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Links 18/1/2017: Red Hat's OpenShift 3.4, Mozilla's New Logo/Branding

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Free Software/Open Source


  • Science

    • Tesla’s new VP of Autopilot Software explains why he made the move from Apple
      Earlier this month, Chris Lattner announced that he was leaving Apple to lead Tesla’s Autopilot software team after a decade at the Cupertino company where he led the development of the Swift programming language and developer tools.

      There have been rumors about why he was leaving Apple, but the software engineer has now broken the silence to kill the rumors and disclose why he joined Tesla.

      Some had speculated that Apple’s closed and secretive culture had driven out Lattner like it had with a few others in recent years. The constant patent battles are driving some of the employees mad and taking away the focus on products.

    • Can President Trump Uphold Scientific Integrity in Government Decisionmaking? New Report Tells What’s At Stake
      Last week, the US Department of Energy released a revised scientific integrity policy in what was likely the last move by the Obama administration to promote scientific integrity in federal decision-making. But we cannot forget the many steps that preceded it. Today, the Union of Concerned Scientists releases a report, Preserving Scientific Integrity in Federal Policymaking: Lessons from the Past Two Administrations and What’s at Stake under the Trump Administration. The report characterizes the progress, missteps and unfinished business of scientific integrity under the Obama administration and considers what’s at stake under the Trump administration.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Pharma Money Reaches Guideline Writers, Patient Groups, Even Doctors on Twitter
      The long arm of the pharmaceutical industry continues to pervade practically every area of medicine, reaching those who write guidelines that shape doctors’ practices, patient advocacy organizations, letter writers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even oncologists on Twitter, according to a series of papers on money and influence published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

      The findings of the papers provide further evidence showing how conflicts of interest help shape health care, a subject ProPublica has explored through its Dollars for Docs series since 2010. (Check whether your physician receives money from drug or device companies through our news tool.)

      “The very way we all think about disease — and the best ways to research, define, prevent, and treat it — is being subtly distorted because so many of the ostensibly independent players, including patient advocacy groups, are largely singing tunes acceptable to companies seeking to maximize markets for drugs and devices,” researchers Ray Moynihan and Lisa Bero wrote in an accompanying commentary.
    • Dysfunction Disorder
      The young mother was in danger of losing her child when she met with a psychologist in May of 2014. She had been living in a Manhattan shelter for victims of domestic violence, and New York City’s child welfare agency was considering taking the child from the woman, according to the woman’s lawyer. The psychologist was supposed to conduct an assessment and file a report, a finding that could end up before a Brooklyn Family Court judge who would decide the family’s fate.

    • The Number of US Households That Can’t Afford Water Could Triple in Five Years
      In the next five years, more households in the US risk being unable to pay for water. If rates keep rising as they’re expected to do, the number of households that can’t afford water might triple—reaching nearly 36 percent, according to Elizabeth Mack, geography professor at Michigan State University, whose findings are described in PLoS ONE.

      “I’m an economic geographer,” Mack told me. “The basic question I asked here was, can people afford their water bills?” It seems like a simple enough thing to ask—in North America, each of us uses an average of 100 gallons of water per person per day—yet the US remains understudied when it comes to water access, she told me. Her work, funded by the National Science Foundation, was one of the first nationwide studies of its kind.

    • Cher calls for firing squad for Snyder over Flint water crisis
      Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Genesee County.

      According to a press release from the governor’s office, the declaration is to address the ongoing health and safety issues caused by lead in Flint’s drinking water.

      The declaration makes all state resources available in cooperation with local repose and recovery operation. Read the full declaration here.

    • Iraq's Marsh Arabs test the waters as wetlands ruined by Saddam are reborn
      The morning of 20 January 1992 began much like any other for the Mohammed family in the marshlands of southern Iraq. Rising at first light, they roused their herd of buffaloes and drove the beasts snorting and protesting into the surrounding wetlands to graze. After a quick breakfast of bread and yoghurt, washed down with sugary tea, they readied themselves for a long day out on the water.

    • Under Tom Price’s ACA-killing plan, 18M lose insurance and premiums rise
      Republican legislation that guts the Affordable Care Act would cause 18 million people to lose their insurance and would increase premiums of individual plans by about 20 to 25 percent, all within a year of being enacted, a report released today by the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

      The legislation would destabilize the individual health insurance market, the report cautions, so the effects will “worsen over time.” After roughly two years, the number of uninsured would jump by 27 million and premiums would increase by about 50 percent. If nothing else changes, in ten years, the uninsured would increase by 32 million and premiums would be about double.

    • EPA Under Scott Pruitt Could Cost the U.S. Billions in Additional Health Care Costs
      Supporters of Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency clearly believe the Oklahoma attorney general would be good for business. A climate denier and avowed foe of the agency he’s poised to head, Pruitt appeals to conservatives because he understands “that regulations affect our property rights, our ability to compete, and our livelihoods,” according Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, III, who joined Pruitt in suing the EPA over air pollution limits. Among the 23 ultra-right groups that signed a statement supporting Pruitt posted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute are the Exxon-funded Frontiers of Freedom and several groups tied to the Koch brothers, including the Independent Women’s Voice, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

    • The Murky Future for US Health Care
      All eyes are on the Republicans and Obamacare, as the dominant GOP now proceeds toward dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare policy plan, formally known as the Affordable Care Act. What they plan to replace it with is still anybody’s guess.

      I spoke recently to public health care expert and single-payer advocate Dr. Don McCain about the debate, the negatives and positives of Obamacare, and what kind of health care system we need in the U.S. to really attend to the medical needs of all people.

      McCain, a senior health policy fellow with the group Physicians for a National Health Program, said recently about the current debate, “President Obama meeting with the Congressional Democrats, and Vice President-elect Pence meeting with the Republicans are being touted as a strategy efforts on the two opposite sides of the health care reform debate. But are they really opposites?”

  • Security

    • Security advisories for Tuesday

    • FOI: NHS Trusts are ransomware pin cushions [Ed: Windows]
      The FOI requests found that 87 per cent of attacks came via a networked NHS device and that 80 per cent were down to phished staffers. However, only a small proportion of the 100 or so Trusts responded to this part of the requests.

      "These results are far from surprising. Public sector organisations make a soft target for fraudsters because budget and resource shortages frequently leave hospitals short-changed when it comes to security basics like regular software patching," said Tony Rowan, Chief Security Consultant at SentinelOne.

      "The results highlight the fact that old school AV technology is powerless to halt virulent, mutating forms of malware like ransomware and a new more dynamic approach to endpoint protection is needed.
    • Wednesday's security updates
    • Secure your Elasticsearch cluster and avoid ransomware
      Last week, news came out that unprotected MongoDB databases are being actively compromised: content copied and replaced by a message asking for a ransom to get it back. As The Register reports: Elasticsearch is next.

      Protecting access to Elasticsearch by a firewall is not always possible. But even in environments where it is possible, many admins are not protecting their databases. Even if you cannot use a firewall, you can secure connection to Elasticsearch by using encryption. Elasticsearch by itself does not provide any authentication or encryption possibilities. Still, there are many third-party solutions available, each with its own drawbacks and advantages.

    • Resolve to Follow These 8 Steps for Better Data Security in 2017
      Getting physically fit is a typical New Year's resolution. Given that most of us spend more time online than in a gym, the start of the new year also might be a great time to improve your security “fitness.” As with physical fitness challenges, the biggest issue with digital security is always stagnation. That is, if you don't move and don't change, atrophy sets in. In physical fitness, atrophy is a function of muscles not being exercised. In digital fitness, security risks increase when you fail to change passwords, update network systems and adopt improved security technology. Before long, your IT systems literally become a “sitting duck.” Given the volume of data breaches that occurred in 2016, it is highly likely that everyone reading this has had at least one breach of their accounts compromised in some way, such as their Yahoo data account. Hackers somewhere may have one of the passwords you’ve used at one point to access a particular site or service. If you're still using that same password somewhere, in a way that can connect that account to you, that's a non-trivial risk. Changing passwords is the first of eight security resolutions that can help to improve your online security fitness in 2017. Click through this eWEEK slide show to discover the rest.

    • Pwn2Own 2017 Takes Aim at Linux, Servers and Web Browsers
      10th anniversary edition of Pwn2Own hacking contest offers over $1M in prize money to security researchers across a long list of targets including Virtual Machines, servers, enterprise applications and web browsers.

      Over the last decade, the Zero Day Initiative's (ZDI) annual Pwn2Own competition has emerged to become one of the premiere events on the information security calendar and the 2017 edition does not look to be any different. For the tenth anniversary of the Pwn2Own contest, ZDI, now owned and operated by Trend Micro, is going farther than ever before, with more targets and more prize money available for security researchers to claim by successfully executing zero-day exploits.

    • 'Factorio' is another game that was being hit by key scammers
      In another case of scammers trying to buy keys with often stolen credit cards to sell on websites like G2A, the developers of 'Factorio' have written about their experience with it (and other stuff too).

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the Shadows
      Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

      On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.

    • The Issue Is Not Trump, It's Us
      Under Obama, the U.S. extended secret "special forces" operations to 138 countries, or 70 percent of the world's population.

      On the day President Trump is inaugurated, thousands of writers in the United States will express their indignation. "In order for us to heal and move forward," say Writers Resist, "we wish to bypass direct political discourse, in favor of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy."

    • 10 Things You Didn't Know About James Mattis

      1. James "Jim" N. Mattis was born on Sept. 8, 1950, to John and Lucille Mattis and grew up in Pullman, Washington.

      2. Mattis earned his bachelor's degree in history from Central Washington State University and later graduated from Amphibious Warfare School, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College as well as the National War College.

      3. Mattis served at numerous levels in the Marine Corps, beginning in 1991 as lieutenant colonel during the Persian Gulf War. When he retired in 2013, Mattis was Commander of U.S. Central Command.

      4. Mattis' military nicknames are "Mad Dog" and "Warrior Monk" and went by the military call sign "Chaos."

    • Homeland Security Pick Gen. John Kelly Fails to Disclose Ties to Defense Contractors
      The Intercept revealed last week that Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the the Department of Homeland Security, retired Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, did not disclose on his ethics form that he was listed as a vice chairman at the Spectrum Group, a defense contractor lobbying firm.

      Now, it appears that Kelly failed to list two other positions as well: board memberships with Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global, two defense contractors that do business with the U.S. government.

      Federal law requires Senate-confirmed nominees to list all positions at outside organizations on ethics forms that are vetted by the Office of Government Ethics and released to both the public and lawmakers. But the board memberships, like the Spectrum Group vice chairmanship, were not listed on Kelly’s federal ethics disclosure form nor his letter to the Homeland Security Department’s designated ethics official.

    • Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
      Over 75 states possess unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones. We know of fifteen states which possessed armed drones at the end of 2016. They are the US, UK, China, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, and Turkey.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Judge orders Justice Dept. to preserve official's private-account emails
      A federal judge issued a rare order Tuesday requiring the Justice Department to secure emails that may be in the personal Gmail account of a top department official who's about to depart his post with the change in administration.

      U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan instructed Justice to preserve any emails that Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter Kadzik has in private accounts that could be responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch.

    • 13 Million Pages of Declassified CIA Documents Were Just Posted Online
      A nonprofit organization, a persistent rabble-rouser, and their pro-bono attorney have succeeded in getting the Central Intelligence Agency to post the full contents of its declassified records database online, meaning it’s now possible to access roughly 13 million pages of CIA documents dating back to the beginnings of the Cold War.

      Since 2000, the CIA has maintained the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The CREST database—containing every “historically valuable” record that had been declassified, thanks to a 1995 executive order by Bill Clinton—was technically publicly accessible, but could only be used on four computers at the archives during very limited business hours.

    • WikiLeaks' impact: an unfiltered look into the world's elite and powerful
      The release of a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables leaked by Chelsea Manning, the US army whistleblower whose 35-year sentence was commuted by President Obama on Tuesday, had a powerful impact on the practice of diplomacy around the world.

    • Clemency for Chelsea Manning – but will Assange or Snowden also find the US merciful?
      US President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. A former army intelligence operative, Manning was sentenced by court martial in 2013 to 35 years’ imprisonment for espionage crimes relating to the mass leaking of military and diplomatic material.

      She will now be released in May 2017, having served seven years including her time in confinement before and during her trial.

      Manning’s lawyers argued she was motivated by a desire to expose the reality of war to the American people. She leaked more than 700,000 items of interest to whistleblower website WikiLeaks. It published many – including videos of airstrikes that killed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • In latest move, China halts over 100 coal power projects
      China's energy regulator has ordered 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired power projects, with a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, its latest dramatic step to curb the use of fossil fuels in the world's top energy market.

      In a document issued on Jan. 14, financial media group Caixin reported, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suspended the coal projects, some of which were already under construction.

      The projects worth some 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) were to have been spread across provinces and autonomous regions including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi and other northwestern areas.

    • China to plow $361 billion into renewable fuel by 2020
      China will plow 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion) into renewable power generation by 2020, the country's energy agency said on Thursday, as the world's largest energy market continues to shift away from dirty coal power towards cleaner fuels.

      The investment will create over 13 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said in a blueprint document that lays out its plan to develop the nation's energy sector during the five-year 2016 to 2020 period.

      The NEA said installed renewable power capacity including wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power will contribute to about half of new electricity generation by 2020.

      The agency did not disclose more details on where the funds, which equate to about $72 billion each year, would be spent.

    • Three More DAPL Protesters Arrested Monday
      Three more Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were arrested Monday after they tried to reach the horizontal drill pad.

      That pad is the launching point for the pipeline to go underneath Lake Oahe.

    • Water Protectors Arrested, Tear-Gassed for Peaceful Prayer Walk at DAPL Site
      Water protectors battling the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline once again faced down police in riot gear, tear gas, and arrests on Monday as Indigenous activists attempted to hold a peaceful prayer walk at the pipeline drilling site alongside the Missouri River near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

    • Company Building DAPL Aims To Block Environmental Study
      The company building the Dakota Access oil pipeline wants a federal judge to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from launching a full environmental study of the $3.8 billion pipeline’s disputed crossing of a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota.

      Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Tuesday to stop the Corps from publishing a notice in the Federal Register on Wednesday announcing the study. ETP wants any further study put on hold until Boasberg, in Washington, D.C., rules on whether ETP already has the necessary permission to lay pipe under Lake Oahe — the reservoir that’s the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

    • The Hermit Who Inadvertently Shaped Climate-Change Science
      It was a year into his life alone in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains when Billy Barr began his recordings. It started as a curiosity, a task to busy his mind during the winter. By no means, Barr told me, having skied down from his cabin to use the nearest phone, did he set out to make a vital database for climate change scientists. “Hell no!” he said. “I didn’t know anything about climate change at the time.”

      In 1973 Barr had dropped out of college and made his home an abandoned mining shack at the base of Gothic Mountain, a 12,600-foot stone buttress. The cold winds blew through the shack’s wood slat walls as if they didn’t exist; he shared the bare dirt floor with a skunk and pine marten, his only regular company for much of the year. Barr had moved from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains precisely because of the solitude, but he couldn’t escape boredom. Especially that first winter. So he measured snow levels, animal tracks, and in spring the first jubilant calls of birds returning. He filled a notebook with these observations; then another notebook. This has continued now for 44 years.

  • Finance

    • Millions Of Britons Benefit From Freedom Of Movement - It Must Be Protected
      How often must we hear the lie that immigration causes low pay to fall? Or that migrants are to blame for the monumental strain facing our public services? Today Theresa May stood in front of the cameras of the world and said that Brexit "must mean control of the number of people" coming to our country. She said: "When the numbers get too high, public support for the system falters."

      But she is not talking about numbers on a spreadsheet - she is talking about people. People who come to Britain to make a home, to travel, study, work, love, or for a hundred other reasons - and people from the UK who move to other European countries for a hundred more. I am proud to be co-leader of the only party standing up for those people, but I am also saddened that today the Prime Minister was so determined to stand against us.

      Not only has Theresa May made those lives into mere "numbers" - she has in fact got her figures wrong. In her Brexit speech the Prime Minister said that immigration puts downward pressure on low pay. This is a myth that Labour appears to have rolled over and accepted too. Yet the Centre of Economic Performance tells us that there is in fact no evidence that EU migrants affect the performance of those who were born in the UK. Since 2004 the impact of migration on the semi/unskilled sector has been the equivalent of a loss in earning of about just one penny an hour.

    • Extreme Brexit: This was May’s last moment of control
      Theresa May should enjoy today. It is her final moment of control. Her speech confirmed that Britain was leaving the single market. There would be a free trade agreement with Europe, somehow miraculously agreed during Article 50, and then an “implementation period” to enact the changes after April 2019.

      For anyone who believes in staying in the EU, or the single market, or is merely concerned about the government’s grasp of the Brexit issue, today seems like a moment of total failure. The domestic political consensus for hard Brexit seems fixed. May has confirmed it. There is all the reason in the world for despair.

      They should resist that temptation. Brexit is a marathon, not a sprint. The key moment is not now, but months from now. Today May announced a plan that she will not be able to deliver.

    • Employment tribunal penalties falling short
      The government is recouping just a fraction of the extra money it expected to generate from rogue bosses hauled before employment tribunals, new figures have revealed.

      Business minister Margot James has admitted that just €£17,704 has been paid in financial penalties since they were enabled in April 2014.

      Tribunals have levied 18 fines against employers for aggravated breach of employment law, of which 12 have been paid.

      Before the penalties were conceived, an impact assessment prepared by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills estimated that judges would impose sanctions in 25% of cases. This would leave employers paying €£2.8m a year in extra penalties – money which would go straight to the Treasury.

    • Apple’s EU Bill Creeps Up as Analyst Sees $1.6 Billion Interest
      Apple Inc.’s bill for unpaid taxes in Ireland is creeping upwards, as authorities try to figure out exactly how much the world’s richest company owes.

      European Union competition watchdogs ordered Ireland to claw back a record 13 billion euros ($13.9 billion) plus interest in unpaid taxes from the iPhone maker last August, covering the years 2003 to 2014. Apple and Ireland have appealed the EU’s Aug. 30 decision.

    • Here Come The AIs To Make Office Workers Superfluous
      Stories about robots and their impressive capabilities are starting to crop up fairly often these days. It's no secret that they will soon be capable of replacing humans for many manual jobs, as they already do in some manufacturing industries. But so far, artificial intelligence (AI) has been viewed as more of a blue-sky area -- fascinating and exciting, but still the realm of research rather than the real world. Although AI certainly raises important questions for the future, not least philosophical and ethical ones, its impact on job security has not been at the forefront of concerns.

    • Despite Trump's Pledge To Kill It, Some Still Hope TPP Will Live Again, As Rival RCEP Stumbles Too

      TPP foundered on the fact that it offered precious few benefits to the general public, and plenty of downsides. It looks like RCEP is hitting the same problems. The "other" Pacific deal's difficulties may be a further sign that the era of massive global trade deals like TPP, TTIP and TISA, all negotiated in secret, and all now in doubt, may finally be over. We can probably expect smaller-scale, bilateral deals to become the norm instead.

    • These Are the World's Most Innovative Economies
      There’s something about those Nordic countries.

      In the battle of ideas, Sweden climbed to No. 2 and Finland cracked into the top five of the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index, which scores economies using factors including research and development spending and the concentration of high-tech public companies.

      South Korea remained the big winner, topping the international charts in R&D intensity, value-added manufacturing and patent activity and with top-five rankings in high-tech density, higher education and researcher concentration. Scant progress in improving its productivity score — now No. 32 in the world — helps explain why South Korea’s lead narrowed in the past year.

    • Questions and conflicts: Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education choice, is surrounded by controversies
      Preparing for a packed first week of confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s numerous controversial cabinet picks, Democratic politicians and advocacy groups had to decide which nominees they would focus their energy on opposing. With so many distasteful characters, several of whom have attacked the very agencies they’ve been nominated to lead, opposing all of them could spread resources too thin. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, is clearly one of the worst.

    • Oxfam: World's Richest Eight Men as Wealthy as 3.6 Billion Poorest
      Six of the world’s eight wealthiest billionaires are Americans. They are Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison and Michael Bloomberg. Oxfam said it’s concerned that wealth inequality will continue to grow following the election of Donald Trump, whose Cabinet members have a combined wealth of nearly $11 billion.

    • Juncker says Brexit talks will be 'very, very, very difficult' as press turns hostile
      The president of the EU commission has said talks on Britain’s departure will be “very, very, very difficult” as Europe’s press turned hostile, attacking Theresa May’s Brexit plans as isolationist, unachievable, extremist – and disastrous for the UK.

      Speaking to journalists in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker played down suggestions that May’s speech on Tuesday was a threat to Europe, and emphasised a deal had to reflect the interests of Britain and the EU.

      He said he had spoken to the British prime minister on Tuesday evening and told her the commission was not in a hostile mood: “We want a fair deal with Britain and a fair deal for Britain, but a fair deal means a fair deal for the European Union.”

    • Why Would Trump Want a Weaker Dollar?
      On Wednesday morning, currencies in emerging markets across Asia started to rise: The Chinese yuan and the Thai bhat hit two-month highs, while Taiwan’s dollar reached a three-month peak, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, the value of the U.S. dollar had dropped 1.3 percent on Tuesday, to its lowest point in a month.

      Those searching for an explanation didn’t have to look very hard. Over the weekend, President-elect Donald Trump delivered some remarks to The Wall Street Journal that took many by surprise. In response to a question about trade with China, Trump declared that the U.S. dollar is “too strong.” He added, “Our companies can’t compete with [China] now because our currency is too strong. And it’s killing us.”

    • Mick Mulvaney's Unpaid Taxes
      President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be his White House budget chief has a tax problem.

      Representative Mick Mulvaney, the nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, told a Senate committee that he had failed to pay more than $15,000 in taxes for a household employee in the early 2000s. The voluntary disclosure came in response to a query that has become standard for presidential nominees seeking Senate confirmation: Have you ever failed to pay your taxes?

    • Watch Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren School Trump’s Education Secretary Pick (Video)
      While Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders asked about Betsy DeVos’ stance on tuition-free colleges and her family’s donations to the Republican Party, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pointed out that the billionaire has absolutely no experience with public education and student loans. Both senators did an excellent job grilling DeVos, but the most illuminating rhetorical question came from Sanders, who asked point-blank, “Do you think if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family had not made contributions of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Republican party, that you’d be sitting here today?”

    • Betsy DeVos, an Heiress, Bashes Tuition-Free College: ‘There’s Nothing in Life That’s Truly Free’
      Betsy DeVos, the right-wing activist who the Trump administration has nominated to lead the Department of Education, criticized Bernie Sanders’s plan to offer tuition-free education at public colleges and universities during her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

      “Senator I think that’s a really interesting idea,” she said when asked by Sanders about his plan. “And it’s really great to consider and think about, but I think we also have to consider the fact that there’s nothing in life that’s truly free, somebody’s going to pay for it.”

      The proverb about nothing in life being free is ironic coming from DeVos, whose wealth is built off of inheritance and marriage. She is the daughter of Edgar Prince, who founded the Michigan-based Prince Corporation, an auto parts business that sold for $1.35 billion in 1996; she also married into the massive Amway fortune by marrying Dick DeVos, whose father co-founded that company.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Wells Fargo to Pay Transportation Nominee Elaine Chao up to $5 Million Over Next Four Years
      Elaine Chao, Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Transportation, is in line to receive a “golden parachute” from Wells Fargo & Company worth between $1 million and $5 million dollars.

      Chao, who joined Wells Fargo as a board member in 2011, has collected deferred stock options — a compensation perk generally designed as a long-term retention strategy — that she would not be able to cash out if she left the firm to work for a competitor.

      Her financial disclosure notes that she will receive a “cash payout for my deferred stock compensation” upon confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. The document discloses that the payments will continue throughout her time in government, if she is confirmed. The payouts will begin in July 2017 and continue yearly through 2021.
    • ‘It’s Tough to Say How Much Leverage People Have on Him’ - CounterSpin interview with Russ Choma on Trump's conflicts
      Donald Trump owns a lot of things, and his big announcement January 11 was that he intends to keep on owning them—despite this presidency business, or however anyone who isn’t Donald Trump has ever done it. Whether it’s the power of persuasion or the persuasiveness of power, it’s not an unfounded concern that some in public life, including in the media, might provide insufficient challenge to the idea that worries about conflicts of interest are really just sour grapes. Reporter Russ Choma has been tracking Trump’s conflicts for Mother Jones. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Russ Choma.
    • Rex Tillerson’s Exxon Mobil Frequently Sought State Department Assistance, New Documents Show
      Exxon Mobil under its CEO Rex Tillerson frequently pressed the U.S. State Department for help in negotiating complex business deals and overcoming foreign opposition to its drilling projects, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept.

      The requests for help — documented in diplomatic cables obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from DeSmogBlog as well as some previously released by Wikileaks — raise a whole new series of conflict-of-interest concerns about Tillerson, who retired as Exxon Mobil CEO soon after being nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next secretary of state.

      Consider: Exxon Mobil sent State Department officials a request to help overcome local opposition to fracking in Germany; in Indonesia, the State Department acted as a advocate for Exxon Mobil during contentious negotiations between the firm and the Indonesian government over a major gas field in the South China Sea; and in Russia, Exxon Mobil asked the U.S. ambassador to press the Russians to approve a major drilling program, noting that a “warming of U.S.-Russian relations” overall would also help the company.

    • Manning Sentence Commuted–No Thanks to Corporate Media Opinion

      The editorial boards of the most influential newspapers in the United States—the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today—published nothing in support of Manning. When an outlet did register an opinion, as with the New York Post (1/13/17), it was to adamantly warn against commuting or pardoning her.

      The only sympathetic commentaries we found in major papers over the past year were in the LA Times (9/16/16)—an op-ed by N+1 associate editor Richard Beck that called, not for a pardon itself, exactly, but for “widespread, coordinated support for a full pardon” for Manning—and a piece by Michael Tracey (“Let Chelsea Manning Go Free”) that appeared in the New York Daily News (1/17/17) 45 minutes before the commutation was announced. (The paper’s editorial board retorted later that day with “Leniency for a Traitor: Obama Clemency for Criminal Leaker Manning Is Unjust.”)

      On the reporting side, it’s worth noting that the New York Times’ Charlie Savage has devoted a considerable amount of time over the past few months to documenting Manning’s difficulties as a trans woman in a men’s prison (1/13/17)—and reporting, for example, her placement in solitary confinement as punishment for a suicide attempt (9/23/16).

      But on the editorial side—the department charged with driving popular opinion—support for mercy for Manning was nonexistent. This is especially striking, given that her exposure of government secrets through WikiLeaks was the basis for countless media reports (, 12/4/12)—including revelations about a 2007 US military attack in Iraq that killed two Reuters journalists. Manning’s conviction under the Espionage Act—even though she had given secrets to media, not an enemy power—posed a chilling threat to all media sources who seek to expose government wrongdoing.
    • President Obama Commutes Prison Sentence For Chelsea Manning
    • EFF Celebrates Obama’s Decision: Chelsea Manning To Be Released This Year
      As one of his very last acts in office, President Obama has commuted the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning by 28 years. EFF applauds Obama for using his last days as president to bring justice to Manning’s case. And we congratulate all those who supported, defended, and spoke out on behalf of Manning over the years and supported her clemency petition. Your efforts secured her freedom.

      Manning was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in the release of approximately 700,000 military and diplomatic records to WikiLeaks. Under this sentence—the longest punishment ever imposed on a whistleblower in United States history—Manning would have been released in 2045. Now, under the terms set by President Obama, Manning is to be released on May 17, 2017, after more than seven years behind bars.
    • The Trump presidency starts Friday. Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's agenda.
      On Friday, President Elect Donald J. Trump will swear the oath of office, pledging to uphold the Constitution. But as EFF has learned in the course of defending our fundamental rights over four American presidencies, our civil liberties need an independent defense force. Free speech and the rights to privacy, transparency, and innovation won’t survive on their own—we’re here to ensure that government is held accountable and in check.

      Technological progress does not wait for politicians to catch up, and new tools can quickly be misused by aggressive governments. The next four years will be characterized by rapid developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, connected homes, and smart cities. We welcome innovation, but we also expect to see an explosion of surveillance technologies designed to take advantage of our connected world to spy on all of us and our devices, all the time. That data will be used not only to target individuals but to project and manipulate social behavior. What will our digital rights look like during these uncertain and evolving times? Will our current rights remain intact when the baton is passed on once again?

    • President Obama's Commutation of Chelsea Manning's Sentence Most Likely Saved Her Life
      President Obama today commuted most of Chelsea Manning’s remaining sentence for disclosing classified information about the impact of America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on innocent civilians. This is an important development both for government transparency and for transgender rights.

      With today’s clemency order, she will be released in May 2017 after having served seven years in prison. This isn’t a pardon. Chelsea pled guilty and will face the consequences for many of the charges against her. But the military sentenced her to 35 years in prison, a longer sentence than anyone else in U.S. history has received for disclosing information to the news media.
    • Will Trump’s Inauguration Be the Day Clemency Died?
      As someone who was fortunate to have his sentence commuted by President Obama, I am frequently asked, "Do you think President Trump will carry on President Obama's Clemency Initiative?" And I jokingly say, "If Trump had the authority, I have no doubt he would put me back in prison and everyone else President Obama granted clemency to.”
    • Chelsea Manning Adds a Glow to the Day
      I cannot tell you how delighted I am that Chelsea Manning is going to be released. Having done so much to reveal the truly sordid nature on the ground of the USA’s neo-Imperial aggression, Manning is a true hero. It is a shame that Obama is forcing her to undergo another five months of a truly hellish prison sentence, but still there is now an end in sight.

      All of which adds to the mystery of Obama. He launched the most vicious War on Whistleblowers ever in American history. Obama’s people even went for whistleblowers like Bill Binney and Tom Drake of the NSA, whose whistleblowing happened pre-Obama but who Bush had not sought to persecute. So freeing a whistleblower is the least likely act of clemency to be expected.
    • Would You Have Chelsea Manning’s Courage When Called?
      With more than a little irony, while I was in Iraq working for the State Department, Chelsea Manning’s office was across the hall from mine. While I was winning the war by writing emails to the embassy, Manning was across the hall capturing the texts of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, famously released by Wikileaks, showing that was could never be won.

      My war in Iraq ended in near-complete failure. What Manning did will have an impact far beyond that terrible struggle. In this video, I ask the question of why I didn’t do what Manning did, and challenge the audience: when faced with history, would you have the courage to do what Manning did?
    • Velcome, Comrade Trump
      It is impressively sad how quickly this all happened.

      Their shock that Hillary could lose to… him… needed some sort of explanation, as it could not have anything to do with Clinton’s shortcomings. It was cheating (we’ll have recounts), it was the Electoral College (faithless electors, unite!), it was Comey, or the media, or… when all else fails, you go with what you know: the Russians.

      Putin is just a wonderful supervillain, and Trump such a stupid foil, that it was an easy sell. Dust off some old propaganda (the Red Scare part of the IC report was four years old itself, the material in it about 50 years old) and you are set. The American people are the most frightened puppies on earth and with terrorism just not scary as it once was, a new villian that plays to old fears appeared at the right place at the right time.

      The Chinese might have been a good group to blame, but they don’t seem to take the bait and plus they make all our stuff. Never mind that long string of evil dictators who attack their own people across the MidEast the U.S. has used for the last 15 years to keep the war machine chugging, we’re back to the Eagle versus Bear. We’ll probably give Putin back the Fulda Gap just so we can fight over it.
    • Almost Every Word Of John McCain's Response To Chelsea Manning's Sentence Commutation Is Flat Out Wrong
      Manning has been in prison for seven years, with a significant portion of that being held in solitary confinement, sometimes being made to strip naked before being able to sleep. This was called "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture" by the United Nations. You would think, of all people, Senator John McCain, who similarly was held in solitary confinement and tortured for extended periods while being held captive for 5 and a half years in Vietnam, would recognize that "only" 7 years of such treatment wouldn't exactly encourage more of Manning's behavior.

      To put it more directly: who, in their right mind, is going to leak a bunch of documents thinking "oh, perhaps after going through literal torture, character assassination and basically hell on earth, it'll be okay, because maybe some other President will commute my insane 35 year sentence to just 7 years? No one. The idea that this commutation is going to lead to further leaks is ridiculous. If anything will lead to further leaks it's Manning's courage in seeing something wrong in the system and actually doing something about it.

      In fact, it was things like Manning's courage that helped inspire Ed Snowden and other whistleblowers to step up. They didn't do it on the idea that they might "only" suffer 7 years of torture.
    • Obama's parting words: 'We're going to be OK'
      Barack Obama used his departing words as President Wednesday to offer an assured -- if not entirely optimistic -- outlook for a country governed by Donald Trump.

      "At my core I think we're going to be OK," Obama said as he concluded his final news conference at the White House. "We just have to fight for it, work for it, and not take it for granted."

      "I know that you will help us do that," he told reporters assembled in the White House briefing room.
    • Obama defends Chelsea Manning commutation
      "The sentence that she received was very disproportional—disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received," the president said. "It made sense to commute, and not pardon, her sentence. I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent that when it comes to our nationals security that whenever possible we need for people who may have legitimate concerns...that they try to work through the established channels."

    • DeRay and Stay Woke Activists Launch Resistance Manual, an Open-Source Site Designed To Take on Trump

      Packnett added to that, saying, “The Resistance Manual is rooted in the basic principle that the power belongs to the people. We wanted to create a clear tool that people can use for targeted resistance for the next 4 years. Protecting progress and advancing justice for vulnerable communities is necessary. Therefore, so is resistance. This is one important tool to do it.”

    • Robert Crumb interviewed about Donald Trump
      It's always interesting to hear what Robert Crumb has to say about notable people, alive and dead. In the latest installment of "Crumb on Others," Alexander Wood asks Crumb about Castro, Lenin, and Trump.

    • Crumb On Others: Trump, Castro, & More

    • How Britain tried to influence the US election in 1940
      Plenty of Americans are concerned, to put it mildly, about the alleged Russian attempt to influence the presidential election here last year. But it might surprise many Americans to learn that this is not the first time a foreign power has tried to sway a US election. Apparently, the Brits and the Germans both tried to influence the campaign in 1940. The story was first flagged by Politico.

    • Presidents, Profits, and Princes
      Many of the Wikipedia-driven insta-experts on the Electoral College are now transforming into insta-experts on the Emoluments Clause, claiming it can be used to impeach President Trump. So what is the clause, and in practical terms, how might it affect Trump?

    • Will Judith Miller Ever Live It Down?
      Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whose wretched journalism disgraced her newspaper and helped deceive the country into launching the disastrous Iraq War, offered some thoughts Tuesday via Twitter about President Barack Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence.

    • Citing grizzlies, education nominee says states should determine school gun policies
      Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's education secretary nominee, said it should be up to states whether guns are allowed in schools, citing grizzly bear protection as part of her answer.

      She also said she would support Trump if he moved to ban gun-free schools zones, a position he advocated on the campaign trail. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who represents Sandy Hook, the site of the 2012 school shooting, asked DeVos if she believes guns have "any place in and around schools."

      "I think that is best left to locales and states to decide," she said.

      After Murphy pushed DeVos about why she can't say definitively whether they belong, DeVos brought up a story Sen. Mike Enzi told earlier about a school in Wyoming that has fences around it to protect against grizzly bears.

      "I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school he is talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies," she said.

    • [Older] Cracking Down On Dissent: The U.S. Government Has Essentially Created A Ministry of Truth
      Obama's Recently-Signed National Defense Authorization Act Includes A 'Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act'. The Intercept's Alex Emmons Explains...

    • Trump inauguration's 'Cabinet dinner' offers access for cash
      Donors who give $100,000 and $250,000 can dine with potential agency heads.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Suspension and Censorship Have Not Deterred Paylan

      The dust-up over the weekend in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, which resulted in the suspension of Garo Paylan from parliament is nothing short of censorship. Yet, despite these hurdles, Paylan continues to move forward undeterred from the infringements on his right to free speech and expression.

      On Saturday, during the Turkish legislature’s debate on a new constitution, Paylan, , an Armenian member of the Turkish legislature representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), spoke truths about the Armenian Genocide raising the ire of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) legislators who demanded that his comments about the Genocide be struck and voted to suspend the Armenian lawmaker for three consecutive parliamentary sessions.

    • Censorship on college campuses is wrong, even if it’s conservatives doing the censoring
      In order to maintain our moral high ground over terrorists, we banned the use of torture. But risk of redundancy hasn’t stopped two Arizona state legislators from taking a page out of the SJW handbook by introducing a bill that would strip state aid from schools with classes that teach progressive attitudes on race, class, and gender.

    • First Amendment Protections Don’t End For Anonymous Speakers Who Lose Lawsuits, EFF Tells Court
      The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal appeals court to uphold a judge’s ruling that the identity of an anonymous blogger found to have infringed copyright should remain secret, arguing that courts must balance litigants’ needs to unmask online speakers against the First Amendment protections afforded to those relying on anonymity.

      Maintaining one’s anonymity online may be warranted even in cases—like this one—where a court ruled that a blogger infringed a copyright, EFF said in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit. The balancing test required by the First Amendment to protect speakers who choose to mask their identity must be applied at every stage of a lawsuit, including after a court finds an anonymous speaker violated the law, EFF said.

      EFF believes Signature Management Team LLC v. John Doe marks the first case to consider whether speakers can remain anonymous even after a court rules that they broke the law.

    • Under threat: five countries in which civic space is rapidly closing
      President Rodrigo Duterte successfully courted controversy in 2016 but his flamboyant political style had very real consequences for the Filipino people. Thousands of citizens were killed in extrajudicial killings openly encouraged by Duterte as part of a so-called war on drugs. Activists and NGOs fear that the war is merely a thinly veiled excuse to permanently silence dissent against Duterte and his government. Mirroring many other similar political contexts, the assault on civilians comes hand in hand with direct attacks on the media, with President Duterte even endorsing the killing of "corrupt" journalists.

    • The internet can spread hate, but it can also help to tackle it
      In the weeks surrounding the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, anti-immigrant hate crime in the UK rose to worrying levels, culminating in the dramatic murders of the Polish national Arkadiusz Jóźwik and British MP Jo Cox.

      For some, it seems that the victory of the ‘leave’ campaign legitimised hostility towards immigrants and minorities. Brexit was fought on a narrative of division, tapping into deeply-felt tensions that were caused by poverty, growing levels of inequality and a crisis of faith in political representation and democracy. These tensions were then wrapped up in a simplistic package of blame against immigrants. The binary politics of the referendum—‘yes’ or ‘no’—reinforced the narratives of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’, pushing people to pick sides crudely.

    • Facebook dismissive of censorship, abuse concerns, rights groups allege
      Nearly 80 rights groups on Wednesday accused Facebook (FB.O) of "racially biased censorship" and failing to be more transparent about its removal policies and cooperation with law enforcement, adding to criticism the company has faced in recent months over its management of content on its network of 1.8 billion users.

      The sharp rebuke, sent in response to a December letter from Senior Vice President Joel Kaplan, reflected increasing impatience among advocacy groups that say Facebook has inadequately addressed their concerns despite repeated promises of action from senior executives.

      Instead, the groups wrote, Kaplan's response "merely explains current, publicly available Facebook policies and fails to address the modest solutions to racially biased censorship we presented in earlier letters and meetings." SumOfUs, Center for Media Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union were among the signatories.

    • Kevin Tierney: Quebec's culture of censorship, from comedy to journalism
      Watching Nathalie Portman’s shimmering portrait of the ice queen of Camelot, Jacqueline Kennedy, in the film, Jackie, I was reminded of a joke by the late Lenny Bruce, still pretty much the sitting monarch in the genius-comic shrine.

      Kennedy is the only woman who could hitchhike alone across America and not have anyone lay a hand on her, he said, before saying she was related to an Amana refrigerator. He would go on to say more. Holding up a picture of the assassination of John Kennedy, Bruce mocked Jacqueline Kennedy’s supposed heroics, saying she was “hauling ass to save ass”— trying to get out of the way.

      Outrageous then, and now, to be sure.

    • Daily Report: A New Form of Censorship in App Stores

    • Clearing Out the App Stores: Government Censorship Made Easier

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Chinese Officials With Government Access To Every Kind Of Personal Data Are Selling It Online

      Back in 2015, Techdirt wrote about a government project in China that involves "citizen scores," a rating system that will serve as a measure of a person's political compliance. The authorities aim to do that by drawing on the huge range of personal data that we all generate in our daily use of the Internet. The data would be scooped up from various public and private services and fed into an algorithm to produce an overall citizen score that could be used to reward the obedient and punish the obstreperous. Naively, we might suppose that only authoritarian governments could ever obtain all that highly-revealing information, but an article from reveals that is far from the case

    • EFF to BART: Adopt Spy Tech Control Law
      EFF urged the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board to adopt a new law that would ensure community control of whether to adopt new surveillance technologies.

      All too often, police executives unilaterally decide to adopt powerful new spying tools that invade our privacy, chill our free speech, and unfairly burden communities of color. These intrusive and proliferating tools of street-level surveillance include drones, cell site simulators, surveillance cameras, and automatic license plate readers.
    • NSA Allowed to Share More Intercepts ; Russia Extends Snowden Asylum ; Ex-CIA Agent Faces Extradition and Prison in Italy …and More Picks

    • Was Snowden a Russian Agent?
      One evening in the fall of 2015, the writer Edward Jay Epstein arranged to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side with the director Oliver Stone. At the time, Stone was completing Snowden, an admiring biopic about the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden, who disclosed a vast trove of classified documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs to journalists in June 2013 and had since been living as a fugitive in Russia. Epstein was working on a book about the same topic, which has now been published under the title How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft. As the writer recounts in that book, their conversation took a testy turn:
    • Edward Snowden's leave to remain in Russia extended for three years
      Edward Snowden’s leave to remain in Russia has been extended for three years, his lawyer has said, as a Russian official said the whistleblower would not be extradited to the US even if relations improved under the incoming president, Donald Trump.

    • Will Information Sharing Among Intelligence Agencies Risk Privacy?

    • Not too late to snoop! Obama takes one last shot at your civil liberties
    • 20 Former Gov’t Officials Ask Obama To Declassify Evidence On Russia Hacking Or Admit There Is None
    • Ex-US Intel Operatives Demand Evidence of ‘Russian Hacking’ – If It Exists
    • Microsoft Sort Of Addresses Windows 10 Privacy Complaints With New Privacy Dashboard
      For the last few years, Microsoft has been under fire because its Windows 10 operating system is unsurprisingly chatty when it comes to communicating with the Redmond mothership. Most of the complaints center around the fact that the OS communicates with Microsoft when core new search services like Cortana have been disabled, or the lack of complete, transparent user control over what the operating system is doing at any given time. Microsoft has since penned numerous blog posts that claim to address consumer concerns on this front -- without actually addressing consumer concerns on this front.


      We'll have to wait until Spring to see if these changes address concerns of the EFF, which last August criticized Microsoft's malware-esque forced upgrade tactics and its refusal to answer consumer privacy inquiries in a straightforward fashion. Microsoft's also trying to appease French regulators, who last summer demanded that Microsoft "stop collecting excessive user data" and cease tracking the web browsing of Windows 10 users without their consent. Of course if having total, granular control over how chatty your OS is over the network is your priority, not using Windows whatsoever probably remains your best option.

    • Law Enforcement Has Been Using OnStar, SiriusXM, To Eavesdrop, Track Car Locations For More Than 15 Years
      Thomas Fox-Brewster of Forbes is taking a closer look at a decade-plus of in-car surveillance, courtesy of electronics and services manufacturers are installing in as many cars as possible.

      Following the news that cops are trying to sweat down an Amazon Echo in hopes of hearing murder-related conversations, it's time to revisit the eavesdropping that's gone on for years prior to today's wealth of in-home recording devices.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s sentence
      After nearly seven years in unjust and abusive confinement, heroic WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning will be free on 17 May 2017. President Obama has commuted Chelsea’s sentence, releasing her from prison in five months’ time but leaving her conviction intact.

      The humanitarian argument for Chelsea Manning’s release is compelling. Chelsea’s experience in detention has been one of flagrant disregard for her mental health and basic well-being, from the cage she was held in Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to the torturous solitary confinement she was forced to experience at the Quantico Marine brig, to the continuing refusal to provide adequate medical care for her gender dysphoria. Despite this wall of resistance, Chelsea has drawn global attention to the difficulties transgender people in the military experience.

      Chelsea’s treatment in the past year, three years after coming out as trans, has been especially deleterious. Chelsea attempted suicide twice over the course of 2016, and the military’s response epitomises what she has had to deal with throughout her imprisonment.

      Rather than provide psychological care, the Army responded to Chelsea’s attempt by punishing her with a week in solitary confinement. When this punishment was suddenly enforced before Chelsea had the chance to appeal it, Chelsea made the second attempt on her life.

    • Who Is Chelsea Manning?
      Chelsea Manning is a former private first class in the US Army and whistleblower who leaked 700,000 classified US State Department and military documents.

      At the time of the leaks and her military court martial in Ft. Meade, Maryland, Manning was known as Bradley Manning. Ft. Meade is a military installation and the home base of the National Security Agency (NSA).

    • Surprise: President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
      And yes, commuting the sentence (which shortens the sentence, but is not a full pardon...) is a form of clemency. So now there's a separate question to ask: will Assange agree to be extradited to the US (or will he just come here voluntarily?). Perhaps after Trump takes over later this week, that won't be such a huge concern, since Trump has magically morphed into a huge Wikileaks/Assange supporter.

    • It Just Got Real — Cops At DAPL Now Have Missile Launchers — Not Kidding

      Standing Rock, ND — Over the last several months, the world has watched the American police state in action as cops from more than a dozen states beat, gassed, pepper sprayed, tasered, shot, and severely injured water protectors and protesters in North Dakota. Using their militarized gear, police have blinded at least one person and blown up the arm of another. With all the heavily armed police and military in the area, one would think that having a missile launcher would be entirely unnecessary — however, one would be wrong.

    • President Obama Lets Alleged Source of Stuxnet Leak Walk Free
      President Obama pardoned retired General James Cartwright, who is believed to be the source who told a New York Times reporter that the United States and Israel were behind the famous “Stuxnet” cyberattack. The cyberattack made headlines around the world in 2010 and is widely considered to be among the first to target infrastructure and make real-world damage, as it sabotaged equipment in an Iranian nuclear facility.

    • Kerala Muslim Girl Who Married A Hindu Boy Alleges Threat To Her Life From Islamist Outfit
      In a complaint to the police, Jasmi has named four people, who will be responsible if something happens to her.

      Jasmi had married a Hindu boy last week has named activists of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) of intimidating her and her husband.

      "Why are you behind our lives? Do you want our lives. I too want to live on this earth. Please don't come after me or the person I love", she adds in a separate post.

    • Young blood bound to get excited if girls not properly dressed: Md N R Barkati, shahi imam
      This is the 21st century and every day women in India are not only terrorised by rape but are also blamed for it. On Tuesday Syed Mohammad Nurur R Barkati, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid in Kolkata says young blooded men are bound to get “excited” if girls are not properly dressed. In an interview on national TV he explains “exactly” how a girl should be dressed which has stirred anger amongst feminists and women empowerment civil society organisations. Being the imam of a major mosque in a metropolitan city, he owns no responsibility as to how he is shaping his audience’s intellect. Whereas news of rapes are shaking the nation, he blames young girls for being “inadequately” dressed.
    • Fear grows among Egypt’s Christians after a Coptic doctor was stabbed in the throat
      In the past two weeks, several Copts have been murdered in Egypt. Even before the dust settled over the murder of a Coptic merchant in Alexandria (220 km north of Cairo) on 3 January, Egyptian security forces found the body of a Coptic doctor killed last Friday at his home, stabbed in the throat.

      Dr Bassam Safouat Zaki was general surgeon in Asyut (370 km south of Cairo). Initial findings indicate that he was stabbed in the neck, chest and back and bled to death through his mouth, nose and ears.

      A few days earlier, on 5 January, security forces discovered the bodies of a Coptic couple, Gamal Sami Guirguis and Nadia Amin Guirguis, stabbed to death in their home as they slept, in Monufia Governorate, northern Egypt, about 85 km from the Egyptian capital.

    • Bangladesh’s plan to allow some child marriages is ‘step backwards’
      Bangladesh will be taking a step backwards in efforts to end child marriage if parliament approves changes to a law that would permit girls below 18 to be married in “special cases”, a global alliance of charities said last week.

      The nation has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, despite a decades-old law that bans marriage for girls under 18 and men under 21.
    • White House concedes it won’t close Guantánamo after all
      The White House said Tuesday that the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba will still be open when President Barack Obama leaves office, conceding that a core campaign promise will go unfulfilled.

      Administration officials had long insisted that the president was continuing to work toward closing the facility even when it became obvious that it would no longer be possible for practical reasons before President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday.

      White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the administration determined it wouldn’t happen when they realized they did not have enough time left to comply with the 30-day deadline for notifying Congress in advance of a detainee transfer.

    • FBI Insists That When They Steal People's Stuff, They're Doing It for You
      The FBI does want you to understand that while, yes, they do seize and keep billions of dollars in assets from citizens through a system that doesn't require them to prove a crime, they're doing it for the financial benefit of communities.

      Nowhere in this new FBI "news story" titled "Forfeiture as an Effective Law Enforcement Tool" will you find the words "Fourth Amendment, "Due Process," or "innocence." Instead it uses a single example of using forfeiture to snag drug dens in Rutland, Vermont, and returning them to the community. By "community" they mean the organization with a $1.25 million redevelopment grant and not the family that was forced out of one of the buildings and ended up living in a trailer. That's right—the FBI is using a case where families got bounced out of their homes as an example of the benefits of forfeiture. The FBI wants to convince us that this is what civil asset forfeiture looks like—that it is all for our benefit.
    • The Legal Netherworld Of Traffic Cam Tickets, Where Everything Is Both Civil And Criminal, While Also Being Mostly Neither
      Adam MacLeod, law professor at Faulkner University, was the recipient of a traffic cam speeding ticket. The problem was that he wasn't driving the vehicle when the infraction occurred. So, it was his vehicle being ticketed, but he was being held responsible for someone else's infraction.

      He decided to fight it, and that fight uncovered just how crooked the traffic cam system is. Not only are traffic camera manufacturers receiving a cut of every ticket issued, but tapping into this new revenue stream has prompted municipalities to undermine the judicial system.

    • That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century
      The traffic-camera ticket: like a parking ticket, it looks lawful enough. When they receive one, most people simply write the check. It seems like the sensible and law-abiding thing to do.

      But this is not a parking ticket. In legal terms, it is not a proceeding in rem—against your car. It is a legal action against you personally. And before you pay the fine, you might want to hear my story.

      My story is not legal advice. I offer it only to show how our ruling elites have corrupted the rule of law and to suggest why this matters for the American experiment in self-governance.
    • 99 former deputies issue statement against executive presidency
      Ninety-nine former deputies elected from various political parties in Turkey released a statement on Tuesday making a case against switching to an executive presidency and called for “normalization” as concerns over new constitutional amendments run high.

      Former deputies including ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) founder Abdullatif Åžener and former deputy from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) composer and author Zülfü Livaneli made a call to President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan as well, stating that the right to declare a state of emergency should be vested in the parliament, not in the executive.

      The Turkish Parliament has approved an 18-article constitutional amendment package that will expand the powers of the president, allowing the head of state to even dissolve the parliament.

    • Obama commutes sentence for political prisoner Oscar López Rivera
      Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, a victory for the Puerto Rican independence activist who is considered to be one of the world’s longest-serving political prisoners.

      In his final days in office, Obama has issued a record number of pardons and commutations, including granting the release of Chelsea Manning on Tuesday, the US army soldier who became one of the most famous whistleblowers in modern times.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Local Activism Is the Best Way to Preserve Net Neutrality
      Before President-elect Donald Trump takes office this week, take a moment to remember the height of the net neutrality battles of 2014 and 2015. Remember the letter writing campaigns, the comments filed to the Federal Communications Commission (some of them handwritten), remember John Oliver’s rant. Remember that the people fought, and the people won, and for a brief moment, big telecom monopolies had at least some limits placed on them by the federal government.

      Remember it now, because very likely, the anti-regulation commissioners of the FCC, reporting to an anti-regulation president, are about to undo the rules millions of Americans fought so hard for. Under Trump, big telecom and its sympathizers will call the shots.

      This means that net neutrality protections that prevent internet service providers from slowing down certain types of traffic will very likely go away. It means Netflix may once again have to pay Comcast to ensure its customers can watch shows without buffering (it also means, for example, that ISPs would be able to charge you extra to stream Netflix as opposed to content on an ISP-owned platform). And it means that the blatant net neutrality violations being perpetrated by wireless carriers—the “free data streaming” for certain types of data—will continue and will likely never be stopped by the FCC.

    • Dear Lawmakers: Five Years Ago The Internet Rose Up In Protest & We're Still Watching
      As you may have heard, today is the five-year anniversary of the massive internet blackout that tons of internet users and sites participated in to protest a pair of awful copyright laws, SOPA & PIPA, which would have undermined some of the most basic principles of a free and open internet. In case you've somehow forgotten, go and take a look at the Archive Team's world tour of sites that either went down completely or put up some sort of detailed splash page speaking out against the bills and in favor of internet rights and freedoms. Contrary to what some have tried to claim in rewriting history, that event was a true example of a grassroots uprising against legacy industries and government bureaucracies that wanted to shackle the internet and make it less open, less free and less powerful.

      Since that day, there have been multiple other fights around internet freedom, having to do with mass surveillance, encryption, privacy, net neutrality and more. And there will continue to be more fights -- some of them repeats of fights we've already had, and some brand new ones. In particular, we see that Congress is already dipping its toes in the water about copyright reform, five years after SOPA. For years, we heard that, after SOPA, no one in Congress wanted to touch copyright law for fear of "being SOPA'd." However, with some of the new plans coming out for copyright reform, it appears that some in Congress are hoping that the internet has forgotten or moved on.

    • Report: Verizon Considering Comcast Merger In Supernova Of Dysfunction
      Despite Trump's criticism of the AT&T Time Warner merger (largely believed to be due to negative CNN coverage), most Wall Street and telecom sector analysts expect the next few years will see an explosion in previously-unthinkable mega-mergers. Sprint is expected to make another bid to acquire T-Mobile after the deal was blocked by regulators back in 2014. Comcast or Charter are expected to make their own bid for T-Mobile if Sprint can't come up with the cash. Other rumored acquisition targets for giant telecom companies include Dish (and its hoarded spectrum) or any number of massive media empires.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • WEF Davos: Who Will Own The Knowledge Produced From “Our” Data By Machines?
      Artificial intelligence has succeeded the Internet of Things or the earlier cloud mania as buzzword number one at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum that started today (17 January) in Davos, Switzerland. While ethical questions surrounding the intelligent machines are discussed at length and the question for regulatory steps considered, answers of who will own the knowledge created by machines or intelligent bots vary.

    • At trial, Zuckerberg is “highly confident” Oculus built its own technology
      In what he said was his first time testifying in a courtroom, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was "highly confident that Oculus products are built on Oculus technology."

    • Zuckerberg takes the stand in Oculus trade secrets trial
      Today, Mark Zuckerberg took the stand in Northern Texas District Court to defend Oculus against accusations of copyright violation and trade secret theft. The plaintiff is Zenimax Media, the parent company of id and Bethesda, which provided crucial support for many of Oculus’ first demos. Now, Zenimax claims that collaboration allowed Oculus to steal crucial intellectual property in the company’s formative early years.

    • Copyrights

      • One Weird Trick to Improve Copyright: Fix EULAs
        Congress has been spinning its wheels on comprehensive copyright reform, but it could do a lot of good with one simple fix: forbid manufacturers from using EULAs to force consumers to waive their fair use rights.

        Traditionally, once a person has purchased a product, she has been free to use it however she sees fit without oversight or control from the copyright owner. Purchasers have also been free to use competitors’ add-on software and hardware that interoperate with the goods they buy, because innovators have been able to develop and distribute such technologies.

      • UK ISPs to start sending Pirates letters
        A group of UK ISPs will soon send written warnings to account holders associated with IPs suspected of accessing illegally shared files. The only ISPs to have publicly agreed to the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, the active portion of the Creative Content UK initiative from BPI, so far are the big four, namely Sky, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk. It is unclear if their subsidiary companies (such as BT's Plusnet) are included, and only Virgin Media has gone into any detail as to how the process will work. The announcement made regular mention that the emails were not threats or demands, but educational emails to push users towards legal content access methods (such as Netflix and Spotify), assuring that proposals for a scheme similar to the US' six strike scheme to cut internet access to repeat offenders have been abandoned.

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