims of ransomware attacks recover their personal data and has so far managed to decrypt the infected computers of 72,000 victims worldwide.

      With its 130 partners, the No More Ransom online portal hosts a collection of 59 free decryption tools from multiple security software vendors, covering 91 ransomware families. Users from around the world can access the tools for free in order to recover data held hostage by ransomware attacks. Launched in 2016, No More Ransom decryption tools have so far kept around USD 22 million out of the pockets of cybercriminals.

    • Passwords and Encryption

      More than just a boot manager, GRUB 2 can help you add another line of protection to your security defenses.

      A boot manager is almost as much of the Linux tradition as compiling a custom kernel. Traditionally, a boot manager has been used for choosing a kernel to start and for running multiple operating systems on a single computer. However, at a time when everybody is becoming security conscious, few are aware that GRUB 2, the most popular boot manager, is also capable of using passwords and encryption to provide another level of security [1]. Admittedly, GRUB 2 security is not enough by itself, but it is still worth adding to your in-depth defenses.

      GRUB 2 has existed for well over a decade and is rapidly replacing GRUB Legacy, the original version of the boot manager, especially in major distributions. As a result, its basic operation and traditional uses are reasonably well-known. However, before I dive into setting up passwords and encryption, a quick overview is useful, both as a reminder and as an introduction for those who might be still using GRUB Legacy or another boot manager, like the now discontinued LILO.

    • Google’s Fuchsia OS to Support Android Apps, Linux Servers with Poorly Configured IPMI Cards Prone to Attack, LinuxGizmos’ 2019 SBC Catalog Is Out, USB Type-C Becoming More Secure and Epic Games Not Planning to Provide a Linux Version of Its Store

      Linux servers equipped with poorly configured IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) cards are prone to attack. ITPro Today reports that “since November, black hat hackers have been using the cards to gain access in order to install JungleSec ransomware that encrypts data and demands a 0.3 bitcoin payment (about $1,100 at the current rate) for the unlock key”. The post recommends that to secure against these attacks, make sure the IPMI password isn’t the default and “access control lists (ACLs) should be configured to specify the IP addresses that have access the IPMI interface, and to also configure IPMI to only listen on internal IP addresses, which would limit access to admins inside the organization’s system.”

  • Defence/Aggression

    • US Withdrawal From Syria a Chance for Peace

      President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of US forces from Syria has met with near-universal condemnation by Democrats and Republicans alike. That says less about Trump than it does about the US foreign policy establishment’s blinkered vision.

      The mainstream of both political parties exhibits certain reflexive judgments: that the US must maintain a troop presence all over the world in order to prevent adversaries from filling a vacuum; that US military might holds the key to foreign policy success; and that America’s adversaries are implacable foes impervious to diplomacy. Trump’s withdrawal from Syria could indeed be a dangerous prelude to an expanded regional war; yet, with imagination and diplomacy, the withdrawal could be a critical step on the path to an elusive peace in region.

    • A Loose Cannon for Peace?

      Apparently what’s under assault is war itself, or so the Establishment believes, in the wake of the shocking announcement by the president that he plans to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Syria and 7,000, or half, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

      No, can’t do that! Can’t do that! This screws everything up. “. . . we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” writes Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis in his resignation letter to Donald Trump over the issue.

      And the New York Times noted that Trump’s decision “risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

      “American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.”

    • ‘The Machine of Perpetual War Acceptance’: Veteran NBC Journalist Resigns in Protest Over One-Sided Coverage

      This week I published a column on how the Democratic Party seems to have jettisoned many of its defining values to simply become the anti-Trump party. The best example of that transformation is the automatic opposition to Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and other countries. At the same time, liberal media outlets like CNN and MSNBC have been airing continual experts denouncing the “hasty” withdrawal.

      Now veteran NBC award-winning journalist William Arkin has resigned in protest of what he says is the unrelenting support of the network for endless wars. He notes that the anti-Trump agenda at the network has overwhelmed what used to be critical coverage of “the machine of perpetual war acceptance and conventional wisdom to challenge Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness.” Now the reflective anti-Trump response at the network has overwhelmed all such considerations, according to Arkin. While Arkin calls Trump “an ignorant and incompetent impostor,” he cites the transformation of NBC into an opposition network as the main reason for his departure.

    • Veteran NBC Commentator Rips Failures, Pro-War Posture of Corporate Media in Scathing Resignation Letter

      Reflecting on his past couple of decades working with the network—in addition to writing books and columns for major newspapers and serving as as military adviser to human rights and environmental groups—Arkin laments: “My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of [sync] with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus.”

      Noting in his 2,228-word memo that “the world and the state of journalism [are] in tandem crisis,” Arkin delivers a scathing critique of how NBC has responded to the foreign policy of President Donald Trump—whom he calls “an ignorant and incompetent impostor”—asserting that “in many ways NBC just began emulating the national security state itself—busy and profitable. No wars won but the ball is kept in play.”

      However, Arkin also delivers a broader condemnation of the network’s coverage of the so-called War on Terror in the nearly 18 years since 9/11, and how it has helped produce a scenario in which “perpetual war has become accepted as a given in our lives.”

    • The Hidden Structure of U.S. Empire

      My father was a doctor in the British Royal Navy, and I grew up traveling by troop-ship between the last outposts of the British Empire – Trincomalee, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Aden, Singapore – and living in and around naval dockyards in England and Scotland.

      The British naval bases where I grew up and the fading empire they supported are now part of history. Chatham Dockyard. a working dockyard for over 400 years, is now a museum and tourist attraction. Trincomalee Dockyard, where I was born, has been in the news as a site where the Sri Lankan Navy is accused of torturing and disappearing Tamil prisoners during the Sri Lankan civil war.

      Since the late 1970s, I have lived in California and Florida, grappling with the contradictions of U.S. empire like other Americans. The U.S. does not have an internationally recognized territorial empire like the British or Ottoman Empires. American politicians routinely deny that the United States maintains or seeks an empire at all, even as they insist that its interests extend across the entire world, and as its policies impact the lives – and threaten the future – of people everywhere.

    • Despite Everything, U.S. Troops Should Leave Syria

      Donald Trump’s sudden decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria appears to have been impetuous and ill-considered — apparently a result of a conversation with Turkey’s autocratic president Recep Erdoğan. That doesn’t mean, however, that the United States should remain in that country.

      It’s quite reasonable to question how and why Trump made his choice. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right one, however.

      First of all, the presence of U.S. forces in Syria is illegal. There was never any authorization by Congress, as mandated by the U.S. constitution, to send troops there, making the frantic bipartisan calls for congressional oversight regarding the withdrawal particularly bizarre.

      There’s also the matter of international law. While the brutality of the Syrian regime and the mass atrocities it has committed do raise questions regarding its legitimacy, it is nevertheless illegal for a country to send troops to another country without either the permission of that government or authorization by the United Nations.

      One can make a case that the presence of foreign troops within a nation-state’s borders against the will of that country’s recognized government, and without the authorization of the UN Security Council, is nevertheless justifiable — if it is to protect the population from mass killing. There’s little to indicate that this is why U.S. forces are in Syria, however.

    • A Loose Canon for Peace

      Apparently what’s under assault is war itself, or so the Establishment believes, in the wake of the shocking announcement by the president that he plans to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Syria and 7,000, or half, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

      No, can’t do that! Can’t do that! This screws everything up. “. . . we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” writes Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis in his resignation letter to Donald Trump over the issue.

      And the New York Times noted that Trump’s decision “risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

      “American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.”

      Sounds sensible enough until you factor in the fact that the pursuit of short-term national interests and, indeed, war itself — particularly the wars fomented by, underwritten and armed by the United States over the last two decades — are the primary cause of global instability and the upsurge of terrorism. There’s never an acknowledgment, by the war establishment, of the consequences of militarism, just an abstract discussion of strategy and “interests.”

      Since Mad Dog is the face of reasonable opposition to these U.S. troop withdrawals, let me pause for a moment simply to note that, as commanding officer of the two U.S. invasions of Fallujah in the early stages of the Iraq war, in April and November 2004, he’s a full-on war criminal.

    • Trump’s Wasteful Military Venture

      The media frenzy surrounding Trump’s political posturing about his wall during the latest government shutdown should not distract us from the fact that 5,000 active duty soldiers remain stationed at the border. This deployment is wasteful, not only of taxpayer dollars, but of potential, valuable experiences that the working people who are our troops could be receiving.

      Why engage in this venture? According to now former Defense Secretary Mattis, “in terms of readiness, it’s actually, I believe, so far improving our readiness for deployments.” While that hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement, one must ask what deployments might the administration be planning and why? It is even more bizarre given that Trump has decided to remove soldiers from Afghanistan and Syria.

      Such mixed signals highlight the mission’s lack of a clear purpose. Even its name – originally called Operation Faithful Patriot – has changed due to disputes over the reason for the troop’s presence on the border to confront a few thousand Central American asylum seekers. Some have alleged that the deployment was an attempt to rally political support before the midterm elections. Regardless, the deployment’s lack of a coherent objective, as President Trump has given no specifics, has hurt troop morale. With an estimated cost of $200 to $300 million, this use of tax dollars is impossible to justify, as is the waste of soldiers’ time.

      What is clear is that military enlistment is potentially a vehicle for upward mobility. Now, perhaps more than ever, this is relevant for who is joining up. Active duty soldiers in the United States Armed Forces are disproportionately rural, people of color, and middle class. According to one study, 44% of military recruits come from rural areas, whereas less than 20% of the country’s total population reside in the countryside. People of color – African-American, Latino, and Asian – make up over 40% of enlisted personnel. Economically, middle-class people enlist at a higher rate than either the poor or the rich.

      Whether they reside in rural areas, are people of color, or members of the middle class, working families in the United States currently struggle with job insecurity, an ever-increasing cost of living, and the reality that economically they will do worse than past generations.

    • Russia and the Liberals

      Hillary Clinton and the people around her did not revive the Cold War on their own, but they did play a significant role.

      As a general rule, HRC’s initiatives turn out badly. As First Lady, she set the cause of health care reform back a generation – or longer, inasmuch as the Affordable Care Act is no prize. As Secretary of State, she helped spread misery, death, and destruction all over the planet. Her mark is especially evident in such places as Syria, Libya, and Honduras.

      A non-negligible amount of blame for the ensuing refugee crises is on her too, notwithstanding the fact that she never quite made it to the spot, occupied at the time by Barack Obama, where the buck finally stops.

      There is however an exception to the rule: as a promoter of a new (or revived?) Cold War with Russia, she has done a fantastic job — mobilizing support in elite political and media circles and among liberals generally.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Ecuador to audit Julian Assange’s asylum & citizenship as country eyes IMF bailout

      Ecuador has begun a “Special Examination” of Julian Assange’s asylum and citizenship as it looks to the IMF for a bailout, the whistleblowing site reports, with conditions including handing over the WikiLeaks founder.

      Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa tweeted an image of the letter he received from the State Comptroller General on December 19, which outlines the upcoming examination by the Direction National de Auditoria.

      [...]

      WikiLeaks tweeted the news on Wednesday, joining the dots between the audit and Ecuador’s consideration of an International Monetary Fund bailout. The country owes China more than $6.5 billion in debt and falling oil prices have affected its repayment abilities.

      According to WikiLeaks, Ecuador is considering a $10 billion bailout which would allegedly come with conditions such as “the US government demanded handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron,” for its role in polluting the Amazon rainforest.

    • President Trump’s Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Says Do Not Prosecute Julian Assange

      President Donald Trump would do well to listen to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s Russiagate investigation lawyers, concerning the propriety of prosecuting Julian Assange of WikiLeaks who has lived in the Ecuador embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to the United States. Interviewed Sunday at the Fox News show Fox & Friends, Giuliani made it clear that he believes Assange should not be prosecuted for the publishing of US government information. Assange took part in First Amendment-protected activity, Giuliani explains, as did the New York Times and the Washington Post decades earlier when they published the US government’s Pentagon Papers containing many revelations about US activities related to the Vietnam War.

    • Watch the 11th Online Vigil for Julian Assange Live on Friday Night

      Consortium News will broadcast live the 11th Unity4J vigil for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange on Friday night from 8 pm to 11 pm EST. You can watch it here.

      Guests on past vigils have included Dan Ellsberg, John Pilger, former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, John Kiriakou, Suzie Dawson, Cathy Vogan, Margaret Kimberely, Ann Garrison, Scott Horton, George Smazuely, Ray McGovern and many more. The broadcast will be hosted by CN Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria.

    • Silence follows Trump attorney’s statement that Julian Assange did nothing “wrong”

      Giuliani was referring to the 1971 publication of a mass of leaked documents that exposed decades of lies and crimes committed by successive American governments throughout the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to the US Supreme Court to outlaw the publication but the court ruled that the US Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech, protected the media outlets.
      Once leaked information was provided to a “media publication,” Giuliani stated, “they can publish it for the purpose of informing people.”
      He continued: “You can’t put Assange in a different position. He was a guy who communicated. We may not like what he communicated, but he was a media facility. He was putting that information out. Every newspaper and station grabbed it and published it.”
      Giuliani was discussing, not the 2010 leaks published by WikiLeaks exposing US war crimes and diplomatic intrigues, but the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Lurid and absurd allegations have been made that WikiLeaks was part of a nefarious conspiracy with Russia to assist the Trump campaign.
      In July 2016, WikiLeaks published leaked emails revealing that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had sought to undermine self-styled “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders and ensure that Hillary Clinton was nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • It’s Time to Get Serious About CO2 Pollution

      Fifty years ago, a bipartisan U.S. Congress enacted novel, far-reaching legislation that changed our country and the world for the better. At that time, the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act were new, untested approaches to combating pollution. The U.S. had a huge problem in the 1970s; rivers regularly caught fire, and many big cities were choked with air pollution.

      These new laws enshrined a new but logical principle: polluters should control, and if necessary pay for, the damage they cause to human health and natural resources. For many decades, polluters had a free ride. They dumped pollution in our air and water with impunity. Our kids got sick from unchecked auto exhaust. Our rivers caught fire because they were laden with oil.

      These environmental laws have stayed on the books for over five decades, because they work. Today our waters are much cleaner, our air far-less polluted. Missoula. Montana is a great case in point; those who lived here in the 1970s and ’80s will remember how bad our air quality was and how much better it is today. The Clark Fork River is much healthier too now that mining wastes are being cleaned up.

      These changes did not occur voluntarily; environmental regulations required tougher standards for air pollution. Mining companies had to pay for the pollution they caused to the Clark Fork. Today, many countries around the world seek to emulate our environmental laws. They are one of the great gifts American democracy has given to the world, a legacy we should be proud of.

      Now we are faced with a new type of pollution. Carbon dioxide and other pollutants are accumulating in the atmosphere. These accumulations have already contributed to serious problems; for example, record-breaking fires in California and more powerful hurricanes in Texas and Florida. According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, recently released in collaboration with 13 federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the air quality impacts from increased wildfires will cause serious impacts on human health, not to mention billions of dollars of damage to our economy from property and job losses. Scientists agree that if we continue on our current trajectory of increasing CO2 emissions, our children and grandchildren will face a world dominated by climate-caused impacts. It’s a world we don’t want to see, and one that we may be able to avoid.

    • Watching the World Burn: Truthout Readers Share Their Climate Stories

      Toward the front end of the recent spasm of several wildfires (one of them record-breaking) to rake drought-prone California, my friend Michael Dales who lives in Berkeley shared this with me:

      “Smoke from the fire burning up in Butte County is so thick here in the Bay Area that lungs ache, eyes burn, and the TV news warns against being outside. Because of the winds (and of course, because we’ve had no rain), at one point the Camp/Butte fire was consuming the equivalent of 1 football field of acreage every second. Again, a football field size area every second.”

      At the time of this writing, the Camp Fire in Northern California had already set the record of being both the most deadly (85 dead) and the most destructive in history.

      And it’s not just wildfires that are setting records. Every year now we are seeing records being set for high temperatures, record-breaking droughts, Arctic sea ice melting and more species going extinct every day.

      All one needs to do to see these dramatic changes stemming from runaway climate change is look out the window. When we sit still, and really pay attention to the shifts in nature right in front of our eyes, they cannot be missed.

      Below is a selection of observations from some of Truthout’s readers from around the world.

    • House of Pain: Pruitt Should Expect The Spanish Inquisition From House Oversight Authorities

      Yesterday, a new Democratic House took up its gavel and ushered in a long-overdue agenda of government oversight. We might finally start to see answers to the many, many questions that have come up over the past two years about Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. One lobbyist told CNBC’s Tim DeChristopher that the Trump administration should expect to face “the Spanish Inquisition.”

      All this change has got to be worrisome for Trump’s cabinet, even those like Zinke who have already left, given everything that reporters (who lack the power to issue subpoenas or compel testimony under oath) have uncovered about Pruitt.

      Scott Pruitt might be gone from Trump’s administration, he certainly hasn’t been forgotten. Yesterday, Mother Jones followed up its story from December of 2017 on the political machinations behind the EPA’s short-lived contract with the conservative political PR group Definers Corp. As it turns out, it wasn’t a standard contracting process, as political appointees told reporters. Instead, emails reveal that the contract was a politically-driven decision pushed by Pruitt’s caustic spokesman Jahan Wilcox as career staff attempted to follow the rules and go through the standard protocols.

      How bad was the situation? University of Baltimore professor of contract law Charles Tiefer told MoJo that this sort of politicization, of sending contracts to preferred political friends instead of going through the bidding process “is the definition of corruption.” In his over 20 years of teaching government contracting, he has “never seen a political operative firm getting a government contract.”

    • The EPA has backed off enforcement under Trump – here are the numbers

      The Trump administration has sought to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency in a number of ways, from staff and proposed budget cuts to attempts to undermine the use of science in policymaking.

      Now, our new research finds that one of the EPA’s most important functions – enforcement – has also fallen off dramatically.

      Since its founding, the EPA has been the nation’s environmental enforcer of last resort. Enforcing environmental laws is a fundamental role of the EPA. William Ruckelshaus, the agency’s first administrator, famously described its role in environmental enforcement as that of a “gorilla in the closet” – muscular, dexterous, smart and formidable – not omnipresent, but ready to take decisive action to enforce laws if need be.

      But the data we have collected show that EPA enforcement under Trump is more accurately characterized as sheep-like – meek and mild, often following the lead of regulated industry rather than acting as an independent, scientifically and statutorily driven regulator. The report is based on interviews with EPA staff and recent retirees and analysis of the EPA’s own data and internal documents. In this article we’ve also used recently updated data and included an expanded analysis of regional and statutory declines.

    • This Is Not a Dress Rehearsal: Climate Can No Longer Wait

      “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” wrote William Butler Yeats in his famous poem, “The Second Coming,” written in 1919, and published in 1920. Ironically, the poem’s centennial years (2019 and 2020) are the precise time frame for making socio-political choices that will determine whether we manifest — or avoid — the apocalypse the poem implies.

      In 2019, with a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, there’s an opportunity for a better agenda on climate— as articulated within the Green New Deal called for by the Sunrise Movement and supported by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her new freshman congressional colleagues.

      And not a moment too soon.

      In 2020, the year of the next US presidential election, we will likely begin what the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report defines as our final decade of opportunity to forestall or mitigate climate disruption.

      It’s time to hold all elected officials accountable. The Congress who gets sworn in today and the president we elect in 2020 must fully grasp what has entrapped us into destroying our own habitat. These officials must harness the political will to revise a whole range of interlocking systems on a structural, economic and socio-political level. To do this, they must be unhampered by any allegiances that require equivocation, denial, stalling or retreating into incrementalism.

    • ‘They Failed Us Once Again’: House Democrats Denounced for Dashing Hopes of Green New Deal

      With the mandate (pdf) for presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Select Committee on the Climate Crisis finally available to the public, youth climate leaders highlighted these glaring omissions on Wednesday when they denounced the Democratic leadership’s new panel as completely “toothless” and lacking the ambition needed to rapidly transition America’s energy system away from fossil fuels.

      “It’s everything we feared,” said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led advocacy group that helped organize sit-ins at the congressional offices of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to demand a Green New Deal Select Committee.

      “Democratic leaders had an opportunity to embrace young people’s energy and back the Green New Deal, but they failed us once again,” Prakash added. “This committee is toothless and weaker than the first Climate Select Committee from a decade ago, and it does not get us meaningfully closer to solving the climate crisis or fixing our broken economy.”

    • 10 Cataclysmic Scenarios if We Fail to Control Climate Change

      The summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise in global temperatures caused by human activities has been found to increase the severity, likelihood and duration of such conditions.

      Globally, 2018 is on pace to be the fourth-hottest year on record. Only 2015, 2016 and 2017 were hotter. The Paris climate agreement aims to hold temperature rise below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, but if humankind carries on its business-as-usual approach to climate change, there’s a 93 percent chance we’re barreling toward a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century, a potentially catastrophic level of warming.

    • 4 Energy Blockchain Companies You Should Watch in 2019
    • If You Pave It, They Will Come

      As world leaders gathered in Poland for the UN climate conference, the Washington Post threw its support behind a $9 billion plan to add over 100 miles of toll lanes to Maryland highways in the traffic-choked DC region. The Post offered its hearty initial support, despite the fact that studies show adding more lanes leads to more cars on the road, when cars already consume “a quarter of the world’s oil” (New York Times, 12/13/18).

      At the climate conference—which came on the heels of a major UN report finding that the world has just 12 years to drastically cut emissions to avert catastrophe—there was a sense of urgency. “To waste this opportunity in [Poland] would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “It would not only be immoral, it will be suicidal.”

      Meanwhile, at the Post—which seemed to be channeling President Trump’s drill, baby, drill approach to the environment—there was excitement over Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s highway expansion plan, which the newspaper (12/8/18) hailed as “potentially one of the most audacious public/private partnerships in the nation.”

    • Energy Transfer Uses Workaround to Open Mariner East 2 Pipeline Amid Hazard Worries, Criminal Investigation

      Energy Transfer has begun shipping natural gas liquids through one of the most troubled pipeline projects in Pennsylvania, sparking calls for additional investigations as residents say safety concerns remain unresolved.

      Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are fossil fuels found in large volumes in “wet” shale gas wells. They include the highly flammable fuels propane and butane, plus ethane, which is used extensively in the petrochemicals and plastics industy.

      A year ago today, Pennsylvania temporarily suspended permits for Mariner East 2 pipeline construction, citing the builder’s “egregious and willful violations” of state laws.
      Portions of Mariner East 2 construction remain under a separate injunction, this one issued by a state administrative law judge in May, after sinkholes opened up in West Whiteland Township in the densely populated suburbs of Philadelphia.

      The Mariner East projects are the subject of a criminal probe by the Chester County district attorney’s office, which announced in December that it was investigating potential charges including risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, and environmental crimes.

      “We expected the state regulators and the governor to step in and assure the safety of Pennsylvanians,” District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement announcing the investigation. “They have not.” (Energy Transfer has “vehemently” denied wrongdoing.)

    • Is Whole Foods Telling Us the Truth About Its Stance on Animal Rights?

      In February of this year, I was one of around 100 members of the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) who walked into a Whole Foods store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California. Several of the activists rolled a small wooden calf hutch with a young woman inside into the store. The hutch was four feet wide, six feet long and four feet high, the size used by dairy farms DxE visited; dozens of milk cartons were placed in front of the hutch. All of this was meant to dramatize the violence and cruelty inherent in raising cows and taking their milk for human consumption.

      The protest was one of numerous nonviolent actions, both inside Whole Foods stores and outside in their parking lots, that have been held during the past four years. Until recently, Whole Foods employees, managers and security, at least in the Bay Area where I live, let them happen. DxE activists have never been arrested at Bay Area Whole Foods protests, which have also included holding a mock Thanksgiving dinner in the meat department with a live human in place of a roasted turkey.

      But toward the end of September 2018, Whole Foods (which was purchased by Amazon in 2017) changed its tactics. Whole Foods Market California decided to sue DxE, asking for a prohibitory injunction to prevent activists from protesting on Whole Foods property throughout California, including inside stores and outside in the parking lots.

      [...]

      Animal rights activist have a name for Whole Foods’ hypocrisy: the “humane lie.”

      DxE says the very notion that it’s okay to kill an animal as long as you raise the animal in a decent manner is wrong. As DxE points out again and again in chants and speak-outs, and as anyone who cares for a dog or cat knows, “Animals want to live, just like us.”

  • Finance

    • Why Are Leftists Cheering the Potential Demise of Rojava’s Socialist Experiment?

      Lost in the discussions of Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement of the withdrawal of United States troops from Rojava is the possible fate of the democratic and cooperative experiment of the Syrian Kurds. Threatened with annihilation at the hands of Turkish invaders, should we simply wipe our hands and think nothing of an interesting experiment in socialism being crushed on the orders of a far right de facto dictator?

      The world of course is accustomed to the U.S. government using financial and military means to destroy nascent socialist societies around the world. But the bizarre and unprecedented case — even if accidental — of an alternative society partly reliant on a U.S. military presence seems to have confused much of the U.S. Left. Or is it simply a matter of indifference to a socialist experiment that puts the liberation of women at the center? Or is it because the dominant political inspiration comes more from anarchism than orthodox Marxism?

      Most of the commentary I have seen from U.S. Leftists simply declares “we never support U.S. troops” and that’s the end of it; thus in this conception President Trump for once did something right. But is this issue really so simple? I will argue here that support of Rojava, and dismay at the abrupt withdrawal of troops on the direct demand of Turkish President and de facto dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is not at all a matter of “support” of a U.S. military presence.

    • I Am a Teacher in Los Angeles and I Am Ready to Go on Strike

      When I started teaching in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), I was teaching at Harrison Elementary/Middle School in East Los Angeles. I started my career teaching 8th graders. It was a year-round school, and my classroom was in the bungalows overlooking the asphalt playground and Interstate 10 freeway. It was my first year teaching and everything was new to me. I learned that the bungalows had been condemned and reopened five times. When I was teaching there, I would break out into rashes. I didn’t know what was normal, and being a new teacher, I was trying to survive. There was a sink and a drinking fountain in my classroom. When I turned on the water of the drinking fountain, the water was brownish-yellow and there was debris coming out of the water. Since we were out in the bungalows and away from the main building, there was no other access to drinking water, and especially through the hot summer, students would drink from the fountain. So, I brought a Brita filter to help clean the water. I told the administrators and did what I could at the time to address the situation, but the fountain was never fixed.

      Our classroom would shake each time a big truck passed by and we heard the noise of the freeway throughout the day. These are the conditions at some of our public schools. My first two-and-a-half years of teaching was my introduction to injustice in the city; I could not understand how a building that had been condemned five times could be operating classrooms. I could not understand how drinking water could be so dirty and unhealthy, yet still in a classroom. I could not understand how elementary school kids only had asphalt to play on alongside a noisy freeway with polluted air. All 640,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District deserve clean water and air, and to be treated like they matter.

      Students deserve fully funded schools. This is why I will go on strike on January 10 if the LAUSD does not meet the demands of my union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles. One thing we are asking the district for is parent and teacher input on the budget. This is how we create community schools: by centering power not just among the few and rich, but rather parents and teachers.

    • What Could the French “Yellow Vests” Teach Us about Ourselves?

      Most coverage of the Yellow Vest movement in France—lasting seven weeks and drawing hundreds of thousands onto the streets—misses a key question, and one at the heart of our own nation’s journey.

      We’re told the diesel tax hike was the “last straw” for the rural, working poor unable to make ends meet, while the underlying cause of the uprising is resentment at the worsening inequality.

      But wait. If the stress of making ends meet and economic inequality were the distinguishing causal forces, shouldn’t Americans have been the first to hit the streets? In France the top fifth of all earners receive almost five times more than the bottom fifth. Sounds extreme. But here that gap is eight-fold.

      Such contrasts in economic inequality carry with them real differences in the depth of human suffering. Consider that American babies die at a rate 80 percent higher than French babies; and disparities in death rates between babies in poor and wealthy neighborhoods is more significant in Manhattan than in Paris. Moreover, our lives are on average three years shorter than those of the French. In education, American college grads are burdened with student-loan debt averaging almost $29,000, whereas in France the cost of higher education is negligible.

      So, what’s to explain the relative quiescence of Americans confronting more extreme violations of basic fairness than their French counterparts?

    • An Example for Mistreated ‘Workers Across the Globe,’ Spanish Amazon Employees on Strike

      Amazon workers in Spain took part in the second of a two-day strike on Friday demanding improved job conditions from the online behemoth.

      The strikers, said Isabel Serra, a member of the Podemos political party in the regional parliament, “are becoming an example and hope for workers across the globe.”

      Organizers say about 60 percent of the San Fernando de Henares warehouse took part—though Amazon refutes the figure. The timing of this latest strike by the Spanish Amazon workers is noteworthy, as it comes just ahead of a major gift-giving holiday for Spaniards, Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6.

      “We have been protesting for a year. This is the richest company in the world and they want to keep profiting by taking away workers’ rights,” said David Matarraz, an Amazon worker outside the Madrid-area warehouse.

      Reuters also reports that the action is a joint effort of Spain’s two main unions, CCOO and UGT.

    • Bolsonaro Unveils Mass Privatization Plan for Brazil While Slashing Taxes for Rich and Wages for Poor

      Ending his first week in office by quickly putting into action the far-right agenda he promoted during his campaign, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday unveiled economic proposals that critics says will worsen inequality across Brazil, putting corporate profits above the well-being of middle- and lower-class families.

      Privatization of airports and seaports, tax cuts for the rich, pension cuts, and a minimum wage set lower than Bolsonaro’s predecessor had planned were among the economic reforms the new president has in store for the country, as it moves toward what the new right-wing government calls a “minimal state.”

      Finance Minister Paulo Guedes indicated that the administration has plans to privatize Eletrobras, the government-run power firm, while Bolsonaro took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce his plan to privatize 12 of the country’s airports and four seaports, claiming Brazil is burdened by “hundreds of bureaucratic governing bodies” and that the move will make available $1.85 billion in private investments.

      The president eventually plans to privatize 44 airports, according to the Center for Aviation, a move that could end operations for Infraero, the country’s national aviation authority.

      Guedes also expressed the need for “tax simplification and reduction”—a sign that the administration will worsen the already-regressive tax code which has slashed taxes for the rich while leaving low-income families paying more each year, proportionally, than rich households.

    • Doctors Strike in Zimbabwe as Government Imposes Austerity to Attract More Chinese Investment

      Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has had to cut his holiday vacation short to try to resolve an escalating strike among doctors at public hospitals over low pay and medical supply shortages. Now entering its second month, the strike comes as the government pursues a short-sighted effort to improve its reputation among international creditors by slashing public spending.

      After 37 years of former President Robert Mugabe’s iron fist rule, Zimbabwe’s government is now rolling out the welcome mat for foreign investors — particularly for China. While President Trump has his “Make America Great Again” slogan, Mnangagwa, who became president of this southern African country in 2017, is using the theme “Zimbabwe is open for business.”

    • Economy Adds 312,000 Jobs in December, Wage Growth Creeps Upward

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the economy added 312,000 jobs in December. It also revised upward the reported job growth for the prior two months by 58,000, bringing the three-month average to 254,000. In spite of the strong job growth, the unemployment rate edged up to 3.9 percent. This was due to a rise in the labor force participation rate of 0.2 percentage points, as the labor force grew by 419,000. The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) was unchanged at 60.6 percent.

      Job gains were widespread across sectors. The biggest job gainer was health care, which added 50,200 jobs, well above its average of 28,800 over the last year. Restaurants were also a big job gainer, adding 40,700 jobs in December compared with an average of 19,600 over the last year. Construction added 38,000, likely aided by relatively good weather in December.

      Manufacturing added 32,000 jobs in the month, in spite of the continued growth in the trade deficit. Employment in the sector is now up by 284,000 over the last year. There had been some shortening of the average workweek in manufacturing, especially in the durable sector, which limited the increase in the index of aggregate hours between July and November to just 0.1 percent overall and left it flat for durable manufacturing. However, an increase in the average workweek in December caused the overall index to rise 0.5 percentage points and the durable index to increase 0.4 percentage points.

    • Capitalist Word Play

      Words make up language. Languages make cultures. They describe the world around us in ways the speaker understands. If the listeners hail from the same cultural background, they too understand the message being relayed. That being said, those meanings can change even as they are being told by one to another within the same culture. Examples that come to mind and are fairly well known are the various words US residents use to describe sandwiches. One person’s hero is another person’s sub…and so on. More specific to the point attempting to be made here and in a newly published text by John Patrick Leary titled Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism is the appropriation of words and phrases by the dominant culture that originated among members of a culture or subculture. I like to recall the phrase “Right On!” which originated as an expression of group power in the Black community of the United States. Indeed, in its original context it was often the follow up to an antiphonal call among Black radicals that went: Power Check! Right On! Somewhere along the way, the latter phrase got picked up by an advertising agency. This new use began the phrase’s journey into the mainstream culture.

      The example of Right On’s journey into the mainstream is apocryphal in that it was the advertising business that appropriated the term and ultimately de-radicalized its meaning. It is quite often advertisers and their cohorts in the capitalist world that steal a piece of the “underground’s” language and redefine it to fit their needs. The success of these endeavors can be measured in how often the word is used afterwards and how removed it becomes from its original intention.

      In 1976, the Marxist cultural critic Raymond Williams published a book also titled Keywords. Like Leary’s text (obviously titled in reference to Williams’ earlier work) this work discusses how words and phrases are appropriated and their meanings ultimately changed. In discussing this phenomenon, Williams examines how these changes reflect the nature of power in a society. Naturally, in a capitalist society, the appropriation of language by the capitalist class is designed to enhance and maintain its domination over the rest of us. In response, it is not unusual for the disenfranchised to take words used to oppress them and redefine them. This latter process could be seen when the LBGT community re-appropriated the word “queer.”

      The text by Leary referred to above picks up where Williams book left off. Inspired by his discussion of language and (one assumes) appalled by its continued reworking by the powerful in the economy and academia, Leary’s Keywords provides a survey of words recently appropriated and redefined. This examination reflects the ongoing re-purposing of the language to serve capitalism’s newest champions—the tech industry and the motivational industry. Naturally, the longtime thieves of language are also represented: Wall Street, churches and academia.

      I was at a meeting recently where the word “intersectionality” came up during a discussion regarding the text of some publicity material. One of the people at the meeting asked if we could please not use that word in the text we were considering. Their reason was not that they didn’t agree with the original intent of the word. It was that the word “intersectionality” has been appropriated by liberals and even right wing writers; in this appropriation its meaning has become something different—something quite removed from the definition proffered by those who originated the concept.

    • Feeling Trapped by Vehicle Tickets? Let’s Talk About It — Live

      We’re hosting a forum based on our Driven Into Debt series of investigative stories that revealed how the city’s ticketing often punishes those least able to afford it. We’re doing this in collaboration with WBEZ, which has worked with us on many of the stories in the series, and the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

      During the event, you’ll hear from ProPublica Illinois reporter Melissa Sanchez and WBEZ digital editor Elliott Ramos and get a live tutorial on our interactive database, The Ticket Trap, which allows you to explore how the city tickets and collects debt. The event will include a panel of experts discussing how municipal fines and fees affect people and a Q&A session.

    • Brexit Armageddon

      It is a very English middle-class trait: the world will end if the price of a certain life style goes up. Certain services will be cut. Access to certain travel destinations might be restricted. (The usual European haunts in France and Spain rendered dearer if not inaccessible.) But there is no denying that the attitude to the New Year from this side of the world is one of gloom made normal.

      Not a day goes by without a digest of panicked revelations about what will happen in the event of a “no-deal Brexit”. A lack of certainly has propelled a set of speculations so thick as to be asphyxiating. But there is always room for more, the next desperate act of a government so cadaverous it can only give vague clues that it is still alive, wincing, dodging and avoiding what faces the United Kingdom before the mandarins in Brussels and the nostalgia driven addicts in the Conservative Party.

      London itself is the ground-zero of teeth-chattering panic. Stockpiling of essentials (and various non-essentials) is taking place in a manner reminiscent of the doom that might arise from nuclear holocaust or a crippling blockade initiated by a foreign power. These fears are not entirely irrational: no one knows what might happen to the smooth exchange of goods ands services with the EU in the absence of any clear set of guidelines.

      The latest manifestations of this sense of heightened neuroses can be found in three ferry contracts that have been awarded to French, British and Danish companies. But the means of shipping do not combat paperwork on the ground, the sort is bound to mount once Britain’s departure from the EU bloc is enforced. Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping Bob Sanguinetti puts it bluntly: “Government is rightly preparing for every eventuality… but it is not clear that government-chartered ships can move goods faster or more efficiently than the private sector.” The issue of customs remains an obstacle that threatens to hove into view with disrupting menace.

    • The Chinese Economy at 70: Slowing Down Amid a Protracted Trade War

      There is no future in predictions, as common as they are at this time of year. Add China into the mix and fate will be tempted to a dangerous degree. But there is one thing we can say for definite … the party will celebrate its 70th anniversary of coming to power in October, 2019. That could mean that much needed reform to the economy is delayed rather than risk social unrest in the run up to a key anniversary. Everywhere you go in Beijing there are signs of a slowing economy. Shops closing, factories letting people go, family holidays canceled. And a marked drop in property prices. I live in north Beijing in an area beyond the 5th ring road with no shops selling designer brands. You are considered successful in Beijing if you live inside the 4th ring road. The nearest subway is a 20 minute walk, as are the nearest shops. This in no way could fall into the des-res category.

      There are six residential blocs in my compound each with 100 flats. These flats were originally built to house elderly inhabitants from inner city areas. But many of their children, now adults with their own families, thought it might be a good idea to bring their parents in with them and rent out the new flat.

      Judging by the lights on at night, 70 percent are empty and have been for more than a year. Plans for two nearby shopping centers have been put on hold because there are so few potential customers. Even in northern Beijing, the most affordable part of the Chinese capital, signs of a downturn are obvious.

    • Best of blockchain: 5 must-reads

      So far, blockchain has remained in the realm of emerging tech, along with artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality. Still, many companies and organizations are exploring the technology’s potential application in areas such as supply chain, finance, and more. Technology companies and startups are also working on the third generation of blockchain, adding scalability and sustainability.

      At Opensource.com, our writers also covered blockchain this year. Some popular articles covered topics such as open source crypto wallets, the evolution of blockchain, and how open source is at the heart of it all.

    • Bitcoin Magazine Launches Custom Block Explorer

      Bitcoin runs on a distributed network of computers that participate in securing and maintaining a ledger of transactions called a blockchain. A blockchain is made up of blocks that are secured every 10 minutes by computers called miners. For a detailed explanation of Bitcoin mining, see our guide on the subject.

      A block explorer is an interface for exploring blocks in a blockchain in a detailed way. Bitcoin Magazine’s explorer, like others, provides updated information regarding every block in Bitcoin’s blockchain. Such information contains details including the total number of transactions in a block, as well as the individual outputs for each transaction.

    • Episode 9 – Macron and French Fascism

      On this episode of Along The Line, Nicholas “Dr. Dredlocks” Baham III, Dr. Nolan Higdon and Aimee Casey discuss Emmanuel Macron and the possible reemergence of French Fascism.

    • Increasing Wealth and Income Inequalities before Trump

      In Summer 2018, Rick Baum reported that wealth inequality has been on the rise even before the Trump administration. Undercutting any claims that the Obama administration made meaningful gains in making American society more equitable for ordinary families, Baum’s study detailed trends in wealth inequality that perpetuate the increasing disparity between the rich and the ordinary families.

      According to his analysis of recent Federal Reserve Board information and government reports, wealth inequality has been on the rise. For example, from 1989 to 2016, the shares of the nation’s wealth held by the top one percent increased from 29.60 percent to 38.65 percent. Similarly, the shares held by the top ten percent overall increased from 66.80 percent to 77.18 percent. Yet, the shares held by the bottom 90% declined from 33.20 percent to 22.82 percent, indicating that economic growth came at the expense of those in the bottom.

      Income inequality is also on the rise. From 1992 to 2016, the share of total income going to the top one percent increased from 11.68 percent to 23.80 percent. Shares of income for the bottom 90% decreased from 58.22 percent to 49.69 percent.

    • Apple losses trigger a plunge in US markets

      Sales were suffering in more regions than China, Forte noted. India, Russia, Brazil and Turkey also had slowing sales of new iPhone models, he said.

    • Apple is selling fewer iPhones than it would like

      Or maybe we’re just clinging to them because they are small enough to fit in our back pockets. Or because they don’t cost $1,449. Or because they still work.

    • Did Apple retail prices get too high in 2018? Consumers say yes.

      It wasn’t just iPhones that got price hikes. Apple also upped the cost of the top-of-the-line iPad to $1,000 as well (or more than $2,800 for a loaded model) and added $300 to the cost of the Mac Mini and new MacBook Air computers.

    • Dow Falls 660 Points Amid Investor Fears on Apple Sales

      “When the largest and second-largest economies in the world get into a trade dispute, the rest of the world’s going to feel the effects. That’s what we’re seeing now,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Cresset Wealth Advisors.

      In a letter to shareholders Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that iPhone demand is waning in China and that the company expects revenue of $84 billion for the quarter that just ended. That’s $7 billion less than analysts expected.

      Cook’s comments echoed the concerns that have pushed investors to flee stocks over the past three months. The U.S. stock market in 2018 posted its worst year in a decade.

      The S&P 500 lost 62.14 points Thursday, closing at 2,447.89. The Dow fell to 22,868.22. The Nasdaq, which has a high concentration of tech stocks, retreated 202.43 points, or 3 percent, to 6,463.50.

      U.S. government bond prices surged, sending yields to their lowest level in almost a year, and gold and high-dividend stocks like utilities also rose as investors looked for safer places to put their money.

    • Why I am Still a Cryptocurrency Enthusiast, 2019 Edition

      Cryptocurrencies had a rough ride in 2018. As of January 7, 2018, the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies tracked by CoinMarketCap.com came to more than $800 billion, its highest point ever. As I write this on January 3, 2019, that total market capitalization is down to about $130 billion — about 1/6th of the market’s high point.

      You might be surprised to learn that I’m still a cryptocurrency fan. But, just to be up front, yes, I am.

      Not because I’m sitting on a huge pile of the stuff (as of this moment, my cryptocurrency holdings are worth less than $100 US), nor because I expect to make a killing speculating (when I get some crypto, I generally spend it without waiting very long to see if it increases in value).

      I’m still enthusiastic about cryptocurrency because I’ve seen what it can do and make plausible predictions about what it will be able to do in the future. Cryptocurrency seizes control of money from governments and puts it in the hands of people. With improvements in its privacy aspects, that’s only going to become more true. In short, cryptocurrency fuels freedom.

    • Bitcoin Turns 10: The Digital Coin That Defined The Cryptocurrency World

      en years ago, on 3rd January, an anonymous developer named Satoshi Nakamoto mined the genesis block of Bitcoin and started a new peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Fast forward ten years, Bitcoin is one of the most well known and dominant cryptocurrencies in the world where digital currencies are biting the dust.

    • Apple Could Share Same Fate As Nokia: Goldman Sachs

      According to a Goldman Sachs analyst, Apple’s latest slump in iPhone sales is the starting of the end of Apple. Rod Hall from Goldman Sachs has compared Apple to Nokia, which ruled the smartphone industry once but soon fell to competitors, reports Cult of Mac.

      Halls’ theory rests on the fact that just like Apple, Nokia has also started relying on customer upgrades after populating the market with its devices. Nokia started witnessing fall in sales of new devices as people started waiting more for the upgrades.

    • Goldman Sachs thinks Apple could be the next Nokia

      A Goldman Sachs analyst thinks Apple’s revised earnings guidance might be the start of a longer-term story. According to Rod Hall, Apple could slash numbers even further later in the year, due to lowered expectations about iPhone sales.

      Hall goes on to liken Apple to Nokia, a fallen giant in the mobile game. The company ruled the market early on, only to run into problems.

    • Google Moved $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017, Filing Shows

      Search and advertising giant Google moved about $23 billion (19.9 billion euros) to tax haven Bermuda in 2017. A report from Reuters suggests that the company did it through a Dutch shell company.

      Google’s filing on Dec. 21 with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce has made this information public. This has been done as a part of the arrangement to reduce the foreign tax bill.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • 5 (More) Reasons Facebook Is Even Worse Then We Thought

      Fast-forward a few years and … whoopsie-doodles, it turns out Facebook was lying their asses off.

      The video metrics that Facebook reported to publishers — such as total number of views, average viewing time, etc. — were inflated by as much as “60 to 80 percent,” a little glitch they reportedly discovered in early 2015 but didn’t (quietly) cop to until September 2016. They knew this looked bad, because it was bad, so they rolled out the fixes veeeeery slowly and without telling anyone, specifically so that “advertisers … won’t notice significant changes.” It’s like if a restaurant found out they’d been accidentally seasoning food with rat poison, then took two years to replace it because they didn’t want to change the taste.

    • Fans of Brazil’s new fascist president chant “Facebook! Facebook! Whatsapp! Whatsapp!” at inauguration

      In case you have any doubt about whether Bolsonaro really owes his election to Facebook and Whatsapp, allow his hardcore supporters to remove that doubt: at his inauguration, Brazil’s bootlickers and useful idiots gathered to chant “Facebook!” and “Whatsapp!”.

    • The Left Is on a Roll, and Trump Is Beatable in 2020

      One constant theme of the Trump era is an unspecified anxiety about whether anything matters. Throughout 2017, Trump lied at an unprecedented scale. Did any of it matter? Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey, then confessed on NBC News that he did so to relieve pressure from the Russia probe. Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, and each passing week gave the public a small glimpse into what his office was looking into. But with every breaking news story, the inevitable follow-up question was: Does any of this matter?

      The 2018 midterms gave the public a clear sign that yes, Trump’s reprehensible behavior and the multiple investigations encircling him and his closest advisers have taken a toll on his presidency. He was elected with historically high disapproval ratings, and after two years he has made no headway in increasing his support and has arguably lost at least some of it.

      Looking at Trump’s personal failings and the Mueller investigation only tells part of the story though. A full picture of why voter turnout was higher in 2018 than in any midterm since World War I needs to include the disability activists who led the fight to save what’s left of the ACA; the immigrant rights advocates who fought against family separation, detention and deportation; and the new crop of Democrats who won primaries and have already shifted the party significantly to the left.

      What does this mean for the 2020 election, and what does the 2020 election mean for the future of the country and the planet? The twin realities of an upcoming census — and the redistricting processes that will follow — and worsening climate change mean the next election could literally determine the fates of tens of millions of people. So, let’s look at a few possible scenarios we may encounter, come 2020.

    • Trump Writes Sad Ballads as the New House Majority Arrives

      After a 90-minute Cabinet meeting on Wednesday where Trump was lying or bragging or both throughout, he met with Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to “discuss” border security, the Wall and the government shutdown. Before the delegation even had a chance to sit down, Trump deployed a pair of brazen lies about his beloved Wall: The trade deal he just struck means Mexico will pay for it (nope), and, in his words, “much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built” (likewise nope).

      The Trump-Pelosi meeting Wednesday evening predictably came to nothing, and not just for the reasons you might suspect. Donald Trump hasn’t realized he’s betting all his chips on a busted straight and still believes he can bare-face his way through the muddle he’s made for himself, but we knew that. Word came down on Wednesday afternoon, however, that Trump and his people have somehow convinced themselves that Pelosi lacks the votes to become Speaker. The White House chose to punt the meeting to Friday and see who’s still standing once the smoke clears. Pro tip: Pelosi has it in the bag.

      What a perfectly ridiculous way to ring in a new year.

      It is my most devout and fervent hope that you were able to spend the days between the Christmas holiday and the New Year resting and ignoring the president of the United States and his ongoing government shutdown with all your might. If you managed to do so, congratulations: You are smarter for the effort. If you were sucked into the vortex of gibbering nonsense deployed by Donald Trump before the ball dropped in New York City, well, welcome to the club; we get jackets.

    • Democrats vs. Trump: Why Status Quo Ante and Obamaism are Not Enough

      Beginning January 3, the Democrats have a choice: Do they act simply as anti-Trumps, seeking to reverse his policies and revert to status quo ante Obama- politics, or do they move toward something more transformational? If they are politically smart, they do the latter and build policies and a coalition more permanent. If they do the former they set themselves for failure and position themselves for setting up the conditions that led to their demise over the last generation. The challenge for Democrats is navigating this choice, and it is not clear they can successfully do it given the distinct interests within their party.

      Democrats, especially in the US House, face complex challenges governing. In part, their agenda is determined by the lessons of 2016 and 2018 elections. Theory one is that Clinton and the Democrats lost in 2016 because they failed to take Trump seriously. Clinton was a weak candidate with a poor message and campaign strategy who ran on the politics of the status quo in an election whose geography came down to a handful of swing states. She and her party lost because critical voters, such as women, people of color, and those under the age of 30 stay home because Democrats assumed they would show up to vote, and they did not, while at the same time angry white men did.

      Democrats won in 2018 because Trump was despised, especially by female voters in more affluent and better educated suburbs where Democrats ran candidates who worked hard to get out the vote and mobilize voters who stayed home in 2016. If this is the theory of what happened, then the Democratic agenda is set: Reverse Trumpism, bring back Obama-era policies, and take on the president with aggressive investigations and checks that could include impeachment. Do this and many of those lost white, working class voters will return to the party.

    • Nancy Pelosi kicks off second stint as House speaker by picking a fight with progressives

      Some progressive Democrats have announced that they will vote against the House Democrats’ new package of legislative rules, the first order of business when the new Congress officially convenes on Thursday, based on of a number of changes championed by conservatives that progressives argue will hamstring their policy objectives.

      As soon as the new Congress is sworn in on Thursday, House Democrats will attempt to pass the new rules for how the House of Representative conducts its business for the next two years. Assuming none of the 197 House Republicans vote to approve the rules package, the 234-Democratic majority cannot lose more than 16 votes to pass the new rules package. But there are growing signs that presumed incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will kick off her second tenure by angering a significant portion of her caucus, potentially spoiling for an embarrassing first run of Democratic governance in the Trump era.

    • Bernie Isn’t Running (Yet), But the Sanders Network Is Alive, Kicking, and Organizing for 2020

      It sure seems like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is going to run for president. And the people who want him to do so are already busy making sure the announcement they believe is coming is greased with an infrastructure and base of support that will give him a distinct advantage in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic field.

      On New Year’s Day, Sanders sent out an email to supporters in which, in addition to wishing people “a happy and healthy” 2019, he reiterated his belief that “fighting Trump is not enough” in the year ahead as he called for an ambitious and progressive agenda that looked very much like his previous presidential campaign platform.

    • Raising ‘All Manner of Conflict of Interest Questions,’ the Only National Park Site Reopening Amid Shutdown Is in Trump Hotel

      While 380,000 federal employees have been out of work on furlough for 12 days and 420,000 more are working without pay due to the government shutdown, the General Services Administration has reportedly found the funding to reopen the Old Post Office tower in Washington, D.C., which shares a building with President Donald Trump’s hotel.

      Although the government shutdown is expected to continue into next week at least, the tower is set to reopen by the end of this week, according to a report by E&E News.

      Considering the president’s financial interest in ensuring the tower remains open, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) executive director Noah Bookbinder said Wednesday that the reopening “raises all manner of conflict of interest questions.”

    • Looking Backward (2018) and Forward (2019)

      Many years ago, I came across a pre-Islamic Arabic poem describing a camel running across the desert. Suddenly, the camel freezes in mid-stride. First, it looks backward in fear of what it was running from, and then it turns its glance forward – also in fear – toward the unknown that is its destination. It was this image that came to mind as 2018 came to an end and I sat down to write about the year that was and what we expect might unfold in the new year.

      By any measure, 2018 was a tumultuous year, in no small way owing to President Trump’s unpredictable behavior. He has been, in a word, exhausting.

      We began and ended 2018 with a short government shutdown owing to Trump’s insistence that Congress agree to fund the wall on the Mexican border, despite opposition from Democrats and some leaders in his own party. When Democrats offered the White House partial funding of the wall in an effort to secure a compromise on immigration reform, Trump balked and upped the ante demanding, in addition to his wall, an end to the diversity lottery and family unification – making disparaging remarks about immigrants from the African continent in the process. He also dramatically reduced the number of refugees admitted to the US and imposed new hardships on those seeking asylum. Added to this has been the Administration’s “family separation” policy which produced the nightmarish result of thousands of little children being taken from their parents at the border and sent to far-away locations. At year’s end, we once again have a government shutdown, no wall, and no indication that the White House is willing to compromise.

    • What to Expect of House Democrats

      Democrats are now in control of the House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I know and have worked with many of them. They are people of integrity who will strive to do what’ right for America. Pelosi is tough and courageous. Were it not for her insistence, Obama would not have pushed for the Affordable Care Act.

      But they are not miracle workers. Republicans still control the Senate.

      They will make life harder for Trump, to be sure. They will investigate. They have the power of subpoena. The House Ways and Means Committee is specifically authorized to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. They might even move to impeach Trump, if Mueller reports what I expect him to.

    • And They’re Off! Candidates Race to Challenge Trump in 2020

      The cork was barely off the champagne on New Year’s Eve 2019 before a crowd of eager candidates began their 2020 presidential election stampede.

      Elizabeth Warren has formed her official presidential exploratory committee, dedicating her campaign to “fighting for America’s middle class.”

      Among the most high-profile Trump challengers are Senator Elizabeth Warren, who announced that she had formally launched her presidential exploratory committee in a video to supporters released on December 31.

      Mitt Romney waited until January 2, the day before his swearing-in as the new Republican Senator from Utah, to blast Donald Trump in a Washington Post op-ed widely seen as a move to position himself as the voice of anti-Trump Republicans and a potential challenger in the Republican presidential primary.

    • Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Bid Leaves Questions to Be Answered

      With the launch of her exploratory presidential committee on New Year’s Eve, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been among the first to jump into what is sure to be a crowded field of Democrats vying for their party’s 2020 nomination. In a four-minute video, she laid out in clear terms her bold, progressive agenda for a people-centered economy—a major improvement on the video she published last fall as part of her widely criticized response to President Donald Trump’s false accusations about her Native American ancestry.

      For Warren to make her intentions clear nearly two years before the actual election is a good problem to have during this time of political devastation being wrought by Trump. With a partial government shutdown in progress that has no end in sight, and an announced pay freeze for federal workers, the president’s callousness toward working Americans is more apparent than ever. Into this fray, surely Warren’s move is a welcome one. There are, however, caveats to the senator’s bid and critical lessons for voters looking ahead to an inordinately long campaign season.

    • It’s Your Congress, People. Make it Work for You!

      Congress is the Constitutionally delegated repository of the sovereign authority of the people (the Constitution which starts with “We the People,” not “We the Congress!”). Most of the changes, reforms, and improvements desired by a majority of people have to go through Congress. Incentives for change often start with Congressional elections or grass-roots organizing. But sooner or later, change has to go through the gates of our national legislature on Capitol Hill.

      This point is so obvious that it is astonishing so many reformers fail to regularly hammer home that we must intensely focus on Congress.

      Just 535 humans (Senators and Representatives) need your votes far more than they need fat cat campaign contributions.

    • Accused of Lying to His Own Agency’s Investigators, Departure Doesn’t Save Zinke From DOJ Probe

      Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke left office Wednesday following a Trump administration tenure characterized by aggressive environmental regulatory rollbacks as well as 18 federal investigations into his ethics, spending, and conduct while in office—but his resignation has not saved him from a Justice Department probe into potentially criminal violations.

      The Washington Post reported Thursday that the DOJ has opened a probe into whether Zinke lied to his own agency’s investigators about his involvement in a land deal in Montana and the blocking of a casino project proposed by First Nations tribes in Connecticut.

    • New Polling Shows House Democrats Who Won’t Back Green New Deal Could Be Ousted by Progressives in 2020

      In a signal that Democratic voters aren’t satisfied with timid steps to address the human-made global climate crisis, new polling from Data for Progress—initially reported by HuffPost on Thursday—shows that incumbent congressional candidates in 2020 could be ousted by progressive primary challengers if they fail to back a Green New Deal.

      Championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and a growing collective of Democratic lawmakers and climate campaigners, a Green New Deal would combine efforts to curb global warming and create a more just economy through generating clean energy jobs and other initiatives. Such a deal, however, has been met with opposition from more conservative Democrats.

    • “Are You Serious?” Awards 2018

      From Saudi Arabia funding Islamophobic attacks on Muslim congresswomen to Israel arming anti-Semitic militias, we look at some of the more fascinating boondoggles from 2018

    • Shunning Corporate Donors and Pledging People-Powered Campaign, Warren Shuttering Fundraising PAC

      Urging any Democratic candidates who launch 2020 presidential campaigns to follow suit, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced on Thursday that she is shutting down her joint fundraising PAC.

      A spokesperson for Warren announced the move to CNBC three days after the senator revealed that she is forming an exploratory committee ahead of a potential 2020 run, and a day after Warren appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where she discussed the importance of Democrats ending their dependence on corporate donors and instead running grassroots campaigns powered by small donations from voters.

      “I think this is a moment for all of the Democratic nominees to come into the race to say, ‘In a Democratic primary we are going to link arms and we’re going to say grassroots funding. No to the billionaires,” Warren told Maddow.

    • ‘Trump Is Guilty’: Along With Democratic Control of House Comes Renewed Push to Impeach President

      Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman (Calif.) and Al Green (Texas) on Thursday re-introduced Articles of Impeachment against Trump for allegedly obstructing justice by firing former FBI director James Comey, among other actions. Sherman, with Green’s support, had previously filed an impeachment resolution in July of 2017, when the House was under GOP control.

      Since Republicans refused to hold hearings on that measure, H.Res. 438, and all legislation introduced last session but not enacted into law was terminated on Wednesday, Sherman said in a statement: “Accordingly, it’s necessary and appropriate to reintroduce the Articles of Impeachment. I have not changed the text. I continue to believe that obstruction of justice is the clearest, simplest, and most provable high crime and misdemeanor committed by Donald J. Trump.”

      “Every day, Donald Trump shows that leaving the White House would be good for our country,” the 12-term congressman told the Los Angeles Times early Thursday, before the congressional session convened. In terms of his impeachment resolution, Sherman said, “There is no reason it shouldn’t be before the Congress.”

    • This Girl Is On Fire

      Talk about your welcome sea change. After suffering through eight years of racist, boorish, bellicose mini-Trump Paul LePage, Mainers this week celebrated the swearing-in of our 75th – and first woman – governor Janet Mills, a wonkish Democratic former Attorney General who often tangled with LePage, who believes in climate change and health care, and who speaks in full sentences. Speaking before 3,000 elated people at her Wednesday inauguration, Mills offered up a promising future with the help of a newly Democratic-controlled legislature, vowing to fund Medicaid expansion, focus on renewable energy, fight the state’s opioid crisis and reconvene a council of state agencies to help children in need. The icing on her inaugural cake: The bring-down-the-house performance by two immigrant girls, 11-year-old Shy Paca and 10-year-old Natalia Mbadu, of Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire.” Cue jubilation, and the sense Maine had come back to itself. “Tomorrow we rise before the dawn,” said Mills near the end of her speech, “(with) hope in our hearts and love in our souls for a brand new day.” Not a moment too soon.

    • Democrats Attack Journalism On Their Preferred 2020 Candidates

      Establishment Democrats are waging smear campaign against journalist David Sirota and his reporting on Beto O’Rourke, who may run for president in 2020.

    • Day 13: Dems pass funding plan without wall, Trump digs in

      On their first day in the majority, House Democrats have passed a plan to re-open the government without funding President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.

      The largely party-line votes Thursday night came after Trump made a surprise appearance at the White House briefing room, pledging to keep up the fight for his signature campaign promise.

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump and Senate Republicans should “take yes for an answer” and approve the border bill, which was virtually identical to a plan the Senate adopted on a voice vote last month.

      “We’re not doing a wall. Does anyone have any doubt that we’re not doing a wall?” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference Thursday night.

      Pelosi, who was elected speaker earlier Thursday, also took a shot a Trump, calling his proposal “a wall between reality and his constituents.”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has arrived. But she’s not the only AOC in town

      Is there room in Washington for two AOCs? A couple of very different entities are using the moniker these days, and it’s stirred up some feelings among Hill workers and watchers.

      One is a young, hotshot newcomer to Congress who’s been in the spotlight since an upset election victory over the summer. The other is a 226-year-old agency whose 2,000 employees keep the trees trimmed, the tours running and the lights on behind the scenes.

      Over the weekend Bronx native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a big step — she changed her official Twitter handle to @AOC.

      That’s further tangling things for Hill denizens who see those familiar initials and can’t help but think of the Architect of the Capitol. The Legislative Branch agency, responsible for everything from fixing elevators to restoring historic works of art in the sprawling Capitol complex, has used AOC as its official shorthand for years. The agency’s website is even aoc.gov.

    • “If Bernie Runs?” Wrong Question

      In late 2014 Bernie Sanders came out to Iowa City to speak before a large and enthusiastic crowd at that university town’s venerable independent Prairie Lights Bookstore. It was part of his exploration before finally committing to running for the U.S. presidency as a Democrat Iowa City was a key spot – a big campus town bastion of liberal Democrats whose support would be needed in the pivotal first-in-the nation Iowa Caucuses in January of 2016.

      Sanders spoke well and angrily against economic inequality and its terrible social and political consequences. He made a compelling case for single-payer health insurance, progressive taxation, the restoration of union organizing and collective bargaining rights, and positive climate action.

      It was a good progressive-populist talk with some nice identity politics thrown in for the university crowd. It made important points any leftist could applaud.

      There were two things missing from Bernie’s presentation, however – a pair of deletions that made me wonder how serious he really was about fighting for the nation’s working-class majority and against the nation’s unelected dictatorship of capital. The first omission did not surprise me: any criticism of the American war and empire (“defense”) machine as a barrier to the progressive policies he advocated for “the middle class.”

      The second thing missing was any reference to any Democrats being every much part of the American plutocracy as the Republicans. In his talk, Sanders skewered the evil racist, corporate, and climate science-denying Republicans again and again. He never mentioned corporate Democrats. It was left to a leftist film professor to stand up and politely remind Sanders that the Democratic “leaders” were also tools and agents of the American oligarchy.

      I found Bernie’s silence on Big Business Democrats curious. I recalled John “Two Americas” Edwards denouncing “corporate Democrats” across Iowa in the long lead-up to the 2008 Iowa Caucus. Edwards was no leftist. He’d been a full-blown Democrat who had run on the same presidential ticket with the corporatist neoliberal John “I am Not a Redistribution Democrat” Kerry in 2004.

      The mainstream Edwards could say and denounce “corporate Democrats” – meaning, accurately enough, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, and Chris Dodd – in 2007, but the avowed socialist and independent Bernie Sanders could not in 2014? It seemed odd.

    • Alexandria in Pelosistan

      Those of us who live in San Francisco are often accused of inhabiting an alternative reality. I’m starting to think that maybe those SF bashers are right, but not for the reasons they think.

      No, lately I have the feeling that I’m slipping down the rabbit hole because of the curious behavior of my representative in Congress, Nancy Pelosi.

      Maybe I ate the wrong mushrooms with my avocado toast, but whether I shrink my perspective or expand it to tree top level, nothing quite makes sense here anymore. I thought I was living in the most progressive realm in the USA, but Pelosi, the Queen of Hearts in these parts, still thinks the smart move is playing 1990’s, Clintonite, triangulating, political power games rather than pushing for the real changes we desperately need to improve our lives today and secure a livable future for the generations to come.

      I struggle to find a name for this strange place, where the great and urgent issues of our time are treated as if they have no substance, where our nearly octogenarian Queen is unwittingly in league with a grinning Cheshire cat with his orange comb over in resisting substantive change. Out of loyalty, let’s call it Pelosistan (with apologies to Lewis Carroll).

      For just one upside down example here in this whimsical realm, our Queen appears to believe that only the most fortunate among us are entitled to quality, affordable health care. Our Queen is on the record as being opposed to Medicare for all (or anything like it) – despite the fact that a substantial majority of people in the nation favor it and our current health care system costs twice as much as that of any other advanced nation, yet the World Health Organization ranks us as the 37thbest health care system in the world, while by other measures we rank 40thin child mortality rate, 62nd in maternity mortality rate, 36thin access to essential health services and 35th in life expectancy at age 60. Hmmmmm. Curioser and curioser.

      For another brain teaser, our Queen thinks it’s a clever idea to adopt a pay-go rule for the House of Representatives, meaning you can’t spend any money on new programs without offsetting tax hikes or budget cuts. She thinks it will appeal to voters if the Democrats adopt a Republican austerity strategy, although Republicans themselves refuse to follow such a strategy even as they drone on about its dire necessity. Not only does that seem like she might be taking her advice from a hookah smoking caterpillar, but it makes me wonder what voters she thinks this strategy appeals to. Certainly not her own constituency here in San Francisco.

    • Democrats: Make Labor a Priority for 2020

      Democrats and liberals need to take back the labor issue.

      They, along with Republicans, have supported globalization and free trade policies that have stagnated the American wage for nearly 40 years. The worker remains in a precarious state, at the behest of the double-edged sword of outsourcing and artificial intelligence. Under these conditions, in which they are often happy to maintain any job, employers have been able to maintain low salaries and get by with offering only minimal benefits. Contracting out within the U.S. is also a problem, as seen with Uber and other employers that hire “independent contractors” who work long hours, are stripped of benefits traditional employees receive and are penalized for not providing rides around the clock.

      A tax penalty for international outsourcing, stricter legal definitions on the “independent contractor” and fines for replacing workers with AI, without first securing an equal paying job, would be a good start. Tariffs on goods damaging American industry are another option. Unlike previous candidates, Trump paid lip service to the miserable conditions of the worker and has placed tariffs on steel imports. But his tax cuts, permanent only for corporations, and his further deregulation of industry have far outweighed any good that tariffs may have initiated. Furthermore, as the U.S. steel industry is already in a state of disrepair, the tariffs can only do so much, while negatively impacting American finished products industries that typically purchase cheap steel from China.

      There are some daunting challenges to mainstream Democrats and liberals’ embracing pro-labor policies. First, just as the Republicans are closer to the fossil fuel industry, Democrat are in bed with the high-tech industry. Thus, placing a burden on industries that replace workers with AI faces a logistical hurdle – funding from the high-tech industry may then evaporate. Second, Democrats’ placing strong regulation on businesses is generally unlikely, as Republicans and mainstream Democrats are heavily funded by corporate interests. Lastly, making globalization work for employees requires that they are no longer easily replaceable with inexpensive labor in developing countries. But both parties have long-embraced the ‘freedom’ of American businesses to shift labor overseas, under the pretense of benevolent globalization. Yet placing a tax on businesses that outsource abroad is likely to further erode Democratic campaign funds.

      There is also a perception problem among many Democrats and liberals. They hold a sanguine view of displaced workers’ ability to find other employment without difficulty. And they often associate disgruntled, displaced employees with the ‘angry white male’ who voted for Trump. However, worker displacement affects men, women, African Americans, Hispanics and the rest of the ethnic/racial gamut equally – from self-service cash registers replacing human cashiers, to AI removing white collar workers and outsourcing impacting workers throughout the socioeconomic spectrum.

      The future of employment in the U.S. does not look very positive – unless Democrats act.

    • Will Bernie Sanders Will Be Our President in 2020?

      No one liked Hillary Clinton. Partly because she was a woman and partly because she was a nasty person. Thus when Trump called Hillary a “nasty woman” he could stumble into truth, not so much because he knew what nasty was, but because he didn’t like women. Regardless of the reasons, Hillary was disliked by everyone. She only won the primary for two reasons: 1. Because the party rigged it for her. 2. This was only a two horse race.

      Now, we know the Democrats always rig their primaries. They don’t count mail-in ballots that are primarily from independents and poor people, they bar independents from voting in some states, they repress the votes of young people and people of color, they have a rigged delegate system, and they have a biased corporate media that really is propaganda. They could rig it against Bernie last time because Hillary could keep it close against him even if the rules were fair. 2016 was a two horse race and Bernie was universally unknown, starting the polls at about the 1% he despised.

    • As Most Diverse Congress in History Takes Office, Dems Push to End Shutdown Without Funding for Wall

      The 116th Congress made history Thursday, swearing in the most diverse group of lawmakers ever and more than 100 women in the House, including the first two Native American women, the first two Latina women from Texas and the first two Muslim women. The first-ever African-American women congressmembers from Connecticut and Massachusetts were sworn in, as was Colorado’s first-ever African-American member of Congress. The first-ever and now second female House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and House Democrats sought to end the government shutdown as their first order of business, passing a package of spending bills that would reopen the federal government without meeting Trump’s demand for $5 billion for expanding the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. We speak with California Rep. Judy Chu.

    • Slamming Joe Lieberman for Joining Chinese Telecom Giant, Warren Calls for ‘Lifetime Ban’ on Members of Congress Becoming Lobbyists

      Responding to news that former Democratic Sen. Joe Liebermann—who once promised to never lobby after leaving Congress—is joining the Chinese telecom giant ZTE as a registered lobbyist, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued on Thursday that such a move should be illegal and reiterated her call for “a lifetime ban on members of Congress working as lobbyists.”

      Warren, who on Monday offically announced that she is exploring a 2020 presidential bid, went on to call for a total ban on foreign lobbying as well, arguing that it would force “countries like China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia… to conduct their foreign policy out in the open.”

      “ZTE is a giant foreign telecom company that’s close with the Chinese government. They’ve violated serious U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Their lobbyists keep blocking accountability. And today former Senator Joe Lieberman joined them. Should that be legal? No,” Warren declared on Twitter.

      “Corruption in Washington isn’t about a single president or political party. It runs deep,” the Massachusetts senator added. “We should call it out—and we should pass my sweeping anti-corruption reforms to clamp down on all the ways giant companies drown govt in money to get their way.”

    • ‘Call Me a Radical’: Ocasio-Cortez Suggests 70% Tax Rate for Ultra Rich to Help Pay for Green New Deal

      In the second video featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to make headlines in less than 24 hours, the first-term congresswoman called for major systemic changes to address the climate crisis and suggested taxing ultra wealthy Americans around 70 percent to help pay for it—declaring, “if that’s what radical means, call me a radical.”

      The preview of Anderson Cooper’s forthcoming interview with Ocasio-Cortez, which is set to air at 7pm ET Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” quickly caught the attention of both advocates and critics of implementing a progressive taxation scheme that, as she put, could force the rich “to start paying their fair share in taxes.”

    • Historic Bill to Strengthen Democracy Introduced in Congress

      In a major step toward fixing our broken system of elections, House Democratic lawmakers introduced a comprehensive democracy reform bill Thursday, the first day of the 116th Congress.

      The bill, which is known as H.R. 1, or the For The People Act, and was sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), would create a more responsive and representative government by making it easier for voters to cast a ballot and harder for lawmakers to gerrymander, by transforming how campaigns are funded to amplify the voices of ordinary Americans, and by bolstering election security and government ethics.

      The measure, which comes in response to the demands of voters last November, marks the first time in decades that either of the two major parties has put democracy reform at the top of its priority list. And by grouping together issues that Washington has until now treated separately — voting rights, gerrymandering, campaign finance reform, and ethics — the effort helps to define and build momentum for a sweeping democracy agenda.

    • Democrats in Congress Unveil Ambitious Plan to Fix Our Election System

      On the second day of the 116th Congress, the new House Democratic majority will introduce H.R. 1, the most comprehensive democracy reform legislation seen this century. It addresses voting rights and electoral procedures, campaign finance rules and loopholes, and seeks to institute higher ethical standards for federal officeholders and more.

      One can look at the For The People Act as a wish list of inclusive, transparent and publicly accountable solutions and best practices that seek to come to grips with today’s world of voting, election advocacy and voter engagement—or suppression. Or one can look at its dozens of focal points as a catalog of everything that has broken down in a system that vainly labels itself the world’s greatest democracy.

      “When they trust you on this issue, they trust you on other issues as well,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD, chair of the House Democrats’ Democracy Reform Task Force and a longtime public financing advocate, describing H.R. 1. “That confidence is what democracy is all about.”

    • Within Hours of Taking Office, “Trump of the Tropics” Starts Assault on the Amazon

      Within hours of taking office, the Trump of the Tropics, aka the new President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, launched an all-out assault against the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous communities yesterday, potentially paving the way for large scale deforestion by agricultural, mining and oil companies.

      Startling many commentators by the speed of his action after his inauguration, Bolsonaro signed an executive order or decree, which immediately shifted responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from FUNAI, the Brazilian government’s Indigenous Affairs office, to the pro-agribusiness Ministry of Agriculture.

      More worryingly, it could eventually pave the way for the dismantling of the indigenous reserve system, which would allow mining and oil interests to move in unchallenged.

    • ‘Wait Till GOP Find Out Congresswomen Dance Too,’ Says Ocasio-Cortez

      After an attempt by right-wingers to somehow embarrass Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) by sharing an amazing video of her replicating a dance scene from the 1980s classic film, “The Breakfast Club,” the newly-seated member let her detractors know on Friday that not only is she not ashamed of the archival footage, she’s got a couple of moves left.

    • Copyright, Culture, Sharing, Remix… And A Congresswoman Dancing As A College Student

      So… this post is going to discuss something involving freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For a variety of reasons — some good, some bad, some truly awful — Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, as people call her) seems to elicit quite a strong reaction from people, both pro and con. This post is not about her, or her views, or whatever you happen to think about any of it. If you want to argue about her in the comments, feel free, just know that you’ll be off-topic and will look silly. Rather, this post is about copyright — a topic that we talk about frequently, and one on which AOC, in her new job, may at some point be asked to weigh in on as a legislator.

      The latest “controversy” (if you can even call it that) began as one of the various attempts by some of her critics to dig into her past to try to prove… something(?!?), in this case by unearthing a video of her in college dancing. I remain unclear of what awful thing her critics thought this proved, but apparently it was something about how people can’t possibly have been poor if they once had fun dancing. At least that was the suggestion I saw passed around, and it’s about as nonsensical as copyright term extension, but alas…

    • The Factual Reporting by David Sirota That Stirred an Epic Freakout

      In recent weeks, investigative journalist David Sirota made the repeated fatal error of doing his job. He reported facts, as his wont, and the corporate media and political elites flipped out, as is their wont.

      Earlier this week, he linked to another investigative journalist’s tweet which accurately described what Biden said in a 2018 video—that he would support a means test for Social Security. In response, The Daily Banter—a website which smears anyone to the Left of the DNC, portrays harassers as victims and has a white male staff writer who lectures Nina Turner about her “ancestors” and African American history because he went to a civil rights museum once—posted a story with the expected regurgitation of a talking point used by conservatives or centrists pretending to have progressive politics: ‘Universal programs, you see, are bad, you see, because they benefit the super wealthy, you see, who don’t deserve the help.’ This hot take ignores history and common sense. Universal programs are less stigmatized and less likely to be cut when they apply to everyone. There’s a reason why the politically savvy Bill Clinton went after Welfare and not Social Security.

      The attack on Sirota over Biden is just beginning but it’s the latest iteration of smearing investigative journalists for reporting inconvenient truths. Last month, when David Sirota tweeted out a simple fact about a segment of Beto O’Rourke’s donors, he was accused of launching a “seriously” dangerous war on behalf of Trump. “Oh look,” tweeted Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the liberal(ish) think tank Center for American Progress and a close ally of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “A supporter of Bernie Sanders attacking a Democrat. This is seriously dangerous. We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump’s bidding. I hope Senator Sanders repudiates these attacks in 2019.”

      As is often the case, the smear began with a blatant distortion covered in a mantle of self-righteous moralism. Why is it risky for a journalist—who writes regularly about campaign finance and the interactions between corporations and politics—to point out that the former Democratic Congressman was “the #2 recipient of oil/gas industry campaign cash in the entire Congress.” How is stating a fact “doing Trump’ s bidding”? Why would Sanders need to condemn a journalist for reporting the truth?

    • ‘No-Brainer for Anyone Who Actually Cares About American Democracy’: House Democrats’ HR 1 Praised as Real Plan to Drain the Swamp

      Formally titled the For the People Act—or H.R. 1—and sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the far-reaching bill would promote public financing of elections, reduce the influence of corporate dark money, strengthen ethics and financial disclosure rules, and bolster voting rights, which are under severe attack from the Republican Party, the Trump White House, and the right-wing Supreme Court.

      “Everything in H.R. 1 is a no-brainer for anyone who actually cares about American democracy,” Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement applauding the new legislation.

      “It’s time to unrig our broken political system,” Pearl continued. “Our political leaders have been most responsive to the interests of their wealthy donors for too long while the needs of normal Americans go unaddressed. Before we can fix any of our other issues we need to put power back into the hands of the people, and H.R. 1 is an important, necessary first step to getting there.”

      Progressive groups echoed Pearl’s praise for H.R. 1, describing the plan as an urgent and necessary solution to the corruption that has distorted America’s democratic process for decades.

    • Biggest Threat to Single-Payer? Democrat Support for a Public Option.

      With the midterms over, a battle over health care policy among establishment Democrats and the grassroots is unfolding. What kind of health care reform should Democrats pursue now that they have won control of the House? This struggle will determine in large part how Democrats will spend the political capital the party has accumulated on the issue of health care. This is a considerable amount thanks to the GOP’s efforts to take health care away from millions and ongoing war against Medicaid. How this battle transpires over the next two years may go a long way in determining if Medicare for All can become policy, or simply remains a “goal” or an “aspiration.”

      Single-payer advocates, jubilant about record support in Congress and in public polls, have responded to the midterm success by boldly pushing for a floor vote on Medicare for All (H.R. 676) during the 116th Congress. This move would not result in a law as it has no chance in the Senate. It would, however, represent a huge symbolic victory and, ideally, plant HR 676 as the centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s health care platform.

      Much of the work that is being planned by major players in the movement was discussed in a post-midterm strategy call hosted by National Nurses United and attended by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Pramila Jayapal and speakers from Healthcare-NOW!, Physicians for a National Health Program and Democratic Socialists of America. In the call, Sanders warned of the opposition from “Trump and his minions” and the private health industry. But of all the speakers, only one, Dr. Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), warned of the dangers posed by Democrats and the threat of “a slew of half-measures.”

    • Welcome to the Jungle: New Democrats Get Early Political Lesson

      The education of the star-studded class of House freshmen has begun.

      Lesson one: Speaking with the bluntness of a candidate can produce swift and uncomfortable results.

      Rep. Rashida Tlaib learned that before lunch Friday, when her profane remarks the night before vowing to impeach President Donald Trump drew almost no support, and plenty of pushback, from members of her party.

    • Why We Must Get Big Money Out of Politics The most important…

      Today, big money continues to corrupt American politics – creating a vicious cycle that funnels more wealth and power to those at the top and eroding our democracy.

      In the 2018 midterm elections, wealthy donors and Super-PACs poured millions into the campaigns of the same lawmakers who voted to pass the 2017 tax cuts, which gave them huge windfalls.

      Consider conservative donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose casino business received an estimated $700 million windfall, thanks to Trump and Republicans’ tax cuts. The couple then used some of this extra cash to plow more than $113 million dollars into the 2018 election, breaking the record for political contributions by a single household.

      That’s not a bad return on investment – for them.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Google, Twitter and Apple report requests to take down content. Why doesn’t Netflix?

      After Netflix caved to a legal threat from authorities in Saudi Arabia and removed an episode of “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” in that country, the streaming service is facing calls to start issuing transparency reports.

    • Netflix pulls ‘Patriot Act’ episode in Saudi Arabia after it criticized official account of Khashoggi killing

      Netflix added that Saudi officials threatened it with prosecution under the Kingdom’s cybercrime law, which states “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not exceeding $800,000.

    • Canadian journalist ‘threatened by Islamic party’
    • Censoring Commentary on War Crimes and Mass Starvation Is No Joke

      Netflix’s decision to censor an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s series, blocking access to it within Saudi Arabia, has implications that ripple far beyond the borders of the Saudi dictatorship. “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” is a comedy series produced by Netflix, featuring the young, Muslim-American comedian’s commentary on news and current affairs. Among the topics covered in the show’s first season this past fall were affirmative action, the corporate giant Amazon, oil, immigration enforcement and, in the episode released on Oct. 28, Saudi Arabia.

      The timing of the segment placed it squarely in the midst of the developing scandal around the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Days before the segment came out, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaking at an investment conference in Riyadh that was widely boycotted because of his perceived connection to the brutal murder, said it was a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.” The next day, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor admitted the killing was premeditated. This only intensified international pressure on Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman, with bipartisan calls in the U.S. Congress to halt arms sales to the kingdom. The CIA reportedly confirmed that Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing.

      The U.S. State Department, in its 2017 annual report on human-rights practices in Saudi Arabia, specifically noted that Khashoggi went into “self-exile” from his home country because “in 2016 authorities purportedly banned him from writing, appearing on television, and attending conferences as the result of remarks he made that were interpreted as criticizing the president of the United States,” referring to President Donald Trump.

    • Netflix Censors Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia, Sparking Backlash over Khashoggi Killing, War in Yemen

      Netflix is under fire for pulling an episode of U.S. comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show “Patriot Act” from Saudi Arabia, after officials from the kingdom complained to the streaming company that it violated Saudi cybercrime laws. The episode was posted in late October, a few weeks after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Hasan Minhaj sharply criticized the Saudi royal family and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The censored episode has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube, where it remains available to viewers in Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Minhaj tweeted, “Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube. Let’s not forget that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now. Please donate: help.rescue.org/donate/yemen.” We speak with Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

    • Siri’s Hebrew Voice Sues Apple Because She Doesn’t Like The Way IPhone Owners Are Using Siri

      The licensee — Apple — cannot control how end users manipulate a series of recorded syllables controlled by an algorithm. Its use of Gura-Eini’s voice for its Hebrew version of Siri is a completely legitimate use. No matter how disturbing it might be to hear your own voice saying horrible things you’d never say, the problem is end users, not Apple.

      It’s impossible to see how this case moves forward. If the licensing is all in place — and it appears to be (Apple is longtime partner of Nuance Communications) — the only thing left is someone seeking to soothe their ruffled feathers with $66,000 from Apple’s checkbook.

    • Another State Lawmaker Thinks Teachers Should Be Banned From Discussing ‘Controversial’ Issues

      Perhaps Mark Finchem will allow these many surveys supporting his indoctrination theory to be read into the state record along with the rest of his bullshit bill. Finchem claims a “stunning number” of calls from concerned parents has prompted this action, rather than the organized #RedForEd educator walkout that accompanied educators’ demands for increased funding.

      There’s no chance this bill survives a Constitutional challenge if it somehow becomes law. Restrictions on speech — even that of government employees — demands a narrow crafting. Targeting speech with legislation requires a sniper’s mentality. Finchem is carrying a shotgun loaded with birdshot and hoping it’s enough to prevent speech he doesn’t like from being spoken in the state’s classrooms.

    • UK Court: Guy Who Didn’t Write Defamatory Tweet Needs To Pay $50,000 In Damages Because The Guy Who Did Doesn’t Have Any Money

      We’re all pretty familiar with the United State’s take on defamation. Except for the noticeable lack of a federal anti-SLAPP law, the system works pretty well. Those claiming they’ve been defamed need to meet some rather high bars to win a case, which is how it should be in a country that has enshrined free speech protections. Without these high bars, it’s whoever has the most money or the biggest lawyer, rather than the facts of the case. It’s not perfect, but dear lord it is so much better than how it’s handled by our former overlords.

      Defamation lawsuits are good business in the UK. The law encourages venue shopping, giving mildly-insulted plaintiffs a route to securing a payout for slightly-bruised feelings. It’s a mess and it just keeps getting worse. A recent decision [PDF] by a UK court in a libel lawsuit has delivered some jaw-dropping judicial reasoning.

      A tweet from a group account used by members of the Ukip party apparently defamed a man by mislabeling him a compatriot of “child groomers.” The tweet was composed by one member of the Bristol Ukip. The lawsuit, however, was allowed to be amended to hold someone else completely responsible for this tweet. The end result is one person paying for another person’s alleged libel.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Spy in the camp…

      What if I told you it is possible you have a device in your house capable of listening to all your conversations, recording them and sending them to the cloud, so they can be interpreted by sophisticated algorithms that determine what you are talking about – and sent to organisations that want to know.

      I am not talking about a mobile phone, which can be configured to do this as well but not so easily.

      I am talking about Amazon’s Alexa and similar devices such as Google Home.

      Digital assistants, as they are called, were the must-have devices that were purchased and given as presents this Christmas.

      So much so that Amazon’s Alexa servers crashed on Christmas Day due to the sheer number of new devices being plugged in.

    • Give Up the Ghost: A Backdoor by Another Name

      Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ,) the UK’s counterpart to the National Security Agency (NSA), has fired the latest shot in the crypto wars. In a post to Lawfare titled Principles for a More Informed Exceptional Access Debate, two of Britain’s top spooks introduced what they’re framing as a kinder, gentler approach to compromising the encryption that keeps us safe online. This new proposal from GCHQ—which we’ve heard rumors of for nearly a year—eschews one discredited method for breaking encryption (key escrow) and instead adopts a novel approach referred to as the “ghost.”

      But let’s be clear: regardless of what they’re calling it, GCHQ’s “ghost” is still a mandated encryption backdoor with all the security and privacy risks that come with it.

      Backdoors have a (well-deserved) horrible reputation in the security community. But that hasn’t dissuaded law enforcement officials around the world from demanding them for more than two decades. And while the Internet has become a more dangerous place for average users, making encryption more important than ever, this rhetoric has hardly changed.

    • The Internet Giant’s Dilemma: Preventing Suicide Is Good; Invading People’s Private Lives… Not So Much

      We’ve talked a lot in the past about the impossibility of doing content moderation well at scale, but it’s sometimes difficult for people to fathom just what we mean by “impossible,” with them often assuming — incorrectly — that we’re just saying it’s difficult to do well. But it goes way beyond that. The point is that no matter what choices are made, it will lead to some seriously negative outcomes. And that includes doing no moderation at all. In short there are serious trade-offs to every single choice.

      Probably without meaning to, the NY Times recently had a pretty good article somewhat exploring this issue in looking at what Facebook is trying to do prevent suicides. We had actually touched on this subject a year ago, when there were reports that Facebook might stop trying to prevent suicides, as it had the potential to violate the GDPR.

      However, as the NY Times article makes clear, Facebook really is in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t position on this. As the Times points out, Facebook “ramped up” its efforts to prevent suicides after a few people streamed their suicides live on Facebook. Of course, what that underplays significantly is how much crap Facebook got because these suicides were appearing on its platform. Tabloids, like the Sun in the UK, had entire lists of people who died while streaming on Facebook and demanded to know “what Mark Zuckerberg will do” to respond. When the NY Post wrote about one man committing suicide streamed online… it also asked for a comment from Facebook (I’m curious if reporters ask Ford for a comment when someone commits suicide by leaving their car engine on in a garage?). Then there were the various studies, which the press used to suggest social media leads to suicides (even if that’s not what the studies actually said). Or there were the articles that merely “asked the question” of whether or not social media “is to blame” for suicides. If every new study leads to reports asking if social media is to blame for suicides, and every story about suicides streamed online demands comments from Facebook, the company is clearly put under pressure to “do something.”

    • Several Android Apps Transmitting Sensitive Data to Facebook without Permission, ExTiX Linux Announces Version 19.1 Build 181228, Peppermint 9 Respin-2 Released, Nextcloud Founder’s 2019 Predictions and Some Security Updates

      A recent Privacy International report reveals that “at least 20 out of 34 popular Android apps are transmitting sensitive information to Facebook without asking permission, including Kayak, MyFitnessPal, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor”. According to the story on Engadget, “The concern isn’t just that apps are oversharing data, but that they may be violating the EU’s GDPR privacy rules by both collecting info without consent and potentially identifying users. You can’t lay the blame solely at the feet of Facebook or developers, though. Facebook’s relevant developer kit didn’t provide the option to ask for permission until after GDPR took effect. The social network did develop a fix, but it’s not clear that it works or that developers are implementing it properly.”

    • Indian Authorities Want To Scan Your Social Media Pics Using Microsoft’s PhotoDNA

      With an aim to fight serious issues such as child abuse in India, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the various social media companies to start using Microsoft’s PhotoDNA to scan images on the platforms.

      For the unacquainted, Microsoft’s PhotoDNA is a tool meant for scanning pictures, specifically the ones which exhibit child exploitation. The tool is free to use for anyone.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Of Color, Crime and Punishment

      Seventeen investigations in and an undissipated miasma of suspicion continues to envelop Donald J. Trump. And yet, if his defenders are to be believed, the actions which prompted those investigations are neither technically crimes nor even impeachable offenses. Meanwhile, a U.S. district judge has condemned Michael Flynn’s behavior as “treasonous” and Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison, but their boss remains free to stalk the halls of power unimpeded, as America hurtles from one “constitutional crisis” to another.

      One wonders what fruit, if any, Robert Mueller’s much-vaunted investigation will eventually bear. Like most investigations of the powerful, its conclusions may prove edifying if not sufficiently punitive. If the Snowden case taught us anything, it is that the power elite lie with impunity: the fact a poker-faced James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, could deny under oath that the NSA mined metadata on millions of American citizens in his 2013 Senate testimony and not be charged with perjury is the most salient recent example of the reluctance of this elite to police themselves. Adding insult to injury, when interviewed about his testimony by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Clapper claimed he had “responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no,” a literal parsing of the truth that apparently has allowed him to evade a perjury charge, assuming, of course, that there was a political will to hold him accountable for those “untruths” once they became known, as indeed, they did, by his own admission. YetClapper has not been hauled off to prison despite the fact that the oath he swore required him to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God – not ass-covering, measured “untruths.” But Trump, who has not been sworn to truthfulness, has sworn to uphold the Constitution, though he has spent virtually every day in office conspiring to assault it, without facing any real political or legal consequences, because he knows that in Washington, as in Hollywood, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley, “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

    • Mumia Abu-Jamal Wins Major Court Victory

      Tucker’s decision represents a major victory for Abu-Jamal that opens the door to a new trial–or dismissal of the murder charges against him–after an appeal to the Pennsylvania courts.

    • Informal networks of generosity are supporting asylum seekers on both sides of the border

      When a woman I’ll call Elisa and her 15-year-old daughter, Ana, journeyed from their home in Honduras to Tijuana, Mexico, they survived due to the generosity of a friend who gave them bus tickets, strangers they met aboard the bus headed north and a temporary Mexican humanitarian visa.

      Once they arrived, they stayed in a shelter at a local church whose congregation provided food, toiletries and free health care. Elisa also helped others, by cooking, cleaning the shelter’s common areas and caring for another sick resident.

      As a nonprofit leader, I have built partnerships between U.S. charitable groups and those in Spanish-speaking communities. Now I’m conducting research on how immigrants rely heavily on informal and voluntary support on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Whether migrants arrive in large groups or on their own, I believe this largely unseen generosity is keeping many of them from going hungry and homeless and enhancing their personal safety in precarious conditions.

      This informal giving supplements the insufficient aid available through more official channels.

    • As Trump Applauds Brazil’s New Fascist President, Bolsonaro Wastes No Time Attacking Environment and Marginalized Brazilians

      Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—whose inauguration on New Year’s Day was lauded by U.S. President Donald Trump—wasted no time Wednesday introducing policies targeting the environment, indigenous Brazilians, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized populations, realizing the worst fears of progressives who have protested the openly misogynist, pro-torture president.

      On his first day in office, Bolsonaro introduced an executive order that will effectively take away land rights for indigenous Brazilians and descendants of former slaves and gave control of Amazon lands to the agriculture ministry; eliminated LGBTQ rights from the purview of the country’s human rights ministry; and set the minimum wage lower than the rate his predecessor’s government had budgeted for.

    • On Her Shoulders: Stunning Film Follows Nobel Peace Winner Nadia Murad’s Fight to End Sexual Violence

      We look at the remarkable story of Nadia Murad, the Yazidi human rights activist from Iraq who was recently awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Murad was kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2014 and repeatedly raped as she was held in captivity. After managing to escape, Murad fled Iraq and has dedicated her life to drawing international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people. The documentary “On Her Shoulders” follows Murad as she shares her story with the world. The documentary has been shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and recently received the Columbia Journalism duPont Award. We speak with the film’s award-winning director Alexandria Bombach.

    • Trump Administration Considering Major Civil Rights Law Changes: Report

      The Trump administration has reversed multiple government policies implemented in previous administrations, including rolling back protections in the Affordable Care Act, lifting limits on greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the Justice Department’s use of consent decrees, which ProPublica calls “a storied civil rights tool,” one that supporters say forces local and state governments to implement civil rights reforms that might otherwise languish.

      Now civil rights laws are once again in danger of a major rollback, according to a new internal memo from the Justice Department, details of which were reported by The Washington Post Thursday.

      Trump administration officials, in the memo, directed senior civil rights officials to review how “disparate impact” regulations can be changed or removed in the officials’ area of expertise. Under the concept of disparate impact, an action or policy can be considered discriminatory if it has an unequal impact based on, for example, race or ethnicity, even if that impact was unintentional.

    • U.S. to Investigate Discrimination Against Native American Students on Montana Reservation

      The Office for Civil Rights is already looking into a complaint by Louella Contreras that the Wolf Point district failed to provide her granddaughter, Ruth Fourstar, with special education services. The department’s decision to look into the tribal leaders’ broader allegations bucks the Education Department’s policy under Secretary Betsy DeVos of pulling back from investigating complaints of systemic discrimination by schools and colleges, and concentrating on mistreatment of individuals. ProPublica reported in June that, under DeVos, the department had scuttled more than 1,200 civil rights investigations that began under the Obama administration and lasted at least six months.

      Nationwide, more than 90 percent of Native students attend integrated public schools near or on reservations, which have historically restricted tribal influence over curriculum, funding and staffing. Native American students have some of the worst academic outcomes in public schools: They score lower than nearly all other demographic groups on national tests and less than three-fourths of Native students graduate from high school.

      In the early 20th century, white homesteaders prevailed on the federal government to open up unused lands on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation to non-Native settlement. In June 2017, the tribal executive board filed a 46-page complaint that described dozens of instances where Wolf Point schools provided limited academic opportunities and social support to Native students.

      ProPublica and the Times found that Native students in Wolf Point are twice as likely to receive at least one suspension compared with their white peers, and white students are more than 10 times as likely to take at least one Advanced Placement course as Native students, according to an analysis of federal education data. In interviews, students, staff and parents said Wolf Point’s schools push Native children into a poorly funded, understaffed program for remedial students and truants. Native students said they were dropped from sports teams after giving birth, while a white pregnant student was not.

    • Tribal Nationalism vs Global Unity

      Change, discontent and uncertainty are some of the most prominent characteristics of the times. These interconnected terms are routinely used to describe global affairs and are key factors animating the global protest movement as well as the growing tide of nationalism: Both movements arise from the same seed, one is progressive and in harmony with the new, the other is of the past and seeks to obstruct and divide.

      These are transitional times, as humanity moves out of one civilization imbued with certain ideals, values and beliefs to a new way of living based on altogether different principles; times of unease and insecurity certainly, but also times of great hope and opportunity.

      If humanity is to progress and the natural environment is to survive, fundamental change in the way life is lived is essential, systemic change as well as an accelerated shift in attitudes and values. Many people throughout the world recognize this and are advocating such a shift; those in power – political and corporate – reject such demands and do all they can to maintain the status quo and perpetuate the existing unjust systems. Despite this entrenched resistance, the new cannot be held at bay for much longer: change is coming; the question is when, how and with what impact it will occur, not if.

      Widespread uncertainty is in part the result of this sustained intransigence, coupled with the instability within the socio-economic systems, which are in a state of terminal decay; fuelled by the past, they are carcasses – forms without life. The pervading uncertainty is being exploited by the reactionary forces of the world; powerful forces using fear to manipulate people and drum-up what we might call tribal nationalism, as opposed to civic nationalism, in order to assert themselves, and in many countries they appear to be in the ascendency.

    • White-Collar Crimes Are Human-Rights Crimes

      Here’s a pop quiz: How long has corporate corruption existed? Answer: As long as corporations as we know them have been in business. Thanks to journalist David Montero’s meticulously sourced survey, “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network,” the consumer public now has access to a wealth of details about the astonishingly shady antics in which multinationals have been engaging since the retro-imperialist heyday of the British East India Company.

      And this malignant strain of corporatism is only getting worse. As Robert Scheer remarks to Montero in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” it amounts to nothing short of a “virulent, corrosive, murderous arrangement that has only accelerated in recent years.” Some potential reasons why this global scourge hasn’t been more aggressively treated include: greed; willful ignorance; the widely supported myth that the phenomenon is “just” about white-collar crime; a false sense that corporate malfeasance ranges outside of various states’ jurisdictions; and powerful companies engaging in a race to the bottom because, well, everyone else is doing it.

    • Chip Gibbons on Defending Dissent

      This week on CounterSpin, what makes the work we’re doing even possible: the freedom to speak our criticism of the powerful out loud, to protest against actions taken by the state and by corporations, to communicate openly with one another about how to demand the better world we know is possible.

      Corporate news media serve up a lot of palaver about free speech, but when people actually act on that ideal, media elites use their megaphones to dismiss and deride, and to circumscribe conversation to make it appear that ideas that threaten their interests aren’t really serious ideas, and the people fighting for them are marginal, even dangerous. The power is with us, and our ability to speak and to hear one another—and holding on to that ability is just another part of the work we have to do.

    • Nurses Union Demands All 2020 Candidates Establish Strong Sexual Harassment, Pay Equity Policies

      “Sexual harassment can never be treated as business as usual or swept under the rug. Apologies alone are not enough. Strong mechanisms must be put in place to prevent harassment, that include full accountability for those who engage in such reprehensible behavior and by those with oversight responsibility,” NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said in a statement on Thursday.

      While noting that “sexual harassment continues to be a widespread concern that touches every corner of our society, and every workplace, including political campaigns,” and “as an organization of nurses, who are predominantly women, we are acutely aware of the pervasive, appalling national problem,” Castillo added that “it is especially important that candidates for our highest office set a standard” with comprehensive policies to prevent discrimination and harassment, and to adequately serve the needs of survivors.

      The union’s call follows a letter—leaked to Politico—from more than two dozen former Sanders campaigners seeking a meeting with the senator and his top staffers to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle.” Friends of Bernie Sanders, his main campaign committee, thanked those who signed the letter for coming forward “to engage in this incredibly important discussion.”

    • Fifth Circuit Says Apple Can’t Be Held Liable For A Car Crash Caused By Someone Reading Text Messages

      Seeking to hold tech companies responsible for the actions of their customers and users is a national federal court tradition. Law firms like *checks notes* 1-800-LAW-FIRM and Excolo Law have made a cottage industry of this, scoring dismissal after dismissal of their lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube responsible for the violent actions of terrorists around the world.

      Seeking justice — or at least compensation — for wrongs committed against you and the ones you love is a natural instinct. Issues only develop when you take the fight to a third party only tenuously connected to the wrong that was committed. A lawsuit against Apple has been dismissed for the second time. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is no more impressed with the arguments that failed to make an impact at the lower level.

      In this case, the appellants sued Apple for a car crash caused by a driver reading text messages on her iPhone 5. Maybe the driver turned out to be judgment proof — especially after being convicted on two counts of criminally negligent homicide. The appellants — who lost two family members in the auto accident — feel Apple is liable because it did not implement a lock-out process it had patented in 2008.

    • ‘Quietly and Unnoticed,’ Trump Administration Won’t Cooperate with UN Investigators on Human Rights Violations in US

      Displaying what one United Nations human rights expert called “arrogance” considering international outcry over the Trump administration’s record of human rights violations, the State Department has refused to cooperate with U.N. investigators regarding their complaints about such issues for the better part of a year.

      As the Guardian reported Friday, the administration has “quietly and unnoticed” left unanswered at least 13 official requests from U.N. special rapporteurs on human rights since last May. The failure to respond began a month before Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty, issued a scathing report detailing “devastating inequality” in the U.S., made worse by the policies of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    • Capitalism and Race Redux

      Race is among the more tortured axes of American social relations. The nation was formed from slavery and genocide and no redistribution of political and economic power has been made to rectify the imbalance that resulted. And less formalized types of violence and exploitation have persisted into the present. The same is true of treatment of the indigenous population— as late as the 1970s indigenous women of childbearing age were still being forcibly sterilized.

      This history creates a paradox. Three and one-half centuries after the Anglo-American incarnation of slavery was brought to American shores and one-hundred and fifty years after it was formally ended, racial injustice persists. The economic basis of the injustice was well understood during slavery. Subsequent framing in terms of race misstates the economic motives that have persisted into the present.

    • What I Learned Being Part of the Sanctuary Caravan: Delivering Support to Asylum Seekers on the U.S. Border

      December was the month CODEPINK: Growing a Local Peace Economy was dedicating our outreach and organizing to being an ally for the asylum seekers who had just arrived in and around Tijuana below the U.S. San Diego border.

      CODEPINK’s Local Peace Economy was created to focus on the disasters that will occur as a result of global inequality, climate change, constant war. Not to mention all the money that funds war (including $1.4 trillion in weapons sold each year) that should be alleviating human suffering instead of creating it. We have gathered every month for the past few years, learning about the values of a peace economy, practicing them together, deepening our relationship and trust, and weaving a community of those who invest their time and energy in the practices of peace locally. Last month, we reached out to our friends to ask for donations supporting asylum seekers, and the outpouring of generosity that resulted was overwhelming.

    • It’s Time to Get Serious About Prison Reform

      As 2018 drew to a close, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, a historic bill called the First Step Act to begin reforming our broken criminal justice system, reducing sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders and enhancing rehabilitation programs in federal prisons. Some media have described the new legislation, which was enacted with the support of Democrats and many Republicans, as a “sweeping overhaul.” Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) more soberly dubbed it “a compromise of a compromise,” adding that there’s a great deal more to do. The U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and the vast majority of people in lockup are not in federal prisons. What’s more, the law will help only a fraction of the 180,000 people in federal custody, while doing nothing for the nearly two million people in state, county and local penitentiaries.

      By pandering to public fears, spreading misinformation, and posturing with macho slogans, “tough-on-crime” politicians have long opposed reforms and blocked efforts to rehabilitate people in prison, making it more likely that they will return to crime after their release.

      I should know. I spent much of the past two summers volunteering with the Prison Watch program of American Friends Service Committee in Newark, responding to letters from prisoners across the country, providing them with resources to help end abuses and inhumane conditions.

      “Officers locked me in solitary confinement for 10 days handcuffed and shackled to a metal bed. During that time they would extinguish their cigarette butts on my body and flip hot ashes in my face and eyes and place meal trays just out of reach…Another officer told me to shut up or he would kill me and used his boot to kick me in the head…”

      Letter after letter described the horrors unfolding in many of our nation’s prison cells and isolation units. The Eighth Amendment of our Constitution guarantees that no one shall be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishments.” Hundreds of testimonies that I encountered from prisoners suggest that this remains a promise unkept.

    • Sanders, Warren and the DSA

      Can you guess which Senator’s quote was which? Take 5 minutes to decide but no cheating, please. Okay, the answer is that Sanders’s quote came first. But wouldn’t any DSA’er be nearly as happy to see Warren become President in light of her belief that “giant corporations . . . exploit workers just to boost their own profits”? It is worth noting that some on the left—including Boris Kagarlitsky and Diana Johnstone—took Trump’s populist rhetoric to heart, so maybe something more than words have to be taken into account.

      Sunkara warns that with Warren getting support from prominent Democratic Party policy wonks like Matt Yglesias, the co-founder and editor of Vox, there’s reason enough to downgrade her. Maybe Sunkara forgot that Vox was a major booster of Jacobin, calling attention to how it was winning the war of ideas on the left. And who doesn’t love a winner?

      Vox followed up with another article helping to bolster Jacobin’s cred. After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory, DSA member and Jacobin editor Meagan Day wrote a piece titled “Democratic socialism, explained by a democratic socialist” that warned against confusing her comrades with namby-pamby “New Deal liberals”. Unlike FDR, the democratic socialists are for “overthrowing capitalism”. This is apparently Sanders’s idea as well, according to Sunkara’s op-ed.

    • Class War in Sweden

      The resurgence of – true or self-proclaimed – socialist movements in the Global North has implied very generous interpretations of life in the Nordic countries. Sweden, in particular, has often been hailed as a model for the “democratic socialism” espoused by Bernie Sanders and others.

      It is true that the legacy of Sweden’s strong working-class movement and social-democratic governance makes the welfare state somewhat more resilient than in other countries. Sweden still enjoys a relatively high level of unionization, government funding for equal opportunities in education, employment, and the arts, universal health care, free education, and so forth. Sweden also ranks high when it comes to the implementation of the rights of women and LGBTQ people, it has relatively liberal immigration policies, and it dedicates an above-average percentage of its GDP to development projects in the Global South. All of this rightfully appeals to people embracing socialist values of equality and internationalism.

      But Sweden has been marked by the neoliberalist era as much as any other country. In the 1990s, the Social Democratic Party – which has been governing the country, with short interruptions, since the 1920s – embraced New Labour-type policies, privatizing huge parts of the public sector, including clinics, schools, postal services, the transport system, and council flats. The center-right government that ruled the country from 2006 to 2014 accelerated these developments. In Stockholm, thepercentage of council flats in available housing dropped from 75% in 1990 to 45% in 2015. Prices on the private market have skyrocketed, which has reshaped the city’s entire social fabric. Across the country, eligibility for unemployment and invalidity benefits have been cut substantially. And the once powerful unions have been losing much influence, not least due to large economic sectors being absorbed by the gig economy (from delivery, cleaning, and catering to cultural, academic, and IT work).

    • ‘I Can Do It If I Want’: Trump Threatens to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall

      Speaking outside of the White House on Friday as the government shutdown continued with no funding agreement in sight, President Donald Trump threatened to declare a national emergency to build his “border wall” if he doesn’t receive the more than $5 billion in funding he’s demanding from Congress.

      “I can do it if I want,” Trump proclaimed in response to a question from a reporter. “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.”

    • What It Means to Put Class First

      Analysts of capitalist society who give primacy to class relations—sometimes branded “class firsters”—have been met with a mix of false and contradictory charges. Michael Yates’s CounterPunch (12/24/18) essay, based on his book Can the Working Class Change the World? (Monthly Review Press, 2018), is a good example of this muddled criticism. Yates’s piece warrants a close look for two reasons: first, unlike “race reductionists” who tend to operate without a structural analysis of capitalism, Yates explicitly offers such an analysis; and second, by sorting out where he goes wrong, it might be possible to find a way forward.

      One of Yates’s key points, reiterated multiple times, is that capitalism, racism, and sexism “cannot be separated.” Racism and patriarchy, Yates says, are “essential features” of capitalism; along with ecological destruction, racism and patriarchy are “fundamental to capitalism.” In his book, Yates suggests (p. 79), invoking W. E. B. Du Bois, that it is not even possible to imagine a non-racist, non-sexist capitalism. In light of this insistence on the ontological inseparability of capitalism, racism, and sexism, it rings odd, then, when Yates criticizes class-firsters for failing to see that “to some extent, race and gender are independent of class.”

      Aside from the apparent contradiction between claims that race/racism and gender/sexism are both inseparable from and independent of class, there are two problems here. One is that the people Yates identifies as class-firsters—most notably Adolph Reed; though perhaps with Walter Benn Michaels also in mind—don’t at all fail to see that race and gender, as systems of inequality, are “to some extent, independent of class.” Indeed, this is part of what they’ve been arguing.

    • Rhode Island Supreme Court Allows Unfairly Shutdown Strip Club to Reopen

      Providence’s licensing board, we argue, violated the club’s rights when it was shut down based solely on allegations of solicitation of prostitution.

      Imagine a symphony orchestra barred by the state from performing again because a musician was found to have sold marijuana to a colleague backstage. Imagine a bookstore being shuttered by the government because peace activists planned acts of civil disobedience in a backroom. Imagine a movie theater permanently closed because an employee assaulted a patron.

      In Providence, Rhode Island, you don’t have to imagine it, because it happened to a strip club called the Foxy Lady. On Dec. 19, the Providence Board of Licenses voted to permanently shut down the adult entertainment venue, which has been in operation for decades, after police arrested three employees for allegedly soliciting sex from undercover police officers earlier in the month. By doing so, the board threw more than 200 people out of work less than a week before Christmas.

      Within days, the state Department of Business Regulation quickly restored the club’s liquor license, but the Foxy Lady’s owners were required by law to petition the state Supreme Court to regain its entertainment license. On Monday, the ACLU of Rhode Island submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to that court arguing that it should grant a stay of the board’s revocation of the Foxy Lady’s license on the grounds that the board violated the due process and First Amendment rights of the establishment. Yesterday, the state Supreme Court agreed to issue a stay, allowing the club to reopen for now, but the threat of future closure remains.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cancels trip to CES amid government shutdown

      This will be the second year in a row that Pai has canceled his plans to attend the biggest consumer electronics showcase in the country. Last year, he cited safety concerns following the commission’s move to repeal the Open Internet Order, which reversed net neutrality regulations, only a few weeks prior to the conference. Last year, Recode reported that federal law enforcement intervened in Pai’s 2018 appearance, following death threats he received in the aftermath of the net neutrality rollback. It was the first time in five years that he had not attended the conference.

    • FCC Chairman Pai celebrates Congress failing to bring back net neutrality

      And the “strong bipartisan majority” bears a bit of explanation as well. Indeed, the Democrats fell about 30 short of the votes they needed to put the Congressional Review Act into effect and undo the FCC’s order. But that was only after the Senate, by a similar “strong bipartisan majority,” as Pai would no doubt put it, voted for the rollback. No mention of that in his statement.

      In fact the CRA was a long shot from the beginning, but as Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) told me shortly after the repeal, “it’s very important to try, and it’s important to get everybody in Congress on the record. We want every member of Congress to have to go on the record and say whether or not they agree with what the commission just did.”

    • FCC gets a new Democrat, is back to full slate of five commissioners

      The Federal Communications Commission will once again have a full lineup of five commissioners, with three Republicans and two Democrats. The FCC has had three Republicans but only one Democrat since Mignon Clyburn left the agency in May 2018.

    • Ajit Pai Gloats As House Fails To Restore Net Neutrality

      One, the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules weren’t “heavy handed.” By international standards (Japan, Canada, The Netherlands) they were relatively weak, and were, in reality, pretty much the very least the US government could do to try and rein in natural telecom monopolies in the absence of real competition. Two, while Pai applauds a “strong bipartisan majority” in the House, that majority actively ignored the bipartisan majority of their constituents who support net neutrality and wanted the rules left intact in the first place.

      Pai also felt oddly compelled to take credit for fairly marginal speed increases he had little to do with. Broadband speeds being up 35% has more to do with natural evolution (largely relatively cheap DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades on cable networks) than anything else. And at least a healthy portion of that speed increase is thanks to community fiber networks Pai actively opposes. Claiming any of this had anything to do with net neutrality is patently false.

      Of course there’s plenty of realities Pai would rather not talk about. Like that time Verizon throttled the mobile connections of California firefighters (while they were fighting a wildfire) and Pai did nothing. Or when CenturyLink blocked user internet access until users clicked on an ad, and the FCC said absolutely nothing. Or last week when AT&T quietly began violating net neutrality by only applying broadband usage limits if you use a competitor’s streaming service. Not a word from the FCC about any of it, despite ample claims that the perils of non-neutrality are utterly hallucinated.

      Nor does Pai much want to talk about the fact that as US telcos refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines, it’s letting cable giants like Spectrum and Comcast nab a greater monopoly over fixed-line broadband, resulting in some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world. Or how anybody with an IQ over 70 can see natural monopolies and media conglomerates like AT&T and Comcast hope to use their massive size and leverage to tilt the playing field and harm smaller streaming competitors in the online video wars to come.

    • ‘There’s a Disconnect Between DC and What People Actually Want’ – CounterSpin interview with Tim Karr on net neutrality

      Janine Jackson: When last we checked on the FCC, agency chair and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai was admitting what everyone already knew: that he straight-up lied when he told lawmakers that public comments in favor of net neutrality couldn’t get through because the FCC was suffering an online attack that tied up their servers. In fact, the agency’s Republican majority simply overrode clearly stated public support for net neutrality rules in their decision to repeal them.

      That Pai has an agenda, to allow telecommunication industry titans to basically write policy to their liking, is obvious; whether he’ll be able to turn a federal agency tasked with representing the public interest so thoroughly against that purpose is what’s being contested, including by our next guest. Timothy Karr is senior director of strategy and communications at the group Free Press. He joins us now by phone from New Jersey. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Tim Karr.

    • Towns And Cities Keep Ditching Comcast To Build Their Own Broadband Networks

      We’ve long talked about the more than 750 towns, cities, and counties that have responded to US broadband market failure by building their own broadband networks. We’ve also talked at length about how data has shown these networks often offer better service at lower, more transparent prices than their purely private sector counterparts, whose apathy has only grown in the wake of limited competition. And, of course, we’ve talked at great length about the 21 state laws giant ISPs have quite literally written and purchased in a bid to try and keep this phenomenon from taking root.

      Those protectionist efforts aren’t working all that well.

      In states like Massachusetts, there are countless towns and cities that either only have the choice of expensive Comcast cable broadband, or antiquated Verizon DSL lines the company simply refuses to upgrade (despite countless billions in subsidies, regulatory perks, and tax breaks). After years of apathy from entrenched incumbents, these towns and cities have slowly but surely peeled off and begun building their own networks.

    • 2019 Brings Another Wave Of Cable Programming Blackout Feuds Nobody Wants To Address

      We’ve written for years about how retransmission and carriage fee disputes in the cable industry have grown increasingly common and are only getting worse. The short version: when it comes time to sign a new deal paying for content, broadcasters generally demand huge rate hikes for the same channels. Cable operators then play hardball, and during negotiations one side or the other (usually broadcasters) pulls their content from the cable lineup in a bid to apply the resulting consumer anger against the other guy in negotiations.

      According to cable providers, there were 140 such blackouts last year, up from just 8 back in 2010. One of the biggest problems with these feuds: consumers never see refunds, even though they’re often left without access to channels they’ve already paid for, for months. And while regulators from both parties occasionally make some noise about protecting consumers from such tactics, nothing ever actually happens. Generally, these fights are seen by regulators as “boys just being boys,” and the consumer impact is routinely ignored.

    • FCC Shuttered, Ajit Pai Forced To Cancel CES Trip Because The US Government Is a Hot Mess

      As you’ve probably noticed, the bickering over a dumb fence most attentive folks realize will never be fully funded or built has resulted in the government partially shutting down, leaving roughly 800,000 government employees furloughed without pay. As garbage and human waste begin to pile up at our under-staffed park system, the FCC this week also announced it would be suspending all but the most essential operations as of last Thursday, with 1,197 of the FCC’s 1,442 employees now left unpaid.

      According to the FCC, all investigations into fraud (admittedly few and far between with this FCC), merger review, management of spectrum, and approval and testing of new electronics will grind to a halt. And while the agency’s 911 and network outage complaint systems will remain operational, there will be nobody staffing the agency to respond to consumer or company complaints.

  • DRM

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Resolutions to Improve Debates on Economic Policy in 2019

      This one is pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. It should be pretty obvious that these and other forms of intellectual property are government policies explicitly designed to promote innovation and creative work. We can (and have) make them stronger and longer, or alternatively make them shorter and weaker, or not have them at all. We can also substitute other mechanisms for financing innovation and creative work, including expanding those already exist. (Anyone hear of the National Institutes of Health?)

      Incredibly, most policy debates, especially those on inequality, treat these monopolies as though they were just given to us by the gods. It is endlessly repeated that technology has allowed people like Bill Gates to get incredibly rich, while leaving less-educated workers behind. But that’s not true. It is our rules on patents and copyrights that have allowed people to get enormously wealthy from technological developments. With a different set of rules, Bill Gates would still be working for a living.

    • Qualcomm posts security bonds over $1.5 billion to enforce German iPhone 7/8 sales ban: separating facts from fake news

      The purpose of the guarantee (regardless of how it is provided) is just that, if Qualcomm’s immediate enforcement later (after all appeals are exhausted) turns out wrongful, Apple can be ade whole up to this amount even if Qualcomm went out of business in the meantime. A finding of wrongful enforcement would be far from unprecedented; probably most patent enforcement in Germany is wrongful (just that cases normally get settled prior to such a finding). But we all know Qualcomm isn’t going to go out of business in the years ahead.

      The security amount is just meant to provide reasonable protection to Apple. Should there be a finding of wrongful enforcement when all is said and done, and should the parties be unable to settle the matter, then a court of law will have to determine the amount of the wrongful-enforcement damages. That amount can ultimately be lesser or greater–ad Qualcomm will have to pay the exact amount regardless of the security amount. (This works the same way in the United States, by the way.)

      The actual economic impact of this enforcement on Apple remains to be seen. The two injunctions (over the same patent but targeting different Apple entities) don’t have an effect on third parties, particularly resellers. Apple now has to stop selling certain devices (iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus) in Germany, and it will have to send a recall letter to its resellers, but those resellers are not at risk of contempt sanctions by the court. In fact, the resellers (such as T-Mobile or Vodafone) could even keep buying such iPhones in other countries, and if they buy them from other EU member states (such as Austria or the Netherlands), then there won’t even be any import duties involved.

    • Qualcomm reiterates refusal to extend standard-essential patent licenses to rival chipset makers

      I doubt that whatever testimony Judge Koh will hear from Intel and MediaTek (Samsung is a special case because it makes chipsets for its own phones) is going to express much appreciation for Qualcomm’s licensing policy. The FTC’s trial brief is heavily redacted, but it does stress that rival chipset makers requested licenses from Qualcomm.

      What’s at issue in the FTC case is not whether others are “free to make and sell modem chips,” or whether Qualcomm demands supra-FRAND royalties from them. It’s about the interplay between Qualcomm’s chipset business and Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices, and the ultimate effects on competition.

      I’m sure (even prior to hearing the testimony) that the likes of Intel and MediaTek would be more than happy to pay FRAND royalties to Qualcomm because this would enable them (Intel, MediaTek, etc.) to sell their components to such customers as Apple on a basis where the customer would then know there’s no more need to negotiate with Qualcomm (unless one is interested in a license to some patents covering other types of functionality, such as the search-related patents Qualcomm is asserting against Apple in some of its cases pending in Munich).

      By contrast, when such customers work with Qualcomm, they get the chips and a patent license, and Qualcomm has positioned itself as a clearing house for wireless SEPs, meaning that if you buy a Qualcomm chip, you’re practically (thanks to patent exhaustion) also licensed to a number of other companies’ cellular SEPs.

      What Qualcomm says about its non-offensive approach to rival chipset makers comes down to saying: “We’re not going to sue them, just their customers (if they don’t pay our huge license fees).” One doesn’t have to have much industry expertise to understand that the business implications of this are just as bad, if not worse.

    • Copyrights

      • Hey! Wait! Nirvana’s got a new copyright complaint

        Nirvana is suing Marc Jacobs for copyright and trade mark infringement for its use of a smiley face logo in its Bootleg Redux Grunge clothing collection, with observers saying the fashion brand will likely rely on First Amendment defences

        Grunge band Nirvana is suing Marc Jacobs, alleging the fashion brand has infringed its copyright and misleadingly used its trade marks with the “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection of clothing.

      • Smells like IP infringement?

        Whether it is competitor “inspiration” or a designer who inadvertently sells their name with their company the battles are myriad and go to the core of questions such as what is creativity and where the line is between standard design features and protectable IP rights.

        The latest designer to follow this trend is Marc Jacobs. His eponymous company has been accused of being a little too inspired by 90s grunge in his “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection. The collection liberally borrows from Nirvana both in terms of the band’s signature logo and in its various allusions to many of their classic songs. The company’s Tumblr even included a Nirvana meme at one stage but this has now been removed.

        Rather than saying “nevermind,” Nirvana, via its LLC, has responded to this alleged infringement by commencing proceedings in California for copyright infringement and various common law trade mark equivalents under the Lanham Act and state law. The complaint is available here.

      • Lets Get It On…Trial – Another Copyright Infringement Case for Ed Sheeran

        There are two on-going cases relating to “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud”, before Judge Louis L Stanton in the New York Southern District Court. Neither of the cases are bought by the Gaye Estate. The song was recorded by Marvin Gaye, but was written by Ed Townsend who owned 2/3rd of the royalties for the song when he died in 2003.

        The first is between Structured Asset Sales (SAS) and Sheeran, his co-writer Amy Wadge and their record labels. SAS is a beneficial owner of one-third of all of the copyright rights of Townsend in all of his catalogue of works, including “Let’s Get it On.”

      • 7 Best KickAss Torrents Alternatives That Work In 2019: Similar Sites Like KAT

        Even if one has got the slightest exposure to the BitTorrent world, it’s hard to believe one doesn’t have an idea of KickAssTorrents. The defunct torrent site was so popular that we can often find internet users searching for torrent websites that are KickAss alternatives.

        In its glory days, KickAss rose to success, taking the throne away from The Pirate Bay. But in 2016, the website faced the wrath of the US law enforcement with its owner Artem Vaulin getting arrested. Numerous KickAss copycats came and went, some of them managed to deceive users for a while. It’s also worth noting that a group of staffers has tried to revive the site’s lost glory with a new website named Katcr.co/full.

      • Everybody Loses After Metal Band And Photographer Get Pissy Over Photographer’s Copyright Threat

        In many, if not most, of the copyright disputes we cover here, the stance we take is not typically a purely legal one. Often times, we make mention that one party or another is legally allowed to take the actions it has, but we note that those protectionist actions aren’t the most optimal course to have taken. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in a dispute that arose between metal band Arch Enemy and a photographer it had allowed to take concert photos for them.

        The backstory here goes like this. Arch Enemy has worked with J. Salmeron, a photographer and attorney, to take photos of the band’s concerts. Salmeron then posted those photos to his Instagram account, after which they were reposted both by the band’s fans and members of the band themselves. All of that was done without issue. One of the band’s merchandise partners, however, used one of the photos of the lead singer to promote the band’s merchandise on social media accounts. Finding out about this, Salmeron contacted the company and asked for a 100 euro “licensing fee” in the form of a payment to his choice of charity.

      • January 1, 2019: If you have not thought about the copyright public domain for a while, maybe this is a good time to do so

        What makes January 1, 2019, particularly interesting is that it marks the first year in which works protected under U.S. copyright law, whose entry into the public domain was stayed for a time under the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act or, more cynically, the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, since it had the effect of keeping the movie “Steamboat Willie” protected by copyright until 2024), will no longer enjoy that benefit. By virtue of this legislation, works first copyrighted in 1923 or thereafter, which were still protected by copyright in 1998, will enter the public domain in 2019 at the earliest. It did so by extending the term of protection for 20 more years.

        Well, January 1, 2019, has now passed and The New York Times, in a December 29, 2018 article (“New Life for Old Classics , as Their Copyright Runs Out”) by Alexandra Alter, has taken account of the copyright significance of this date. She notes that such works as “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran (1,500 copies were originally printed; nine million copies have been sold in North America alone); “Tarzan and the Golden Lion” by Edgar Rice Burroughs; “A Son at the Front” by Edith Wharton; “The Id and the Ego” by Sigmund Freud; “The Inimitable Jeeves” by P.G. Wodehouse; “The Murder on the Link” by Agatha Christie; “Cane” by Jean Toomer (the only book he ever published); “The Prisoner” by Marcel Proust; and “New Hampshire” by Robert Frost (which includes the poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”), will be entering the public domain.

      • BitTorrent Unveils New Token to Pay for Faster Downloads

        BitTorrent Inc. has announced a new cryptocurrency token that will allow users to pay for faster downloads. The token is part of BitTorrent and TRON’s plan to add ‘currency’ to the BitTorrent protocol through a series of extensions. The new BitTorrent (BTT) token will be offered through an exclusive token sale. Later this year, users of uTorrent can expect to see the first ‘currency’ features in their clients.

      • Mitch Glazier Becomes New Chairman and CEO of the RIAA

        Mitch Glazier has been promoted to become the new Chairman and CEO of the powerful recording industry trade organization RIAA. The former RIAA President, who was touted for the top job back in 2017, is joined by Michele Ballantyne, who will act as the music group’s Chief Operating Officer.

      • Movie Companies Sue Popcorn Time Operator in US Court

        Filmmakers behind the movies “Mechanic: Resurrection” and “Once Upon a Time in Venice” are trying to shut down a popular Popcorn Time fork through the Hawaiian federal court. In an amended complaint, the companies accuse a Ukranian man of being the mastermind behind the site and software. At the same time, a Popcorn Time user is in their crosshairs as well.

12.23.18

Links 23/12/2018: SuperTux 0.6.0, GCompris 0.95, GDB 8.2.1

Posted in Site News at 7:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Estimate the cost of open source software in 5 practical areas

    The promise of freely available code, coupled with limitless opportunities to change and build a tool to fit specific needs, makes open source software a compelling force for enterprise IT shops.

    Open source products enable organizations to shed onerous licensing fees, as well as the sizable annual maintenance charges that come with enterprise-grade software. But the cost of open source software is not always cheap, and its tantalizing benefits often impose added expenses.

    Evaluate open source offerings against commercial products, including enterprise versions of open source technologies, to select a tool that both performs as expected and drops no surprises on the IT budget or operations team.

  • Softiron, a proprietary ARM hardware company, loves open source Ceph

    Interview Softiron is developing and building its proprietary ARM-powered HyperDrive storage hardware while strongly promoting Ceph open source storage software.

    It seems an unusual combination. Softiron also thinks Ceph will fulfil a Linux-like destiny inD open-source software-defined storage. This is bullish, to say the least.

    Curious about both things, I determined to find out more about Softiron and its Ceph-boosting activities.

    Here is my interview with Jason Van der Schyff, Softiron’s CTO. His answers are edited for brevity.

  • Merry Christmas from the Balkans

    I had dinner with four young women who have become outstanding leaders in the free software movement in the region, Albiona, Elena, Amire and Enkelena.

  • South Africa in Needs for Open Source Skills

    “However, if we consider that our unemployment rate is a combination of deficient demand for labor, due to the increasingly skills-intensive orientation of the South African economy, and substandard supply, programmes that focus on in-demand skills and provide on-the-job learning are critical. And given that technology is mainly driven by open source innovation and software-services provide a massive market opportunity, championing these become critical,” Bennett said.

  • A curl 2018 retrospective

    Another year reaches its calendar end and a new year awaits around the corner. In the curl project we’ve had another busy and event-full year. Here’s a look back at some of the fun we’ve done during 2018.

  • Eighty Percent ownCloud

    Recently the German computer magazin C’t posted an article about file sync solutions (“Unter eigener Regie”, C’t 23, 2018) with native sync clients. The article was pretty positive about the FOSS solution of… Nextcloud! I was wondering why they had not choosen ownCloud’s client as my feeling is that ownCloud is way more busy and innovative developing the desktop client for file synchronization together with community.

  • Release month, Burger Party 1.3.0!

    Another weekend, another release! This one is special. You may remember a few years ago I created a burger game for Android: Burger Party. At that time I had plans to generate some revenue through this game. After investigating the different revenue models, I sadly concluded I would have to include ads.

    That did not work out (surprise!): at its peak Burger Party reached a few thousand installations, which generated a meager $30 of revenue. I guess the reasons for this failure was that: 1. There were not enough ads to make it work: I decided against permanent banners so the game only displayed interstitials between levels, and no more than one ad every two minutes, 2. It did not reach enough installations, marketing is not my forte.

    [...]

    Here it is: Burger Party, as of 1.3.0, is now ad-free and licensed under GPL-3.0 or later, with some parts under Apache 2.0! And it’s back on Google Play!

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GNU World Order 12×52
    • Molly de Blanc: User freedom (n.)

      I talk a lot about user freedom, but have never explained what that actually means. The more I think about user freedom as a term, the less certain I am about what it is. This makes it hard to define. My thoughts on user freedom are the synthesis of about ten years, first thinking about the Good behind developmental models enabled by open source through to today, where I think about the philosophical implications of traffic lights.

      I think I picked up the term from Christopher Lemmer Webber and it’s become integral to how I think and talk about free software and it’s value to society.

      User freedom is based in the idea that we have fundamental rights (I’ll use the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as my metric*) and that these extend to the digital spaces we inhabit. In order to protect these in a world ruled by software, in order to see them in practice, we need the opportunity (and freedom) to use, examine, modify, and share this software. Software freedom is what happens when our software affords us these freedoms. Free and open source software is the software embodying the spirit of software freedom.

    • GDB 8.2.1 released!
    • GDB 8.2.1 Debugger Brings Support For RISC-V ELF

      GDB 8.2.1 was released today as the newest version of the GNU Debugger For C/C++ as well as Ada, Go, Rust, and other languages.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Stormy weather: To stop cloud giants, some open-source software firms limit licenses

      A heated debate has erupted in the open-source software world that’s pitting startups against cloud computing giants.

      The furor concerns, of all things, new licensing terms, which software companies are adopting to thwart what they believe is unfair competition from cloud provider in general and Amazon Web Services Inc. in particular.

      It’s the latest development in the ongoing struggle by open-source developers to come up with sustainable business models built upon software that is essentially free. Open source has transformed the software industry, but only a few companies such as Red Hat Inc. — itself likely to be acquired by IBM Corp. in a recently announced deal — are consistently profitable.

    • Parity Introduces Substrate, a Blockchain Building Tool Suite

      The beta version of Substrate is authorized under the GNU General Public License, but the safe storage of the system will be transferred to an Apache 2.0 license to provide utmost developer independence. Parity will also offer professional help to organizations in view of the development of apps with a substratum.

    • Asus to release encrypted kernel sources for their ZenFone Max Pro M1, Max Pro M2 and Max M2

      The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 has been one of the more interesting smartphones from the company, especially in the budget segment in the past few years. The phone ticked a lot of boxes in terms of offering probably the best performance in its segment at that time along with a cleaner look with the stock Android. The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 follows the path set down by their predecessor and goes on to compete against the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro overcoming its predecessor’s shortcomings.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Max Planck Society Ends Elsevier Subscription

        This move by MPS follows the cancelation of Elsevier subscriptions by nearly 200 German universities and research institutions in the last two years, alongside similar cancellations in Sweden. And it’s in line with Plan S, a requirement by a coalition of research funders, now numbering 13 in Europe and in the US, requiring that starting in 2020, researchers receiving funds from the organizations make their publications open-access, as The Scientist reports. After losing access to journals this July, universities in Germany in Sweden have relied on other means for accessing articles, such as inter-library loan and emailing study authors directly.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • What Does the Open Sourcing of MIPS Mean for RISC-V and the Rest of Us?

        The acquisition of the MIPS intellectual property [sic] seems to be part of Wave Computing’s pivot away from the data center, and towards edge computing. Which, of course, is another of the bigger trends we’ve seen during the year. It was also a role reversal of the typical trend we’ve seen over the last few years, with processor manufacturers like Intel buying up machine learning startups.

      • Porting Alpine Linux to RISC-V

        There are two phases to porting an operating system to a new architecture: bootstrapping and, uh, porting. For lack of a better term. As part of bootstrapping, you need to obtain a cross-compiler, port libc, and cross-compile the basics. Bootstrapping ends once the system is self-hosting: able to compile itself. The “porting” process involves compiling all of the packages available for your operating system, which can take a long time and is generally automated.

  • Programming/Development

    • GNU Parallel 20181222 (‘Jacob Sparre’) released

      GNU Parallel 20181222 (‘Jacob Sparre’) has been released.

    • Weekly Python StackOverflow Report: (clvii) stackoverflow python report
    • Dynamic function creation at run time with Python’s eval built-in
    • Create a thumbnail with pillow
    • My small vim and tmux flow cheatsheet

      I know that there are way too many vim and tmux cheatsheets out there. I want to share mine with a little timeline touch. It tries to capture frequent keys during my whole dev session. Any recommendation is welcome.

    • The Most Important Tip for Beginner Software Engineers Is…

      Work the solution out on paper in steps, then start writing the code for it. Don’t get tangled in the code and software design.

    • Ode to Erlang

      I wrote this blog post for myself. Myself from 10 years ago, to be precise. This is a post I wish I could send back in time and show to myself. I’m sure it would change my direction and career. If you have heard about Erlang but are not sure if it is worth giving it a try…or you just love Erlang and would like to hear my praise for it, please read on. I really hope this will be pleasant and fun read as it was for me writing it.

      I have been professional software developer for a long time now. Double this time for developing for fun, hobby and well… just myself. In a recent years I have questioned myself and have realized that pretty much all of the languages that I used or currently use are imperative ones. That question led to another – why is that so?

    • Debug and run the python code online

      Hello and welcome to another python article, we are going to get some rest for a few days before starting a few examples again for another new python module. In these few days time, we will look at a few useful online programming websites that we can join to improve our python skill. In this article, we will visit OnlineGDB, an online python IDE which allows us to create a python project, saves our work and then embeds our programming code on our own website. Below is a new python generator demo project which I have created on the above-mentioned website, as you can see I have embedded the project on this article with the share feature of OnlineGDB! Click on the run button below this entire python script to see the outcome.

Leftovers

  • Fortnite was 2018’s most important social network

    The game’s real achievement is subtler, though. Epic Games managed to produce a hit, sure, but the genius of it is how it’s rewritten the idea of what hanging out online can be. Fortnite is a game, but it’s also a global living room for millions of people, and a kind of codex for where culture has gone this year — it’s a cultural omnibus that’s absorbed everything from Blocboy JB’s shoot dance to John Wick. It got Ted Danson to learn how to floss. This thing is here to stay, as a new kind of social network.

  • The Problem With Athleisure Overflow

    “Our clothes are falling apart in the wash, and those little bits are going down the drain, into the ocean,” says Rachael Miller, founder of the Rozalia Project, an ocean conservation group, and creator of the Cora Ball, a microfiber-capturing laundry ball.

  • Changes in 2018 (Part III) Social Networking… Not-working

    When I first heard of the shutting down, I explored other possibilities. I tried MeWe and Pluspora. As the former was simply way too Facebooky, I joined the latter, which has a geeky feel to it and where I found some of the people that I follow online.

    And true, Pluspora is not G+. Not for a mile. Yet, it has nice points, as micko explains in full detail here.

    I do not know if I am staying. Maybe I quit those sites for good and keep blogging. That is, unless Google also decides to get rid of Blogger…

  • Science

    • Only Idiots Start Their Day at 4 a.m. by Choice

      But you know who doesn’t get up at 4 a.m.? Linus Torvalds, who (in addition to being a nite owl) created Linux, the operating system that runs most of the servers on the Internet and also has the same core (Unix) as MacOS.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • FDA casts shadow on hemp win, calling CBD products illegal

      In a statement following Thursday’s bill signing in Washington, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb restated his agency’s stance that CBD is a drug ingredient and therefore illegal to add to food or health products without approval from his agency.

    • The VA’s Private Care Program Gave Companies Billions and Vets Longer Waits

      For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.

      Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.

      Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.

    • How We Crunched the Numbers on the VA’s Private Care Program

      Since 2014, Congress has pumped $19.4 billion into the Veterans Choice Program to buy private medical care for veterans. We wanted to know how the money was spent.

      As of Sept. 30, 2018, the program’s expenditures totaled about $12.6 billion, according to a running tally provided to Congress every two weeks. An additional $2.4 billion has been committed but not yet spent, and there was $4.3 billion left over, according to the most recent report. (We’ve posted a simplified version of this report here. You can also read our story about the VA’s private care program.)

      The VA dipped into the Choice program’s funds for $2.3 billion that it needed for other purposes in 2015. So let’s put that aside and focus on the $10.3 billion that’s actually been spent on the Veterans Choice Program.

      The VA spent $311 million to set up the program, according to the biweekly report. That includes about $303.6 million paid to Health Net and TriWest, the two private companies hired to administer the program, according to contracting records.

    • The Truth About Nursing Homes

      Let me say at the outset that I do not regard myself as any kind of “expert” on the subject of nursing homes. I’ve done only scant tangential research, and other than what you’re about to read here, have never published anything on the subject. But that said, I like to think I have gleaned some practical knowledge.

      Some years ago, I was a resident—a highly motivated, cogent, resourceful, and curious resident—for 79 days at a sprawling 200-bed facility in Southern California. After undergoing double knee surgery (don’t ask), and being confined full-time first to a bed, and then to a wheel chair, I had nothing better to do with my time than explore the place, spy on everyone, and enter my observations in a journal.

      Two things aided in that enterprise. (1) Because so many residents were either elderly or severely disabled, the nurses and administrative staff had trained themselves to speak loudly, which allowed me to voyeuristically overhear more than my share of private conversations. And (2) because so many residents were unable or unwilling to converse, I stood out as the shining example of a “motor mouth.” Aristotle was correct. Man is a social animal. Accordingly, everyone was eager to talk to me

    • Someone set fire to a hospital outside Moscow, hours after Navalny published an investigative report about corruption at the clinic

      In the town of Yegoryevsk, outside Moscow, someone set fire to the front door of the Central District Hospital, hours after Alexey Navalny’s live YouTube channel aired an investigative report about the facility.

      According to surveillance camera footage that has appeared online, a hooded individual placed two large bags at the foot of the hospital’s door and then set them ablaze, before running away. No one was injured in the incident, and police have charged the perpetrator with willful property damage.

    • Should Plant-Based Proteins Be Called “Meat”?

      Fried chicken, bacon cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza aren’t uncommon to see on vegan menus — or even the meat-free freezer section of your local supermarket — but should we be calling these mock meat dishes the same names? A new Missouri law doesn’t think so. The state’s law, which forbids “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry,” has led to a contentious ethical, legal and linguistic debate. Four organizations — Tofurky, The Good Food Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Animal Legal Defense Fund — are now suing the state on the basis that not only is the law against the United States Constitution, but it favors meat producers for unfair market competition.

      While some newly formulated meat-free products, like the plant-based Beyond Burger or its rival the Impossible Burger (the veggie burger that “bleeds”), may be deceptively meat-like, it’s hard to understand how consumers could actually be duped into thinking non-meat products are legitimately meat.

    • ‘Not the Kind of Moral Leadership We Need’: Critics Pounce After Schumer Refuses to Back Medicare for All

      Pressed by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on whether he thinks it’s time for Democrats to unify around Medicare for All—which has the backing of 84 percent of Democratic voters—Schumer dodged, saying, “Look, Democrats are for universal access to healthcare, from one end of the party to the other.”

      “We want more people covered, everyone covered; we want better healthcare at a lower cost. People have different views as to how to get there. Many are for Medicare for All, some are for Medicare buy-in, some are Medicare over 55, some are Medicaid buy-in, some are public option,” Schumer added. “I’m going to support a plan that can pass, and that can provide the best, cheapest healthcare for all Americans.”

    • Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare

      The Trump administration has proposed that insurance plans providing drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries will no longer be forced to cover six hitherto “protected” drug classes. The classes––which include drugs for psychiatric conditions, cancer and immune diseases––are among the priciest of all drugs and account for as much as 33 percent of total outpatient drug spending under Part D of Medicare.

      Under the proposal, Medicare plans could “exclude from their formularies protected class drugs with price increases that are greater than inflation, as well as certain new drug formulations that are not a significant innovation over the original product,” says Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

      In 2014, the Obama administration sought the same “price relief” for Medicare but was defeated by drug industry lobbyists. At the time, 100 pills of the “protected” psychiatric drug Abilify cost $1,644, 100 pills of the “protected” psych drug Geodon cost $958, 100 pills of the “protected” psychiatric drug Invega cost $1,789 and 100 pills of the “protected” psych drug Seroquel cost $2,000. Since then, even pricier psychiatric drugs have emerged as well as 6-digit cancer drugs.

      The Obama proposal was roundly defeated by drug industry funded groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI received $23 million in just two years from drug makers and is heavily financed by them.

  • Security

    • Feds Charge Three in Mass Seizure of Attack-for-hire Services

      Authorities in the United States this week brought criminal hacking charges against three men as part of an unprecedented, international takedown targeting 15 different “booter” or “stresser” sites — attack-for-hire services that helped paying customers launch tens of thousands of digital sieges capable of knocking Web sites and entire network providers offline.

    • How 3ve’s BGP hijackers eluded the Internet—and made $29M

      Late last month came word of a new scheme. In one of the most sophisticated uses of BGP hijacking yet, criminals used the technique to generate $29 million in fraudulent ad revenue, in part by taking control of IP addresses belonging to the US Air Force and other reputable organizations.

      In all, “3ve,” as researchers dubbed the ad fraud gang, used BGP attacks to hijack more than 1.5 million IP addresses over a 12-month span beginning in April 2017. The hijacking was notable for the precision and sophistication of the attackers, who clearly had experience with BGP—and a huge amount of patience.

    • Logitech disables local access on Harmony Hubs, breaks automation systems [Update]

      Update, Dec 21, 2:47pm: In response to customers’ frustration, Logitech issued another statement today with instructions on how to enable private local API controls. The company created a new XMPP beta program that will give users access to the local controls that were removed in the most recent Harmony Hub firmware update. Logitech plans to release an official firmware update with XMPP controls in January.

    • Russian hacker who once tormented state officials says he’s starting his own cybersecurity consultancy

      Vladimir Anikeev, the former leader of the hacktivist group “Anonymous International” (better known in Russia as “Shaltai Boltai” or “Humpty Dumpty”), has announced that he will form his own cybersecurity consultancy. He told the magazine RBC that he’s even considering keeping the “Shaltai Boltai / Anonymous International” brand name.

      Anikeev went free from prison in August 2018 after serving two years for the felony crime of unauthorized data access. He spent less than two years behind bars thanks to Russia’s new incarceration rules that weigh days spent in pretrial detention as 1.5 days in a standard prison.

    • Create a Backdoor with Cryptcat
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Nearly one year after Hawaii missile fiasco, emergency reforms are still on the table

      When a false missile alert was sent to residents in Hawaii in January, it caused a massive panic. In the immediate aftermath, the message — which warned of an incoming missile attack — drove a news cycle, led to serious criticism of state officials, and raised questions about safeguards in place to prevent similar mishaps in the future. As the one-year anniversary of the alert approaches, there have been some reforms to the system, but others are still only being handled now.

    • The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell

      It had been shrouded in secrecy akin to the deepest conspiracy, but the trial of Cardinal George Pell, while not letting much in the way of publicity in Australia, was always going to interest beyond the walls of the Victorian County Court. This was the legal system of a country, and more accurately a state of that country, glancing into the workings of the world’s first global corporation and its unsavoury practices. The Catholic Church, in other words, had been subjected to a stringent analysis, notably regarding the past behaviour of one of its anointed sons.

      Cardinal Pell, a high-ranking official of the Catholic Church and financial grand wizard of the Vatican, was found guilty on December 11 of historical child sexual abuses pertaining to two choir boys from the 1990s. But details remain sketchy. We know, for instance, that the number of charges was five, and that the trial has been designated “the cathedral trial”. We also know that a first trial failed to reach a verdict.

      Scrutiny from the Australian press gallery and those who had been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests over the years, was limited for reasons peculiar to this country’s ambivalence to open discourse. They were told that would be so.

    • ‘Wanting to Kiss and Hold Her Son One Last Time,’ Public Pressure Wins Yemeni Mother Waiver to Trump’s Cruel Muslim Ban

      The toddler, Abdullah Hassan, was born in Yemen, nearly two years after that country’s civil war began. Abdullah was born with hypomyelination, a rare brain disease, and was brought to Stockton, California by his father Ali Hassan, a U.S. citizen, five months ago to receive treatment. His mother, Shaima Swileh, was forced to remain in Egypt awaiting approval of her visa.

      “My wife is calling me every day, wanting to kiss and hold her son for one last time,” the 22-year-old Hassan said as he broke down in tears during a recent interview on CNN. “Time is running out. Please help us get my family together again.”

      Hassan pleaded with the U.S. State Department on Monday to expedite his wife’s application for a waiver so she could say goodbye to their dying son. After Hassan appeared on CNN, their story garnered national attention and, under pressure, the State Department responded by issuing a waiver Tuesday morning for Swileh to temporarily travel to the United States, according to officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

    • From Arizona to Yemen: How Bombs Built by Raytheon in Tucson Killed 31 Civilians in Yemeni Village

      In a historic vote, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution on Thursday calling for an end to U.S. military and financial support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. This represents the first time in U.S. history the Senate has voted to withdraw military forces from an unauthorized war using the War Powers Resolution. The Saudi-led war in Yemen has created what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 14 million of Yemen’s 28 million people on the brink of famine. A remarkable piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine traces how bombs built by Raytheon in Tucson, Arizona, made its way into the Saudi arsenal and then were dropped on Yemeni villages. The article centers on what happened in the remote village of Arhab when U.S.-backed Saudi warplanes carried out a series of bombings on September 10, 2016. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 31 civilians were killed, three of them children; 42 people were injured. We speak to journalist Jeffrey Stern.

    • Yemen Remains on the Verge of a Large-Scale Famine

      On December 14, Martin Griffiths—the UN Special Envoy for Yemen—briefed the UN Security Council about the talks that had just concluded in Sweden the previous day. Griffiths, sitting before a large UN logo from Jordan, spoke by video to a Council that had not been able to move an effective agenda to end the brutal war on this impoverished country.

      Griffiths, who worked on each failed UN effort on Syria over the past decade, had been appointed to this post only in February, just after Mauritania’s Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed opted out of the impossible job that he had held from April 2015 to February 2018. No amount of talk had been able to bring the parties together. No amount of dialogue had convinced Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to stop the harsh bombardment of the country. And, no amount of pressure had moved the United States and the United Kingdom to stop providing logistical and military assistance to the Saudis and the Emiratis.

      There was no real agreement in Sweden. Inside Yemen, there is bewilderment about what is going on. Haykal Bafana, a lawyer who lives in Sanaa—Yemen’s capital—told me, “It remains unclear to me what the actual terms of the ceasefire agreement are, or even whether an agreement was mutually agreed.” Griffiths told the Security Council much the same, but with language that indicated hope. The agreement does not end the fighting, he said. It is a “humanitarian stopgap to save lives and turn the tide of war towards peace.” One piece of evidence for the “humanitarian stopgap” is that all sides agree to allow humanitarian aid through Yemen’s lifeline—the Hudaydah port. “The ghastly prospect of famine,” Griffiths said, “has made solving Hudaydah urgent and necessary.”

    • Yemen Remains on the Precipice of a Large-Scale Famine

      On December 14, Martin Griffiths—the UN Special Envoy for Yemen—briefed the UN Security Council about the talks that had just concluded in Sweden the previous day. Griffiths, sitting before a large UN logo from Jordan, spoke by video to a Council that had not been able to move an effective agenda to end the brutal war on this impoverished country.

      Griffiths, who worked on each failed UN effort on Syria over the past decade, had been appointed to this post only in February, just after Mauritania’s Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed opted out of the impossible job that he had held from April 2015 to February 2018. No amount of talk had been able to bring the parties together. No amount of dialogue had convinced Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to stop the harsh bombardment of the country. And, no amount of pressure had moved the United States and the United Kingdom to stop providing logistical and military assistance to the Saudis and the Emiratis.

      There was no real agreement in Sweden. Inside Yemen, there is bewilderment about what is going on. Haykal Bafana, a lawyer who lives in Sanaa—Yemen’s capital—told me, “It remains unclear to me what the actual terms of the ceasefire agreement are, or even whether an agreement was mutually agreed.” Griffiths told the Security Council much the same, but with language that indicated hope. The agreement does not end the fighting, he said. It is a “humanitarian stopgap to save lives and turn the tide of war towards peace.” One piece of evidence for the “humanitarian stopgap” is that all sides agree to allow humanitarian aid through Yemen’s lifeline—the Hudaydah port. “The ghastly prospect of famine,” Griffiths said, “has made solving Hudaydah urgent and necessary.”

    • America’s Mixed Messages

      For a century, the U.S. Navy has used hospital ships to bring medical aid to those in need around the globe. In recent years, there have been two such vessels: the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort. The last two are still in operation as floating hospitals,

    • Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?

      At an international media conference last December 12 in Caracas Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro referred emphatically to knowledge, that his government had acquired through its intelligence services, of preparations to destabilize Venezuela.

      That in itself is major news but it is noticeable that his denunciation only two days after the well-publicized landing of Russian military aircrafts at Venezuela’s international Simon Bolivar airport of Maiquetía as part of Russia-Venezuela joint military exercises and training. This is not the first occurrence of military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela but this seems to be the first time such news has had enough impact on Washington to prompt a strong and undiplomatic reaction from the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo who referred to the two countries as “two corrupt governments squandering public fund” in a tweet.

      Is Russia putting a major gaping hole into “America’s backyard” with the help of Venezuela? It appears to be so, and certainly Venezuela is quite a wide door in geopolitical terms capable of countering the political reversals of some countries in the region surrendering to neoliberal ideology.

      Russia’s display of support for Venezuela is not totally surprising for two reasons. First, the U.S. government has had a very aggressive policy against Russia by pushing the NATO military coalition to the doorsteps of Russia’s front yard despite the “iron clad guarantee” given by the U.S. administration in February 1990 to the then Soviet president Gorbachev that “NATO will not expand one inch.” The aggression continues today with the possibility of including Ukraine and Belarus in the NATO military alliance. Moscow indicates that it has the willingness and the capability to match Washington’s military threat in its own turf.

      Second, in addition to military threats to both countries, the Trump administration has slapped sanctions against Russia and Venezuela, which also brings them closer as victims of economic warfare. The military threats against Venezuela are much more menacing therefore a balancing assistance from a more powerful friend is welcome.

    • DeVos’ Solution to Mass School Shootings? Scrap the Rules Designed to End Discrimination Against Students of Color

      The highly anticipated Final Report (pdf) from the Federal Commission on School Safety, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was released Tuesday—and includes a long-rumored recommendation that is alarming civil rights advocates: to rescind Obama-era policies crafted to end racial disparities in school disciplinary practices.

      Formed after 17 people were gunned down at a Florida high school in February, the commission “took a horrendous year of school shooting tragedies and produced a report with a smorgasbord of recommendations—some of which we have championed for years—aimed at making our schools safer,” said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. “Unfortunately, the report doesn’t address the root causes of the gun violence epidemic: too many guns in our communities and not enough investment in addressing the social-emotional health of our kids.”

      “But most curious and disappointing is the report’s use of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to push an anti-civil rights agenda that won’t keep schools safe,” she added. Noting that the Obama-era measures “intended to help prevent the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ youth,” she also pointed out that the Stoneman Douglas shooter “had in fact been expelled and reported to law enforcement; rescinding discipline guidance and kicking kids out of school doesn’t prevent school shootings.”

    • “Alexa, Launch Our Nukes!”

      There could be no more consequential decision than launching atomic weapons and possibly triggering a nuclear holocaust. President John F. Kennedy faced just such a moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and, after envisioning the catastrophic outcome of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange, he came to the conclusion that the atomic powers should impose tough barriers on the precipitous use of such weaponry. Among the measures he and other global leaders adopted were guidelines requiring that senior officials, not just military personnel, have a role in any nuclear-launch decision.

      That was then, of course, and this is now. And what a now it is! With artificial intelligence, or AI, soon to play an ever-increasing role in military affairs, as in virtually everything else in our lives, the role of humans, even in nuclear decision-making, is likely to be progressively diminished. In fact, in some future AI-saturated world, it could disappear entirely, leaving machines to determine humanity’s fate.

    • WaPo: Trump Needs to Destroy Venezuela to Save It

      Tamara Taraciuk Broner of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Johns Hopkins professor Kathleen Page took to the pages of the Washington Post (11/26/18) to whitewash Donald Trump’s successful efforts to make Venezuela’s economic crisis much worse. Appropriately enough, at the end of the piece, the Post recommended four other articles (11/23/18, 9/11/18, 6/20/18, 8/21/18) that either attacked Venezuela’s government or stayed conspicuously silent about the impact of US economic sanctions.

      Propaganda works primarily through repetition. The vilification of Venezuela’s government in the Western media has been relentless for the past 17 years, as Alan MacLeod pointed out in his book Bad News From Venezuela.

      NGOs like HRW play an important role in framing the Western imperial agenda from a supposedly “independent” and “humanitarian” perspective, as dramatically illustrated after the death of Sen. John McCain (FAIR.org, 8/31/18) when several HRW officials joined the US media in sanctifying an overtly racist warmonger. In contrast, a few hours after Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013, HRW rushed out a statement vilifying Chavez’s years in office, displaying total indifference to his achievements in reducing poverty and improving health outcomes, despite the violent, scorched-earth tactics of his US-backed opponents to prevent this from happening. No such statement was rushed out by HRW to attack George H.W. Bush—the recently departed butcher of Panama and initiator of the decades-long mass slaughter in Iraq, to mention only a few of his crimes.

    • The Pentagon Failed Its Audit Amid a $21 Trillion Scandal (Yes, Trillion)

      New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was ruthlessly attacked recently, and I feel a bit responsible. I might have accidentally tainted her Twitter feed with truth serum.

      But that sounds weird—so let me back up.

      A few months ago, I covered the story of the $21 trillion that has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon. That’s right—trillion with a T—an amount of money you can’t possibly come to terms with, so stop trying. Seriously, stop. It’s like trying to comprehend the age of the earth.

      (The earth is 4.5 billion years old. To put that into context, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 11 years left to completely change our ways or climate change will make the earth uninhabitable. If you were to take the age of the earth and lay it out on the span of a calendar year, this means we would have less than a millisecond left on Dec. 31 to utterly change our ways or all is lost.)

      Anyway, the $21 trillion includes $6.5 trillion unaccounted for at the Pentagon in 2015 ALONE. When I covered all this a few months ago, very few people were talking about it. David Degraw investigated it for his website (which has since been destroyed by hackers), and Mark Skidmore, the economist who discovered the unaccounted adjustments, co-authored a single Forbes article on the subject. And by “discovered,” I don’t mean that Skidmore found a dusty shoebox in Donald Rumsfeld’s desk underneath the standard pile of baby skeletons. I mean that he took a minute to look at the Defense Department’s own inspector general’s report. So really he just bothered to look at the thing that was designed for the public to look at.

    • Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva

      Although there is no evidence to suggest that John Allen Chau, an American adventure enthusiast and Jesus lover, had achieved any success in converting people to his faith or threatened them into doing so, he is being portrayed as a missionary who deserved to die.

      He was reportedly murdered on November 17 by the North Sentinel tribesmen when he approached them for a third time in as many days. The island forms part of the archipelago of 29 islands in the Andaman and Nicobar. It is among the most vulnerable and protected.

      His body has not been found, but public debate in India has demonised him as a Christian missionary looking for a kill. This works well for the rightwing. The sudden interest in the preservation of tribal culture is a strategy that justifies their call for a return to Hindu cultural purity as a matter of national urgency.

    • Russophobia and the Specter of War

      Could global warming pose the greatest threat to the future of life on the planet? Quite possibly, if we believe the international (and scientific) consensus, despite a widening stratum of debunkers, deniers, and skeptics. What about the prospects of thermonuclear war between the United States and Russia, two countries armed to the max and seemingly moving toward the brink of military conflict? Where does that rate? If the question is asked of most any Beltway denizen, the response might be something along lines of “sounds frightening, but right now we have other priorities, and we can’t lose sight of the Russian threat”.

      As American political life continues to deteriorate, matters of war and peace rarely merit attention amidst the sound and fury of manufactured news, moral posturing, personal scandals, and tweeting exchanges. Good for TV ratings and maybe partisan advantage, decidedly less so for addressing issues of political relevance. Now we have two years of frenzied Russiagate and its attendant neo-McCarthyism. That the intensifying hostility directed by one nuclear power toward another might bring the world closer to a war that could end all wars seems bizarrely remote to a political class obsessed with little beyond its own power and wealth, faintly camouflaged by identity politics; the “unthinkable” remains, well, unthinkable.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • UN experts urge UK to honour rights obligations over Julian Assange

      United Nations human rights experts have repeated a demand that the UK abides by its international obligations and allows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

      He has been living inside the embassy for more than six years, fearing he will be extradited to the United States if he leaves.

      The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which concluded three years ago that Mr Assange was being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and should be released, urged the UK Government to “honour its obligations”.

      In a statement from Geneva, the group said: “States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable.

      “But when they honestly admit these violations, they do honour the very spirit of the rule of law, earn enhanced respect for doing so, and set worldwide commendable examples.

    • Twitter Suddenly Locks @WikiLeaks And Multiple WikiLeaks Staff Accounts

      WikiLeaks staff are unable to access or post from the organization’s primary Twitter account or other accounts used by its staff and legal team, according to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.

    • Monster Energy Fails Its Attempt To Claim That Its Beverages Are Indistinguishable From Industrial Paint

      One of the things that’s always coaxed a wry laugh from me is when there is some trademark dispute between two entities that results in a claim that customers will be confused between two products which, if that were true, would make the plaintiff’s product sound really gross. Examples include that time Benihana suggested the public might eat a rap artist thinking it was their food, or when Makers Mark thought that people might somehow mistake its whiskey for tequila, which doesn’t say much for its whiskey.
      Perhaps Monster Energy saw these and other past examples of this and was all, “Hold my beer.”, because it filed a trademark opposition against Monster Dip, which makes industrial paint and coatings.

    • UN group repeats plea for U.K. govt. to allow Assange to leave embassy without arrest

      United Nations experts asked British authorities on Friday to abandon their pursuit of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and allow him to safely leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without being arrested and extradited to the United States.
      The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention repeated the request in a statement issued from Geneza, Switzerland, more than three years after the same panel determined that the ongoing impasse surrounding Mr. Assange has deprived him of his liberty in violation of international law.
      “It is time that Mr. Assange, who has already paid a high price for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of opinion, expression and information, and to promote the right to truth in the public interest, recovers his freedom,” the working group reiterated.

    • WikiLeaks: US Acquires Forensic Phone Data Kits Through Consulate in Germany

      Earlier WikiLeaks published the “US Embassy Shopping List” database, where it revealed more than 16,000 procurement requests by US embassies around the globe.

      Due to the documents published by WikiLeaks it has become known that among the order requests made by the US diplomatic facilities there is such a device as a Cell Phone Analyzer with specifications that allow its owner to extract and decode all the data from Android, iOS and Windows mobile OS platforms, while “bypassing pattern lock/ password/ PIN”. The device was ordered to be delivered to a US diplomatic facility in Yerevan, Armenia.

    • The Laquan McDonald Shooting Keeps Exposing Critical Flaws in Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act

      From the day Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan McDonald in 2014, city officials have worked to keep records from the shooting secret.

      Yet when journalists and other citizens sought help from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan — which is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the state’s Freedom of Information Act — the agency did little to ensure the materials were released to the public.

      Over the last four years, reporters and citizen activists have filed at least 10 appeals with the attorney general’s office after Chicago officials blocked their requests for video, police reports, emails and other materials tied to the shooting, according to documents maintained by the office.

      [...]

      By then, other journalists were trying to get copies of the dashcam video, especially after city officials discussed it before the City Council signed off on a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family.

      In May 2015, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal requested the video and reports from the shooting. Police officials waited six days to respond even though the denial letter was almost identical to those sent to MSNBC and others seeking the records.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Despite US, Russian & Saudi Opposition, Climate Summit Reaffirms Paris Goals

      The Climate Summit at Kotwice, Poland, ended on a positive note, with the 195 countries present committing themselves to financing instruments in a quest to cut carbon dioxide emissions and keep global heating to 1.5 degrees C. (2.7 degrees F.). Given that so many countries are producing so much CO2, that goal may not be practical. The next best thing would be to stop heating at 2 degrees C. (3.6 degrees F.)

      Apparently one of the positive achievements of the summit was agreements on contributions by rich countries like Germany to funds that will help soften the blow to poorer countries of the global south in having to get off cheap coal and invest in solar and wind infrastructure. (They’ll save money over the long run by doing this, but may not have the up front investment money lying around).

      The agreements reached are wholly inadequate and do not reflect the urgency of the climate crisis we are in. But they might have a positive psychological effect, in keeping the Paris goals alive and encouraging governments to encourage companies and consumers to take action.

    • Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay

      Warnings from climate scientists and climate monitoring organizations are growing progressively more dire, frightening and depressing. There is new evidence that the melt rate of Greenland’s mile-thick ice cover is starting to happen at a “runaway” pace — one that could end up raising sea levels by some 23 feet. New evidence too that Western Antarctica, with enough ice to raise sea levels by 65 feet or more is starting to melt, joining Eastern Antarctica which has already been melting rapidly. There are also increasing fear among scientists that massive deposits of methane clathrates, a kind of ice composed of methane and water ice, lying just beneath the bottom of the shallow Arctic Ocean off the coast of Siberia and North America, are starting to boil up through the warming sea bottom, threatening to burst in a series of gigantic methane “burps” into the atmosphere, which would add immeasurably to greenhouse gasses (methane is anywhere from 26 – 80 times as potent a greenhouse gas as is CO2).

      Meanwhile, as this crisis grows, we in the US, the second largest contributor of CO2 in the world, are confronted with the criminal negligence and deliberate climate action sabotage of the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress (aided by a few key Democrats), who still insist that global heating is a fraud and a conspiracy.

      I think it is time that we as a people, we as human beings watching this insane effort to hasten our and much of the whole global biosphere’s extinction, begin contemplating the kind of punishment that would be appropriate to mete out to the criminal class in Washington, DC, beginning at the top with the execrable Donald Trump, whose own flatulence, courtesy of a diet of deep-fried fast food is probably a significant contributor to global atmospheric methane (and would deem him a threat to homeland security if he ever allowed smokers into the enclosed space of the Oval Office with him).

    • A WAR ON SCIENCE, MORALS, AND LAW

      A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists accuses Trump’s Interior Department of “relentless attacks on science ranging from suppressing and sidelining the work of the department’s scientists to systematically refusing to act on climate change.”

      [...]

      That said, science is needed to help us make sound decisions that compromise between groups with competing values and interests. The government needs to produce, believe, and disseminate science that will allow it to act in the best interests of the American people, and to help the people hold the government accountable.
      The Trump administration clearly isn’t doing that.
      According to the LA Times, “Interior isn’t the only science agency that has been turned into a billboard for political and ideological propaganda. The Environmental Protection Agency has been similarly hollowed out, and the Department of Health and Human Services has all but abandoned its duty to advance Americans’ access to affordable healthcare.”
      There’s another reason why we need solid science within the government: to enable the government to follow its own laws.
      Trump’s administration is taking a see no evil, hear no evil approach. Without information about how a mining project might impact an endangered species, or human health, or water quality, they’re going to end up enabling projects that violate existing laws. Which is probably the point.

    • COP24: Paris Agreement Rulebook ‘Does Not Deliver What The World Needs’

      Following two tension-filled weeks at the UN climate talks in Poland, countries finally agreed on the operating manual to implement the Paris Agreement. While this rulebook is essential to kick-start the agreement in 2020, campaigners and scientists have warned of a stark disconnect between the urgency to prevent climate breakdown and the failed opportunity for radical action.

      The rulebook covers a wide range of issues such as how countries should report their greenhouse gas emission reductions and who should pay what to help developing countries leapfrog fossil fuels and develop sustainably.

      Given the elections of climate deniers Donald Trump in the US and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and strong obstruction from powerful oil and gas exporting countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia, the talks started in Katowice with low expectations.

      Campaigners have accused the rulebook of being a compromise favouring corporate interests and countries which have been the most obstructive in the negotiation process.

      Vitumbiko Chinoko, from CARE — an international humanitarian agency — in Southern Africa, accused “a few powerful countries” of holding multilateralism “hostage” during the conference.

    • Atlantic seismic testing permits granted amid surge in industry lobbying

      Though communities along the Atlantic Coast have expressed overwhelming opposition to seismic testing for offshore oil and gas reserves, and scientists have warned that the deafeningly loud technology threatens the critically endangered right whale, the Trump administration last week issued a notice that it would allow five companies to conduct seismic surveys in an area stretching from New Jersey to Florida.

    • As Cuomo Touts Green New Deal for New York, Critics Warn ‘Empty Rhetoric’ Just as ‘Dangerous as Inaction’

      The governor’s office claimed that by making the state’s electricity carbon neutral by 2040, “New York will be the most progressive state in the nation in moving to renewables and growing the new sustainable green economy,” but green groups say that’s not nearly detailed or ambitious enough.

      “Cuomo calls the climate crisis a matter of life and death, but unfortunately his policies don’t match the lofty rhetoric,” Food & Water Watch Northeast region director Alex Beauchamp declared in a statement. “A vague pledge of carbon neutrality by the year 2040 is not the bold action necessary to move New York off fossil fuels.”

      Betámia Coronel, a native New Yorker and 350.org U.S. national organizer, concurred—warning that “empty rhetoric and lip service is as dangerous as inaction.”

      “Cuomo must go much bigger,” Beauchamp said. “A true Green New Deal for New York must include a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure and a commitment to transition New York to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.”

    • 12 Reasons Labor Should Demand a Green New Deal

      Workers have gotten a raw deal. Employers and their Republican allies are trying to eliminate workers’ rights both in the workplace and at the ballot box. But even when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, they did little to protect, let alone expand, the rights of working people. Workers need a new deal.

      Now, an alliance of social movements and members of Congress are proposing a Green New Deal to create millions of jobs by putting Americans to work making a climate-safe economy. This program meets the needs of—and has the potential to unite—the labor movement, environmentalists, and all those who have been the victims of inequality, discrimination, racism and, now, climate change.

      In the week following the 2018 midterm elections, a group of 150 protesters led by young people with the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of likely Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging her to support a Green New Deal. Newly-elected House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the protest with a resolution in hand to establish a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. The proposal has since amassed growing support among Congressional representatives, progressive organizations and young people across the country.

    • The Depressing Numbers Behind the GOP’s Climate Denialism

      “Climate change is the defining issue of our time,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared in September. In October, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-convened group, described “a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040,” according to The New York Times. And in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Americans are beginning to heed these warnings, with 66 percent of respondents saying there is enough evidence to convince them that action is needed, up from 51 percent in 1998. Forty-five percent of them believe that action should taken immediately.

      Among the 66 percent of concerned respondents are Democrats and independents. Notably missing in the growing consensus on climate change are significant numbers of Republicans.

    • California Knew the Carr Wildfire Could Happen. It Failed to Prevent it.

      On the afternoon of July 23, a tire on a recreational trailer blew apart on the pavement of State Route 299 about 15 miles northwest of Redding, California. The couple towing the Grey Wolf Select trailer couldn’t immediately pull it out of traffic. As they dragged it to a safe turnout, sparks arced from the tire’s steel rim. Three reached the nearby grass and shrubs; two along the highway’s south shoulder, the third on the north. Each of the sparks ignited what at first seemed like commonplace brush fires.

      But if the sparking of the brush fires was an unpredictable accident, what happened next was not. Fire jumped from the roadside into the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, a 42,000-acre unit of the National Park Service. There, it gained size and velocity, and took off for the outskirts of Redding. The fire burned for 39 days and charred over 229,000 acres, and when the last embers died on Aug. 30, the fight to contain it had cost $162 million, an average of $4.15 million a day. Almost 1,100 homes were lost. Eight people died, four of them first responders.

      Dozens of interviews and a review of local, state and federal records show that virtually every aspect of what came to be known as the Carr Fire — where it ignited; how and where it exploded in dimension and ferocity; the toll in private property — had been forecast and worried over for years. Every level of government understood the dangers and took few, if any, of the steps needed to prevent catastrophe. This account of how much was left undone, and why, comes at a moment of serious reassessment in California about how to protect millions of people living in vulnerable areas from a new phenomenon: Firestorms whose speed and ferocity surpass any feasible evacuation plans.

    • Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?

      “Today, the U.S. corn belt is in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana,” Cargill CEO David MacLennan said in a 2016 interview. “In 50 years, it may be in Hudson Bay, Canada.”

      As for regions where corn has traditionally been grown, they’re seeing bigger harvests. “Warming has helped increase U.S. corn harvests, delivering more than one-quarter of the yield growth across Corn Belt states since 1981….”

      All this is great news, right? Yet there is a down side. To its credit, the Journal admits that bigger harvests may be harder to sustain as temperatures increase further, and climate shifts already are working against yields in some corn-producing regions…. Overall, climate change-driven heat, droughts and soil erosion will likely diminish U.S. agricultural production, according to the latest installment of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, issued Friday [Nov. 23]” (my italics).

      At Jake Vermeer’s farm southeast of Edmonton, Alberta, the growing season is now 17 days longer. However, warmer temperatures also bring “unusually long dry spells and harsher storms” which make farming “more uncertain.” The Journalnotes that “Near La Crete, an early frost struck Mr. Driedger’s cornfields in early September, cutting short its growth and diminishing this winter’s feed supply for his cattle.”

      Troubling developments, to be sure, but you can relax. There’s a techno-fix.

    • Is COP24 One More Big Bust?

      Two hundred nations at Katowice COP24 Poland just wrapped up two-weeks of climate meetings. If history is a guide, CO2 emissions will continue to accelerate until COP25 next year in Chile. Still, the delegates did adopt a rulebook to put Paris ’15 into action, Ahem!

      But, hark! There’s a ray of sunshine peering out from behind the Katowice coal-clouded skyline because big money interests may be altering the landscape for combating global warming.

      According to reports out of Katowice, e.g., Damian Carrington’s The Guardian article d/d Dec. 9, 2018: “Tackle Climate or Face Financial Crash, Say World’s Biggest Investors,” global investors managing $32T issued a “stark warning” that the world faces financial Armageddon worse than 2008 if carbon emissions are not cut, including a phase-out of coal. Wow!

      That sets the stage for proving/disproving the old maxim “money talks.” If it does, there’s a glimmer of hope for Miami’s survival.

    • Updated: ‘Draft Beto’ Campaign Launches Just as O’Rourke Taken Off ‘No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge’ List

      In order to better clarify why Oil Change USA removed Beto O’Rourke from its list of candidates committed to the “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge,” strategic communications director David Turnbull has emphasized his group’s belief that the Texas Democrat did not fully understand that he was vowing to reject individual donations from executives who work in the fossil fuel industry, in addition to PAC money from the oil and gas industry.

      “It appears that when Beto signed this ‘pledge’ he actually pledged something similar but not fully the same as our No Fossil Fuel Money pledge,” Turnbull explained to Common Dreams. “What he and his campaign believed he was signing was a pledge not to take fossil fuel PAC contributions. That is definitely not the same as the full No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, which includes PACs but also contributions over $200 from executives of fossil fuel companies.”

      Turnbull went on to stress that O’Rourke must take the next step of totally rejecting donations from fossil fuel executives in order to be a true climate leader and stand up to “the full extent” of the oil and gas industry’s influence on the American political system.

    • Fracking in 2018: Another Year of Pretending to Make Money

      2018 was the year the oil and gas industry promised that its darling, the shale fracking revolution, would stop focusing on endless production and instead turn a profit for its investors. But as the year winds to a close, it’s clear that hasn’t happened.

      Instead, the fracking industry has helped set new records for U.S. oil production while continuing to lose huge amounts of money — and that was before the recent crash in oil prices.

      But plenty of people in the industry and media make it sound like a much different, and more profitable, story.

    • The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change

      It is accepted that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel that restrains oil production and keeps prices higher than they would otherwise be. Indeed, this is the premise behind the “OPEC Accountability Act of 2018” in the US Senate. This bill would address high and rising oil prices by trying to break OPEC. US pressure on OPEC — particularly on friendly governments such as Saudi Arabia that are seen as leaders in the organization — to “open the spigots” is not new. Nor is the control of oil exports by producing countries for political purposes. However, the environmental impact of high oil prices is only lightly considered.

      There is little debate that motor vehicle industry changes to increase fuel efficiency were a historic and significant environmental advance. When OPEC action has led to increased prices, the quantity of oil in demand has fallen. This was starkly demonstrated when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) — founded in 1968 — flexed its price-making muscles in the 1970s. Production cuts and an embargo against sale of oil to several countries raised the spot price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude from $3.56 per barrel in mid-1973 to $4.31 later in the year to $10.11 in January. By the time President Jimmy Carter famously suggested we all turn down our thermostats, the price of WTI crude had reached $14.85 per barrel. The price finally peaked in mid-1980 at $39.50 — a 1000 percent increase in seven years. The price of gasoline more than tripled. In response, we got the Department of Energy, the Chevy Citation, and more fuel-efficient Japanese and German automobile imports.

    • Big Oil Hired Jerry Brown’s Close Friend to Lobby Him For Years — With Results

      Despite his reputation as a leader on climate policy, California Governor Jerry Brown has been criticized for making major concessions to the oil industry — which, along with other fossil fuels, is a key driver of the global climate crisis.

      Our new report sheds light on a previously unknown channel through which Big Oil sought influence over Brown: a handsomely-paid lobbyist who is a longtime friend, advisor, and former staffer of Brown’s.

      Lucie Gikovich, a principal of the Crane Group, has been the top-paid California lobbyist for Phillips 66 since late 2012 — they have paid her $937,500 in fees and retainers to lobby in California, where they own two major refineries. Gikovich has also lobbied Brown’s office for Halliburton, SoCalGas, and other clients.

      Gikovich and Brown have been very close friends and colleagues for decades. She was a top aide during Brown’s first stint as California Governor from 1975 to 1983, and she was his press secretary during his failed 1982 U.S. senate run. While Brown was mayor of Oakland, the city paid Gikovich $780,000 to serve as a registered federal lobbyist. Gikovich and her firm gave Brown $114,500 between 2005 and 2010, with most of it going to his 2010 gubernatorial run. On election night in 2010, Gikovich celebrated Brown’s victory at his campaign headquarters in Oakland.

  • Finance

    • Swedish bank Nordea accused of money laundering after Danske Bank scandal

      Sweden’s financial crime unit said on Wednesday it had received a complaint against Scandinavia’s biggest bank, Nordea, for alleged money laundering following on from a massive scandal engulfing Danske Bank.

    • Zynga to acquire Finland’s Small Giant Games for €610m

      Zynga, an American developer of social games, announced yesterday it has entered into an agreement to pay 560 million US dollars to acquire 80 per cent of the common stock of Small Giant Games, a mobile games studio based in Helsinki, Finland.

      The transaction is expected to close on 1 January 2019.

    • Kushner-Linked Firm Targets Richer Areas in Program for Poor

      A real estate investment firm co-founded by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is betting big on the administration’s Opportunity Zone tax breaks but isn’t that interested in steering its investors to the poorest, most-downtrodden areas that the program seeks to revitalize.

      New York-based Cadre, in which Kushner still holds at least a $25 million passive stake, made it clear to potential investors in recent marketing materials that it doesn’t plan to look for development deals in most of those zones because of their “unfavorable growth prospects.”

    • After Historic Union-Backed Strike, Chicago Charter School Teachers Celebrate New Contract as Win for Students

      “This is a victory for every educator who sees children getting short-changed by privatization and charter operators putting their business models over the needs of our students,” said Chris Baehrend, chair of the CTU’s Charter Division. With this strike, he added, the union “members have demonstrated their resolve to do what it takes to hold the charter industry accountable and put public dollars where they belong—into the classrooms and educations of our students.”

      While the initial strike day was on December 4, it took five days of rolling walkouts and tense negotiations before a tentative contract deal was reached on December 9.

      The union members who engaged in the strike work at schools operted by the Acero charter company, one of the largest in the country, which operates 15 schools in Chicago. Of the 485 union members who cast votes—both teachers and educational paraprofessionals—474 voted yes.

    • Amazon Employees Praised for Using Shareholder Status to Demand Comprehensive Climate Plan

      A small group of Amazon workers is receiving big praise for their efforts to force their employer to be a better steward of the planet.

      More than a dozen employees of the online retail behemoth who have received stock as part of their compensation are, as the New York Times reports, “starting to use those shares to turn the tables on their employers” by putting forth shareholder petitions demanding that the trillion-dollar e-commerce company craft a comprehensive plan to address the global climate crisis.

    • Robert Reich: Workers Can Still Take the Economy Back From Corporations

      Charles E. Wilson, the CEO of General Motors in the middle part of the last century, reputedly once said that “what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”

      The idea was that large corporations had a duty not just to their shareholders, but also to their employees, customers, and community. What was good for all of these stakeholders was inseparable from what was good for large corporations like GM.

      But in the 1980’s, this shifted. The only goal of large corporations goal became maximizing profits and returns for shareholders.

      Corporate profits are now a higher share of the economy than they were for most of the past century, and workers’ share of the total economy is the lowest.

    • Support Our New Series On Chicago’s Fight For A People’s Agenda After Rahm Emanuel

      With your help, Aaron will produce a six-part series that digs into what is at stake in the election and how it presents a major opportunity to move away from the destructive neoliberal politics of Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

      Aaron has developed respect among organizers in Chicago, frequently showing up to cover the latest developments in movement struggles. He has a keen understanding of the issues facing poor, working class, and middle class Chicagoans, especially non-white residents on the west and south side who are consistently neglected by city officials.

    • ‘Time for a Jubilee!’: US Student Loan Debt Hits Record $1.46 Trillion. Funny, That’s More Than GOP’s Corporate-Friendly Tax Giveaway

      It’s been almost a year since the Republican Party and President Donald Trump delivered their behemoth giveaway to the nation’s corporations and wealthiest individuals by passing a $1.5 trillion controversial tax bill that will ultimately blow a $5 trillion hole—or larger—in the nation’s budget.

      On Monday morning, Bloomberg reported that the amount of U.S. student loan debt has more than doubled since 2009 and now sits at a record $1.47 trillion.

    • Are You Ready for an Epoch Fail?

      You know the story: the globalists want your guns. They want your democracy. They’re hovering just beyond the horizon in those black helicopters. They control the media and Wall Street. They’ve burrowed into a deep state that stretches like a vast tectonic plate beneath America’s fragile government institutions. They want to replace the United States with the United Nations, erase national borders, and create one huge, malevolent international order.

      The only thing that stands in their way is — take your pick — the Second Amendment, Twitter, or Donald Trump.

      Conspiracy theorists have, in fact, been warning about just such a New World Order for decades, going all the way back to the isolationist critics of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and to fears about the United Nations in the post-World War II moment. During the Cold War, the John Birch Society and fringe elements of the Republican Party nurtured just such anti-globalist sentiments, but they never made much headway in the mainstream world. As the Cold War ended, however, the anti-globalist virus began to spread again, this time more rapidly, and it’s threatening to become a pandemic.

    • Ivy Leagues Are Handing Out Millions in Fees to Hedge Fund Managers

      Many of the richest people in the country make their fortune in the financial sector. While it is surely the case that many of the high rollers in the financial sector are hard working and intelligent, these traits are not the key to getting really rich in the modern economy. As has always been the case, nothing can beat being well connected.

      The latest tale of the well-connected rich is a study, by Markov Processes International, of the 10-year returns of the endowments of the eight Ivy League schools. The study found that all eight endowments had lower returns than a simple mix of 60 percent stock index funds and 40 percent bonds. In some cases the gap was substantial. Harvard set the mark with its annual returns lagging a simple 60-40 portfolio by more than 3 percentage points.

      This dismal track record is a big deal because these endowments invest heavily in what is called “alternative investments,” primarily hedge funds and private equity funds. The people who run these funds often make tens of millions a year, in some cases hundreds of millions a year.

      The rationale for these astronomical salaries is supposed to be their ability to produce outsized returns. The partners in these funds claim that they can earn far more for endowments and other investors than simple investment strategies, like buying index funds.

      This analysis shows that high returns have not been the story in the last decade. While the people managing these funds pocketed huge salaries, they had nothing to show for it in terms of performance. In fact, they actually cost the schools money. Harvard, Yale and the rest of this elite set were paying millions of dollars to hedge fund managers who were losing the schools’ money.

    • On Tax Scam Anniversary, Paul Ryan Promotes Documentary Hailing His Crowning Achievement: ‘Handing Rich People Truckloads of Money’

      Titled “Decades in the Making” and set to air for the first time on Tuesday, the docu-series will reportedly focus “on Ryan’s years-long effort to pass tax reform,” which culminated in a deeply unpopular $1.5 trillion bill that delivered massive gains to the ultra-wealthy, Wall Street, Walmart, and other corporate behemoths while predictably doing almost nothing for working-class Americans.

    • Arizona Public School System Denied Potential Tax Revenue Funds

      On August 29, 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to exclude an educational funding proposal from the state’s November ballot. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the “Invest In Ed” initiative proposed to provide the public education system with an estimated $690 million through a 3-4% increase in income tax on earners of more than $250,000 per year and on couples with a combined income of $500,000 or more. The court stated that the language of the proposal was unclear about whether the new tax brackets would take into account inflation, and therefore opposed the measure. The initiative had been supported by 270,000 registered voters who signed the petition to include it on the November ballot, as well as the Arizona Education Association, which consists of Arizona’s public school educators and staff, who hoped the bill would draw people to the polls to vote for candidates that backed public education.

    • Wall Street Thrives and Working People Struggle as GOP Tax Cut Turns One

      The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — the only major piece of legislation passed by the Trump administration — turns one year old this week. The law’s advocates promised it would create an economic bonanza for working people. Instead, its biggest corporate backers have laid off employees and offshored jobs while the promised investment boom is nowhere to be found. And for all of the talk about rising GDP and a tight labor market, millions are still barely making ends meet.

      But that’s not all. As critics warned when the bill was being drafted, the legislation gave disproportionate benefits to one massive, reviled industry: Wall Street. The nation’s six biggest banks enjoyed estimated $14 billion in tax cuts this year — enough to give every teacher in America a $4,000 raise. The banking industry also saw a record $62 billion in profit in the third quarter of 2018, thanks in large part to the tax cuts.

      If any industry benefited from the law, it was banking. So, has Wall Street behaved as promised, and invested in American prosperity? Of course not. Wall Street has reinvested in Wall Street.

    • China Will ‘Never Seek Hegemony,’ Xi Says in Reform Speech

      China’s expanding footprint worldwide — from Asia-Pacific to Africa and beyond through a broad network of infrastructure projects called the Belt and Road Initiative — has led some nations to raise the alarm over what they call China’s long arm of influence, which has been criticized for being political as well as economic.

      While Xi said China is “increasingly approaching the center of the world stage,” he also noted that the country pursues a defensive national defense policy.

    • Jeff Bezos Has Enough!

      For Republican members of Congress and cable news pundits, a cap on the earnings of the super rich might sound like a dystopian nightmare. Yet, as author Sam Pizzigati argues in his new book, The Case for a Maximum Wage, those who are not ardent free marketeers should give the idea some serious consideration—not only as a desirable policy, but also one that might be more practical than some imagine.
      In 2010, trade union leaders presented elites at Davos with a proposal for a ratio-based maximum wage—something proposed in the United States by Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley. Hanley’s version would mandate that a top executive’s pay be no more than 100 times the salary of the company’s lowest-paid worker. In other words, if the receptionist or janitor makes $35,000 per year, the CEO would take home no more than $3.5 million. To raise his or her pay further, the boss would have to bring up the bottom as well.

    • ‘Being People-Funded Frees Me to Put People First’: Ocasio-Cortez Touts Highest Portion of 2018 Small-Dollar Donors

      Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest congresswoman ever elected, has been making national headlines since even before her stunning primary defeat of long-time Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in June. A champion of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, she has publicly challenged the leaders of the Democratic Party—including presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—to embrace bold and increasingly popular progressive policies.

      Her advocacy for more ambitious and leftist measures—as she and other political commentators noted Tuesday—is enabled in part by her refusal to cozy up to big business or accept any corporate PAC money.

    • ‘Turns Out,’ Says Ocasio-Cortez, ‘Everyday People Like It When We Fight for Everyday People’

      Citing a new poll that revealed 81 percent of people overall support the idea of a bold and ambitious ‘Green New Deal,’ Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the simple political concept that when you push for policies that are good for a majority of people, a majority of people like it.

      “Turns out,” the Democrat from New York declared in a Monday night tweet, “everyday people like it when we fight for everyday people!”

      The tweet included a link to a story published by Earther earlier in the day highlighting a poll by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University showing that more than 8 out of 10 respondents from “across the political spectrum support the progressive plan to combat climate change by rapidly weaning the U.S. off fossil fuels.”

    • America Has the Highly Combustible Economy It Deserves

      It’s part of the American experience to find yourself in an elevator, in an airplane terminal, or at home, looking at a screen with stock numbers whizzing by, and people yammering about how America is somewhere on the spectrum between wonderful or about to disintegrate because of a 5 percent swing in Boeing or Microsoft stock. How did we get to a national economic conversation that is dominated by chatter on the rise and fall of stocks, when it’s just a small part of economic life for most of the 300 million people who live in this country?

      American-style shareholder capitalism, with its incessant focus on maximizing stock value, started gaining primacy over European/Japanese-style stakeholder capitalism in the 1980s. It was premised on a notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders’ money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman’s work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.

    • AMLO Goes Full Throttle Against Neoliberalism—But What About NAFTA?

      I had the great fortune to attend the inauguration of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO, as he is known) as the 58th Mexican president on December 1. The atmosphere at the Legislative Palace was electric with the knowledge that Mexico would be beginning its “Fourth Transformation” — following its 1810 independence, the 1855 reformation, and the 1910 revolution — with the first left-wing presidency in its history.

      It was AMLO’s third attempt at the office. In 2006 Felipe Calderón orchestrated a cyber fraud that gave him a slim advantage over AMLO. And in order to win in 2012, outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto engaged in tricks like giving away cash-loaded bank cards.

      When AMLO arrives following his 2018 victory, his supporters chanted Si se pudo: “Yes we could!”

      AMLO started his speech off by going full throttle against neoliberalism and corruption in Mexico, both of which he’s fought for decades. He said the crisis in Mexico originated not only because of the failure of the neoliberal economic model, but also because of the “deep predominance during this period of the dirtiest display of public and private corruption.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • It’s Time for Fact-Checkers to Face the Facts

      No matter how ridiculous their claims about the media’s “liberal bias,” conservatives never stop working the refs. It doesn’t matter how powerful or wealthy the owner of any given media institution may be: Accuse him—and it’s always a him—of being biased against conservatives, and the next thing you know, he’s offering back rubs and foot massages to people who claim that Sandy Hook was a hoax and that Hillary Clinton ran a pizza parlor for pedophiles. It worked with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. It worked with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. And now we’ve learned that it also worked with Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google. According to a report by Wired’s Nitasha Tiku, Adam Kovacevich, Google’s director of public policy, stated at an internal meeting: “I think one of the directives we’ve gotten very clearly from Sundar…is to build deeper relationships with conservatives. I think we’ve recognized that the company is generally seen as liberal by policymakers.”

    • Institute for Statecraft slams door in Labour MP’s face

      Chris Williamson MP visited the alleged ‘psyops‘ organisation the Institute for Statecraft (at The Temple, near London’s Embankment) on the morning of 19 December 2018. Statecraft is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MOD).

      [...]

      Upon arriving at the offices of Statecraft, Williamson knocked on the door. A young man answered, and once he confirmed that he was with Statecraft, Williamson identified himself as the Labour MP for Derby North. The young man said he would get the director, “Dan”, and closed the door. A few moments later, “Dan” opened the door. But when Williamson started to identify himself, “Dan” then slammed the door in his face, without saying anything.

    • Trump, the Quintessential American

      Donald Trump is part of the peculiar breed Herman Melville described in his novel “The Confidence-Man,” in which the main character uses protean personas, flattery and lies to gain the confidence of his fellow passengers to fleece them on a Mississippi River steamboat. “Confidence men,” as Melville understood, are an inevitable product of the amorality of capitalism and the insatiable lust for wealth, power and empire that infects American society. Trump’s narcissism, his celebration of ignorance—which he like all confidence men confuses with innocence—his megalomania and his lack of empathy are pathologies nurtured by the American landscape. They embody the American belief, one that Mark Twain parodied in “Pudd’nhead Wilson,” F. Scott Fitzgerald excoriated in “The Great Gatsby” and William Faulkner portrayed in the depraved Snopes clan, that it does not matter in the crass commercialism of American society how you obtain wealth and power. They are their own justifications.

      American culture is built on a willful duplicity, a vision we hold of ourselves that bears little resemblance to reality. Malcolm Bradbury wrote “that in America imposture is identity; that values are not beliefs but the product of occasions; and that social identity is virtually an arbitrary matter, depending not on character nor an appearance but on the chance definition of one’s nature or colour.” We founded the nation on genocide and slavery, ravage the globe with endless wars and the theft of its resources, enrich an oligarchic elite at the expense of the citizenry, empower police to gun down unarmed citizens in the streets, and lock up a quarter of the world’s prison population while wallowing in the supposed moral superiority of American white supremacy. The more debased the nation becomes, the more it seeks the reassurance of oily con artists to mask truth with lies.

      Trump, like most con artists, is skilled at manufacturing self-serving news and a fictional persona that feed the magical aura of his celebrity. The showman P.T. Barnum is the prototype of this strain of Americanism. In the 1830s, he exhibited Joice Heth, an elderly African-American slave who he claimed was the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. When Heth lost her novelty, Barnum announced that what he had been displaying was a robot. “The fact is, Joice Heth is not a human being,” he wrote to a Boston newspaper, “… simply a curiously constructed automation, made up of whalebone, india-rubber, and numerous springs ingeniously put together and made to move at the slightest touch, according to the will of the operator. The operator is a ventriloquist.” The crowds, which at their height had collectively paid $1,500 a week (then a huge sum) to see Heth, returned in droves to see the supposed machine. After Heth died in 1836 at age 79 or 80, Barnum sold tickets to her autopsy, which was viewed by 1,500 paying customers.

    • The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem

      Why the sudden Australian foreign policy shift on the matter of Jerusalem?

      Initially PM Scott Morrison’s captain’s call to move the Australian embassy to Jerusalem was a desperate ploy to garner the Jewish vote in the October Wentworth by-election. The Morrison government was then warned against changes to Australia’s status on Jerusalem by its own Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Defence Department and ASIO.

      The largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, Australia’s neighbour and largest trading partner, expressed its objection indicating the bilateral defence cooperation commitment may be threatened as well as $16.5 billion free trade (trade with Israel is worth $1.5 billion) agreement under negotiation.

      At the East Asia Summit in Singapore, Malaysian PM Dr Mahathir’s reasonable prediction that an Australian embassy move was “adding to the cause for terrorism” was met by virulent condemnations of antisemitism by Australia’s Jewish treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.

    • Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space

      Almost a year after President Trump assured a stricken nation that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville riots, a law banning homeless people from public spaces went into effect in Hungary. At first glance, the two events seem connected only by the similarities of the populists–Viktor Orban and Donald Trump–who presided over them. They are also, however, united by the effects they produced: the politicization of public space. The Hungarian legislation and the turmoil caused by Trump’s moral equivalencies reveal how politicized space is not a distracting side effect of populist politics; rather, public space treated as a symbol of national identity is a defining characteristic of populism.

    • The End of Rolling Thunder? We Can Only Hope So!

      The news media inform us that Rolling Thunder (always described in the press as a veterans’ advocacy group or some other such positive term) will run its final annual Memorial Day weekend motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C., in 2019. The organizers reportedly do not have the money to pay for security, logistics, and cleanup. This is an eventuality devoutly to be wished.

      In their usual stab at upbeatness with a matter-of-fact tone, the media invariably cover these yearly events in the same manner they would report on some legitimate service organization, like the American Cancer Society, holding a convention in the nation’s capital. Advocacy for veterans: who could be against that? The truth is less savory, revealing our nation’s propensity to wallow in lunatic conspiracy theories while succumbing to hucksterism, misplaced guilt, and culture war agendas.

      It’s all right there in Rolling Thunder’s mission statement: “The major function of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is to publicize the POW-MIA issue: To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action.” Helping veterans also gets a subsidiary mention, but the major purpose of the organization is advocacy on behalf of the POW-MIA issue. Well, so what?

    • Civil Rights Group Says Senate Report on Election Interference Shows Russia ‘Taking a Page Out of the US Voter Suppression Playbook’

      Russia is being accused of “taking a page out of the U.S. voter suppression playbook” on Monday after a Senate Intelligence Committee-commissioned report found that the country’s far-reaching campaign to meddle in the 2016 election through social media giants including Facebook and Instagram included efforts to specifically target African-Americans.

      “This report makes clear that racism and discrimination are national security threats to the United States,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in reference to the new reporting on the efforts by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), which is owned by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, to boost Donald Trump presidential chances and weaken those of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

      Senators received two analyses on IRA’s influencing campaign. One was a joint report from Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika. The second was from New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm.

      “Very real racial tensions and feelings of alienation exist in America, and have for decades,” Renee DiResta, director of research at New Knowledge and an author of its report, told the New York Times. “The I.R.A. didn’t create them. It exploits them.”

    • Make America Grate Again

      Because that’s what Imperial government is all about: the remorseless extraction of wealth, substance, and self-respect from a whole people mesmerized by relentless, mind-blitzing bullshit. The truly infernal capacity of the owners and operators of Big Bro’s Bullhorn, the MSM–from those sanctified pornographers, the NYT and WaPo, (pornographein in ancient Greek means “whore writing”) to Facebog and the rest of complicit “social media”, to the Vast Human Waste Dump of tv of all sorts–to render a whole nation drooling dim and braindead, is the surpassing wonder of our era.

      Item: A united phalanx of red and blue yokels, parochials, and throwbacks ok’d a $700 billion military budget just as the Pentagon admitted it had mislaid $21 trillion it couldn’t account for. A bookkeeping error, no doubt.

      Item: The Crone and Geezer Dem Honchos, along with certifiable Snopes-in-a-Suit Lindsay Graham pitched a fit over Jamal Khashoggi’s killing but remained untroubled by the psychotic murder of hundreds of thousands of kids in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Palestine they’ve blithely done to death.

      Item: Neither party permits consideration of an honest Medicare For All
      proposal but both enthusiastically gave their owners, the Royals of Corporate Capitalism, the greatest stealth tax break payola in our history.

    • Corporate Advertisers Slowly Back Away From Tucker Carlson

      Corporate advertisers are jumping ship from Tucker Carlson Tonight, the Fox News show hosted by the right-wing xenophobe, but Carlson appears to welcome the controversy sparked by recent comments that immigrants make the United States a “poorer and dirtier” country.

      While the number of sponsors who have been pressured to suspend their campaigns on the show grows, Carlson on Monday night vowed not to be intimidated and declared his intention “to say what’s true until the last day.”

      According to Buzzfeed, at least five companies have pulled their ads since Carlson’s remarks last week caused a firestorm of criticism.

      Writing for ThinkProgress, Frank Dale details how Carlson has long been “a favorite of white supremacists” and in recent years “has used his Fox News platform to claim that immigration advocates want to ‘change your country forever,’ advocate for excluding Latinx people from the U.S. to preserve the country’s white identity, complain about how difficult it is to be a white man, promote a social media site frequented by white nationalists, and defend a white nationalist Pizzagate conspiracy theorist.”

    • Charged With ‘Shocking Pattern of Illegality,’ Trump Foundation Agrees to Dissolve

      The Trump family’s charity, the Trump Foundation, agreed to dissolve Tuesday amid a lawsuit filed by New York State which accuses the organization of a “shocking pattern of illegality”—but the Trumps’ legal troubles won’t end with the dissolution.

      New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation last June, accusing the Trump family of using the charity for immense “personal and political gain.” Underwood will continue to pursue her suit against the foundation, seeking $2.8 million in restitution and a court order banning Trump and his three eldest children from serving on the boards of any New York charities in the future.

      “This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone,” Underwood said in a statement. “We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

    • Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues

      Few presidents have had a worse week than Donald Trump had last week. The wheels are coming off his presidency while a tidal wave of legal problems washes over him, his family and the White House as former associates continue to spill their guts about his corruption to federal and state prosecutors in attempts to get leniency for crimes committed on Trump’s behalf. Perhaps sensing that their time in power is coming to an end, this most corrupt administration in recent history is rushing to pillage what’s left of our nation’s dwindling natural resources by leasing huge plots of public lands to resource extraction industries.

      It’s worth noting that the old and worn excuse of national “energy independence,” the myth used for so long to justify opening public lands to drilling and mining, is no longer even marginally credible. Why? Because the U.S. just became a “net exporter” of oil and gas. That’s right — not only do we have enough energy resources to fuel our domestic needs, the ever-greedy energy corporations are now sucking those resources down to ship publicly owned resources overseas — including to our primary economic competitors in the global marketplace.

      Does this make any sense for America’s present and future generations? Well, it does if you own an energy mega-corporation, since that’s where the profits go, but for those who cherish what’s left of the incredible natural legacy with which our nation was blessed it provides only loss, not gain.

    • Trouncing Biden and Beto, Bernie Sanders Emerges as Clear Frontrunner in 2020 Straw Poll

      While an outsized chunk of the corporate media’s early 2020 coverage has been centered on the speculation and big donor enthusiasm surrounding centrist Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s possible White House bid, a new straw poll released on Tuesday found that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is far and away the leading presidential choice among progressives eager to take down President Donald Trump and forge ahead with a bold agenda.

    • Beto, We Hardly Knew Ye

      Cruz had to sweat it out on election night and won by only 2.6 percent, a slim margin in such a conservative state. Since then, publicity about Beto O’Rourke potentially running for president has mushroomed, with corporate news outlets portraying him as a progressive.

      Released a week ago, the much-publicized results of a poll that MoveOn conducted of people on its email list found O’Rourke in first place, neck-and-neck with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Media spin intensified, portraying Beto as a challenge to Bernie.

    • How Come So Many Bernie Bros Are Women and People of Color?

      A recent CNN poll shows that among potential Democratic candidates in Iowa caucuses Senator Bernie Sanders has the highest approval rating from people of color. And the diversity of the Sanders-inspired left was on display at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington Vermont earlier this month, which I covered on my podcast, The Katie Halper Show.

      But empirical evidence has not stopped much of the corporate press—including many “liberal” or “progressive” outlets and commentators—from condemning the senator as having “a race problem.”

      Over the past week we saw Jonathan Martin of the New York Times (who happens to be white) claim that Sanders “has done little to broaden his political circle and has struggled to expand his appeal beyond his base of primarily white supporters.” Meanwhile, Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief of Mother Jones (also white), recently presented not only Sanders’ supporters but the left movement in general as white. Linking to a written exchange between two Splinter journalists about Sanders, she tweeted, “In which white lefties have a debate that somehow does not discuss the fact that Bernie has no real purchase among the POC base of the Democratic party. And that problem has not improved for him, if anything it seems larger…”

    • Moscow’s man triumphs in Russia’s Far East How the Kremlin took back Primorye’s gubernatorial election

      On December 16, Russia’s Primorsky Krai held another gubernatorial election. This was the third vote in the past four months: officials threw out the last results due to mass falsification in favor of United Russia’s candidate, then acting Governor Andrey Tarasenko, who was promptly replaced with Oleg Kozhemyako. Incidentally, that’s who won Monday’s election, receiving a healthy 60 percent of the vote. Communist Party candidate Andrey Ishchenko, who narrowly lost to Tarasenko in September, wasn’t allowed to participate this time. In a report for Meduza, special correspondent Ilya Zhegulev traveled to Vladivostok and learned how Kozhemyako cruised to victory with the help of political strategists from Moscow and financial investments from the federal government.

    • “To the Ramparts”: Ralph Nader on How Bush & Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency

      A new book by longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential hopeful Ralph Nader links the criminality of the Trump administration to the unchecked power of previous U.S. presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In “To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn’t Too Late to Reverse Course,” Nader argues that the U.S. federal government is fundamentally corrupt, warmongering and owned by corporations—but he also issues a call for members of the public to hold their representatives and senators accountable, including by building local Congress watchdog groups across the country and utilizing “citizens summons” to force members of Congress to appear before residents of their districts.

    • Why Trump’s Private Transactions are Terrifying

      Trump has described the payments his bag man, Michael Cohen, made to two women during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn’t discuss their alleged affairs with him, as “a simple private transaction.”

      Last Saturday, when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if Trump knew the payments were wrong and were made to help his election, Cohen replied “Of course … . He was very concerned about how this would affect the election.”

      Even if Trump intended that the payments aid his presidential bid, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he knew they were wrong.

      Trump might have reasoned that a deal is a deal: The women got hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for agreeing not to talk about his affairs with them. So where’s the harm?

      After two years of Trump we may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: His brain sees only private interests transacting. It doesn’t comprehend the public interest.

    • To Build Party That Fights for People, ‘Not Big Corporate Donors,’ Campaign Pushes Pelosi to Put Progressives on Key Committees

      In a bid to shift the balance of power in the next Congress away from Wall Street Democrats and toward lawmakers committed to delivering the bold healthcare, economic, and environmental change that the public is demanding, Justice Democrats on Monday launched a pressure campaign aimed at pushing likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to elevate progressives to seats on the most powerful congressional committees.

    • By Attacking Obamacare, GOP Harms Itself

      On Friday, US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor — a George W. Bush appointee already infamous for his far-right decisions — ruled the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional and struck it down in a case titled Texas v. Azar that was brought by a clutch of Republican state attorneys general and two GOP governors. Notably, Judge O’Connor did not issue an injunction to immediately halt the operation of the law, as that would have hurled the entire US health care industry into chaos.

      The ruling — deliberately timed to coincide with the deadline for ACA sign-ups, which has typically been the peak period for new user activity — sowed massive confusion. The case will now wend its way through the judicial system, likely all the way to the Supreme Court itself.

      The larger significance of this ruling may not be immediate — the ACA is still in effect — but is nonetheless profound. The ACA, for all its flaws and shortcomings, has been a boon to many. Young people who can stay on their parent’s health insurance until they are 26, and the millions with pre-existing conditions who might otherwise find themselves priced out of the health insurance market entirely, are just some of its beneficiaries. Millions of previously uninsured people now have basic health insurance. It is not single-payer health care or Medicare for All by a long chalk, and is rife with its own problems, but it is a far sight better than the shabby, disorganized “system” it replaced.

      That, right there, is why the GOP feels obligated to destroy it. For Republicans, the ACA represents a profound philosophical and existential threat. Philosophically, the GOP cannot allow the ACA to succeed because that would prove that sometimes, government actually works, and since “government doesn’t work” is at the beating core of their message, the ACA must be sabotaged to prove that government doesn’t work. The Republican Party rarely lets facts interfere with its binding ideologies these days.

    • The Waters of American Democracy

      Trump, a hotel and gulf-course businessman, has been spearheading the schism in America. It’s as if he welcomes confrontation and controversy. His connections with Russia, China, the immigrants, the media, North Korea, and his staff at the White House and the government are generating enormous corruption and chaos.

      Trump caters to interest groups like the Evangelicals, pistol-carrying NRA enthusiasts, impoverished and confused coal miners, and, of course, registered Republicans and the very wealthy.

      In fact, the tax cut he engineered earlier this year bribed the largest corporations and the very rich, sealing the class war he is heading. In addition, he filled the Supreme Court and is stacking the lower courts with judges who share his oligarchic politics.

      The fact Trump was elected president shows the precarious and hazardous nature of American political institutions. They resemble those of the Roman empire, which was governed by emperors with absolute power. Some of those emperors grabbed power through civil wars. Occasionally, monsters like Caligula, Nero, Commodus, and Caracalla run Rome.

    • Slate’s Readers May Be Liberal, but Its Labor Politics Are Kochian

      While successful unionization drives and contract settlements have been common in the digital media-sphere for the last several years, the sector just may see its first strike. Union members at Slate, represented by the Writers Guild of America East, voted 52 to 1 last week to authorize a strike (Bloomberg, 12/11/18), and the sticking point is an interesting one: The company refuses to back down from its demand that a contract make union fees optional, creating a so-called “right-to-work” environment that unions regard as union-busting.

      It’s common for employers to press for things like management flexibility in directing employees, or limiting how much investment will have to made into salary increases or benefits, but Slate has made a peculiar demand that it govern how the union does its business—and, worse, it is insisting that the bargaining unit exist in a position of weakness and division.

      Imposing “right-to-work,” or the option for workers in a unionized workplace to opt out of the union without paying union dues or agency shop fees, has long been a campaign of the US right. These “right-to-work” laws are on the books in more than half the states, and as of this summer, they apply to all public-sector unions, thanks to the Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME, which overturned a four-decade old precedent.

      In Washington, DC, where the Slate Group is based (it’s controlled by the Graham family, which used to own the Washington Post), there are no “right-to-work” laws for the private sector, but Slate is trying impose them through bargaining. That WGAE members are threatening a strike over this says how much of an affront to union power such a demand is.

    • One of the Russian parliament’s most outspoken critics of the West has a fancy London restaurant in his son’s name and a Miami apartment in his niece’s name

      Alexey Chepa used to run a business in Africa and owned the Russky Mir television station. Today he serves as a deputy in Russia’s State Duma, where he’s a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and is an outspoken critic of Great Britain and the United States.
      In the 1990s, Chepa managed the Friendship and Cooperation Foundation with the Republic of Angola and ran a business that was especially active in Africa. The newspaper Vedomosti has called Chepa a former Russian intelligence agent, and journalists say he has ties to Arkady Gaidamak, an Israeli businessman convicted in France in 2009 of illegally supplying weapons to Angola between 1993 and 1998. (Gaidamak says the French courts are persecuting him for political reasons.)

      In the early 2000s, Chepa started acquiring media assets, such as the television stations Nostalgiya and Russky Mir (which air in the United States for an audience of Russian immigrants). It was in these years when Chepa entered politics, first as one of the leaders and sponsors of the Agrarian Party of Russia, which he left in 2005 after a conflict with the party’s chairman, Mikhail Lapshin. Two years later, Chepa joined the Just Russia party, and in 2011 he was elected to the State Duma.

    • May Days in Britain

      It is hard to envisage sympathy for a person who made a name as a home secretary (prisons, detentions, security and such) taking the mast and banner of her country before hopeless odds, but inadequate opponents will do that to you. Vicious, venal and underdone, the enemies from within Theresa May’s own Tory ranks resemble the lazily angry, the fumingly indulgent. These are the same men, and a few women, who managed to derive enormous satisfaction from a Britain pampered and spoiled by EU largesse but questioning of its bureaucracy and demands. Patriotism has an odd habit of making one jaundiced, but manic self-interest will also do that to you.

      May remains British prime minister after a botched effort to overthrow her within conservative party ranks. She faced the unenviable situation of being stonewalled in Europe and by Parliament itself. President of the European Council Donald Tusk assured May that the deal for the UK leaving the EU is not up for renegotiation, “including the backstop”.

      The border with Ireland – soft, hard, or middling – is proving to be a rattling affair. Should it go “hard”, Britain will find itself trapped. As The Irish Times noted, “It evokes genuine fear, not least in those who live near the Border or rely on trade for their livelihoods or count themselves among the silenced majority in Northern Ireland who voted Remain.”

      As for Parliament, May has ducked and weaved in putting the deal to its irritable members, thereby depriving MPs a hack at sinking it. May fears, rightly, defeat over a proposal that has satisfied few. What is now being run in certain circles is the idea of “indicative votes”, which might throw up various Brexit models (Canada-styled; Norwegian adapted).

      The May plotters, however, showed the skills and talents of marksmen who end up shooting themselves in a fit of drunken enthusiasm on a poorly planned hunt. The leadership challenge on December 12 served to demonstrate a good level of incompetence, amplified by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson.

      [...]

      Brexit is the great exercise of imperfection, an experiment that the EU would like to quash just as many in the UK would like to see reversed. It has been disheartening and cruel; it has divided and disturbed. It has also demonstrated levels of marked mendacity fitting for countries British citizens tend to mock. Facts have become fictions; fictions have been paraded as exemplars of truth. The dark spirits have been released, and there are not going to be bottled any time soon.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Pakistan’s army is behind an unprecedented clampdown on the media

      All is not what it seems, however. For a start a fiscal crisis has walloped the media, which rely on advertising from government agencies and state-owned companies. Owners talk of the pain of having to fire journalists and cut operations. “We are all paring ourselves to the bone just to survive,” says one. “Every day the challenge is just to put out the paper.”

      Worse, the army is using the crisis to reinforce an even more disturbing trend: its tendency to strong-arm journalists and bloggers, behind the scenes, to suppress all criticism, not just of the armed forces directly, but also of the policies they hold dear. [...]

    • Bank account of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova frozen

      Her account was frozen right before she was due to receive compensation from the government for unjust persecution

    • Chelyabinsk locals declare boycott after state TV network covers up environmentalist protest at City Hall

      People living in Chelyabinsk have declared a boycott against the state television network Rossiya 1, following a recent broadcast of the debate show “60 Minutes,” where the hosts denied evidence of a protest against the city’s smog. According to a local environmentalist community on Vkontakte, Chelyabinsk residents are complaining on social media that the channel reports lies, vowing not to tuned in any longer.

      On December 12, environmentalists assembled at Chelyabinsk City Hall to discuss the city’s ecological crisis with acting Mayor Vladimir Elistratov. According to various estimates, between 50 and 200 people entered the building, waiting roughly an hour to speak to Elistratov. Local news outlets reported that the activists “stormed” and “attacked” City Hall, but video footage from the protest suggests that the demonstrators mostly just stood around and argued with the mayor’s staff.

    • The Russian federal official who wants to beat Alexey Navalny to a pulp has messed up the paperwork in his defamation lawsuit against Navalny

      Moscow’s Lublin District Court has delayed the hearing of a defamation lawsuit brought by National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov against anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, finding that Zolotov’s paperwork is incomplete. The pugilistic federal official has until January 9 to fill in the blanks, or the court will throw out the case.

    • Anti-BDS Laws Challenged as Unconstitutional After Speech Pathologist Loses Job at Texas School for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel Pledge

      Texas officials are facing an onslaught of criticism after a speech pathologist lost her job at an elementary school for refusing to sign a pro-Israel pledge mandated by state law—a case that has cast a spotlight on efforts to neutralize the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which opposes Israel’s oppression and slaughter of Palestinians.

    • New Hampshire Police Arrested a Man for Being Mean to Them on the Internet

      Should it be a crime to call public officials corrupt? Yes, according to the police in Exeter, New Hampshire. Earlier this year, they arrested a local man for writing a comment on a news website accusing Police Chief William Shupe of covering for a corrupt officer.

      Robert Frese was accused of violating New Hampshire’s criminal defamation law, which makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally and falsely disparage another person. New Hampshire’s law — and others like it in 24 other states around the country — literally make it a crime to say mean things about people.

      These laws have no place in modern American democracy. That’s why we filed a lawsuit Tuesday in New Hampshire federal court arguing that criminal defamation laws violate the First Amendment.

    • Report: UK Internet Regulation – Part I: Internet Censorship in the UK today

      This report looks at current Internet censorship, including copyright injunctions, BBFC blocking powers, Nominet domain suspensions, CTIRU takedown requests and the Internet Watch Foundation.

    • Meet the Texas Speech Pathologist Who Lost School Job for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel, Anti-BDS Oath

      A Palestinian-American speech pathologist in Austin, Texas, has filed a federal lawsuit for losing her job after refusing to sign a pro-Israel oath. Bahia Amawi is an Arabic-speaking child language specialist who had worked for nine years in the Pflugerville Independent School District. But she lost her job last year after she declined to sign a pledge that she would “not boycott Israel during the term of the contract” and that she would not take any action that is “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel.” We speak with Bahia Amawi and Gadeir Abbas, senior litigation attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He is representing Amawi in her lawsuit against the Pflugerville Independent School District and the state of Texas.

    • Glenn Greenwald: Congress Is Trying to Make It a Federal Crime to Participate in Boycott of Israel

      Twenty-six states have laws preventing state agencies from contracting with companies or individuals aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS is an international campaign to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights. However, its opponents say BDS is a thinly disguised anti-Semitic attempt to debilitate or even destroy Israel. We speak with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His latest piece is headlined “A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States—So She Lost Her Job.”

    • Chinese Government Reopens Video Game Approval Process

      A few months, the Chinese government halted the issuance of video game licenses. Before a game was approved for release in the country, it had to go through a testing phase. The hiatus of the approval process meant bad things for the future of video games in China. Recently, the approval process of video games was resumed, and the stock market has reacted accordingly.

    • Moscow court formally blocks Alexey Navalny’s online project to defeat United Russia in regional elections

      Moscow Tagansky District Court judge Olga Sinelnikova has ruled against Alexey Navalny’s “Smart Vote” website, siding with Roskomnadzor and finding that Smart Vote violates Russia’s regulations on personal data storage. The information of people who register with the website is processed through the service Google Analytics, which is based in the United States. Sinelnikova ruled that this data legally needs to be stored on servers in Russia, and determined that Smart Vote prompts users to share their bank account information to purchase merchandise without disclosing how it handles the information.

      Sinelnikova blocked not only the 2019.vote website, but also its mirror websites. The portal itself has been inaccessible to most Internet users in Russia since December 7, when Sinelnikova approved a preliminary block as an interim measure.

    • Disgruntled driver attacks ‘Ekho Moskvy’ deputy chief editor, putting a gun to his head

      Someone grabbed Ekho Moskvy deputy chief editor Sergey Buntman and put a gun to his head, after the journalist caught his coat on the bumper of the man’s parked car. The incident took place on the evening of December 18, outside the “Shinok” restaurant near the Ulitsa 1905 Goda subway station in Moscow, where friends celebrated Ekho Moskvy chief editor Alexey Venediktov’s birthday.

      According to a Facebook post by Buntman’s wife, Lidiya Skryabina, an unidentified passerby intervened and saved him by chasing away the attacker. Skryabina also shared a photograph of the attacker’s car, which the website Open Media says is registered to Mikhail Gusman, the deputy CEO of the news agency TASS.

    • YouTube’s $100 Million Upload Filter Failures Demonstrate What A Disaster Article 13 Will Be For The Internet

      In case you haven’t followed it, the idea of the “value gap” is that (1) YouTube pays less to musicians record labels than Spotify and Apple Music do for streams. (2) YouTube’s general purpose video hosting platform is protected by intermediary protection laws (DMCA 512 in the US, Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive in the EU) allowing users to upload whatever they want, and YouTube only has to takedown infringing works upon notice. (3) Services like Spotify and Apple Music license all their works. (4) The “lower rates” that YouTube pays must be the result of the safe harbor, and the difference in payments is the “value gap.” Article 13, then, is supposed to “fix” the value gap by completely removing any notice-and-takedown safe harbor for copyright-covered works.

      Of course, almost all of this is bullshit. YouTube is used in very, very different ways from Spotify and Apple Music. While YouTube does have a competing music streaming service that is similar to Spotify/Apple Music, its payment rates there are equivalent. But on the general open platform, the rates are different. This is not because of the safe harbors, but because people use the platforms very, very differently. People use Spotify/Apple Music almost like radio — to put on music that is constantly streaming playlists of songs. YouTube has all sorts of content, most of it not music, and while some may use it as a radio-style experience, that is fairly rare. And the recording industry has always received different rates based on different platforms and different kinds of usage.

    • Eleanor Goldfield and the Need for an Alternative to Facebook
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Privacy & Security Reading List

      If you’re traveling this weekend, nestled in front of the fire, or just trying to offset the effect of sugar-coated holiday specials, we’ve got a reading list for you. These picks were recommended by team members at Purism and reflect our dedication to digital privacy, security, and freedom. With daily headlines about Big Tech scandals like Facebook’s clandestine data-sharing, there’s no better time to read up on these topics.

      The choices below are listed in no particular order and, wherever possible, we link to author websites and privacy-respecting sources.

    • How Amazon Alexa User Received 1,700 Voice Recordings Of A Total Stranger

      An Amazon Alexa user from Germany decided to exercise his rights under the EU’s GDPR and demanded his personal data recorded by the company. Instead, he received 1,700 audio recordings of someone else he doesn’t know.

      The man demanded a copy of all the data Amazon has on him. Two months later he received a 100MB file which contained some of his own data related to the Amazon searches he made.

    • EFF to Appellate Court: Protect Biometric Privacy

      Big tech companies are surveilling your face for profit. Fortunately, Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) prohibits companies from harvesting and monetizing your biometrics, including a scan of your face measurements, without your informed opt-in consent. But now Facebook is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to defang BIPA, by narrowly interpreting its enforcement tool and thus depriving injured parties of their day in court.

      EFF has joined an amicus curiae brief urging the Ninth Circuit to properly interpret BIPA to provide strong protection of biometric privacy. Our fellow amici are ACLU, CDT, and PIRG.

      The case on appeal is In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, which is sometimes called Patel v. Facebook. The plaintiffs challenge Facebook’s “tag suggestions” feature, which uses powerful face recognition technology to identify the people in images uploaded to the platform. Facebook then suggests that the people who uploaded the images tag the people in the images with those identities. The plaintiffs allege that this feature violates BIPA, by conducting face surveillance absent informed opt-in consent. The federal trial court certified a class of people allegedly harmed by this feature, and the Ninth Circuit granted an immediate appeal of whether the class was properly certified.

      In deciding the class appeal, the Ninth Circuit may rule on the effectiveness of BIPA’s enforcement tool. BIPA provides that “any person aggrieved by a violation of this Act” may bring an action against the company that violated the Act. An important issue is whether a person is “aggrieved,” and may sue, based solely on the collection of their biometric information without their consent, or whether a person must also show some additional injury. The answer to this question may determine whether the members of the class suffered a common injury, and thus whether the class was properly certified.

    • People Should Be Allowed to Sue Facebook If It Violates Law on Face Recognition Privacy

      We filed a court brief opposing Facebook’s effort to make it harder to enforce a pro-privacy law.
      Ten years ago, Illinois enacted a law that imposes important protections against companies collecting and storing our biometric information — including using facial recognition— without our knowledge and consent. The law is called the Biometric Information Privacy Act. Although facial recognition was relatively crude when it was passed, the wisdom of Illinois’ decision has been borne out over the last decade, as facial recognition and other biometric collection has developed and spread.

      On Monday, the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in federal appeals court defending the Illinois law against arguments advanced by Facebook trying to remove the law’s pro-privacy teeth. (The brief was filed along with ACLU affiliates in Illinois and California as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy & Technology, and Illinois PIRG).

      Under the law, a company may collect a person’s biometric identifiers — like fingerprints or data from a person’s face or iris — only if it first obtains informed consent from that person. In the case now pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Facebook users in Illinois have alleged that the company violated their rights under the law by using facial recognition technology to identify them in digital images uploaded to the site without disclosing its use of facial recognition or obtaining consent.

      One of Facebook’s arguments in the case is that people should not have an automatic right to sue when their biometric information has been collected in violation of the law. Rather, they must prove that they have suffered monetary or other damages. As we explain in our brief, however, that runs counter to the Illinois Legislature’s intent, which was to provide strong, enforceable protection against surreptitious collection of sensitive biometric data.

    • The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism

      I have been following the scandal of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act (also known as the Snoopers’ Charter) and Holland’s Sleepwet and their relationship to the encroaching government powers over private data, privacy, data collection, surveillance, and free speech for several years now. And very much related to these bills created ostensibly to protest us from “terrorism,” is Google’s encroaching powers over our lives, to include the freedom of expression protected by most national laws, not to mention EU and UN Charters, around the planet today.

      When the Internet became a tool for communication and research in the late1980s (usually through universities and research institutes) and later rrendered public through commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) in 1991, most people were slow to catch on. Initially, I was inculcated into Internet culture by virtue of being a graduate student at New York University where I came to depend on their computer labs to churn out papers when not using friends’ computers. I still remember Archie, Telnet, and line mode browsers before the release of ViolaWWW. By the mid 1990s students were curious about hypertext through Memex and Xanada while many others made their personal webpage which they would write in html with the help of on- or off-line instructions. The concept of a free website builder had not yet emerged and everything was very much ad hoc, individuals figuring out how to fiddle with html as if a late 20th century Mini Cooper under whose hood the user would play around. And yes, the flashing bright lights that every webpage seemed to embrace as if a will to trigger everyone visiting their page an epileptic seizure.

    • As facial recognition systems continue to spread, so do concerns about their deployment

      The honey-pot approach – offering something that is likely to attract people so that their faces can be scanned and compared with a watchlist – could easily be adapted for use in other situations. Although it’s a clever trick, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)) points out that the technique raises a number of important issues.

      For example, it seems that people were not told that a facial recognition system would be used in this way. The ACLU asks whether the images taken were saved, or shared with anyone else. Did security at the event use them to track individuals they regarded as “suspicious” at the concert? Facial recognition systems still have problems with accuracy, so that raises the question of how people who were flagged up as potentially a known stalker were approached and treated. Did the security people assume they were guilty until proven innocent, or did they carry out further checks? The ACLU points out that the approach adopted at Taylor Swift’s concert only works if there is an existing watchlist of people. That, in its turn, raises important questions about how such watchlists are created, whether they are fair or biased, and what can be done to be taken off them.

    • [Joke] Canadian GoFundMe Raises $6B In Two Hours To Pay For Privacy Hedge Along Entire US Border

      In a stunning rebuke of the 46th best president in American history, the United States’ northern neighbour shattered numerous crowdsourcing records today, when it raised billions and billions and billions of dollars to plant and maintain a living barrier between themselves and the adjacent idiocracy.

      “We’d heard that a bunch of people down in the You-Ess-of-Eh had decided to empty their wallets out for a wall that won’t block anything other than half of all escape routes, when their dirty bomb of a president melts through his retaining barrier,” explains the man who started the campaign, Tom Candy, of Fewmarket, Ontario.

      “So naturally our first thought was: how can we best deal with this shitshow as it unfolds directly beside us, and add a little ever-greenery to a world which, it has to be said, is looking a little bleak right now? The answer was, of course, legalizing marijuana. But with that already having been done, our next thought was: let’s plant a privacy hedge.”

      The campaign started with the modest goal of raising $250,000, which was estimated to be enough to pay for an ad on Fox & Friends asking Americans to help Canada secure its border against the dreaded MAGA-16 gang.

    • Mark Zuckerberg ridiculed by The Guardian in a mock ‘Year in Review’ video charting Facebook’s disastrous 12 months
    • ACLU to feds: Your “hacking presents a unique threat to individual privacy”

      The American Civil Liberties Union, along with Privacy International, a similar organization based in the United Kingdom, have now sued 11 federal agencies, demanding records about how those agencies engage in what is often called “lawful hacking.”

      The activist groups filed Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and nine others. None responded in a substantive way.

    • We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites

      Personal websites and email can replace most of what people like about Facebook—namely the urge to post about their lives online.

    • If your privacy is the hands of others alone, you don’t have any

      We must crank up agency on the individual’s side. We did it with the standards and protocols that gave us the Net, the Web, email and too little else. And we need it here too. Soon.

      This is why we (a few colleagues and I) co-founded Customer Commons as a place for terms that individuals can proffer as first parties, just by pointing at them. (Much as licenses at Creative Commons can be pointed at. Sites and services can agree too those terms, and both can keep records and follow audit trails.

      And there are some good signs that this will happen. For example, the IEEE approached Customer Commons last year with the suggestion that they help its community by creating a working group for machine readable personal privacy terms. It’s called P7012. If you’d like to join, please do.

      Without work like this, privacy will remain an empty promise by a legion of violators.

    • Calculating Facebook’s value by figuring out how much you’d have to pay users to quit

      The corollary of network effects is sudden collapse. As people leave the service, the value of the service steeply declines (you might only use FB to communicate with your kid’s soccer team, so leaving FB is the same as pulling your kid out of soccer and that’s worth a lot to you — but if the team leaves FB, then there’s no reason to use FB, and the value of FB to you falls to $0.

      So when the authors assume that FB’s worth is $1000/user, they’re assuming stable values. But FB is more like a social ponzi scheme: once people start leaving, the “asset” of your FB social graph becomes a worthless abstraction.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • No Space to Be Human

      The relentless weight of ruthlessly measured time also begins to take its toll. When she first accepts the job, Geissler reassures herself that she is merely a journalist at work, “a book person…perfectly within your rights to be interested in the company for research purposes.” But just a few pages later, she knows better: “You’re at their disposal from the very beginning. You’re an item on a list.” Although she seems to believe at times that she or other people like her—the educated, the literary, the culturally bourgeois—are the only ones resistant to such a reduction of individuality, more often she recognizes that the imposition of such demeaning work is “essentially rotten,” something against whose effects no one can be immune. “It’s almost impossible not to be forced to your knees and into defiance by this job,” she writes.

    • The scale of abuse against women on Twitter is shocking

      We found that 12 percent of the tweets mentioning the 778 women in our sample were either “abusive” or “problematic”. Extrapolating from our findings and using cutting-edge data science, Element AI calculated that this amounts to 1.1 million tweets over the course of the year. This is horrifying, but sadly not much of a surprise. In fact, many of our findings corroborate what women have been telling us for years about their experiences on Twitter.

    • Why Hondurans See Migration as an Act of Civil Disobedience

      A singular image is said to have sparked this latest migrant caravan. Set against a bold, red background, it features a figure, arms outstretched like a cross, with a backpack flying the Honduran flag. Contained in the message across the top: “We aren’t leaving because we want to; violence and poverty expel us.”

      The image expresses the generalized frustration regarding the current social, political, and economic state of Honduras and proposes migration as a challenge to that reality. The typical Honduran sees the caravan movement for what is: an outright act of civil disobedience. People are walking out of their own countries, the subconscious protest of a frustrated people. It is a bold protest by Hondurans against their president and corruption within their government and a challenge to the U.S. to reckon with the regional crisis its foreign policies have created.

      I remember an article from a 1980s Mexican magazine promoting migration to the U.S. as a means of calming popular discontent around a range of social injustices. Instead of using organized protest to demand change, people could be encouraged to seek the American Dream, quelling the problem of popular uprisings at the root.

    • South Korea Continues To Criminalize Behavior Around Online Gaming At The Behest Of Video Game Industry

      While we’ve spent some time here talking about the emergence of eSports and online gaming generally, it’s safe to say that South Korea was one of the trailblazers in this space. This has led to a remarkable ecosystem in the country for online gaming and competitive gaming. But it’s also led to South Korea introducing some fairly problematic laws at the request of the gaming industry. For instance, criminalizing cheating in online gaming is very much a thing in South Korea, though this is actually done by making it illegal to break a game’s ToS, which nobody reads.

      Now, however, South Korea is going a much more targeted and direct route by criminalizing “boosting”, the practice of experienced players of a particular game contracting their services to help less-able gamers to climb the level ranks.

    • After Enabling Trump’s Anti-Immigration Policies, Paul Ryan Makes Exception for Immigrants From His Own Homeland

      After spending much of the past two years enabling President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policy and blocking the House from voting on bipartisan legislation to protect young immigrants, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is showing recent enthusiasm for welcoming a select group of immigrants—not the thousands of Central Americans who are in a camp in Tijuana, Mexico, waiting to seek asylum in the U.S., but people from his family’s own homeland.

      Ryan pushed through a bill that passed in the House late last month, giving thousands of E-3 work visas to Irish nationals. The bill is expected to pass in the Senate this week.

    • Russian foreign minister says Maria Butina was ‘tortured’ into cooperating with U.S. law enforcement

      Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has commented on Maria Butina’s cooperation with American law enforcement, claiming that she was subjected to “a kind of torture.”

      “I understand this woman. She finds herself in extreme conditions, and for months on end they’ve been subjecting her to a kind of torture: taking her for walks in the middle of the night, forcibly interrupting her sleep, throwing her in solitary confinement, and a whole lot more,” Lavrov explained on Friday, arguing that U.S. authorities did what was necessary to “break her” and force her to confess to crimes she did not commit. “But I repeat: this is her fate and her decision. We will do everything to ensure that our citizen’s rights are ensured so that she may return home as soon as possible.”

    • Russia’s prison population is now lower than at any point in modern history

      The prison population in Russia is lower than at any point in modern history, according to new figures released by the Federal Penitentiary Service. There are currently 467,724 inmates in Russia today. For comparison, the prison population was 588,000 people in January 2013 and 497,000 in January 2018.

      Russia partly owes its falling incarcerations to prison reforms adopted earlier this year that weigh days spent in pretrial detention as 1.5 days in a standard prison. According to estimates, the new policy instantly freed roughly 14,000 people and made early parole available to nearly 100,000 inmates.

    • Mexico Heeds Trump’s Gag Order on Immigration Communications

      Many in the US are reflecting on the country’s collective values after images of children running to escape clouds of tear gas fired by US border agents came to light. What remains unseen, however, is the stealth effort by the Trump administration to pressure the incoming Mexican administration to help carry out US border and immigration policies that grow more draconian by the day.

      The ongoing secrecy behind the agents’ use of force has since hindered hopes for accountability, and has shifted the public’s focus toward Mexico’s role in executing President Trump’s plans to fortify the border and overhaul the US asylum process.

      There are conflicting reports about the supposed deal between the two countries to force asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases wind through US immigration courts. The proposal has drawn condemnation from human rights observers, who say the plan would violate individuals’ rights to seek asylum. Mexico’s President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador says there is no such agreement, but the tradition of covert negotiations between the two countries threatens to block the public from knowing the truth.

    • Corporate Elites’ Malfeasance Is Thwarting Human Rights in Africa

      The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 70 on December 10. Governments and civil society organizations around the world commemorated the day with a range of activities.

      Over the years, the Declaration has been a global beacon for Africans fighting against colonialism and for inclusive economic equality and sustainable development. Its provisions stand as aspirational goals for nations, and standards that nations are duty-bound to uphold and promote.

      But what if despite your country’s commitment to uphold these and other fundamental freedoms, every year it was robbed of the financial resources necessary to promote and protect rights?

      This is the case for most nations in Africa, where illicit financial flows (IFFs) rob countries of $60-100 billion each year — losses in many countries that exceed foreign direct investments and development assistance. Funds that could be used to secure basic economic and social rights — for example the rights to social security, decent work, and human dignity — are instead held in secret tax havens for the benefit of corporate elites.

    • Trump Bullies Asian Countries Into Accepting Deported Refugees Who Fled After Vietnam War

      Nam Nguyen came to the United States as a refugee in 1985. He was 9 years old and an unaccompanied minor.

      Orphaned in the wake of the Vietnam War, Nguyen left the country on a boat in 1984 for an Indonesia refugee camp, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees sponsored his asylum request.

      Under a 2008 agreement between the Vietnam and the U.S., Nguyen is protected from deportation along with any other Vietnam refugees, who entered the U.S. prior to 1995. (This is when diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored.)

      Vietnam has faced pressure to change the agreement under President Donald Trump’s administration, placing individuals like Nguyen at risk for deportation.

      “I’m the main person who supports my family, so if I ever get deported, it will be hell for them,” Nguyen said. “I don’t think the Trump policy is fair. I’m worried, scared, nervous, depressed. My wife and I don’t talk about this immigration stuff because every time we talk about it, she cries. She doesn’t know if I’m going to be taken away from the family and who will pay the bills.”

    • 181 Nations Just Voted to Help Refugees. Only the Far-Right United States and Hungary Voted “No”

      The United States was a near global outlier Monday at the United Nations General Assembly in rejecting a framework to bolster international cooperation on refugees.

      Only Hungary—headed by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose administration has been accused of carrying out “a full-frontal assault on migrants and refugees”—joined the U.S. in voting “no” on the Global Compact on Refugees (pdf). One hundred eighty-one nations voted to approve it, while three—the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, and Libya—abstained.

      “The U.S. said recently that it backed most of the refugee pact, but not the part aimed at limiting detentions of asylum seekers,” Agence France-Presse reported. The international agreement states: “The development of non-custodial and community-based alternatives to detention, particularly for children, will also be supported.”

    • Joe Bryan in His Own Words: On Being Convicted With Expert Testimony That Turned Out to Be Wrong

      This summer and fall, as Joe Bryan’s attorneys argued that he deserved a new trial, Bryan watched in silence. Although he was at the center of the evidentiary hearing in Comanche, Texas, he was never afforded a chance to speak. Dressed in a black-and-white-striped jail jumpsuit, he sat beside his defense attorneys, listening intently to each witness, a finger usually pressed to his temple in concentration. I often wondered what he was thinking.

      Bryan has twice been convicted of the 1985 murder of his wife, Mickey, an elementary school teacher, in their Clifton, Texas, home. Bryan, then a beloved high school principal, had been attending an education conference in Austin, 120 miles away, in the days surrounding the murder. He has always maintained that he was asleep in his hotel room at the time of the crime. At the hearing in Comanche, compelling evidence was presented that the forensic testimony used to convict him was erroneous.

    • Russian lawmakers pass draft legislation that could jail people for 30 days if they invite minors to unpermitted protests

      The State Duma has adopted the third and final reading of legislation that imposes extra penalties on people who encourage minors to attend unpermitted demonstrations. Three hundred and forty-two deputies voted for the bill, and just 42 voted against it.

      “We can’t ignore the actions of those who incite our youth and our children to commit illegal acts and break the law,” said United Russia deputy Evgeny Revenko, who helped write the legislation. He argued that the law isn’t aimed at parents, and minors are still welcome to attend sanctioned demonstrations.

      Communist Party deputy Alexey Kurinny, who opposed the bill, warned that it is open to “very broad interpretations” and “selective enforcement.”

    • Confirming Women’s Experience of Harassment, ‘Troll Patrol’ Study Reveals Twitter Flooded With Misogyny and Abuse

      A crowd-sourced study by a leading humanitarian group and global artificial intelligence company confirms that women around the world face abuse when using Twitter—and that without the social media platform’s commitment to combating such treatment, pervasive online abuse will continue to have the effect of harming and silencing women, particularly women of color.

      With the help of the artificial intelligence software company Element AI and 6,500 volunteers who sifted through more than 200,000 tweets sent to women in 2017, Amnesty International reported in their study, entitled “Troll Patrol,” that women were mentioned in 1.1 million abusive or problematic tweets last year.

    • Austin Closes A High Number Of Its Rape Cases Without Arrests. The State’s Investigating Why.

      The Austin Police Department has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to audit the way it processes and clears sexual assault cases following an investigation by Newsy, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica.

      The investigation, Case Cleared, revealed that Austin police and dozens of law enforcement agencies across the country are making it appear as though they have solved a significant share of their rape cases when they have simply closed them without making an arrest, using a process known as exceptional clearance.

      Advocates and rape survivors demanded change at an Austin City Council meeting last month, days after the investigative report was released.

      “We have a serious problem with the way that rapes are handled in Austin and Travis County, and this is an opportunity to do something about it,” said Rebecca Bernhardt of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

    • Investigation Finds Philly PD Officers Bought Forfeited Houses Seized During Drug Arrests

      Philadelphia’s asset forfeiture programs have subjected the city’s residents to all sorts of abuse. Cops have taken cars away from their owners because a child, relative, or friend was arrested while driving the vehicle. Law enforcement has tried to take entire homes away from grandmothers because their kid sold $140-worth of marijuana to an undercover cop.

      A recent court settlement is reforming the program — something the city’s legislators have had zero success doing. Cash under the amount of $250 can no longer be forfeited. Seizures under $1000 need to be accompanied by an arrest and charges. The city’s law enforcement has been flexing its creativity, using the new arrest requirement to seize vehicles as “evidence” and hoping the wheels of justice grind slowly enough it would be cheaper to relinquish ownership than pay to get the car out of the impound lot.

      We know cops directly profit from asset forfeiture, but when we say that we generally mean their agencies get new toys, vehicles, and other niceties by converting other people’s property into discretionary spending. But there’s an actual personal profit angle to forfeiture that hasn’t been discussed. An investigation by PlanPhilly shows police officers have personally and directly benefited from property seizures tied to drug enforcement efforts.

    • Voice For the Voiceless

      The non-binding Global Compact on Refugees they were marking at the U.N., the result of two years of negotiations, is being touted as a “historic” effort to share responsibility for supporting the world’s 25-million-plus refugees, over 85% of whom are hosted by poor countries. The compact’s measures will aid those host nations, whose public services often struggle to support newcomers. The pact was approved 181-2, with the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya abstaining. The 2 votes against came from Hungary and, yes, the U.S., which is currently run by racist monsters and which opposed a call to limit detentions of asylum seekers. Another new global compact to support migrants is expected to be endorsed by the General Assembly on Wednesday; it was earlier approved by most of the U.N.’s 193 members over fierce opposition from the U.S. What we wish, devoutly: When Trump dies, hopefully in prison, may he return in his next life as a migrant or refugee.

    • Despite Intimidation Tactics, Mom and Kids Tear-Gassed at US Border Finally Allowed to File for Asylum

      A group of migrants—including a Honduran mother and her children who were photographed being sprayed with tear gas at the border last month—was allowed to apply for asylum on Tuesday after camping out on U.S. soil near the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego, California for hours with two members of Congress who documented the experience, which featured intimidation tactics by federal agents, on social media.

    • The First Step Act Opens the Door to Digital Incarceration

      The recent debates over the First Step Act and California’s SB-10 — two bills that attempt to address the overuse of incarceration in the US — have thrown the complexities of “criminal justice system reform” into the spotlight. Most attention has focused on sentencing reform and ending cash bail. But the struggles over these bills have brought another issue front and center that will be extremely critical in the long run: electronic monitoring. Both these laws, if enacted, (and many more to come) would precipitate a much wider use of e-carceration — the deprivation of liberty by means of technologies such as ankle monitors.

      I have campaigned against the use of electronic monitors for many years, after spending a year on one myself. Fortunately, an increasing number of people are reaching the obvious conclusion: Electronic monitoring is not an alternative to incarceration but an alternative form of incarceration. With the monitor, our homes become our jails; our loved ones become our jailers. While this is an important realization, we need to dig deeper in responding to electronic monitors. As much as some of us may want them to go away, they are here and are going to be with us for a good while.

      The United States has about 200,000 people on these devices right now with the numbers, especially among immigrants, steadily rising. Even the hinterlands are busting out e-shackles. Indianapolis seems to lead the nation’s cities in electronic monitoring with more than 4,000 people forced to wear ankle monitors. Those of us who oppose mass incarceration, especially if we adopt an abolitionist perspective, must respond to ankle monitors like we respond to prisons. Abolitionists oppose adding more prisons, push for people to be freed from them and try to close them down. When we can’t do any of that, we fight to reduce the harm by opposing torturous practices like solitary confinement, mandatory minimums and shackling mothers who are giving birth. To similarly oppose electronic monitors — which many activists call “digital prisons” — we must oppose new shackles, try to reduce the number in operation and reduce the harm being done by monitors.

    • Global Peasant Declaration Represents Huge Advance for Human Rights

      Later this month, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to pass a new Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas, following more than a decade of work by La Via Campesina, or “the peasant’s way” and other social movements. Via Campesina came together in the early 1990s to address the problems economic globalization brought for small-scale farmers. Today, it represents around 300 million small farmers across five continents. The UN Declaration reflects an important—arguably revolutionary—development in international human rights law. It seeks to protect the rights of rural populations, and also has implications for the fight against climate change and for the protection of biodiversity(See Via Campesina).

    • Private Construction-Waste Truck Hits Man Outside de Blasio Event

      A private construction-waste truck struck and injured a pedestrian in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, the second crash for the vehicle’s owner in 2018.

      The crash occurred outside an event in Chinatown attended by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and a member of his security detail helped the injured pedestrian in the minutes before an ambulance arrived, according to the mayor’s press secretary. The unidentified pedestrian, a 60-year-old man, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

      De Blasio has touted pedestrian safety as a core aim of his mayoralty, and the crash comes as his administration is pushing a major reform that it says will improve the safety records of the army of private commercial garbage trucks that crisscross the city’s streets. The proposed plan from the Department of Sanitation calls for dividing the city into zones, with only three to five trash companies in each, and legislation could be introduced in the City Council as early as spring 2019.

    • Elkhart’s Mayor Says He Won’t Run for Re-election, Amid Revelations of Misconduct in the Police Ranks

      Tim Neese, the mayor of Elkhart, Indiana, abandoned his re-election campaign Tuesday following revelations of misconduct in the city’s Police Department, including a video showing two officers beating a handcuffed man.

      A news release, issued by Neese’s office, did not provide a reason for the mayor’s decision not to run again in 2019, when his term expires. Early Tuesday, Neese’s campaign website still appeared to signal plans for a second term, promising updates on “the many things going on during my 2019 Elkhart Mayor re-election campaign.” The site also showed Neese had raised campaign money at a Sept. 25 golf outing. By Tuesday evening, the site had been taken down.

      “Serving as mayor of the City of Elkhart has been a great honor,” Neese said in the news release. “Each day presents a new opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others. That has been my number one priority since the day I decided to run for mayor. My greatest achievement, however, has always been my family. The titles of dad and grandpa are more important than the title of mayor.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The state of RPKI: Q4 2018

      In the fall I did a blog post and talk on RPKI about how the current methods of measuring RPKI deployment are broken because they do not take into account network operators actually verifying their imported routes.

    • Based on new draft legislation, here’s how Russia would actually build its own, autonomous Internet

      Under the law, Russia would create a national domain name system and develop special rules for Internet traffic routing. Having its own domain name system (which translates more easily memorized domain names to resources’ numerical IP addresses) is supposed to guard against the potential seizure of Russia’s .ru and .рф domains, and developing its own routing system would protect Internet providers against the seizure of the IP-address blocks allocated to them.

    • FCC’s O’Rielly Keeps Claiming, With Zero Evidence, That Community Broadband Is An ‘Ominous’ Threat To Free Speech

      O’Rielly’s right on one point: some fully government-owned community ISPs could face legal challenge for trying, as government operators, to censor hate speech via mouse print. As government operators, community ISPs actually have a greater Constitutional burden to avoid censoring content online than their private counterparts (a major reason, you’ll note, that none have actually tried). That said, as local operations that have to be voter approved, community ISPs also have more direct accountability to the communities they serve. Certainly more than a company like Comcast or AT&T.

      O’Rielly’s problem is he then takes his core tenet to make a false claim: that because some community ISP mouse print isn’t legally sound, allowing community broadband to exist threatens free speech. Recall, O’Rielly’s original speech argued that these ISPs have “have engaged in significant First Amendment mischief.” And again, that never happened. It might also be worth noting that one of the ISPs O’Rielly singled out was Chattanooga’s EPB, the government utility and broadband ISP Consumer Reports just rated the best broadband provider in America. Throughout eighteen paragraphs, O’Rielly still can’t provide a single instance of hard evidence to support his original claim.

      There’s also a lot of components to the community broadband conversation O’Rielly’s rambling post makes it clear he’d rather not talk about.

    • Mystery Lobbying Group Using Huawei Security Hysteria To Target Sprint, T-Mobile Merger

      So a few months back, a group mysteriously calling itself “Protect Amerca’s Wireless” popped up on the internet and began attacking the Sprint, T-Mobile merger. The campaign, which has all the usual signs of astroturf, takes particular aim at both companies’ use of Huawei network hardware — gear that the organization insists “could give countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Germany, and Japan direct access to our networks through the use of foreign-made networking equipment and billions of foreign money.”

      In short, the mystery group is piggybacking on the recent hysteria surrounding Huawei to try and scuttle the merger, which is certainly a problematic merger, but largely for employment and competition reasons.

    • Bahnhof Now Facing Net Neutrality Investigation Over Its ‘Protest’ Blocking Of Elsevier

      Last month we wrote about the Swedish ISP, Bahnhof, and its decision to stage a bit of an online protest by putting up a “block” page for publisher Elsevier and a local court, after Elsevier pushed the court to force Bahnhof to block Sci-Hub over infringement claims. As we noted in our post, many people we know cheered on this kind of “protest,” but I wrote that we should not, as it appeared to be a clear net neutrality violation.

      I understand why many people celebrated this. Elsevier is a terrible, terrible company that gets free academic labor (often supported by taxpayer dollars) and then locks up the results of their research, takes the copyright, and only allows universities paying subscription fees that run in the 10s of thousands of dollars to get access. And then they whine about piracy? Especially against a site like Sci-Hub whose entire existence is premised on academics being able to better share knowledge? It’s not hard to see who’s the villain here, and its name starts with an Else and ends in a vier.

      And Bahnhof’s “protest” felt karmic. Elsevier wants Bahnhof to block access to Sci-Hub? Well, fine, now Bahnhof will throw up a large (temporary, easily clicked through) “block” page on Elsevier’s site (and the site of the court reviewing the case).

  • DRM

    • Study Shows That No, Netflix Isn’t Killing Movie Theaters

      It’s odd how conventional wisdom usually isn’t all that wise. For example the entertainment industry for years has proclaimed that piracy was killing numerous business models, despite record profits and a steady parade of studies showing that pirates routinely buy more legit content than their non copyright-infringing counterparts. The entertainment industry willfully ignored for years (and often still does) that many of these users were engaging in copyright infringement because owners and distributors were failing to provide this content at a reasonable price via legitimate means.

      The chicken-little argument then mutated over the years to imply that streaming services like Netflix were also killing traditional brick and mortar movie theater attendance. That, too, simply isn’t true.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • The Opinion of the Advocate General in the case C-443/17 (Abraxis case). A lost case for second medical indication SPCs?

      The High Court of Justice (UK) asked the CJEU for an interpretation of Article 3(d) of Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 (“Article 3(d)”) concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products. The dispute was between Abraxis and the Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks. The Comptroller rejected the SPC application filed by Abraxis for a combination of substances containing the active ingredient paclitaxel, marketed under the name Abraxane. Abraxane is a medicinal product indicated for the treatment of certain breast, pancreatic and lung cancers. Paclitaxel has been previously marketed under other brand names pursuant to other marketing authorizations. Abraxane is more efficient and presents better patient tolerance. Its development has been the result of both costly and lengthy research.

    • German Court prohibits sale of certain iPhone models

      Qualcomm and Apple have been litigating back and forth for some time, with the former obtaining a victoryin China a few weeks ago. Now the District Court of Munich has hit Apple with two permanent injunctions affecting all iPhone models form the 7, 8 and X series (case No. 7 O 10495/17 and 7 O 10496/17). The judgment effectively prohibits the sale of all iPhones from these series in Germany and also finds Apple liable for damages.

    • Apple’s Older iPhones Not For Sale In Germany Over Patent Breaches

      A useful reminder of the importance of intellectual property in this modern world – Apple’s older iPhones have been withdrawn from sale in Germany over allegations of breaches of Qualcomm’s patents. That this might be getting a little absurd could be true but it’s very useful proof that intellectual property isn’t just a method of tax dodging as more than one tax campaigner insists.

    • The FTC Must Join The Fight Against Patent Bullies

      Sometimes, firms can simply use litigation or the threat of litigation to induce cross licensing or to divvy up the market. For example, in 2015, Google and Microsoft entered a Patent Truce, and Apple and Samsung did the same this summer. And just this last October, Microsoft joined the Open Innovation Network, a “patent nonaggression community” which includes companies as diverse as Red Hat and General Motors. All members of this community agree not to file suit on each other’s Linux projects.

    • USPTO to Remain Open during Government Shutdown — but December 24 Now Considered Federal Holiday (for 2018)

      As reported by numerous media outlets (see “Partial government shutdown likely to continue until after Christmas”), the U.S. Senate adjourned this afternoon without coming to an agreement on a continuing resolution to fund the United States Government. The government shutdown is the third shutdown of the federal government this year. While the shutdown could end as soon as Monday, when the Senate has a pro forma session scheduled, the shutdown could continue past the next actual session of the Senate on Thursday, December 27. The shutdown is the result of a debate over $5.7 billion dollars in funding for a border wall.

      Regardless of when the shutdown ends, however, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has indicated in a short notice posted on its website that the Office will remain “open for business as normal” — at least during the first “few weeks” of the shutdown (were the shutdown to last that long). The USPTO is able to stay open because of its “access to prior-year fee collections.”

    • Trademarks

      • Oxford University Gets Opposition To Its Attempt To Trademark ‘Oxford’ For All The Things

        It would be nice if the UK IPO could handle this better than the EU, actually, and recognize the problems of granting a trademark for a school that itself is named after the town in which it resides.

        For its part, Oxford University is making a lot of noise about its promise not to keep people from using the term “Oxford” and to only go after other entities that are “infringing on its rights.” That’s the whole rub, of course, in that after the trademark is granted, legal teams far too often err on the side of protectionism, including in cases where protectionism isn’t warranted.

        The EU got this one right with St. Andrews. Hopefully the UK gets it right as well.

      • Politician Who Tried To Hijack Critic’s Blog Via Trademark Applications Agrees To Never Pull This Bullshit Again

        In one of the more blatant attempts at censorship we’ve witnessed, a Minnesota politician tried to trademark the name of a politically-focused blog that often criticized her. Tax board member Carol Becker tried to take the name “Wedge LIVE!” away from its owner, John Edwards, who had been using the name for years to cover local politics. Becker first claimed she thought of the name herself, which she thought would be perfect for her yet-unrealized podcast covering… local politics.

        After receiving a bit of heat from Tony Webster, John Edwards, and Edward’s supporters, Becker finally admitted she was attempting to take the name away from her critic, who had built his unregistered brand over the past several years. After more backlash, she decided to withdraw her trademark applications but warned she would try again in six months if Edwards didn’t register them first.

    • Copyrights

      • Game Developer Admits It Filed Bogus Copyright Claims, But Says It Had No Other Way To Silence A Critic

        If you can’t stand the heat, whip out the DMCA notices, I guess. Earlier this week, in response to criticism, a game developer hit a YouTuber with dozens of bogus DMCA claims. “Eroktic,” who has posted several videos of him playing Battlestate Games’ multiplayer shooter “Escape from Tarkov,” was on the receiving end of nearly 50 claims.

        Rather than pretend this is about copyright by claiming it didn’t give Eroktic permission to use footage of its game, the Russian developer has been surprisingly open about its abuse of the DMCA system. Comments given to Polygon’s Charlie Hall show Battlestate is well aware it’s misusing YouTube’s copyright claim process, but says that’s the only way it can protect its good name.

      • FBI Swept Up Info About Aaron Swartz While Pursuing An Al-Qaeda Investigation

        The FBI has the power to collect massive amounts of data and communications during its investigations. This power periodically ingests NATSEC steroids, pumping the FBI’s data stores full of stuff not relevant to the NSA’s work, but possibly relevant to the FBI’s crime-fighting duties.

        You would think the FBI would toss anything not relevant to an investigation. Just in terms of storage and haystack-sorting, it would only make sense to discard data/communications not needed for ongoing investigations. But you’d be wrong. The FBI holds on to everything it gets because you never know: the irrelevancies you hoovered up yesterday might be useful today.

      • Want A Box At The Grammies With Two Bigshot Congressmen? That’ll Be $5,000 (Entertainment Lobbyists Only)

        We’ve talked a lot in the past about the concept of soft corruption. These are the kinds of practices that are most likely legal, and possibly even common among the political class, but which absolutely stink of corruption to the average American. And that’s a huge problem, not just because of the general ethical questions raised by such soft corruption, but because it creates a cynical American public that does not trust politicians to adequately represent their interests.

      • Hollywood Asks Court to Halt ‘Pirate Box’ Whac-a-Mole

        ‘Dragon Box’ has changed its business model a few times this year. Facing a lawsuit from the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, and Amazon, the streaming box supplier switched to a new subscription service twice already. However, these alternatives are still unlawful according to the movie companies, which hope to put an end to the whac-a-mole in court.

      • Vodafone Blocks Two Pirate Streaming Sites Without a Court Order

        ISP Vodafone has begun blocking a pair of illicit streaming portals in unusual circumstances. Burning Series and Serial Stream were rendered inaccessible on Tuesday, but not as the result of a specific blocking injunction. The ISP says that following a decision by the Federal Court of Justice in the summer, it felt compelled to block the sites following a request from a copyright holder.

      • YouTube’s Copyright Protection System is a Total Mess, Can it Be Fixed?

        YouTube users are becoming increasingly frustrated with the platform’s handling of copyright complaints. Legitimate videos are being claimed or removed based on false claims, either by automated mistakes or intentional abuse. Perhaps it’s time for YouTube to hold ‘abusive’ copyright holders responsible for their actions?

      • Court Returns Seized Laptops to Accused GTA V Cheat Developer

        An Australian man who’s accused of developing the “Infamous” cheat for GTA V had some of his personal belongings returned this week. The items were seized following a complaint from Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive Software. The case remains ongoing and the defendant was told that he has to present a defense on or before February 1st, 2019.

12.10.18

Links 10/12/2018: Linux 4.20 RC6 and Git 2.20

Posted in Site News at 3:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • How Can We Bring FOSS to the Virtual World?

    Will the free and open-source revolution end when our most personal computing happens inside the walled gardens of proprietary AI VR, AR, MR, ML and XR companies? I ask, because that’s the plan.

    [...]

    Buying all this is the cost of entry for chefs working in the kitchen, serving apps and experiences to customers paying to play inside Magic Leap’s walled garden: a market Magic Leaps hopes will be massive, given an investment sum that now totals close to $2 billion.

    The experience it created for me, thanks to the work of one early developer, was with a school of digital fish swimming virtually in my physical world. Think of a hologram without a screen. I could walk through them, reach out and make them scatter, and otherwise interact with them. It was a nice demo, but far from anything I might crave.

    But I wondered, given Magic Leap’s secretive and far-advanced tech, if it could eventually make me crave things. I ask because immersive doesn’t cover what this tech does. A better adjective might be invasive.

  • Open source will be the next big thing for the channel

    With cloud vendors developing more industry-specific solutions, channel partners must also hone in on vertical industry knowledge to capitalise on these markets.

    Flexibility will also be a key selling point which open source solutions provide: enterprises are seeking a hybrid-cloud approach to eliminate vendor lock-in, which means they’re likely to benefit from working with open source channel partners.

    With the rapid development and maturity that open source solutions provide, a shift toward higher adoptions rates in cloud workloads on Linux will become the new norm.

  • AI & data science: Open source makes NSE smart and secure

    National Stock Exchange of India (NSE which used V-SAT to transmit data securely in 1993, had shifted to Red Hat open source later. In the last few years it has been strengthening that partnership further with the integration of cloud infrastructure in its data systems to not simply improve data security, but also to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science in its systems. The implementation of cloud-based AI platform enables NSE to clock a daily turnover of Rs 3,00,000 crore with 1.2 billion daily transactions. It is the largest stock exchange in India in terms of market volume and market share.
    Says Yatrik R Vin, CFO, NSE India, “There are certain cases on which we use open source’s capabilities extensively. They are risk management at client and investor level, cost reductions and making our systems talk to the public without manual intervention.” He reminisces that during the financial crisis of 2008, not a single rupee was affected, because of the risk management capabilities of the eight-sigma level open source core systems that were in use at NSE India.

  • List of Twitters of Free Software Projects and Communities
  • OpenSMTPD proc filters & fc-rDNS

    I have committed full proc filtering support today, allowing a standalone filter to perform all kind of filtering on every single phase of an SMTP session.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • TenFourFox FPR11 available

        TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 11 final is now available for testing (downloads, hashes, release notes). Issue 525 has stuck, so that’s being shipped and we’ll watch for site or add-on compatibility fallout (though if you’re reporting a site or add-on that doesn’t work with FPR11, or for that matter any release, please verify that it still worked with prior versions: particularly for websites, it’s more likely the site changed than we did). There are no other changes other than bringing security fixes up to date. Assuming no problems, it will go live tomorrow evening as usual.

  • LibreOffice

  • Public Services/Government

    • New Czech law makes ICT neutrality a right

      A law being prepared by the Czech Republic on eGovernment services (‘Právo na Digitální Služby’ or ‘Right to Digital Service’) will establish technological neutrality for companies and citizens. This means they may not be forced to use any particular software because of technology choices made by public services, Ondřej Profant, Chairman of the Parliamentary Subcommittee on eGovernment, told the European Commission’s Open Source Observatory.

  • Programming/Development

    • Git v2.20.0

      The latest feature release Git v2.20.0 is now available at the usual places. It is comprised of 962 non-merge commits since v2.19.0 (this is by far the largest release in v2.x.x series), contributed by 83 people, 26 of which are new faces.

    • Git 2.20 Brings Many Fixes, Updates To Windows Port

      Junio Hamano has released Git 2.20 as the newest version of this widely-used distributed revision control system.

      Git 2.20 is another incremental update to this widely used tool by developers. Some of the many changes to Git 2.20 includes:

      - The Git clone process will better warn users when cloning to a case-insensitive file-system where there are files in that repository that only differ with their cases.

    • Parallel Programming: December 2018 Update

      This release features Makefile-automated running of litmus tests (both with herd and litmus tools), catch-ups with recent Linux-kernel changes, a great many consistent-style changes (including a new style-guide appendix), improved code cross-referencing, and a great many proofreading changes, all courtesy of Akira Yokosawa. SeongJae Park, Imre Palik, Junchang Wang, and Nicholas Krause also contributed much-appreciated improvements and fixes. This release also features numerous epigraphs, modernization of sample code, many random updates, and larger updates to the memory-ordering chapter, with much help from my LKMM partners in crime, whose names are now enshrined in the LKMM section of the Linux-kernel MAINTAINERS file.

    • Lets put the game instruction online instead

      In the previous article we have successfully created an about page which contains both game instruction as well as game credit, however it is better to put the game instruction into it’s own page to make our game looks more professional. In this article we are going to create an online game manual which will open up once the player has clicked on the manual button on the main game page.

    • qpropgen 0.1.1

      Continuing on this release month idea started last week, here is a release of another project. Today is the first release of qpropgen, a tool to generate QML-friendly QObject-based C++ classes from class definition files

    • PyBites Twitter Digest – Issue 38, 2018
    • Create PDF files from templates with Python and Google Scripts
    • Dockerizing a Python Django Web Application
    • Django Authentication — Login, Logout and Password Change/Reset
    • Fedora 29 : Python 3 and Jupyter notebook.

    • C Programming Language – Introduction

      This tutorial is the first part of a C programming language course on Linux. C is a procedural programming language that was designed by American computer scientist Dennis Ritchie. Please note that we’ll be using Linux for all our examples and explanation. Specifically, we’ll be using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

    • DSF 2019 Board Election Results

      I’m pleased to announce the winners of our 2019 DSF Board of Directors election.

      [...]

      This year we had 17 great candidates and while not everyone can get elected each year I hope they all consider running again in the 2020 election.

      Another item of note with this election is that our Board is now comprised of two thirds women, which is a first for the DSF.

    • coloured shell prompt
    • Create multiple threads to delete multiple files with python

Leftovers

  • Electron and the Decline of Native Apps
  • Science

  • Health/Nutrition

    • [Older] In a nutshell: technology and progress in health IT

      On an average day, the computer adds a minimum of 10 minutes of work per patient seen. We have electronic health records to comply with the massive number of Federal mandates requiring it and to avoid the financial penalties for not complying. The Feds offered each hospital an 11 million dollar incentive for putting in these systems which made their decision to computerize far simpler.

    • Big Tobacco Won’t Take Menthol Ban Lying Down

      On November 15, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to ban menthol cigarettes in a move that agency officials described as part of an aggressive new campaign against certain tobacco products. The plans have been welcomed by campaign groups who see mint-flavored smokes as a key means of hooking young people, particularly people of color. But given that certain manufacturers, like Altria Group, make as much as 20 percent of their profits from menthol cigarettes, the agency can expect a fierce battle. The industry will fight hard – and dirty – in its attempts to wriggle free of regulation.

      The menthol ban is just one of a package of proposals designed to protect teens from tobacco. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb – a cancer survivor – also plans to curb the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars. Yet, there’s no doubt which is the most significant of the proposals; the FDA has been planning a crackdown on menthol for years and has already secured a ban on several other flavors, thanks to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which expanded the agency’s ability to regulate the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of tobacco products. If the agency manages to outlaw menthol smokes as well, it will have struck a decisive blow against what Gottlieb describes as “one of the most common and pernicious routes” toward heavy smoking.

    • Doctors Who Facilitate Torture Must Be Held to Account

      To prevent further stains on the medical profession, the names of those involved in torture and executions need to be made public.
      Physicians hold a special position in U.S. society. They are given a place of honor in return for the expectation that they will use their knowledge and skills in the public interest and adhere to a clear set of ethical standards.

      Under pressure from the government to misuse their expertise, though, some doctors have been willing to rationalize cooperation in unethical behavior. In recent years, nowhere has such ethical deviation been so starkly on display as in the case of the participation of medical professionals in the CIA torture program. The recent release of a CIA report, secured through an ACLU lawsuit, details how doctors willingly and even proudly became complicit in the CIA’s torture program.

      The warped rationalizations the CIA doctors used to justify their participation reflect a blatantly unprofessional eagerness to violate medical ethics when encouraged by a government agenda. Once they began participating in interrogations — which is clearly prohibited by American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines — CIA medical professionals went to absurd lengths to deny the reality of the abuses and physical and psychological harms they were witnessing and effectively presiding over.

      At one point, CIA doctors decided that waterboarding actually “provided periodic relief” to one prisoner “from his standing sleep deprivation.” The CIA doctors also claimed that when a different prisoner was forced into a coffin-sized box, this provided a “relatively benign sanctuary” from other torture methods. The descent into complicity with torture was so deep that they lost sight of the clear ethical breach in helping to modulate relative levels of pain infliction.

      Torture isn’t the only recent example of unethical physician complicity in U.S. human rights violations. Throughout the last century, and into the current one, physicians have participated in all methods of executions, most recently through lethal injection, in violation of professional ethical guidelines. In a number of states that execute prisoners by lethal injection, physicians have continued to consult on lethal dosages, examine veins, start intravenous lines, witness executions, and pronounce death.

    • ‘Victory’ for Women as Supreme Court Rejects Case Challenging Medicaid Funds for Planned Parenthood

      In a development hailed as “victory,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case that sought to prevent Medicaid patients from accessing key healthcare services from Planned Parenthood.

      By rejecting (pdf) the appeals from Kansas and Louisiana, the court leaves in place lower court rulings that bar the states from blocking Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid healthcare provider option to access services including contraception, wellness exams, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.

      In the 6-3 decision, it was Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch who dissented, saying the high court should have taken up the cases. Notably, conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the liberal justices in refusing to hear the challenges.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • This turbulent monk: Did the CIA kill vocal war critic Thomas Merton?

      Fifty years ago next Monday, Thomas Merton was found dead in his room near Bangkok, where he had been the main speaker at an international monastic conference.

      This most vocal critic of war was repatriated to the US on a military plane with the bodies of American soldiers killed in Vietnam. At the time, he was the best-known Catholic monk in the world and the news of his death at 53 was reported on the front page of the New York Times, beside that of the great German theologian, Karl Barth.

      It was 27 years exactly to the day since he had entered, at age 27, the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani, Kentucky, and this was the first time he had been allowed to travel abroad since then. His Asian Journal, including his encounters with the Dalai Lama, was to be published posthumously.

      In his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (Elected Silence in the English edition), he relates his religious conversion was a best seller when it was published in 1948, translated into several languages and is still in print. Merton published more than 70 books, essays, poems and wrote thousands of letters. From his monastery and then his hermitage, he corresponded with Rosemary Radford Ruether, Boris Pasternak, DT Suzuki and countless others.

      [...]

      However, the cause of death given by the Thai police was a heart attack, and there was no autopsy. The presence of a bleeding wound at the back of Merton’s head was not investigated. Was Thomas Merton murdered and was there a cover-up?
      In 1997, Jim Douglass, a friend of Merton had already publicly raised the issue. In 2016, theologian Matthew Fox, who believes that Merton had been assassinated by one of the many CIA agents active in Thailand, reported that one of them had actually told him so.

    • We Bear Responsibility for the Conditions in Honduras Causing Its People to Flee

      The question is how much of the turmoil we own—and how we’re going to make good on our moral debts.

    • Oil tycoon, CIA chief, President: George H.W. Bush was the epitome of American empire

      The late US President George H.W. Bush, a luminary of America’s most powerful family, was the personification of a nation addicted to oil, obsessed with secrecy and war, and self-assured of its exceptional qualities.
      When considering the life and times of George Herbert Walker Bush, one is forced to enter into a well-guarded mansion that is steeped in so many accumulated layers of wealth, power and secrecy that just scratching the surface requires a pickaxe and dynamite. For here we are dealing with no ordinary politician, but rather the scion of a dynastic clan who had a profound hand in shaping America into the country it is today.

      George H.W. Bush was not necessarily predestined for a life of politics in the same way that career politicians, like John F. Kennedy, for example, or Bill Clinton were. Conquering a chunk of the global monopoly board took priority in the Bush household; political power came – like an after-dinner mint – more as a complement to the wealth obtained, and perhaps as a way to acquire more.

    • Let’s Talk About George HW Bush’s Role in Iran-Contra

      Hagiographies of the late president neglect his role in a secret war in Nicaragua and illegal weapons sales to Iran for the release of hostages.

    • How The CIA Used Brain Surgery To Make Six Remote Control Dogs

      Newly released files from “behavior modification,” or mind control, projects conducted as part of the infamous Project MKUltra reveal the CIA experimented in more than controlling humans with psychotropic drugs, electrical shocks and radio waves—they also created field operational, remote-controlled dogs.

      The documents were provided under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by John Greenewald, founder of The Black Vault, a site specializing in declassified government records. In one declassified letter (released as file C00021825) a redacted individual writes to a doctor (whose name has also been redacted) with advice about launching a laboratory for experiments in animal mind control. The writer of the letter is already an expert in the field, whose earlier work had culminated with the creation of six remote control dogs, which could be made to run, turn and stop.

    • How George H.W. Bush Rode a Fake National Security Scandal to the Top of the CIA

      On December 15, 1975, a Senate committee opened hearings on whether George H.W. Bush should be confirmed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    • Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: A Practical Proposal

      In late November 2018, Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned public intellectual, remarked that “humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war.”

      Curiously, although a widespread environmental movement has developed to save the planet from accelerating climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster. Indeed, this danger―exemplified by the collapse of arms control and disarmament agreements, vast nuclear “modernization” programs by the United States and other nuclear powers, and reckless threats of nuclear war―has stirred remarkably little public protest and even less public debate during the recent U.S. midterm elections.

      Of course, there are peace and disarmament organizations that challenge the nuclear menace. But they are fairly small and pursue their own, separate anti-nuclear campaigns. Such campaigns―ranging from cutting funding for a new nuclear weapon, to opposing the Trump administration’s destruction of yet another disarmament treaty, to condemning its threats of nuclear war―are certainly praiseworthy. But they have not galvanized a massive public uprising against the overarching danger of nuclear annihilation.

      In these circumstances, what is missing is a strategy that peace organizations and activists can rally around to rouse the public from its torpor and shift the agenda of the nuclear powers from nuclear confrontation to a nuclear weapons-free world.

      The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, launched decades ago in another time of nuclear crisis, suggests one possible strategy. Developed at the end of the 1970s by defense analyst Randy Forsberg, the Freeze (as it became known) focused on a rather simple, straightforward goal: a Soviet-American agreement to stop the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.

      As Forsberg predicted, this proposal to halt the nuclear arms race had great popular appeal (with polls showing U.S. public support at 72 percent) and sparked an enormous grassroots campaign. The Reagan administration, horrified by this resistance to its plans for a nuclear buildup and victory in a nuclear war, fought ferociously against it. But to no avail. The Freeze triumphed in virtually every state and local referendum on the ballot, captured the official support of the Democratic Party, and sailed through the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority.

    • The Disasters of War

      Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church is located in the city of Kingston. Kingston, one of the hubs of New York’s Hudson Valley, has received a good deal of attention these last few years, as New York City continues–at an ever-growing rate–to function as a domain of the wealthy. Holy Cross/Santa Cruz, though, sits amid the large, ungentrified swath of Kingston unlikely to attract the attention of the New York Times or expatriate Brooklynites.

      The church’s hybrid name reflects its bilingual English-Spanish congregation. The divisions are purely linguistic. It is, Father Frank Alagna stresses, emphatically one community.

      Holy Cross/Santa Cruz is part of a sanctuary parish; Kingston itself—in no small part because of Father Alagna’s efforts–is a sanctuary city. The Trump administration’s bluster over the State of California’s sanctuary policies—besides playing on some of the populace’s natural antipathy toward California—is also a useful distraction. In reality, sanctuary cities and entities are widespread and geographically diverse, a good deal of them located in the so-called heartland: Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota.

      Father Alagna is a firm, yet soft-spoken presence. It is instructive, he notes, to consider the various meanings of the word sanctuary itself: a sacred space, a safe haven. Sanctuaries can exist within one’s heart and exist in the wider world. Holy Cross/Santa Cruz has applied the meaning of the word both as a spiritual manifestation and as an impetus for straight-out activism.

      [...]

      These refugees from Central America need shelter, food. They need pro bono legal representation. There are mandatory meetings with ICE that require transportation. Refugee parents can be snatched up a moment’s notice with no provisions whatsoever for their children, leaving them suddenly abandoned. It is important for the refugees to know their legal rights. ICE, as deadly as it is, does operate under legal strictures. They cannot, for example, enter a dwelling without a federal warrant.

      American racism is supple and easily adaptable. The Latino population is a visible part of the American fabric, yet amid this current orgy of hatred and fear, this same populace has been transformed into invasive hordes, ready to seize jobs, spread disease, sow wanton violence. And that, Father Alagna reflects, is inevitable when a convenient enemy is needed: The invisible are made visible.

      The endless analogies that render Donald Trump akin to a foreign despot—Hitler, Mussolini, Putin—are ultimately a cop-out; as if the administration’s destructive rampage is so exceptional and unprecedented that it simply must have come from outside, foreign sources. It is just the opposite: The ravaging of Central America has been an all-American legacy. The current fear-mongering, xenophobia, the outright sadism directed at children—all it needs no inspiration from abroad. It is ours as a country.

    • Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia

      All over Europe, the First World War had brought about a potentially revolutionary situation as early as 1917. In countries where the authorities continued to represent the traditional elite, exactly as had been the case in 1914, they aimed to prevent the realization of this potential by means of repression, concessions, or both. But in the case of Russia, the revolution not only broke out but succeeded, and the Bolsheviks began work on the construction of the world’s very first socialist society. It was an experiment for which the elites of the other countries felt no sympathy whatsoever; to the contrary, they fervently hoped that this project would soon end in a dismal fiasco. (It was also a revolutionary experiment that would disappoint numerous sympathizers because the socialist Utopia failed to spring whole, Athena-like, from the brow of the Russian revolutionary Zeus.)

      In elitist circles in London, Paris, and elsewhere, they were convinced of the ineluctability of the failure of the Bolsheviks’ bold experiment but, just to be sure, it was decided to send troops to Russia to support the “white” counterrevolutionaries against the Bolshevik “reds” in a conflict that was to morph into a great, long, and bloody civil war. A first wave of allied troops arrived in Russia in April 1918, when British and Japanese soldiers disembarked in Vladivostok. They established contact with the “whites,” who were already involved in a full-blown war against the Bolsheviks. In total, the British alone would send 40,000 men to Russia. In that same spring of 1918, Churchill, then minister of war, also sent an expeditionary corps to Murmansk, in the north of Russia, in order to support the troops of the “white” General Kolchak, in the hope that this might help to replace the Bolshevik rulers with a government friendly to Britain. Other countries sent smaller contingents of soldiers, including France, the United States (15,000 men), Japan, Italy, Romania, Serbia, and Greece. In some cases, the allied troops became involved in fighting against the Germans and Ottomans on Russia’s frontiers, but it was clear that they had not come for that purpose, but rather to overthrow the Bolshevik regime and to “strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib,” as Churchill so delicately put it. The British, in particular, also hoped that their presence might make it possible to pocket some attractive bits and pieces of territory of a Russian state that seemed to be falling apart, much like the Ottoman Empire. This explains why a British unit marched from Mesopotamia to the shores of the Caspian Sea, namely to the oil-rich regions around Baku, capital of modern Azerbaijan. Like the Great War itself, the allied intervention in Russia aimed both to fight the revolution and to achieve imperialist objectives.

    • Rebranding Bundy

      Recent efforts to burnish the image of members of the Bundy Public Land Grab clan bear close watching. A flurry of Bundy-friendly articles and videos commenced in early November. This began with a fawning piece in the Idaho Statesman featuring Ammon Bundy “a sunlight kind of guy” at his apple orchard in Emmett Idaho. The article ran in papers across the region. The piece appeared just after Ryan Bundy was not elected Governor of Nevada, having garnered a whopping one percent of the vote.

      [...]

      Bundy should know about fear-based policies. He and his gang of militants and paranoid followers inflicted a great deal of fear when they seized Malheur Refuge and militants lurked around Burns. Not to mention the fear felt by federal workers on other remote Refuges or public land areas across the country — as the standoff dragged on and on, with the Feds failing to cut the power, failing to cordon off the Refuge and letting the situation devolve into a media circus, replete with lavish photo ops and videos of “patriot” gunslingers.The Bundy gang and Militia at Malheur intimidated the federal agencies, local officials, members of the community, and even hikers on the Refuge. They snuck around and spied on people and vehicles.While saintly Ammon was not photographed in public wearing a gun, his acolytes and the militia thugs that gravitated to Refuge were armed to the teeth.

      It’s clear that Bundy’s vision for the public lands he wants to take from the public is defense with the use of guns and fear. Henchman Lavoy Finicum promised range vigilante protection to public lands cattle ranchers who renounced federal grazing permits and let their cows roam a la Cliven during a strange “ceremony” held by Bundy at the Refuge to celebrate a New Mexico rancher renouncing his grazing permit.

    • Is Kushner Covering for Bin Salman Murder Charge so Israel can Usurp Palestinian West Bank?

      Kushner famously made a relationship with Bin Salman when he was still third in line to the throne, in spring of 2017, and may have tried to pull strings for his friend so as to slip him into the position of crown prince in summer of 2017. Kushner has stood with Bin Salman through a whole series of crimes, including extorting $100 bn from some 200 fellow princes and his Yemen war that has resulted in starving 85,000 Yemeni children to death. And now the advice to “weather the storm” of being caught red-handed murdering Khashoggi.

    • Tell Your Representative and Senators to Create a GAO Investigation Before Another Base Is Built in Okinawa

      Okinawa suffers under the burden of major U.S. military bases. The people of Okinawa and their elected representatives do not want another one built. Nor is it in the interest of the people of the United States.

    • Public Pressure Could Halt US Support of Yemen War

      US tax dollars are supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which has already claimed the lives of some 85,000 children, and 12 million more people are likely on the brink of starvation. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, “the starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it.”

      The United States has long been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, and both the Obama and Trump administrations have provided considerable military support to the Saudi war in Yemen.

      But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has finally spurred both Democrats and Republicans to take steps to end US military involvement in Yemen.

      On November 28, the Senate voted 63-to-37 to advance a resolution that would direct the removal of US Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen. However, S. J. Res. 54 carves out an exception for continued US-supported military measures against “al Qaeda or associated forces” that could be twisted to rationalize nearly any military assistance Donald Trump provides to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Details emerge on HK biz partner of CIA mole recruited by Beijing

      Documents recently declassified by the United Kingdom National Archives could help unravel the mystery behind how Barry Cheung Kam-lun, the colonial-era Hong Kong business partner of an alleged CIA mole, was locked up, interrogated and eventually recruited by Chinese agents.

      Jerry Lee Chun-shing, a Hong Kong resident who spent 13 years working in the field for the US Central Intelligence Agency, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he touched down at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at the beginning of the year.

    • CIA employees called for “abolishing FOIA” as one of Agency’s goals for 1984

      During a four-hour team-building exercise, staff frankly discussed what the Agency should – and shouldn’t – be doing on the world stage

    • Politico Cites Anonymous ‘Ex-CIA Agent’ in Report Manafort-Assange Story Was Russia Disinformation

      As the Guardian’s scoop alleging Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadoran embassy in London appeared to fall apart, Politico published a story that suggested the reporters involved were pranked by someone who wanted to discredit their work on Russia collusion.

      The piece was written by Alex Finley, which, according to Politico,” is the pen name of a former CIA officer and author of “Victor in the Rubble,” a satire of the CIA and the war on terror.”

      If it was true that Manafort, who briefly served as President Trump’s campaign manager, visited Assange, “the ramifications are immense,” Finley wrote.

      “It means the guy running Trump’s campaign met directly with the head of the organization that served as a tool of Russia’s intelligence services, distributing stolen Democratic emails in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election. It could be the proverbial smoking gun that shows Trump’s campaign knew it was receiving help from Russian intelligence services and perhaps even aided the operation.”

      Reporters Luke Harding and Dan Collyns relied entirely on anonymous sources. They also said they saw an internal document from Ecuador’s intelligence service that lists “Paul Manaford” as a frequent visitor to the embassy.

    • WikiLeaks skewers Guardian writer for zany theory that RT is, wait for it… reporting news

      A Guardian writer failed to impress WikiLeaks after furnishing damning evidence that RT has run stories on Julian Assange, Nigel Farage, and even Russia’s special forces. Do you know what this means? Neither do we.
      After decrying a short RT video about Russia’s special forces, Carole Cadwalladr shared a major revelation with her 220,000 Twitter followers on Sunday: RT covers news stories and current events.

      “You know who else RT boosts? Julian Assange & Seamus Milne. But given the reaction yesterday I thought I’d put that in a separate tweet. I’m somehow to blame for pointing out facts. Huge apologies but Milne’s support for Putin has made him a Russian propaganda tool,” she wrote, misspelling the name of fellow Guardian contributor and communications director for Jeremy Corbyn, Seumas Milne.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘These False Solutions Are a Joke’: Trump’s Pro-Coal Panel at COP24 Shut Down With Laughter by Climate Campaigners

      U.S. President Donald Trump’s representatives at the U.N. climate talks in Poland were openly laughed at on Monday.

      Disrupting the Trump administration’s attempt to promote planet-destroying fossil fuel production during a side panel at the COP24 climate talks in Poland, hundreds of indigenous and youth climate leaders captured the international community’s collective disdain for U.S. President Donald Trump’s subservience to Big Oil by laughing loudly at U.S. envoys as they attempted to speak, chanting “Keep it in the ground,” and taking over the panel to demand bold and just solutions to the global climate crisis.

      “These false solutions are a joke,” declared one demonstrator after the derisive laughter subsided, “but the impact on our frontline communities are not. We hold the solutions and we know that we must keep it in the ground.”

    • #NoMoreExcuses: Mass Action on Capitol Hill to Demand Dems Back Green New Deal Instead of Fossil Fuel Interests

      The protesters are expected to call on Democrats to reject the influence of carbon-emitting industries, from which the party received more than $5 million in 2018.

      “Politicians are giving bogus excuses for why they can’t support the Select Committee on a Green New Deal,” the group wrote in their call for attendees at Monday’s action. “They have told us us they haven’t read the resolution yet, that they support a Green New Deal but not this committee, that they admire our passion, but that we’re young and naive and impatient…They’re hoping our movement is just a flash in the pan and that they can wait us out.

      “That’s why now is the time to go bigger than ever. Between now and their final day on December 13th, Congress will be setting their agenda for 2019. That means we have just days to make sure a Green New Deal is front and center on the House’s agenda.”

      Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, rallied more than 800 demonstrators Sunday night at the pre-lobbying training.

    • Thousands Protest at U.N. Climate Summit in Coal-Heavy Poland, Facing Riot Police & Intimidation

      This week Democracy Now! is broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait have blocked language “welcoming” October’s landmark IPCC climate report that warned of the catastrophic effects of a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which global crises could unfold at a rapid pace. The four countries rejected using the word “welcome,” insisting that members instead “note” the findings of the widely cited U.N. report. We begin our coverage with voices of some of the thousands of climate activists from around the world who marched in Katowice on Saturday, calling for world leaders to do more to keep rising greenhouse gas emissions in check. We also speak with a member of the European Parliament who confronted undercover Polish officials who were monitoring the protest.

    • 2018 will show record carbon emissions

      For the second year running, the world will have a doubtful achievement to claim by 31 December: record carbon emissions.

      Even before the close of 2018, scientists behind the biggest accounting effort on the planet, the Global Carbon Budget, warn that emissions from coal, oil and gas will have dumped a record 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (a way of comparing the emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential) into the atmosphere by the end of this month.

      This is 2.7% more than last year, which also showed an increase. Human destruction of the world’s forests will add another four billion tonnes in the same 12 months.

      The news comes as 190 nations negotiate in Katowice in Poland to work out how to meet the targets they set in 2015 in Paris, to contain global warming to no more than 2°C by 2100, and if possible no more than 1.5°C.

    • Alberta tarsands production cuts here to stay: Indigenous-led movement will make sure of it

      An alliance of Indigenous Nations from across Canada and the U.S., now numbering 150 Nations, warned back in 2016 when the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion was first launched, that all attempts to further increase production of the tarsands, whether by pipeline, rail or marine tankers, would be blocked.

      An entire Indigenous-led movement of people of all ages and backgrounds has been standing up to these tarsands pipelines and enforcing the ban, including by starving the tarsands of its financial backers, sometimes by even going to jail and putting their bodies on the line. Heroes, all of them.

      Industry chose to ignore these warnings and continued to increase production, with plans for much more. They are now butting up against current pipeline capacity, adding to the already existing price differential that heavy tarsands oil always suffers from as a result of increased refinement costs and its distance from refineries.

      These production cuts are exactly what are needed and what this movement has been fighting for — to limit expansion of the Alberta tarsands.

      And for those saying this will be a temporary problem that will soon be solved when Enbridge’s Line 3 comes on line next year, don’t count on it — the resistance to that tarsands pipeline is massive and growing. Enbridge is truly in for a repeat of its Northern Gateway experience.

    • Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Conservation

      Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are — far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

      These animals (by which I mean any large shark, not just hammerheads) are at the top of the marine food chain. They are important keystone predators that can help structure marine ecosystems. Their role as predators can even help with carbon dynamics, keeping carbon locked up in marine sediments, or by controlling the amount of respiring biomass in our seas.

    • Carbon emissions will reach 37 billion tonnes in 2018, a record high

      Carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise more than 2% (range 1.8% to 3.7%) in 2018, taking global fossil CO₂ emissions to a new record high of 37.1 billion tonnes.

      The strong growth is the second consecutive year of increasing emissions since the 2014-16 period when emissions stabilised, further slowing progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement that require a peak in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Strong growth in emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas suggests CO₂ emissions are likely to increase further in 2019.

      [...]

      These analyses are part of the new annual assessment of the Global Carbon Project (GCP), published today in three separate papers. The GCP brings together scientists who use climate and industrial data from around the world to develop the most comprehensive picture of the Earth’s sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.

    • Better land use could slash US emissions

      US scientists have found a new way to cut or offset 22% of the greenhouse gas emissions from American factory chimneys, car exhausts and power stations: better land use.

      Their answer is to leave it to nature. What they identify as 21 natural climate solutions – better use of croplands, the restoration of forests and tidal wetlands, slowing the felling of timber and the containment of urban sprawl – could help limit global warming, slow climate change and reduce sea level rise for the nation that has over the last century emitted more greenhouse gas than any other country.

      The most effective single action in a study launched by the US Nature Conservancy and 21 other institutions, and published in the journal Science Advances, would be to step up reforestation: this alone could absorb the emissions of 65 million passenger cars.

      “One of America’s greatest assets is its land. Through changes in management, along with protecting and restoring natural lands, we demonstrated we could reduce carbon pollution and filter water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and have better soil health to grow our food — all at the same time,” said Joseph Fargione, director of science for the Nature Conservancy, who led the study.

      [...]

      That more efficient use of land is a net benefit is not news: researchers have repeatedly argued that world food security is consistent with forest restoration, and that forests left untouched are of greater overall economic value than cleared land, and that considered changes to farming practices could both deliver more food and leave farmers better off.

      But, ironically, efforts to promote natural climate solutions in the US get only 0.8% of public and private climate finance, even though these could provide 37% of the climate mitigation needed by 2030. The scientists argue that if the US is to commit to the Paris Accord of 2015, to contain global average warming to 2°C or less above the levels for most of human history, then natural climate solutions make a promising start.

    • COP24: climate protesters must get radical and challenge economic growth

      At the COP24 conference in Poland, countries are aiming to finalise the implementation plan for the 2015 Paris Agreement. The task has extra gravity in the wake of the recent IPCC report declaring that we have just 12 years to take the action needed to limit global warming to that infamous 1.5ᵒC target.

      Although the conference itself is open to selected state representatives only, many see the week as an opportunity to influence and define the climate action agenda for the coming year, with protests planned outside the conference halls.

      A crucial role of environmental activists is to shift the public discourse around climate change and to put pressure on state representatives to act boldly. COP24 offers a rare platform on which to drive a step change in the position of governments on climate change.

      However, many environmental movements in Europe are not offering the critical analysis and radical narratives needed to achieve a halt to climate change.

    • ‘We Cannot Accept an Unjust Energy Transition’: Future of Coal Communities Becomes Crucial Issue at Climate Talks

      For the first time, the future of coal workers and communities across the world has become one of the most pressing issues of the global climate negotiations — infusing a sense of social reality within what is otherwise a very technical and political process.

      “We have been waiting for this for 30 years,” said Brian Kohler sustainability director for IndustriALL, a union representing 50 million workers across 140 countries.

      In the corridors of the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, Kohler is “delighted” that the topic has found its way high on this year’s agenda. It couldn’t have come soon enough.

      One of the first to have coined the term “just transition” in the 1990s, Kohler is well aware of challenges facing workers and communities relying on fossil fuels extraction for their livelihoods and the necessity to ensure the energy transition will leave no-one behind.

      Scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that the world has 12 years to take “rapid and transformative measures” and reduce emissions by 45 percent to remain below 1.5 degrees of warming and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

    • US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait Launch ‘Ludicrous’ Effort to ‘Sabotage’ Support for Key UN Climate Study

      Most world leaders gathered in Poland to discuss how to meet the goals of the Paris agreement seemed eager to heed the warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on what the world could look like if the global temperature rises to 1.5°C versus 2°C (2.7°F versus 3.6°F)—which has elicited demands for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” reforms to avert climate catastrophe.

      The four-nation coalition of oil-exporting nations, however, wasn’t having it—and aimed to make it easier for governments to ignore such calls for urgent action to address the climate crisis by fighting against a motion to “welcome” the study. Instead, they suggested, it should merely be “noted.”

      “The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

      Last year, President Donald Trump revealed his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, provoking immediate condemnation across the United States and the rest of the world. Within a few months of that announcement, all other countries had signed on to the accord, leaving the U.S. as the sole nation opposed to it.

      Efforts by the U.S. and others on Saturday to block global support for the IPCC report raised immediate concern and frustration among climate experts.

    • ‘Shame on You’: Campaigners Disrupt US Fossil Fuel Event Attended by Climate Science Deniers

      Campaigners disrupted a US event promoting “greener and cleaner” fossil fuel energy at the UN climate talks, calling it “a farce” that had no place within the global climate negotiations process.

      Minutes after the start of the event on the fringe of the climate conference in Katowice, Poland, dozens of youth activists, indigenous campaigners and community leaders burst out laughing and stood up in front of the panel chanting “keep it in the ground”.

      A large banner with the “keep it in the ground” was deployed in a way to hide the panel from the audience.

    • Warning of Solar Geoengineering’s Dangers, Group Recommends a Global Ban

      A Harvard research team recently announced plans to perform early tests to shoot sunlight-reflecting particles into the high atmosphere to slow or reverse global warming.

      These research efforts, which could take shape as soon as the first half of 2019, fall under the banner of a geoengineering technology known as solar radiation management, which is sometimes called “sun dimming.”

      However, less than two weeks after the announcement, the climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics took aim at these ambitions in a new briefing titled ”Why geoengineering is not a solution to the climate problem,” which goes as far as recommending a global ban on solar geoengineering.

      The group’s briefing warns about the dangers of proceeding with solar radiation management (SRM) in particular.

      The basic idea behind SRM is to release particles into the Earth’s stratosphere, the atmospheric layer approximately 6–30 miles above the surface, where they would then reflect some of the sun’s light (and heat) away from Earth, resulting in atmospheric cooling.

  • Finance

    • Richard Wolff: There Are No Blueprints for Revolution

      Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Programs in International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. In this interview, Wolff discusses how the revolutions that overthrew feudalism laid the foundations for our current crisis of capitalism, why historical models of socialism put into practice failed, and what lessons we can learn from them in creating a new socialism.

    • Chicago Task Force Will Take on Ticket and Debt Collection Reform

      The city of Chicago on Thursday took a potentially big step toward reducing the harmful impact of its ticketing and debt collection practices on low-income and minority motorists, launching a task force that will examine issues ranging from disparities in enforcement to punishments for people who don’t pay their tickets.

      The task force, called the Chicago Fines, Fees & Access Collaborative, was created by City Clerk Anna Valencia and will bring together officials from police, finance and other key city departments, as well as more than a half-dozen aldermen, community organizations and independent researchers.

      The task force was prompted by reporting over the past year from ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ on the disproportionately heavy effects of ticketing on low-income and black communities. The reporting, combined with growing advocacy from community groups, has fueled an urgency for reform on the issue ahead of city elections in February.

    • Top FTC official is so such a corporate shill that he has conflicts of interest for 100 companies, including Equifax and Facebook

      Andrew Smith is Trump’s chief of the FTC Consumer Protection Bureau, in charge of investigating companies that abuse Americans — but he can’t, because he has previously provided services for over 100 of America’s largest companies, including Facebook, a whack of payday lenders, Amazon, American Airlines, Amex, BoA, Capital One, Citigroup, John Deere, Equifax, Expedia, Experian, Glaxosmithkline, Goldman Sachs, Jpmorgan, Linkedin, Microsoft, Paypal, Redbubble, Twitter, Sotheby’s, Transunion, Uber, Verizon, Visa, Disney and Wells Fargo.

    • The FTC’s top consumer protection official can’t go after Facebook — or 100 other companies

      Andrew Smith, who heads the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, would be in charge of handling investigations into some of the country’s largest companies and any consumer protection violations that may occur. But due to his conflicts of interest, Smith is barred from participating in any investigations involving the companies he previously provided legal services for.

    • Jared Kushner’s close relationship with Saudi officials is reportedly the result of a 2-year influence mission

      The Times, citing former officials, text messages, and emails, reported that Kushner and the crown prince have been in close contact for nearly two years, despite efforts from the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, to rein in one-on-one communications with foreign leaders.

    • The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House

      Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

    • US-Saudi relationship enters uncharted territory

      “The Saudis have had public relations problems in Washington for many, many years,” he said. “I think that the Khashoggi murder in a sense crystallized some of these issues for people.”

    • Swept Up in France’s Yellow Vest Protests

      I’ve never been tear gassed before. The smell is similar to fireworks and the effect is explosive—and effective. I immediately wanted to get as far away as I could from the noxious source of burning eyes and throat.

      I was in Paris when France’s “yellow vest” (gilet jaune) movement shut down the center of the city.

      There were thousands of demonstrators, all wearing the bright yellow safety vests drivers are required by law to have in their cars.

      They had come from all over the country. The Paris demonstration was the latest escalation in a leaderless movement organized by activists through social media.

      The movement originated out of resentment over a hike in the price of diesel gas announced by President Emmanuel Macron as part of his efforts to address climate change. The price of gas in France is already the equivalent of $6.74 a gallon. Rural families dependent on vehicles would be stretched even further with the gas tax hike.

      But this is no American-style Taxed Enough Already (TEA) party protest.

      “These protests are not a backlash against the presence of the French state in the economy,” said Cole Stangler, a labor journalist who reports from Paris. “Many yellow vests are just asking that it act more fairly, infuriated by a government that asks them to give up more income each month at the same time as it grants tax cuts to the super-rich.”

    • More Than a Thousand Arrested as Yellow Vests Protests Over Economic Frustration Rage on Across France

      Some 1,220 people were arrested in France on Saturday as more than a hundred thousand took to the streets—leading to a lockdown and armored vehicles pouring into Paris—as part of the “Yellow Vests” or “Gilets Jaunes” movement that initially came as a response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise taxes on gasoline and diesel, which critics warn would primarily impact the working- and middle-class.

      The movement’s name comes from many supporters wearing the yellow high-visibility vests that all drivers in France are required to keep in their vehicles. Although Macron’s centrist administration announced last week that it was suspending fuel and electricity hikes for six months, outrage over growing inequality across the country has continued to produce massive protests.

    • Philadelphia Just Passed the Strongest Fair Scheduling Law in the Nation

      Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the country, just enacted the most sweeping bill yet to give low-wage workers some control over their schedules.

      The city’s new law, which passed the city council on Thursday, will require businesses with more than 250 employees and more than 30 locations worldwide to provide employees their schedules at least 10 days in advance. If any changes are made to their schedules after that, employers will owe employees more money. Employers will also be required to offer more hours as they become available to existing employees who want them rather than hiring new people, and they’ll be banned from retaliating against those who either request or decline more hours.

      The law is poised to have a huge impact: A recent survey conducted by UC Berkeley found that among food and retail sector workers in Philadelphia, 62 percent receive their schedules less than two weeks ahead of time and two-thirds work irregular or variable schedules. Almost half usually work 30 hours or less each week even though less than 15 percent have a second job to supplement their incomes.

      “It seems that employers are being less and less cognizant of their workers’ needs and home lives,” noted Nadia Hewka, an employment lawyer with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, which advocated for the bill. “This would just put a little bit of balance back into that equation.”

    • Macron to break silence, address French nation amid protests

      Pressure mounted on French President Emmanuel Macron to announce concrete measures to calm protests marked by violence when he addresses the nation Monday evening, and breaks a long silence widely seen as aggravating a crisis that has shaken the government and the whole country.
      The president will consult in the morning with an array of national and local officials as he tries to get a handle on the ballooning and radicalizing protest movement triggered by anger at his policies, and a growing sense that they favor the rich.
      Macron will speak from the presidential Elysee Palace at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT), an Elysee official said. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
      Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said earlier on LCI TV station he was “sure (Macron) will know how to find the path to the hearts of the French, speak to their hearts.” But, he added, a “magic wand” won’t solve all the problems of the protesters, known as “yellow vests” for the fluorescent safety vests they often wear.

    • French Working-Class Protesters Demand Higher Standard of Living

      Nearly 1,000 people are in police custody and at least 71 have been injured after protests that turned violent in France on Saturday. The grassroots protesters, called Gilets Jaunes—“Yellow Vests”—have expressed frustration with the high cost of living in France and the pro-business policies of centrist President Emmanuel Macron, called by some “the president of the rich.”

      Macron has proposed increasing taxes on diesel and gas, and although the government has since acquiesced and scrapped the proposal, many working-class people considered that demand a only starting point. The approximately 125,000 people wearing yellow vests who took to the streets Saturday in ongoing protests were joined by about 89,000 police officers, some of whom used tear gas on the crowds. Single mothers, factory workers, delivery workers, secretaries and other workers joined to protest tax cuts for the wealthy and a minimum wage that doesn’t cover basic expenses.

      “The Gilets Jaunes that you see in the streets, they’re mainly middle-class, and they’re being bled dry financially,” said Jacques, a technical college teacher and Gilets Jaunes organizer. “The wealth gap is getting wider, and we’ve reached a point where there are the very rich and the very poor—and more and more people are slipping into poverty.”

      “Macron’s first move in office was to slash the wealth tax for the mega-rich while cutting money from poor people’s housing benefits,” said Céline, a classroom assistant for children with special needs. “That is a serious injustice.”

    • Joe Kennedy and the Precarious Promise of “Moral Capitalism”

      We are a nation that was founded in opposition to hereditary rule. The founders rejected the notion of a king and embraced the principle that there were to be no royal families who generation after generation governed on the assumption of divine right.

      In recent decades, we have made two notable exceptions to this democratic disdain of dynasties. And no, the Kardashians don’t count.

      True, members of these two American dynastic families didn’t officially inherit office like kings and queens. They were elected, and to their credit, usually have embraced the concept of public service—albeit often in the tradition of a patrician noblesse oblige, which can translate as making lofty decrees from a pedestal while letting other “lesser” people do the dirty work.

      And like so many crowned heads, money has been involved. Lots of it, and much of it ill gotten, the profits of war, resource depletion, and the exploitation of humankind’s pleasures and sins. One of the sons of privilege joked after a primary victory that his father sent a telegram: “Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.”

      This past few days we’ve been reminded of one of the two families with the death of ex-President George Herbert Walker Bush: blue-blooded son of a U.S. senator; father of one son who served as president and governor of Texas, another who served as governor of Florida and unsuccessfully ran for the White House; and grandfather of the Texas land commissioner—which may not sound like a big deal, but if you live there, is.

    • The Inequality to Be Suffered by Our Children

      The fortunate ones will not be suffering. In the past eight years, the richest 5% of Americans have increased their wealth by $30 trillion — almost a third of total U.S. wealth — while the poorest 50% have seen their average wealth drop from $11,500 to $9,500. There is ample evidence for a nation soon to be made even more unequal by the transfer of wealth from rich baby boomers to their children and grandchildren, who will have done little if anything to earn it. The middle class will be further crippled by the ongoing growth in inequality. Unless progressive policies are demanded by American voters, most of our children and grandchildren will suffer from the continuing expansion of a Great-Depression-like wealth gap that already “dwarfs” the rest of the developed world.

    • Low-Income People Pay When Government Tech Contracts Sour

      Earlier this year, the tech company Novo Dia Group announced it would not continue as a vendor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, due to a switch in federal contractors. What seemed a run-of-the-mill business decision threw a very real wrench into the availability of locally-grown foods for low-income Americans.

      The problem was that Novo Dia held the only keys to a USDA program dedicated to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program processing software and equipment for 1,700 farmers’ markets nationwide. Without Novo Dia providing this service, markets would have no way to accept SNAP — a disruption that would cost farmers income and SNAP recipients food.

      If you’ve ever attempted to switch your cell phone provider but keep your actual device, you might be able to relate: Farmers’ markets had perfectly functional and expensive equipment that simply would not work with any other SNAP processing software. It’s the government equivalent of trying to keep your iPhone when you move from Verizon to AT&T.

      This episode raised a lot of questions about the government’s relationship with tech companies tasked with administering public programs: How does it choose who to hire? How does it hold those companies accountable? And how do those decisions affect the daily lives of low-income Americans who rely on being able to access their benefits?

      The answers are vitally important: Governments are increasingly relying on new technologies to sort applications, manage caseloads, and distribute benefits. How such technology is contracted, developed, and deployed will have real impacts on millions of low-income Americans.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • After weekend with Bernie, Niki Ashton talks Progressive International: ‘Our movement is a global movement. It must be.’

      The time to act is now. No longer can progressives afford to work only in silos.

      That’s why I joined Jane Sanders, David Driscoll, Renata Avila, Yanis Varoufakis and many others in launching Progressive International, a call for a grassroots movement for global social, environmental and economic justice.

      This call came at The Sanders Institute Gathering in Vermont last week, which brought together progressive leaders, activists, and movement builders from communities across the globe. I was on the panel with Sen. Bernie Sanders that preceded the call to create Progressive International.

    • Paul Ryan Was Always More Political Hack Than Policy Genius

      Paul Ryan’s farewell tour is going about as well as you might imagine. The retiring speaker of the House, who made a career out of promoting his aw-shucks humility, has presided over the revealing of not one but three painted portraits of himself. In less-controlled settings, his interviews with media outlets have, rather than provide a victory lap, only served to highlight the emptiness of Ryan’s words and the failures of his time in office. Speaking of those empty words, Ryan was also set to leave us with a formal farewell address at the Library of Congress earlier this week ― until George H.W. Bush’s funeral threw off the plans. It was yet another reminder that history has rarely been on Ryan’s side.

      Not surprisingly, that’s not Ryan’s own assessment of his time in public life. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Ryan blithely proclaimed that “history is going to be very good to this majority” ― the same majority that had just suffered the worst Republican losses since Watergate. Like so many of Ryan’s supposed grand ideas, the comment was little more than mere grandstanding. And it betrayed what has always been at the heart of his rise to power and his fall: a plain disconnection from the reality around him.

      Given the breathless media coverage Ryan enjoyed throughout his career, it’s perhaps remarkable how thoroughly both pundits and partisans are now ragging on him. Criticism from places like Salon and Vanity Fair was predictable, but conservative voices have also joined in, such as the libertarian outlet Reason, which pronounced Ryan an “abject failure,” and the conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, who provided a scathing review of his tenure. “Good riddance, Paul Ryan,” a headline in The Week happily announced.

    • Top 8 Ways John Kelly was an Embarrassment as WH Chief of Staff

      Trump announced Saturday that his chief of staff, John Kelly, will leave at the end of the month. It has been reported that the two men are not speaking. Kelly was often seen as a force for stability in the Trump administration, but as I warned when he first came in, he shared many of Trump’s crackpot far rightwing ideas and therefore was not in fact a source of stability for the country.

    • Project Troy: How Scientists Helped Refine Cold War Psychological Warfare

      This was a new kind of conflict requiring new kinds of weapons: psychological weapons. The question of psychological warfare preoccupied a small but influential group of foreign-policy officials during President Harry S. Truman’s second term. By the time that Truman left office in January 1953, the United States had laid the legal and institutional foundations for overt propaganda campaigns as well as covert action. During that period of experimentation leading up to the Eisenhower presidency, almost anything U.S. strategists could dream up, short of overthrowing foreign governments (that would come later), was up for discussion. Among other things, the Marshall Plan allotted $13 billion to rebuild Western Europe, Voice of America transmitted jazz and news to listeners in 46 languages in more than a hundred countries, and the CIA sent tens of thousands of balloons filled with anti-Communist pamphlets into China.

    • Progressive Activists Are Winning in Red States

      The tireless organizing of progressives in red states this fall did not just deliver one-time wins for progressive policies in areas controlled by Republican governments — it also established an infrastructure that could pave the way for progressive triumphs in the future.

      The numerous progressive policy victories declared this November — including many in states where Republicans were victorious on election night — were a result of dogged campaigns and a variety of strategies.

      Ballot minimum wages passed in Arkansas and Missouri. Voters expanded Medicaid in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska. Utah legalized medical marijuana. Voters in Charlotte passed what one community organizer called “the largest housing bond in the history of Charlotte.” In Austin, a $250 million housing bond was approved. Nashville approved a community oversight board for police misconduct cases. In Texas’s Harris County, 19 Black women running on criminal justice platforms were elected to various benches and a socialist became a misdemeanor court judge.

      All of these wins were made possible by an infrastructure that has been built by progressives over the course of many years. While election coverage tends to simply tabulate wins and losses, the backstory of these victories is the most crucial component. It’s this groundwork that can potentially deliver more wins to these regions, both inside and outside of the ballot box.

    • Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already

      American politicians can’t seem to make themselves wait until 2019 to start acting like it’s 2020.

      Former vice president Joe Biden wants us to know that he’s “the most qualified person in the country to be president.”

      Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick “is calling close allies and informing them he is not running for president in 2020.” The senior US Senator from his state, Elizabeth Warren, clearly wants to run but can barely walk at the moment after shooting herself in the foot with a DNA test.

      Outgoing Ohio governor John Kasich is still flirting with a doomed GOP primary challenge or an equally doomed third party run. The senior Senator from HIS state, Sherrod Brown, “doesn’t know” whether or not he’s the best candidate. Pretty much everyone else knows he isn’t. If they even know his name, that is (they don’t).

      Can you hear the voice of the late John Spencer as Leo McGarry on The West Wing, whispering in your ear? “I’m tired of it! Year, after year, after year of having to choose between the lesser of who cares?”

      Yes, the next presidential election will almost certainly be as nasty as the last one. It will also almost certainly prove even less consequential than the 2018 midterm, which was only “the most important election of your lifetime” if you happen to have been born on or after November 9, 2016.

    • Undocumented Citizen

      When Jose Antonio Vargas was sixteen years old, he discovered that his green card was a fake. Unbeknownst to the grandparents with whom he was living in Mountain View, California, the young Filipino immigrant took himself to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license, only to be told by the clerk that his card was fraudulent: “This is fake. Don’t come back here again.”

      Vargas, who had been sent to the U.S. by his mother at the age of 12 (with the misplaced hope that she’d be able to follow him) was stunned and disoriented. He soon learned that the “uncle” who accompanied him on the flight from Manila was a smuggler hired by his grandfather, and he found himself as a teenager questioning all his relationships and his capacity for trust. Yet he persevered as one of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., succeeding in school and in college, and ultimately finding his way as a journalist, all the while engaging in what he called the common moves of undocumented people: “lying, passing, and hiding.”

      Recently Vargas came out with a new book, Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen, and in it he bears witness to the “homelessness” that he and others experience: not a traditional kind of homelessness, “but the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves in.” Vargas argues that if the politics of immigration are ever to change, the “culture in which immigrants are seen” has to change, and to this end he has dedicated his writing, his documentary-making, and his public appearances to storytelling that can help change the image of immigrants and the understanding of immigration in American life.

    • A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity

      For 30+ years I taught a senior seminar course that I’d designed and titled The Politics of Personal Identity (or POPI). Limited to 12 students during their final college semester, it was a capstone course that endeavored to make sense of their liberal arts experience. Over the term we examined identity from every possible angle and their final assignment, announced the first day of class, was a 40-minute oral presentation titled “Who Am I? What Do I Believe? Why Do I Believe it?” This was followed by an extensive Q & A from the other members. The ground rules were that nothing revealed in the presentations would be disclosed beyond the classroom.

      In part, we relied upon McGill University professor Charles Taylor’s work to set our frame of reference of what it means to be a self, a human agent, a person. For Taylor, one’s identity is defined by knowing where one stands. That is, what are the commitments which provide the horizons upon which I base my actions in life, upon which I’m willing take a stand. In Taylor’s words and put counterfactually, “… if they were to lose this commitment or orientation they would be at sea, as it were; they wouldn’t know anymore, for an important range of questions, what the significance of things was for them.” If such a situation were to arise we would call it “an identity crisis,” a disorienting, radical uncertainly of where they stand. Put another way, to know who are is to know where you stand with regard to certain basic moral questions.

      Taylor reminds us that people we judge as shallow also have a sense of what’s most important but for whatever reasons it’s not well thought out or simply given by the prevailing culture. People considered to have depth or character have moved beyond this or are struggling to know what they believe is the “good” or what issues truly have meaning for them. Taylor again: we are authentic selves not because we possess livers and hearts but because we can answer the question “Who Am I?” How are my most critical defining relations lived out? What kind of life is worth living? Does my life amount to something? Where is my allegiance? How did I get where I am today and where is this quest heading?

    • Top EU Court Rules UK Can Change Mind Over Brexit

      The European Union’s top court ruled Monday that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed.

      The European Court of Justice ruled that when an EU member country has notified its intent to leave, “that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.”

      Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process.

    • Green Party says European Court of Justice ruling ‘lights way out of Brexit chaos’

      The Green Party of England and Wales and Scottish Green Party welcome the news this morning that the European Court of Justice ruling has confirmed the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50.

      Ross Greer, Green Member of Scottish Parliament and one of the pursuers of the action to the ECJ said:

      “This is a huge victory for the UK, achieved despite the Conservative government’s attempts to prevent it and limit their own options. We now have legal certainty that the UK is free to change its mind and stop the process of leaving the EU. We can stay in and enjoy not just the significant benefits of membership but the unique benefits of the UK’s advantageous membership and all of the opt-outs which come with it.

      “That is a choice for us alone to make and does not require the approval of any other EU state and it is a choice the people should be free to make via a referendum. It is clear that we don’t have to choose between becoming poorer with May’s deal or much poorer very quickly with No-Deal, there is another way. It’s time to let the public take back control of the Brexit process.”

    • Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism

      The UK has long been divided by class, region and race, but these divisions have been masked by political and economic success. This has meant the English, as the dominant nation in the UK, are not good at coping with a sense of failure and a loss of self-confidence.

      The current focus is on parliamentary turmoil and the acceptance or rejection of Theresa May’s muted version of Brexit but, whatever happens in the coming weeks, there will be no resolution of the overall crisis. On the contrary, the divisions exacerbated by Brexit will only get deeper and more toxic, dominating the national agenda to the exclusion of everything else.

      The nature of English nationalism – deeply ingrained but so self-confident its norms were assumed by most English people to be part of the natural order of things – is changing. George Bernard Shaw said “a healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man is of his bones”. Smaller nations like the Irish and the Poles, with a history of defeat and occupation, have grim experience of having to nurse back to health the fractured bones of their nation but for the English worrying about their national identity and the future status is a new and unnerving experience.

    • Democrats Raise Prospect of Impeachment, Jail for Trump

      Top House Democrats on Sunday raised the prospect of impeachment or almost-certain prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.

      “There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”

      Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the details in prosecutors’ filings Friday in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as evidence that Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud.”

    • Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond

      The November 2018 election resulted in small but important victories for the American people and the progressive movement in the United States. Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives and flipped seven governorships. In the Deep Red South, Beto O’Rourke came close to beating the reactionary incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, and progressive African American candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum just missed being elected as the governors of Georgia and Florida.

      Understanding the election victories in the context of the overall distribution of power – political, economic, and social – in this country is critical to developing a progressive path towards the 2020 election and beyond.

      [...]

      The Republicans’ Senate victories were primarily corrective realignments rather than actual shifts in power. The Democratic Senators who were defeated – Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota – were never progressive and wore the Democratic label incongruously in their conservative states. Their defeats actually pushed the center of the Democratic Party a bit to the left. The Senate elections in 2020 will provide greater opportunities for Democratic victories, if only because in 2020 there will be 21 seats now controlled by Republicans and only 12 by Democrats on the ballot, almost a complete reverse of this year’s numbers.

      By design the Senate will continue to be an obstacle to progressive political power in the U.S. The decision of the Founders to favor the interests of the less populated, agrarian, slave-holding states by awarding two Senate seats to each state means that 40 million Californians have the same representation as 580,000 citizens of Wyoming. Democratic candidates for the Senate received 46.7 million votes this year (40.3 million if California, where both candidates were Democrats, is excluded) compared to just 33.8 million for Republicans.

    • Sorry, Say Legal Experts, Creating Shell Company During 2016 Campaign for Secret Payments to Hide Extramarital Affairs Not ‘Simple Private Transaction’

      Legal experts and prosecutors are pushing back against the claim President Donald Trump made early Monday morning when he said his secret payments to silence women claiming extramarital sexual affairs with him were nothing more than a “simple private transaction.”

      Trump was referring to the recent court filings involving his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and the revelations that Cohen, at the order of the president, created payment schemes to get both porn actor Stormy Daniels and former playboy model Karen McDougal to be quiet about the affairs they claim to have had with Trump while he was married to First Lady Melania Trump. Trump has denied the affairs, but previously pretended not to know anything about the payments.

    • News From the Far Side of Nowhere

      All in all, check off these first two presidential years of his as a bravura performance, which shouldn’t really surprise any of us. What was he, after all, but a whiz of a performer long before he hit the White House? And what are we — the media and the rest of us — but (whether we like it or not, whether we care to be or not) his apprentices?

      Now, for a little breaking news of another sort! Unbelievably enough, despite all evidence to the contrary, there’s still an actual world out there somewhere, even if Donald Trump’s shambling 72-year-old figure has thrown so much of it into shadow. I’m talking about a world — or parts of it, anyway — that doesn’t test well in focus groups and isn’t guaranteed, like this American president, to keep eyes eternally (or even faintly) glued to screens, a world that, in the age of Donald Trump, goes surprisingly unnoted and unnoticed.

      So consider the rest of this piece the most minimalist partial rundown on, in particular, an American imperial world of war and preparations for the same, that is, but shouldn’t be, in the shadows; that shouldn’t be, but often is dealt with as if it existed on the far side of nowhere.

    • 8 Reasons That John Kelly Will Not Be Missed

      Trump announced Saturday that his chief of staff, John Kelly, will leave at the end of the month. It has been reported that the two men are not speaking. Kelly was often seen as a force for stability in the Trump administration, but as I warned when he first came in, he shared many of Trump’s crackpot far right-wing ideas and therefore was not in fact a source of stability for the country.

      1. Kelly thought that we are under siege:

      “We are under attack from failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals. And we are under attack every single day. The threats are relentless.”

      As journalist Michael Cohen wrote in response at the Boston Globe, “Cyber-terrorists have never killed an American citizen, no failed state threatens America and more Americans are killed by lightning strikes than sadistic radicals.”

      2. Kelly believed that construction on Trump’s border wall would begin by summer of 2017, and seemed to think that if it had, it would have been a good thing.

      3. Nor is the wall needed or wanted by a majority of Americans. Kelly was almost delusional about U.S. immigration enforcement: “Nothing’s been done in the past eight years to to enforce the border rules and regulations, not to mention many of the immigration laws inside of the United States.”

      Fact: The Obama administration deported at least as many people as the Bush administration had, if you use the same definition for deportations in both administrations. By sheer reported numbers, Obama deported some 2.5 million people during his eight years while Bush deported 2 million. They probably actually deported about the same number. Kelly’s bizarre notion that the laws were not implemented since 2009 is flat wrong.

    • If There’s “No Smocking Gun,” Why Is Trump So Terrified?

      The honorific changes hands with the speed of the news cycle, but for the time being, the title of “Smartest Person In DC” belongs to a 36-year-old Republican operative from Georgia named Nick Ayers. Currently serving as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Ayers’s name was all over the news this weekend after Donald Trump announced the at-long-last departure of his own chief of staff, John Kelly.

      Ayers was a shoo-in to replace Kelly, most everyone agreed. Those who considered him a good fit for the spot pointed to his youth and vigor — Ayers looks a fair bit like the cherubic mass-murderer from the second half of “Breaking Bad” — and his deep connections with the Freedom Caucus wing of Congress. Both would serve him well in the storms to come, but for one problem: Turns out he is actually too smart to take the job.

      Ayers took a long look at what was a supremely bad weekend for the White House and said, “Check please.” On Sunday afternoon, he sent his official regrets at turning down the C-o-S position with a tweet: “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House. I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause. #Georgia”

      Translation: “Thank you but nope nope nope nope I’ll be over there doing MAGA things but nope nope nope no way no how. #nope”

    • Has Emmanuel Macron Lost the People for Good?

      French President Emmanuel Macron will be speaking to his nation at last Monday, after increasingly violent, radicalized protests against his leadership have shaken the country and scarred its beloved capital. His long silence has aggravated that anger and many protesters are hoping only to hear one thing from Macron: “I quit.”

      That’s a highly unlikely prospect.

      Instead Macron is expected to announce measures to reduce taxes and boost purchasing power for France’s working classes who feel his presidency has favored the rich. He’s being forced to act after four weeks of “yellow vest” protests that started in France’s struggling provinces and morphed into surging riots in Paris, scaring tourists and foreign investors alike.

      The 40-year-old leader met Monday in his presidential palace with local and national politicians, unions and business leaders to hear their concerns — but with no representatives of the scattered, leaderless protest movement.

      On Monday evening, Macron will give a national televised address, his first public words in more than a week. Some fed-up demonstrators have already promised new demonstrations this Saturday, regardless of what the president says.

      Participants at Monday’s meeting said the president didn’t leak his plans but seemed to grasp the gravity of the yellow vest crisis.

    • Marcy Wheeler: Mueller Probe Could Lead to Indictment of the Trump Organization

      Federal prosecutors have accused President Trump of committing a federal crime by directing illegal hush money to two women during the presidential election. The accusation was revealed Friday in filings made public by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, including a damning sentencing memo for Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who has admitted to paying adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the campaign in order to prevent them from speaking to the media about their alleged affairs with Trump. The sentencing memo was made public along with two new sentencing memos from special counsel Robert Mueller: one for Cohen and another for Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort. “We keep talking about whether you can indict a sitting president,” says independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, editor of EmptyWheel.net. “There’s still a debate about that, but, really critically, you can indict a corporation. You can indict Trump Organization.”

    • With an Impeachable Trump and Pence, Are You Ready for President Pelosi?

      So, now that we know that Donald Trump and Mike Pence reached the White House through at least two specific and separate criminal conspiracies, what do we do about it?

      Can they be removed from office? Can the election be done over? Can the Trump/Pence administration’s actions over the past two years be reversed, particularly the appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and all the damage to our federal agencies?

      According to federal court filings last week from the Southern District of New York, and from the Special Counsel’s office, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen criminally conspired to hide from the American people the fact that Trump had sexual relations immediately after the birth of his son Baron with both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and that his affair with McDougal lasted about a year.

      Had Republican voters known about those affairs long before Trump gained the momentum he did during the period of the cover-up, Trump wouldn’t have become the GOP’s nominee and would now be back to playing the roles of a faux billionaire and a reality TV star.

      Similarly, those same court filings tell us that even after Trump won the GOP’s nomination for president, he continued to negotiate with the Russian government to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Presumably construction would begin right after he lost the election of 2016, which is fully what he expected: he hadn’t even bothered to write an acceptance speech.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Jewish Voice for Peace Targets CNN Over Dr. Marc Lamont Hill Firing in Sunday Paper

      Dr. Hill is accused of antisemitism by over-zealous organizations who falsely conflate visible support for equal rights and justice for Palestinians with antisemitism. A growing trend of Jewish progressives are calling for greater debate around Israel. By firing Dr. Hill, CNN is promoting a cynical and dishonest use of the term “anti-Semite.”

    • Will European Parliament oppose Authoritarian Censorship?

      On the 12 December, the European Parliament will vote on the “Report on findings and recommendations of the Special Committee on Terrorism”. If adopted, this text would not be legally binding but would recommend the adoption of the measures included in the Anti-terrorism Censorship Regulation: outsourcing censorship to Internet Giants and bypassing national judges (read our last analysis).

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Australian Government Passes Law Forcing Tech Companies To Break Encryption

      An actual software developer, Alfie John, has put together a splendid Twitter thread pointing out the flaws in the government’s assumptions about software development. Since the compelled participants are forbidden from discussing surveillance court orders with anyone (which would include coworkers, supervisors, the general public, etc.), these requested alterations would have to be implemented in secret. The problem is coding changes go through a number of hands before they go live. Either everyone involved would need to be sworn to secrecy (which also means being threatened with jail time) or the process falls apart. Changes ordered by a court could be rejected by those higher up on the chain. Worse, the planned encryption hole could see the compelled coder being viewed as a data thief or foreign operative or whatever.

      Law enforcement is going to have to make everyone involved in the product/device complicit and covered under the same prison threat for this to work. The more people its exposed to, the higher the chance of leakage. And if the code will break other code — or the request simply can’t be met due to any number of concerns — the government make ask the court to hold the company and its personnel in contempt for their failure to achieve the impossible.

      To make matters worse, the company targeted with a compelled access request may be monitored for leaks before and after the request is submitted, putting employees under surveillance simply because of their profession.

      In some cases, the only weakness that can be introduced will be systemic, which will run contrary to the law. How will the government handle this inevitable eventuality? Will it respect the law or will it simply redefine the term to codify its unlawful actions?

    • Goodbye FastMail: Aussie government succeeds in undermining trust in Australian tech companies

      I’ve been with multiple email service providers over the years, and have always used my own domain name so that I don’t get locked into any particular email provider. I believe this is important to maintain control over your own digital life and also crucial to be able to root up and move to another provider when there is reason to leave one provider for another. Whether that be for market forces like price, innovation, service policy changes, or as in this case: a change in service trustworthiness ushered in by the introduction of a new law in the country the company operates in.

      Long story short: The Australian government don’t believe anyone should be able to keep any secrets from them in any sphere so they’ve voted in a incredible dangerous law that seeks to undermine security and privacy protections on the web. The Telecommunications Assistance and Access Bill (TAAB or AssAccess) require technology companies like FastMail, Google, Apple, Cisco to provide Australian law enforcement and security agencies with access to all communications without any judicial oversight, transparency, or reason. The only restrictions offered to protect people’s privacy is the vague terms “reasonable and proportionate.”

    • Former GCHQ head warns of Facebook ‘threat to democracy’

      The former head of UK intelligence agency GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, has warned that Facebook could become a threat to democracy if it is not subjected to stricter regulation, reports BBC News.

      Hannigan told the BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme that Facebook was more interested in exploiting users’ data for profit than protecting their privacy. He said that it was an international business and made most of their money from advertising, warning that it cannot reform itself and needs outside regulation.

    • Facebook Plans to Repurchase $9 Billion More of Its Shares

      Facebook said in a regulatory filing that its board had previously authorized share repurchases of up to $15 billion as part of a program started in 2017. The $9 billion buy back announced on Friday is in addition to those prior authorizations, the company said.

    • Baby steps

      Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.

      This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.

    • UK Intelligence Agencies Are Planning a Major Increase in ‘Large-Scale Data Hacking’

      Intelligence agencies in the UK are preparing to “significantly increase their use of large-scale data hacking,” the Guardian reported on Saturday, in a move that is already alarming privacy advocates.

      According to the Guardian, UK intelligence officials plan to increase their use of the “bulk equipment interference (EI) regime”—the process by which the Government Communications Headquarters, the UK’s top signals intelligence and cybersecurity agency, collects bulk data off foreign communications networks—because they say targeted collection is no longer enough.

    • Bikini app maker draws another disgruntled developer to its Facebook fight

      However, Six4Three’s recent court filings show that its lawyers are also involved in a second lawsuit brought by a different company—one that promoted breast cancer awareness, among other apps—that levies very similar allegations against Facebook.

      This new case, Styleform IT v. Facebook, which was filed last month in San Francisco County Superior Court, makes sweeping claims that for years Facebook engaged in “fraudulent and anti-competitive schemes designed and effectuated by Defendant Facebook Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, with the intention of deliberately misleading tens of thousands of software companies.”

    • Facebook kept granting private data to high-profile advertisers long after it said it stopped

      Collins summarized the emails that were seized in a preface, stating: “Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data. It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.” The existence of a “whitelist” suggests that the company was not serious about protecting user data nor honoring the privacy agreements it claimed to have put in place at the time.

    • Facebook Used People’s Data to Favor Certain Partners and Punish Rivals, Documents Show

      The documents show how Facebook executives treated data as the company’s most valuable resource and often wielded it to gain a strategic advantage. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, were intimately involved in decisions aimed at benefiting the social network above all else and keeping users as engaged as possible on the site, according to emails that were part of the document trove.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Arrest of Huawei CFO a dangerous precedent and threat to global trade

      COMMENT: The arrest of the CFO of Huawei Technologies Meng Wanzhou in Canada for the alleged violation of the company trading with Iran in contravention of US sanctions on that country has heightened already shaky trade relations between China and the US. It also threatens relations between China and the wider West.

    • Will Trump ever turn on Saudi Arabia? Pressure mounts for U.S. to prosecute Khashoggi’s killers

      Qahtani, with 1.36 million followers of his Saudq1978 Twitter feed, served as an ideological enforcer of MBS’s message in Middle Eastern media and was harshly critical of Khashoggi. The CIA believes Qahtani supervised the 15-member hit team drawn from Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency and other security forces.

      The Saudi public prosecutor has arrested 18 Saudis in connection with Khashoggi’s death—but Qahtani is not one of them. A prosecutor in Argentina is looking into the case as a possible war crime. Yet, aside from the CIA, the Trump administration insists the intellectual author of the crime cannot be identified.

    • The Central European University is moving to Vienna

      Following an 18-month legal war of attrition between the Central European University (CEU), founded by the philanthropist George Soros, and his arch-enemy, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, CEU has thrown in the towel. On December 3rd the university said it will relocate its American-accredited programmes, the bulk of its operation, from Budapest to Vienna from September 2019.

    • The CIA killed my father. What did they do with his body?
    • Why the Spectre of Truth Serums Haunts CIA Interrogations

      During the Cold War, the CIA conducted human behavior experiments using truth serums alongside LSD for interrogation purposes. However, in the Congressional enquiries held on the subject in 1977, CIA officials stated, “No such magic brew as the popular notion of truth serum exists.”

      The truth serum thus became a staple for Hollywood fantasies such as Meet the Fockers, where an ex-CIA agent drugs his son-in-law for possible infidelity. And yet, when I interviewed forensic psychologists in 2013 in Mumbai, Bangalore and Gandhinagar for my book manuscript titled Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogations in India, they invariably insisted that truth serums are being used in the US.

      [...]

      The Office of Medical Services report notes a very explicit discussion and exploration for 2-3 months in 2002 on whether Versed, a more recent sedative, could be utilised for interrogations. The Project Medication (as it was termed) was apparently shelved in early 2003. The OMS report mentions that the use of the drug depended on two potential legal obstacles: prohibition against medical experimentation on prisoners, and a ban on interrogational use of “mind altering drugs” or those which “profoundly altered the senses.”

      Although authorisation was never formally requested, some scholars did acknowledge the legality of the technique. Alan Dershowitz famously wrote that there would be little difference between the act of injecting a liquid into a person without consent (in truth serum) and withdrawing blood for testing (for alcohol). At the core of such debates was whether the US Federal Torture Statute passed in 1994 would prohibit the truth serums since mind-altering drugs are specifically mentioned in the statute. The debate relied on whether the impact of the drug will lead to prolonged mental harm or not or whether there is specific intent to create such prolonged harm.

    • Truth about CIA’s illegal MKUltra mind-control experiments

      One document details how the CIA planned to drug “criminals awaiting trial held in a prison hospital ward” in a bid to develop “improved techniques in drug interrogation”.

    • Hypnosis, truth drugs and remote-operated dogs: Declassified papers on CIA’s ‘mind control’ research

      A renowned government secret hunter has published new documents detailing the CIA’s Cold War “behavioral modification” experiments (ranging from the bizarre to the stomach-churning), released under the Freedom of Information Act.

      The documents were published by “The Black Vault”, a site which has published enough government documents on the paranormal, UFOs and government mind control experiments to provide material for a dozen new seasons of The X-Files. While the site might sound like a fringe web-community indulging in paranoid cliches, it is also the largest repository of its kind aside from the US government with over 2,000,000 pages of information. The 800 pages of classified information published in November had been withheld from previously released documents that were made public through FOIA requests in 2004 and 2016.

      The newest documents, if verified, showcase some unprecedented disturbing outcomes of the CIA’s attempts to develop mind control techniques and truth serums as a part of its “MKultra” project, which the agency admitted to having secretly run until 1973. The releases include documents on a “successful” effort to create 6 dogs that could be “operated” to complete basic commands by remote control in the late 1960s. There are even diagrams of the surgical implants that employed “Electrical Stimulation of the Brain” to create controlled responses.

    • Spy watchdog completes probe into CIA rendition

      New Zealand’s spy agency watchdog has completed an inquiry into whether New Zealand was involved in the American CIA’s rendition programme.

      [...]

      The “enhanced interrogation” programme involved questioning al Qaeda and other captives around the world. The CIA used secret flights, detention and torture against terrorism suspects and others.

      “This inquiry has required considerable resources, not least identifying and evaluating the agencies’ relevant activities and records over the period 2001 to 2009,” Ms Gwyn said in the her office’s annual report.

    • MFIA Clinic Files Lawsuit Against CIA

      Acting for two investigative journalists, the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic has sued the Central Intelligence Agency for silencing the top FBI interrogator of Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah. The lawsuit alleges a CIA effort to mislead the American public about the effectiveness of torture.

      The lawsuit was filed on December 3, 2018, in federal court in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Raymond Bonner and Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney. Bonner and Gibney are collaborating on a documentary about the CIA’s use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11. The film focuses on the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to waterboarding at least 83 times after being secretly detained as a suspected member of al-Qaeda.

    • William Barr Is Out of Step on Criminal Justice Reform

      President Donald Trump announced Friday his plan to nominate William Barr as the next attorney general. Barr previously held the same role from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would replace Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed by Trump as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions resigned last month under pressure from the White House.

      [...]

      Barr’s previous stint as attorney general also included troubling positions on criminal justice issues. During his tenure in the Bush administration, Barr helped devise federal policies that furthered mass incarceration and the war on drugs. Notably, in 1992, he published a book by the Department of Justice called The Case for More Incarceration, which argued that the country was “incarcerating too few criminals.” After serving as attorney general, Barr led efforts in Virginia to abolish parole in the state, build more prisons, and increase prison sentences by as much as 700 percent.

      To be sure, that was an era when tough criminal justice policies attracted support across the political spectrum. But Barr’s more recent record suggests, that unlike many in his party, his thinking hasn’t changed significantly since then, even as the failure of mass incarceration has become too glaring to ignore.

    • North Carolina’s Election Fiasco Is About Voter Suppression, Not Voter Fraud

      North Carolina voting issues are in the spotlight once again, thanks to swirling questions around the use of absentee ballots in the 9th Congressional district.

      Last week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously not to certify the 9th District’s U.S. House race — in which Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by a slim margin — because of irregularities in the district’s absentee ballots.

      In particular, fewer ballots were returned in the 9th District than in the rest of the state. In addition, out of the 9th District ballots that were returned, there was a higher rate of ballots that were spoiled — and thus uncounted — than in other districts, the Brennan Center’s analysis confirms. To top it off, these discrepancies appear to have disproportionately affected low-income communities.

      At least three voters in the 9th District have provided affidavits stating that individuals came door-to-door to collect mailed ballots, according to reports in the New York Times. These unknown visitors allegedly told the voters that they would deliver their ballots. One voter, Datesha Montgomery, reported that she voted only for school board members and sheriff, but the woman who collected her ballot said that “she would finish it herself.” This is illegal under North Carolina law. If voters are getting help with the ballot delivery, it can only be from certain direct family members (unless one of the special rules for nursing home residents is applicable).

    • Karen Kwiatkowski Delivers Speech After Receiving 17th Annual Sam Adams Award

      Ed Snowden, Sam Adams awardee in 2013, noted that we tend to ignore some degree of evil in our daily life, but, as Ed put it, “We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act.” As did Karen. As did 16 of Karen’s predecessors honored with this award.

      With all the gloom and doom enveloping us, we tend to wonder whether people with the conscience and courage of Ed or Karen still exist in and outside our national security establishment. Our country is in dire need of new patriots of this kind.

      Meanwhile, we call to mind the courageous example not only of Karen and Ed, but also of Coleen Rowley and Elizabeth Gun, our first two awardees, who took great risks in trying to head off the attack on Iraq. And we again honor Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange who is now isolated in what the U.N. has called “arbitrary detention,” for exposing the war crimes resulting from that war.

    • Europe’s History With Refugees Has Something to Tell the U.S.

      Not long ago, the world watched heartbreaking images of fleeing refugees, not unlike those now emerging from the southern U.S. border.

      Within months, beginning in 2015, more than 1 million migrants and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, and Africa had crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe—some escaping war and violence, some seeking work—and their numbers overwhelmed the continent.

      And now, as thousands of Central American refugees from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala continue to surge toward the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s worth noting important similarities to how European countries responded to its migrant crisis, the impact of which is still being felt there.

      “It really is kind of a search for survival, economic survival, political survival,” says Dr. Kathie Friedman, associate professor at University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

      Like the Central Americans coming to the U.S. border, those arriving on Europe’s doorstep also did so en masse. Some experts hesitate to call it the “new normal.”

    • How the More Than Me Charity Gamed the Internet and Hollywood to Win a Million Dollars

      It was the breakthrough moment for More Than Me. On Dec. 7, 2012, Katie Meyler’s tiny New Jersey-based charity defeated 24 other nonprofits to win $1 million at the Chase American Giving Awards, a weeklong competition for Facebook votes that culminated in a star-studded, nationally televised event.

      Most of the competing nonprofits dwarfed MTM in experience, exposure and cashflow. Some had annual revenue over $3 million; Meyler’s charity had $300,000. The previous year’s winner had over a million Facebook followers. Even now, after years of accolades, MTM has only 30,000.

      But More Than Me’s mission — educating girls in Liberia and saving them from sexual exploitation — had seemingly resonated with the voting public. That night, Meyler told the audience about a 12-year-old girl named Abigail, who she said was a child prostitute who dreamed of going to school. Meyler said a grassroots movement of passionate supporters had made it happen:

      “Thousands of you wrote I Am Abigail on your face, on your arms, even on your pets,” Meyler said. “You pushed your dad to email his network, and he smiled as he did. You stood in front of hundreds of people in lecture halls, and you spoke for Abigail; you were shaking, but that did not stop you…”

      The victory propelled Meyler and her charity to a new level of funding and prominence, and enabled her to launch an all-girl school in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

      This October, ProPublica published an investigation, in collaboration with Time magazine, revealing how MTM had missed opportunities to prevent prominent employee Macintosh Johnson from raping girls in the charity’s care. After the story, the charity issued an apology and Meyler stepped down pending the outcome of investigations by the Liberian government, the charity’s board of directors and its Liberian advisory board. Protestors marched in Monrovia, board members resigned and a major donor suspended funds, citing the organization’s lack of honesty.

    • New York Police Union Says More Reporting On Stops/Frisks Will Hurt The NYPD’s Effectiveness

      The NYPD has been ordered to document its stops numerous times since the 2013 decision. And it has continued to fail to do so. Officers blame a lack of instruction and/or clarity from upper management. Upper management blames multiple court orders and outside oversight for its inability to deliver clear instructions. And the PBA blames the whole mess on officers being forced to engage in Constitutional policing, which apparently is the opposite of “proactive” policing.

      What the PBA is agitating for is the return to halcyon days of stop-and-frisk when NYPD officers performed hundreds of thousands of stops a year, a majority of them targeting the city’s minorities. Constitutional policing would trim hundreds of man hours from the production of mandated reports, but the PBA wants nothing to do with keeping officers on patrol, rather than tied up doing internal bookkeeping for the DA’s office.

    • The Strange Case Of The Guardian & Brasil

      The Guardian is of course the closest thing that the UK has to a mainstream progressive newspaper, and it had, until relatively recently, a rich history of quality investigative reporting. In the 1970s its coverage of Latin America, with writers the calibre of Richard Gott, was responsible for fixing stories like that of Chile’s in the public consciousness, and with that fuelling solidarity movements for the region’s oppressed peoples, suffering under sub-fascist imperial rule. It continues to host important and talented writers, and publish valuable material, particularly in its comment is free section.

      But in 2018 The Guardian is in trouble, financially and editorially. A far cry from the 1970s, it just published a sycophantic eulogy to former US President George HW Bush, whose own CIA oversaw the horrors of Operation Condor.

      To get a sense of the mindset now running the Guardian, contrast that of Bush Senior with its sour, dismissive obituary of lifetime champion of human rights, long serving Cabinet Minister and Labour MP Tony Benn, who wrote of the newspaper in 2008: “The Guardian represents a whole batch of journalists, from moderate right to moderate left – i.e. centre journalists – who, broadly speaking, like the status quo. They like the two-party system, with no real change. They’re quite happy to live under the aegis of the Americans and NATO. They are just the Establishment. It is a society that suits them well.”

      Earlier in 2018 The Guardian faced criticism for running propagandist advertisements for the Saudi Arabian regime, and is now facing questions over an apparently false article claiming that Trump ally Paul Manafort had visited Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The story was quickly debunked, and the paper is now refusing to answer questions as to how they came to publish such claims without evidence. No other media outlet corroborated the report.

    • The Heresy of White Christianity

      There are, as Cornel West has pointed out, only two African-Americans who rose from dirt-poor poverty to the highest levels of American intellectual life—the writer Richard Wright and the radical theologian James H. Cone.

      Cone, who died in April, grew up in segregated Bearden, Ark., the impoverished son of a woodcutter who had only a sixth-grade education. With an almost superhuman will, Cone clawed his way up from the Arkansas cotton fields to implode theological studies in the United States with his withering critique of the white supremacy and racism inherent within the white, liberal Christian church. His brilliance—he was a Greek scholar and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Swiss theologian Karl Barth—enabled him to “turn the white man’s theology against him and make it speak for the liberation of black people.” God’s revelation in America, he understood, “was found among poor black people.” Privileged white Christianity and its theology were “heresy.” He was, until the end of his life, possessed by what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called “sublime madness.” His insights, he writes, “came to me as if revealed by the spirits of my ancestors long dead but now coming alive to haunt and torment the descendants of the whites who had killed them.”

      “When it became clear to me that Jesus was not biologically white and that white scholars actually lied by not telling people who he really was, I stopped trusting anything they said,” he writes in his posthumous memoir, “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian,” published in October.

      “White supremacy is America’s original sin and liberation is the Bible’s central message,” he writes in his book. “Any theology in America that fails to engage white supremacy and God’s liberation of black people from that evil is not Christian theology but a theology of the Antichrist.”

    • Greens: “The Stansted 15 are human rights defenders – the real criminals are the Home Office.”

      “The treatment of the Stansted 15 is unprecedented and is wrong. From the trumped up charges they faced to the verdicts handed down. The principled action the Stansted 15 took exposed the brutality of these secretive charter flights, and a number of people set to be removed from the UK on that plane have been able to stay in the UK safely as a result of their principled actions. The Stansted 15 are human rights defenders – the real criminals are the Home Office.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • AT&T Finds Yet Another Way To Nickel-And-Dime Its Broadband, TV Customers

      You’ll recall AT&T just got done jacking up streaming TV prices on the heels of its massive merger with Time Warner, just like deal critics had warned. AT&T then quickly doubled an already bogus “administrative fee” on the company’s wireless customers, alone netting AT&T an additional estimated $800 million per year. AT&T’s now hinting it will raise streaming prices even higher (AT&T’s version of competition). This is of course on top of existing TV and broadband rate hikes, usage caps, hidden fees, and other soaring consumer costs.

      Most of this is occurring for two reasons. One, AT&T’s desperately trying to bounce back from the utterly massive debt load it incurred from the one-two punch of the DirecTV and Time Warner mergers. As is usually the case, the one paying for our mindless merger mania is usually… you. Two, because AT&T and other telecom and media giants have been on a tear effectively neutering all federal oversight of their efforts, there’s nobody really in power interested in doing much about it. The above example makes it pretty clear why AT&T and Ajit Pai have also tried to neuter state consumer protection authority.

    • Dark Days are Waiting the Open Internet

      There’s no argument that the Internet is one of the backbones of the modern world today. Yet, it seems that we are heading toward the end of the open Internet on the long run; An Internet that respects the user privacy & security, and protects him both from censorship and tracking seems to be long gone. The future is yet to become darker with corporations gaining more power.

      If you are someone interested in online privacy and security, then you need to understand all these dynamics together, as many independent forces each doing their best to serve their own interests rather than a linear set of factors happening at specific points in time. Just like you try to understand history as social, economic, political, religious and scientific factors, you should try to understand how the dynamics are working today to sum in total to destroy the open Internet.

      There’s no secret Illuminati-supported foundation to destroy the Internet, it’s just the combination of governments, spy agencies, and giant corporations putting their hands on it each by its own. We are going to see why this is the case.

  • DRM

    • [Old] Apple can delete purchased movies from your library without telling you

      “You may be able to redownload previously acquired Content (‘Redownload’) to your devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID (‘Associated Devices’),” says the TOS, but also, “Content may not be available for Redownload if that Content is no longer offered on our Services.” For reasons that are easy to guess, Apple has never widely advertised that, by deleting locally stored content, users are actually rolling the dice as to whether they will ever be able to get it back.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Germany: Synchronmotor, Federal Court of Justice of Germany, X ZR 51/06, 29 May 2018

      The FCJ confirmed that inventive step is to be acknowledged if the feature(s) distinguishing the claimed invention from the starting point for the assessment of inventive step are not directly and unambiguously derivable or at least rendered obvious by the prior art.

    • Trump and China: Going with Patent Holders Against Workers

      While most of us don’t have access to the inner workings of the Trump administration to know exactly what is going on with its negotiations with China, given the public accounts and statements, it seems workers have clearly lost. Trump seems to have made the concerns of companies like Boeing, who want more help maintaining their control over technology, his top priority. The impact of an under-valued Chinese currency, which has led to a large U.S. trade deficit, seems to have been dropped from discussion.

      The disappearance of currency “manipulation” from the discussion is more than a bit ironic, since Trump made this a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. He ran around the country complaining that China was a world class currency manipulator. He pledged that he would declare China a currency manipulator on Day One of his administration and apply corresponding trade sanctions.

      We’re getting close to Day 700 and there is still no declaration on China’s currency practices. Furthermore, the topic has been virtually dropped from public discussions.

    • Trade: It’s Still About Class, Not Country

      While Donald Trump keeps taking wild shots in his trade wars with China and other countries, the media have been cheering him on in at least one aspect of his campaign. All the elite types agree that “we” have an interest in clamping down on China’s alleged theft of our intellectual property. While some “we” might share that interest, most of the country does not.

      Just to be clear on the agenda here, the alleged theft takes three forms. The first is what passes for actual theft. It is when a Chinese company, possibly with help from the Chinese government, literally takes technology from a US company. This can happen, for example, if they infiltrate its internal computer system.

      While this is undeniably a bad practice, it is not unique to Chinese companies. In fact, many US companies also engage in such practices. Uber famously agreed to pay Waymo $245 million for stealing some of its software for self-driving cars. It would be hard to know if China’s companies are more guilty in this area than anyone else, but we can agree it is a bad practice that should be stopped.

    • Trademarks

      • Whole visible surface or predominant colour? Cadbury’s plays spot the series mark

        Frustratingly for Cadbury’s the issue arises because Cadbury’s followed guidance from the registrar in 1997 and amended their 1995 mark from a description which read “the mark consists of the colour purple” to the above longer form and more confusing wording. This change was made at the express suggestion of the registrar (Cadbury’s application had been to amend the description to “the mark consists of the colour purple as shown applied to the packaging or labelling of goods covered by the registration”.

        The reason for this application to change the mark was the impact of the decision in Société des Produits Nestlé SA v Cadbury UK Limited [2013] EWCA Civ 1174 (“Cadbury 1″) – see the IPKat post here. This case considered whether the description together with the mark defined a sign within the meaning of section 1(1) TMA (it did not). As a result of the Court of Appeal decision, Cadbury’s had to revisit its earlier 1995 mark which had the same description and consequently was vulnerable to an invalidity attack. A small ray of hope was glimpsed in the Court of Appeal’s analysis and it concluded that it might be possible to remove the “predominant colour” wording from the description, and leave only the “whole surface” wording. If this had been possible, it might have been possible to overcome the Cadbury 1 objection.

    • Copyrights

      • Bizarre Blocking Order Targets ‘Pirate’ Domains Before They’re Registered

        Last week an Indian court issued one of the broadest site-blocking injunctions to date. To prevent the film “2.0″ from being pirated by the masses, the Madras High Court ordered local ISPs to preemptively block 12,564 domain names. TorrentFreak can now reveal that this order only targets 16 websites and that most of the listed domains are not even registered.

      • Huge Torrent Tracker Calls it Quits After 12 Years, Citing Article 13

        Leechers Paradise, one of the world’s longest-standing and most important BitTorrent trackers, has shut down for good. Launched 12 years ago, the site was recently coordinating the transfers of 132 million peers but now, with the EU’s Article 13 legislation looming, its operator says its time to close before the platform is rendered illegal.

      • Take-Two Sues GTA Online Cheat Maker, Demands $150,000 Compensation

        Rockstar Games and its parent company Take-Two Interactive have been targeting GTA Online cheat makers for a while now. After an intense legal battle with the creator of the OpenIV modding tool last year, the GTA V developers have set their sights on the person behind the GTA Online cheat tool called “Elusive”. As reported by TorrentFreak, Take-Two has sued the alleged creator of Elusive on the basis of copyright infringement, and requests $150,000 in damages.

        The past two years have seen a surge in the amount of copyright infringement lawsuits from large companies, like Nintendo and Take-Two. Jhonny Perez, the creator of the ‘Elusive’, was sued earlier this year in August for developing and distributing the GTA Online cheating software.

      • GTA V’s Take-Two Wants $150,000 in Damages From Cheat Maker

        Rockstar Games’ parent company Take-Two Interactive has filed a motion for default judgment against the alleged creator of the “Elusive” GTA V cheat. The company estimates that the cheat has caused severe harm, and requests $150,000 compensation, the maximum statutory damages for copyright infringement.

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