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Links 24/2/2018: Npm Bug, Mycroft AI on Plasma

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Nix 2.0 Package Manager Released With A Ton Of Changes
    Nix 2.0 is now available as the latest major update to this functional package manager most commonly associated with the NixOS Linux distribution.

  • KubeVirt v0.3.0-alpha.3: Kubernetes native networking and storage
    First post for quite some time. A side effect of being busy to get streamline our KubeVirt user experience.

    KubeVirt v0.3.0 was not released at the beginnig of the month.

    That release was intended to be a little bigger, because it included a large architecture change (to the good). The change itself was amazingly friendly and went in without much problems - even if it took some time.

    But, the work which was building upon this patch in the storage and network areas was delayed and didn’t make it in time. Thus we skipped the release in order to let storage and network catch up.

  • Top 5 open source projects for 2018
    In our increasingly collaborative world, open source technology is a top trend that is having a major impact on the development and implementation of cutting edge capabilities. Open source is when source code connected to a program is made freely available, giving users the opportunity to make modifications and to share with other users.

    The common alternative to this is proprietary software, source code that remains under the strict control of an organisation, team or individual, ensuring that the integral code remains private and controlled by its owner.

  • DataTorrent Glues Open Source Componentry with ‘Apoxi’
    Building an enterprise-grade big data application with open source components is not easy. Anybody who has worked with Apache Hadoop ecosystem technology can tell you that. But the folks at DataTorrent say they’ve found a way to accelerate the delivery of secure and scalable big data applications with Apoxi, a new framework they created to stitch together major open source components like Hadoop, Spark, and Kafka, in an extensible and pluggable fashion.

  • Web Browsers

    • Why You Shouldn’t Use Firefox Forks Like Waterfox, Pale Moon, or Basilisk
      Mozilla Firefox is an open source project, so anyone can take its code, modify it, and release a new browser. That’s what Waterfox, Pale Moon, and Basilisk are—alternative browsers based on the Firefox code. But we recommend against using any of them.

    • Mozilla

      • ow We’re Making Code of Conduct Enforcement Real — and Scaling it

        This is the first line of our Community Participation Guidelines — and an nudge to keep empathy at center when designing response processes. Who are you designing for? Who is impacted? What are their needs, expectations, dependencies, potential bias and limitations?

      • Role Models in AI: Kelly Davis
        Meet Kelly Davis, the Manager/Technical Lead of the machine learning group at Mozilla. His work at Mozilla includes developing an open speech recognition system with projects like Common Voice and Deep Speech (which you can help contribute to). Beyond his passion for physics and machine learning, read on to learn about how he envisions the future of AI, and advice he offers to young people looking to enter the field.

      • Celebrate Firefox Internet Champions
        While the world celebrates athletic excellence, we’re taking a moment to share some of the amazing Internet champions that help build, support and share Firefox.

      • Net Neutrality, NSF and Mozilla's WINS Challenge Winners, openSUSE Updates and More
        The National Science Foundation and Mozilla recently announced the first round of winners from their Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) challenges—$2 million in prizes for "big ideas to connect the unconnected across the US". According to the press release, the winners "are building mesh networks, solar-powered Wi-Fi, and network infrastructure that fits inside a single backpack" and that the common denominator for all of them is "they're affordable, scalable, open-source and secure."

      • New AirMozilla Audience Demo
        The legacy AirMozilla platform will be decommissioned later this year. The reasons for the change are multiple; however, the urgency of the change is driven by deprecated support of both the complex back-end infrastructure by IT and the user interface by Firefox engineering teams in 2016. Additional reasons include a complex user workflow resulting in a poor user experience, no self-service model, poor usability metrics and a lack of integrated, required features.

      • Perplexing Graphs: The Case of the 0KB Virtual Memory Allocations
        Every Monday and Thursday around 3pm I check dev-telemetry-alerts to see if there have been any changes detected in the distribution of any of the 1500-or-so pieces of anonymous usage statistics we record in Firefox using Firefox Telemetry.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • BSD

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Tackling the most important issue in a DevOps transformation
      You've been appointed the DevOps champion in your organisation: congratulations. So, what's the most important issue that you need to address?

    • PSBJ Innovator of the Year: Hacking cells at the Allen Institute

    • Open Access/Content

      • SUNY math professor makes the case for free and open educational resources

        The open educational resources (OER) movement has been gaining momentum over the past few years, as educators—from kindergarten classes to graduate schools—turn to free and open source educational content to counter the high cost of textbooks.

        Over the past year, the pace has accelerated. In 2017, OERs were a featured topic at the high-profile SXSW EDU Conference and Festival. Also last year, New York State generated a lot of excitement when it made an $8 million investment in developing OERs, with the goal of lowering the costs of college education in the state.

        David Usinski, a math and computer science professor and assistant chair of developmental education at the State University of New York's Erie Community College, is an advocate of OER content in the classroom. Before he joined SUNY Erie's staff in 2007, he spent a few years working for the Erie County public school system as a technology staff developer, training teachers how to infuse technology into the classroom.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • FATHOM releases Crystallon, an open-source software for lattice-based design
        Lattice structures are integral to 3D printed designs, and Aaron Porterfield, an industrial designer at additive manufacturing service bureau FATHOM, has developed Crystallon, an open source project for shaping them into structures.

      • FATHOM Introduces Open Source Software Project for Generating 3D Lattice Structures
        California-based FATHOM, which expanded its on-site managed services and announced important partnerships with Stratasys and Desktop Metal last year, is introducing a fascinating new open source project called Crystallon, which uses Rhino and Grasshopper3D to create lattice structures. FATHOM industrial designer Aaron Porterfield, also an Instructables member, developed the project as an alternative to designing lattices with commercially available software.

        He joined the company’s design and engineering team three years ago, and is often a featured speaker for its Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) Training Program – and as the project developer, who better to explain the Crystallon project?

  • Programming/Development

    • Recent GNU* C library improvements
      As technology advancements continue, the core technology must be updated with new ideas that break paradigms and enable innovation. Linux* systems are based on two main core technologies: the Linux Kernel project and the GNU C Library (GLIBC) project. The GLIBC project provides the core libraries for the GNU system and GNU/Linux systems, as well as many other systems that use Linux as the kernel. These libraries provide interfaces that allow programs to manipulate and manage files, memory, threads and other operating system objects. The release of GLIBC version 2.27 marks a new step on the Linux technology roadmap, with major new features that will allow Linux developers to create and enhance applications. This blog post describes several key new features and how to use them.

    • What Makes GLIBC 2.27 Exciting To The Clear Linux Folks
      Released at the beginning of February was Glibc 2.27 and it's comprised of a lot of new features and performance improvements. But what's the best of Glibc 2.27?

      One of the Clear Linux developers at Intel, Victor Rodriguez Bahena, put out a blog post this week outlining some of the most exciting features for this GNU C Library update. While most Linux distributions tend to be conservative in rolling out new GLIBC updates, Clear Linux is already on v2.27 and even had back-ported some of the performance patches prior to the official 2.27 debut.

    • GCC 8 Will Let You -march=native Correctly On ARM/AArch64
      Linux developers and enthusiasts on x86_64 have long enjoyed the ability to use the -march=native option for having the GCC compiler attempt to auto-detect the CPU and set the appropriate microarchitecture flags. That support is finally being offered up for ARM with GCC 8.

      This week -march=native now works on AArch64 as well as for ARM in general too.


  • How to Archive Open Source Materials

    There are two main reasons to archive all of the digital evidence that you use an investigation: to preserve it in case it is removed from its original source, and to prove to your audience that the material (if it has been removed) really existed as you present it. Screenshots can be easily forged, so it is vital that you find a way to retain the materials in a way that shows that you did not have the opportunity to modify the content.

  • Airlines Won’t Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes

    For passengers, the cumbersome boarding process—watching people insist that yes, this bag will fit in the overhead bin, it has before!—means more time spent jammed in a too-small seat. For airlines, it means lost revenue. In an industry with tight profit margins, every moment a plane spends on the tarmac is time it’s not making money.

  • KFC chicken shortage blamed on DHL

    Interestingly, this isn't DHL's first clusterfuck rodeo. Six years ago, Burger King experienced similar issues after entrusting their supply chain to the shipping company.

  • Hundreds of KFC shops closed as storage depot awaits registration

  • This job Win-blows! Microsoft made me pull '75-hour weeks' in a shopping mall kiosk
    former Microsoft retail manager is suing the software giant for making her work long hours without overtime and breaks.

    Her lawsuit, set to be heard by a US district court in northern California, alleged Redmond violated labor laws by unfairly classifying her, a retail worker, as a professional salaried employee to stiff her on overtime pay and skirt other requirements.

    According to her complaint, filed this month, the alleged violations occurred from 2015 to May of last year when plaintiff Jennifer Sullivan worked for Microsoft as the manager of a sales kiosk in Roseville, California.

  • RIP, Swype: Thanks for all the sor--speec--speedy texting
    One of the best-loved mobile apps of the past decade, Swype, has been given the bullet. Parent company Nuance confirmed it will no longer develop the letter-tracing keyboard, which will disappear from the Apple and Google app stores.

  • iPhones Blamed for More than 1,600 Accidental 911 Calls Since October
    The new Emergency SOS feature released by Apple for the iPhone is the one to blame for no less than 1,600 false calls to 911 since October, according to dispatchers.

    And surprisingly, emergency teams in Elk Grove and Sacramento County in California say they receive at least 20 such 911 calls every day from what appears to be an Apple service center.

    While it’s not exactly clear why the iPhones that are probably brought in for repairs end up dialing 911, dispatchers told CBS that the false calls were first noticed in the fall of the last year. Apple launched new iPhones in September 2017 and they went on sale later the same month and in November, but it’s not clear if these new devices are in any way related to the increasing number of accidental calls to 911.

  • BMW to recall 11,700 cars after installing wrong engine software
    German carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) said on Friday it would recall 11,700 cars to fix their engine management software after it discovered that the wrong programming had been installed on its luxury 5- and 7-Series models.

    “In the course of internal tests, the BMW Group has discovered that a correctly developed software update was mistakenly assigned to certain unsuitable model-versions,” the company said in a statement.

  • Tesla accused of knowingly selling defective vehicles in new lawsuit
    A former Tesla employee claims the company knowingly sold defective cars, often referred to as “lemons,” and that he was demoted and eventually fired after reporting the practice to his superiors. He made these allegations in a lawsuit filed in late January in New Jersey Superior Court under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

    The former employee, Adam Williams, worked for Tesla as a regional manager in New Jersey dating back to late 2011. While there, he says he watched the company fail “to disclose to consumers high-dollar, pre-delivery damage repairs” before delivering its vehicles, according to the complaint. Instead, he says the company sold these cars as “used,” or labeled as “demo/loaner” vehicles.

  • Science

    • Two-way communication is possible with a single quantum particle
      Communication is a two-way street. Thanks to quantum mechanics, that adage applies even if you’ve got only one particle to transmit messages with.

    • A protein that self-replicates
      ETH scientists have been able to prove that a protein structure widespread in nature – the amyloid – is theoretically capable of multiplying itself. This makes it a potential predecessor to molecules that are regarded as the building blocks of life.

      Long regarded as a biological aberration, amyloids are fibrous aggregates of short protein fragments. Amyloids have a bad reputation because they are thought to be the cause of multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

    • Walking crystals may lead to new field of crystal robotics
      Researchers have demonstrated that tiny micrometer-sized crystals—just barely visible to the human eye—can "walk" inchworm-style across the slide of a microscope. Other crystals are capable of different modes of locomotion such as rolling, flipping, bending, twisting, and jumping. In the future, these moving crystals may open the doors to the development of crystal-based robots.

    • NSF to Close Overseas Offices

      The announcement comes the day after Science|Business reported that NSF had recalled the directors of its offices in Brussels and Beijing, citing budget cuts in internal announcements of the change (the third office, in Tokyo, was already without a director). The article notes that the Brussels office’s accomplishments include brokering a science cooperation agreement that makes it easier for US researchers to partner with international colleagues under the Horizon 2020 funding program, and introducing European researchers to US funding opportunities. Altogether, the three offices cost NSF about $1 million per year to run, the article estimates.

    • Quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?
      Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.

    • Loops, loops, and more loops: This is how your DNA gets organised
      Remarkably, living cells are able to package a jumble of DNA over two meters in length into tidy, tiny chromosomes while preparing for cell division. However, scientists have been puzzled for decades about how the process works. Researchers from the Kavli Institute of Delft University and EMBL Heidelberghave now isolated and filmed the process, and witnessed in real time how a single protein complex called condensin reels in DNA to extrude a loop. By extruding many such loops in long strands of DNA, a cell effectively compacts its genome so it can be distributed evenly to its two daughter cells. The scientists published their findings in Science.

    • Do you see what I see? Researchers harness brain waves to reconstruct images of what we perceive
      A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough can, for the first time, reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity gathered by EEG.

      The technique developed by Dan Nemrodov, a postdoctoral fellow in Assistant Professor Adrian Nestor's lab at U of T Scarborough, is able to digitally reconstruct images seen by test subjects based on electroencephalography (EEG) data.

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

    • ‘It’s breathtaking’: A Chinese biotech CEO weighs in on policy changes remaking China’s FDA
      With China’s biotech sector on the rise, changes are afoot at the agency tasked with regulating the country’s pipeline of new drugs.

    • ‘This Is a Uniquely American Crisis’
      In 2014, the class of drugs known as “opioids” were involved in more than 28,000 deaths, or 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rate of opioid overdoses has tripled since the year 2000. Recent data show two different but related trends: an increase in so-called “illicit” opioid overdoses, largely due to heroin, and then this 15-year increase in overdose deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers. Those drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, or brand names like OxyContin and Vicodin, account for more than 16,000 fatal overdoses each year. The CDC says they’re comfortable using the term “epidemic” to describe the crisis.

    • Runaway cow in Poland dies ‘from stress’ after recapture
      A runaway cow that avoided captivity for weeks died on Thursday after it was caught and put on a truck to be taken to a farm, a local official said.

      The red Limousin beef cow fled on January 23 as it was to be transported to a slaughterhouse. It gained celebrity status as it defended its life and freedom, tricking searchers, swimming from island to island, and roaming a lake-filled region near Nysa, in southwestern Poland.

    • CARB-X Announces 2018 Round Of Funding For Antibacterial Research
      CARB-X , a global private-public partnership for research on antimicrobial resistance, this week announced its 2018 rounds of funding for research on “antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics, devices and other life-saving products to respond to the threat of drug-resistant bacteria.”

    • Drug pricing white paper allays pharma patent fears, but innovators should remain vigilant
      The white paper – entitled ‘Reforming Biopharmaceuticals Pricing at Home and Abroad’ – was produced by the Council of Economic Advisers, a politically-appointed group which is part of the Executive Office of the President. It fleshes out for the first time the US executive’s approach to lowering the high drug prices paid by US patients – a cause which Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his commitment to.

    • Study finds new superbug typhoid strain behind Pakistan outbreak
      An outbreak of typhoid fever in Pakistan is being caused by an extensively drug resistant “superbug” strain, a sign that treatment options for the bacterial disease are running out, scientists said on Tuesday.

      Researchers from Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute who analyzed the genetics of the typhoid strain found it had mutated and acquired an extra piece of DNA to become resistant to multiple antibiotics.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday

    • Tinder vulnerability let hackers [sic] take over accounts with just a phone number

      The attack worked by exploiting two separate vulnerabilities: one in Tinder and another in Facebook’s Account Kit system, which Tinder uses to manage logins. The Account Kit vulnerability exposed users’ access tokens (also called an “aks” token), making them accessible through a simple API request with an associated phone number.

    • PSA: Improperly Secured Linux Servers Targeted with Chaos Backdoor [Ed: Drama queen once again (second time in a week almost) compares compromised GNU/Linux boxes to "back doors"]
      Hackers are using SSH brute-force attacks to take over Linux systems secured with weak passwords and are deploying a backdoor named Chaos.

      Attacks with this malware have been spotted since June, last year. They have been recently documented and broken down in a GoSecure report.

    • Another Potential Performance Optimization For KPTI Meltdown Mitigation
      Now that the dust is beginning to settle around the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation techniques on the major operating systems, in the weeks and months ahead we are likely to see more performance optimizations come to help offset the performance penalties incurred by mitigations like kernel page table isolation (KPTI) and Retpolines. This week a new patch series was published that may help with KPTI performance.
    • 12 bad enterprise security habits to break
    • Hackers are selling legitimate code-signing certificates to evade malware detection

    • 10 Steps to Improve Your Identity Management System
      The identity management system is a central part of any IT department. As long as it is working, few people will take notice of its existence and consequently, it is often not optimized to improve the quality of the system. With 16 years of experience in developing a central identity management (IdM) server solution, Univention identified ten steps on how to improve your IdM, no matter whether you are running your IdM on premises or in the cloud such as UCS on AWS. Let us go through them.

    • Fedora package delivery security

    • It's HTTPS or bust: How to secure your website

    • One-stop counterfeit certificate shops for all your malware-signing needs

      The Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran's nuclear program almost a decade ago was a watershed piece of malware for a variety of reasons. Chief among them, its use of cryptographic certificates belonging to legitimate companies to falsely vouch for the trustworthiness of the malware. Last year, we learned that fraudulently signed malware was more widespread than previously believed. On Thursday, researchers unveiled one possible reason: underground services that since 2011 have sold counterfeit signing credentials that are unique to each buyer.

    • How did OurMine hackers use DNS poisoning to attack WikiLeaks? [Ed: False. They did not attack Wikileaks; they attacked the DNS servers/framework. The corporate media misreported this at the time.
      The OurMine hacking group recently used DNS poisoning to attack WikiLeaks and take over its web address. Learn how this attack was performed from expert Nick Lewis.

    • Intel didn't give government advance notice on chip flaws

      Google researchers informed Intel of flaws in its chips in June. The company explained in its own letter to lawmakers that it left up to Intel informing the government of the flaws.

      Intel said that it did not notify the government at the time because it had “no indication of any exploitation by malicious actors,” and wanted to keep knowledge of the breach limited while it and other companies worked to patch the issue.

      The company let some Chinese technology companies know about the vulnerabilities, which government officials fear may mean the information was passed along to the Chinese government, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    • Intel hid CPU bugs info from govt 'until public disclosure'

      As iTWire reported recently, Intel faces a total of 33 lawsuits over the two flaws. Additionally, the Boston law firm of Block & Leviton is preparing a class action lawsuit against Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich for allegedly selling a vast majority of his Intel stock after the company was notified of the two security flaws and before they became public.

    • Intel did not tell U.S. cyber officials about chip flaws until made public [iophk: "yeah right"]

      Current and former U.S. government officials have raised concerns that the government was not informed of the flaws before they became public because the flaws potentially held national security implications. Intel said it did not think the flaws needed to be shared with U.S. authorities as hackers [sic] had not exploited the vulnerabilities.

    • LA Times serving cryptocurrency mining script [iophk: "JS"]

      The S3 bucket used by the LA Times is apparently world-writable and an ethical hacker [sic] appears to have left a warning in the repository, warning of possible misuse and asking the owner to secure the bucket.

    • Facebook's Mandatory Malware Scan Is an Intrusive Mess

      When an Oregon science fiction writer named Charity tried to log onto Facebook on February 11, she found herself completely locked out of her account. A message appeared saying she needed to download Facebook’s malware scanner if she wanted to get back in. Charity couldn’t use Facebook until she completed the scan, but the file the company provided was for a Windows device—Charity uses a Mac.

    • Tinder plugs flaw that enabled account takeover using just a phone number

      As Tinder uses Facebook profile pics for its users to lure in a mate or several, the 'dating' app is somewhat tied to the social network. When a swipe-hungry Tinder user comes to login to their account they can either do so via Facebook or use their mobile number.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • A Parkland Survivor Directly Asked Marco Rubio About NRA Donations and the [Twitter] Lost It

    • Trump Blames School Shootings On Violent Video Games, Movies; Suggests We Need Some Sort Of Rating System For Them
      When a mass shooting occurs, politicians leap into the void with plenty of ideas of how to fix it. They can't -- or won't -- fix it, but they're more than willing to sacrifice other Constitutional amendments to keep the Second Amendment intact. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevins was the first to fill the void with garbage following the latest school shooting by blaming violent video games, despite there being no evidence linking violent acts to violent video games.

      Now it's Donald Trump blaming school shootings on the First Amendment. During a discussion with Florida legislators (video here), Trump suggested doing something we've been doing for years.

    • President Trump: “We have to do something” about violent video games, movies
      In a White House meeting held with lawmakers on the theme of school safety, President Donald Trump offered both a direct and vague call to action against violence in media by calling out video games and movies.

      "We have to do something about what [kids are] seeing and how they're seeing it," Trump said during the meeting. "And also video games. I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is shaping more and more people's thoughts."

      Trump followed this statement by referencing "movies [that] come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else." He made a suggestion for keeping children from watching violent films: "Maybe they have to put a rating system for that." The MPAA's ratings board began adding specific disclaimers about sexual, drug, and violent content in all rated films in the year 2000, which can be found in small text in every MPAA rating box.

    • Selective Outrage Undermines Human Rights in Syria
      Exclusive: Selective outrage over civilian suffering in Syria – hyping Syrian government abuses while downplaying the effects of U.S.-led Coalition air strikes – undermines the legitimacy of human rights advocacy, argues Jonathan Marshall.


      But the recent situation in Eastern Ghouta is unfortunately not as unique as recent media accounts suggest. Just last month, the respected, independent monitoring group Airwars reminded us that U.S.-led Coalition air strikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa created many more victims with the same destructive tactics of “siege, bomb and evacuate.”

      In just one incident in March 2017, Coalition bombers killed as many as 400 civilians at a school near Raqqa, where hundreds of women and children were taking shelter from the war.

    • What It’s Like to Teach a Class That Doesn’t Remember 9/11
      I was teaching the day the airplanes hit the World Trade Center. It was the second meeting of “The Communist Manifesto for Seminarians,” a course for my fellow graduate students. By the time I got to class, both towers had collapsed. A few hours later, Building 7 came down as well. We dispensed with a planned discussion about what Marxists mean by “idealism” and “materialism” and talked instead about the meaning of this particular example of the “propaganda of the deed.”

    • Florida school shooting: Armed officer 'did not confront killer'

    • Sheriff: Armed officer at school never entered building during shooting

      The armed officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., resigned Thursday after an internal review found he did not enter the school during last week’s deadly shooting.

      Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced Deputy Scot Peterson chose to resign after Israel suspended him without pay.

    • ‘The United States Is Driving a Wedge Between the Two Koreas’

      Janine Jackson: Many were stirred by the sight of North and South Korean athletes parading together at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. And that’s a big problem, says Vice President Mike Pence, who declared, to some media applause, that he would “seize every opportunity” to stop North Korea from using the games as an opportunity for propaganda.

      There’s something funny about decrying nationalist propaganda at the Olympics, but corporate media coverage of Korea is funny in a lot of ways. When the Washington Post writes gibberish about Pence’s plan to “fight propaganda with some no-nonsense spin of his own,” that’s of a piece with coverage in which North Korea and Kim Jong-un are cartoon demons: the definition of an official enemy. It all makes sense for those who require such an enemy. But what about those of us who don’t sell weapons, or appreciate threats of nuclear war?

      Joining us now to talk about all of this is Christine Hong, associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She joins us now by phone from Santa Cruz. Welcome to CounterSpin, Christine Hong.

    • Fred Rogers, champion of gentle masculinity, has a cure for the gun violence that plagues us
      Like much of Generation X, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was a childhood TV staple. Even as I grew older and came to see the world both inside my home and beyond its front door as considerably harsher, Mister Rogers’ gentle affirmations remained steady and true. Thus I found myself watching the series long after I matured out of its target audience, probably because his central message was ageless. “‘You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you,” he says at the end of every show. “There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”

    • Black Teens Have Been Fighting for Gun Reform for Years
      Teens' recent fight for gun control is awesome and inspiring, but don't forget that it's exactly what young black activists have been doing.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • [Older] Whale and shark species at increasing risk from microplastic pollution – study
      Whales, some sharks and other marine species such as rays are increasingly at risk from microplastics in the oceans, a new study suggests.

      Species such as baleen whales and basking sharks, which feed through filtering seawater for plankton, are ingesting the tiny particles of indigestible plastic which now appear to permeate oceans throughout the world. Some of these species have evolved to swallow hundreds or even thousands of cubic metres of seawater a day, but taking in microplastic can block their ability to absorb nutrients, and may have toxic side-effects.

      The new study, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, advises more research on the megafauna of the oceans, as the effects of microplastics on them is currently not well understood. Scientists have found, for instance through examining the bodies of beached whales, large pieces of plastic in the guts of such creatures, but the effect of microplastics, though less obvious, may be just as harmful.

    • Building a backup bee
      Every February an extraordinary research project resumes in the southwestern corner of California’s Central Valley. It takes place inside a series of huge cages that span 20 acres by a vast pistachio grove. Each cage is shaped like a rectangular warehouse but is made entirely of extremely fine netting, pulled tight and straight along strong, narrow beams to form see-through walls and ceilings. The experiment is run by Gordon Wardell, director of bee biology for the Wonderful Company, the largest almond grower in the world. For the past eight years Wardell has been using these cages to develop an alternative insect to replace the honeybee.

    • Cobalt price: Supply scramble heats up with Canadian deal
      Annual production of the raw material is only around 100,000 tonnes primarily as a byproduct of nickel and copper mining with more than 60% coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where fears about political instability and the challenges of ethical sourcing combine to supercharge supply concerns.

    • The race to invent the artificial leaf
      Lewis, also a principal investigator at the federally funded Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, wants his artificial leaf to outperform nature’s best plants. Plants, for all their success, are actually terrible at converting sunlight into energy. Even if you don’t know anything about how photosynthesis works, you can tell from the leaves’ green color that totally efficient energy conversion might not be a plant’s top priority (black leaves would be much better at absorbing the sun’s rays). The green chloroplasts in leaf cells function well enough for a plant’s needs. They perform complex chemical reactions that, fueled by the sun’s energy, turn carbon dioxide and water into the energy-storing sugars needed for such activities as surviving and reproducing. When all is said and done, the most efficient plants convert barely 1 percent of the incoming sunlight into stored energy.

  • Finance

    • Disaster Capitalism Hits Higher Education in Wisconsin

      The president of the University of Wisconsin System is trying to reconcile a well-funded assault on public institutions with the state’s deep blue sea of support for accessible education.

    • A Wave of Corporate Propaganda Is Boosting Trump’s Tax Cuts

      Three major business groups alone—the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and the Business Roundtable—spent $56 million in the last three months of 2017 lobbying Congress to give them a massive tax cut. According to Public Citizen, 6,243 lobbyists—more than half of the total number of active lobbyists in DC—worked on the bill, which works out to 11 for each and every lawmaker in Congress.

    • In One Tweet, Kylie Jenner Wiped Out $1.3 Billion of Snap’s Market Value

      Kylie Jenner tweets she hasn’t been using the app lately

    • JP Morgan Chase glitch gave some online users access to others' accounts

      A glitch [sic] in J.P. Morgan's online banking accounts rerouted customers to other clients' accounts, revealing personal information.

    • $21 Trillion Missing from US Federal Budget
      A whopping $21 trillion was found to be missing from the US federal budget as of this past year.
    • ICYMI: Canadian Corporation Uses NAFTA To Threaten Proposed Protection For Puget Sound
      This week, Cooke Aquaculture, a Canadian fish farm corporation, explicitly threatened to use the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to sue the U.S. government in a private tribunal if lawmakers in Washington state enact a proposed ban on the farming of Atlantic salmon, an invasive species, in the state’s waters.

      The proposed policy follows the escape of over 200,000 Atlantic salmon from the company’s fish farms in the Puget Sound last August -- the latest in a series of such accidents, sparking outcry from Indigenous groups, environmentalists, and fishing communities that depend on the Puget Sound ecosystem. Washington’s proposed ban on Atlantic salmon farming would apply to all companies, domestic and foreign. Cooke Aquaculture has threatened to sue the U.S. for $76 million, plus lost anticipated profits, if the ban is enacted, using NAFTA’s controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. The company’s press release bluntly states: “If the Legislature approves a ban on our operations, Cooke will seek to recover our confiscated investment, plus costs and lost profits, through mandatory arbitration against the State of Washington under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement.”
    • The Radical Dishonesty of David Brooks

      The problem with the Brooks/Pinker story is that we expect the economy/people to get richer through time. After all, technology and education improve. In the ’50s, we didn’t have the Internet, cell phones and all sorts of other goodies. In fact, at the start of the ’50s, we didn’t even have the polio vaccine.

      The question is not whether we are better off today than we were 60 years ago. It would be incredible if we were not better off. The question is by how much.

      In the ’50s, wages and incomes for ordinary families were rising at a rate of close to 2 percent annually. In the last 45 years, they have barely risen at all.
    • Solving the productivity puzzle
      Nine years into recovery from the Great Recession, labor-productivity-growth rates remain near historic lows across many advanced economies. Productivity growth is crucial to increase wages and living standards, and helps raise the purchasing power of consumers to grow demand for goods and services. Therefore, slowing labor productivity growth heightens concerns at a time when aging economies depend on productivity gains to drive economic growth. Yet in an era of digitization, with technologies ranging from online marketplaces to machine learning, the disconnect between disappearing productivity growth and rapid technological change could not be more pronounced.
    • China’s frosty reaction to alternative Belt and Road project
      In an alternative world, it is an intriguing possibility. A series of stripped-down regional infrastructure projects to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the trillion-dollar program of ‘New Silk Road’ superhighways, connecting the country with Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

    • Silicon Valley Billionaire Wants You Off His Stretch of the California Coastline
      When you’re having a picnic, the last thing you want is ants, and when you’re a billionaire venture capitalist, it’s equally irksome to have plebeians accessing the beach next to your 89 acres of land. On Thursday, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla filed a 151-page petition with the Supreme Court in order to fight to keep the public off the shoreline near his property.

    • China's Geely becomes top shareholder in Mercedes owner Daimler
      China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is now the top shareholder in German automaker Daimler, the parent of Mercedes Benz, with a 9.69% stake, adding another European auto asset to its growing portfolio.

      The shares were purchased on behalf of the Chinese automotive group's chairman, Li Shufu, according to a filing by Daimler, and are worth around $9 billion at current prices. Li has displaced a Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund as the German automaker's top shareholder.

    • Xcerra is latest chip company to give up on Chinese acquisition after U.S. resistance

    • China seizes control of Anbang Insurance as chairman prosecuted
      The Chinese government on Friday seized control of Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd and said its chairman had been prosecuted, dramatically illustrating Beijing’s willingness to curtail big-spending conglomerates as it cracks down on financial risk.

      Anbang [ANBANG.UL] had violated laws and regulations which “may seriously endanger the solvency of the company”, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said in a statement announcing the seizure, without giving details.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Twitter updates its developer rules to crack down on bots

      According to the new rules, developers that use Twitter's API will no longer be able to let users:

      • Simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts.

      • Simultaneously perform actions such as Likes, Retweets, or follows from multiple accounts

      • Use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted

    • Paul Manafort's inability to save Word files as PDFs provided the evidence necessary to indict him for fraud

      Paul Manafort, one-time Trump campaign manager, has been indicted for cooking his books in order to qualify for a loan; prosecutors secured the evidence of his fraud by searching his email, which contained attachments that clearly showed him doctoring his financial statements and then emailing them to his co-conspirator Richard Gates so Gates could convert them to PDFs, which literally just involves selecting "Save As..." and choosing "PDF."

    • President Trump plans to remove key election security official

      It’s unclear why Masterson was removed, but the timing is likely to be a significant blow to the ongoing effort to secure voting machines against hacking. Less than nine months remain before the 2018 elections, and several types of voting machines remain vulnerable to remote hacking through remote-access software attacks and other vulnerabilities.

    • US Official Focused on Election Security Being Removed From Job

      Masterson has been a popular figure among state election officials, many of whom have praised his expertise and leadership on cybersecurity issues and expressed displeasure at his pending departure. The agency was created by Congress in 2002 to assist states in complying with federal election standards.

    • America’s voting machinery is hackable, falling apart and privatized — and the GOP doesn’t care [iophk: "neither D nor R give a shit"]

      These kinds of delays and communication snafus show a system that operates at a snail’s pace relative to the speed of cyber probes and attacks. To make matters worse, in many states — and in Congress, as seen in the just-passed federal budget — there’s no willingness to spend the funds needed to modernize voting in the United States.

    • Ex-CIA director: US meddles in foreign elections for a 'very good cause'
      Following a federal indictment of Russians accused of meddling in the U.S election, a former CIA director on Friday said the U.S. “probably” meddles in other countries’ elections, as well.

    • YouTube Boosted a Conspiracy Theory Video About a Florida Shooting Survivor Because It Contained a Real News Clip
      Conspiracy theories about the teen survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have begun making the inevitable rounds, and on Wednesday, one of them landed the coveted spot of YouTube’s top trending video.

      The video in question suggested that 17-year-old David Hogg, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who has appeared on TV news programs over the last few days advocating for stricter gun laws, is an actor. (He is not.) By the time the video was removed later on Wednesday, Motherboard reported it had amassed more than 200,000 views. And that was just one of the videos hawking false theories that aimed to defame the mass-shooting survivor and budding gun-reform activist.
    • Rick Gates: ex-Trump adviser to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller
      A former adviser to Donald Trump plans to enter a deal Friday afternoon to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a federal court filing.

    • Did Trump Actually Apologize for Retweeting Islamophobic Videos?

      During the interview, Trump’s first explanation for having shared the anti-Muslim videos was that they were a depiction of “radical Islamic terror.” He went on to explain that, even though he had effectively promoted the propaganda campaign of Britain First, a far-right and ultra-nationalist political group, this was hardly worth mentioning and was “not a big story” in the US. Finally, Trump explained, he should not be held responsible for these hateful tweets because he had not known that they had been posted by racists. Morgan asked Trump for an apology so that the British could get to know “the real you.” As Mackey reported, Trump “stammered out something less than contrition,” saying, “If you’re telling me that’s a horror p – people, horrible racist people, horror – I would certainly apologize, if you’d like me to do that.” But, Mackey wrote, “instead of going on to actually offer an apology, Trump returned to excusing himself, adding, ‘I know nothing about them.’”
    • Quirky Corporate Twitter Accounts Are Not Your Friends
      Remember that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that suggested you could solve police brutality with a cold refreshing soft drink? How about the recent Super Bowl commercial wherein Ram Trucks uncovered the hidden secret that a famous Martin Luther King Jr. speech was actually about buying a Ram? Both were widely mocked, which makes it seem like we don't fall for manipulative advertising anymore. But brands have realized this, and are taking advantage of a huge blind spot to hide their sketchy practices.

    • Past episodes of presidential wrongdoing have provoked a reaction
      PEOPLE who worry about Donald Trump’s presidency worry especially about how he might respond to a national-security crisis. Now they know. American intelligence chiefs have long viewed Russia’s campaign to discredit and influence America’s elections as a security threat. And the 16 indictments unveiled by Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the case, imply that the threat is more long-standing, sophisticated and effective than was commonly understood. Such clear evidence of foreign interference would normally constitute a moment for the commander-in-chief to reassure an anxious nation that the attack—in an election year, no less—would be repulsed. But that was not Mr Trump’s response.

      The president made no formal comment on the indictments, yet his Twitter feed suggested they stirred in him a range of powerful emotions. He at first rejoiced that Mr Mueller had not accused him of complicity in the Russian sabotage: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong—no collusion!” Then he fretted that it was getting so much attention as to cast doubt on his legitimacy. In subsequent tweets the president lambasted the FBI for spending too much time investigating the attack. It could otherwise have prevented a recent massacre of schoolchildren in Florida, he wrote. He then attacked his national-security adviser, H.R. McMaster, for failing to defend him more robustly and Barack Obama for failing to stop the Russians sooner. He claimed never to have dismissed the Russian campaign as a hoax, though he has done so many times. At no point did Mr Trump express any concern for the safety of American democracy.
    • Oops! Telegraph ‘forgets’ to mention spy boss criticising Corbyn was responsible for dodgy Iraq War dossier heavily criticised by Corbyn
      The latest silly attempt by right-wing media barons to discredit Jeremy Corbyn as a Cold War spy, comes from the ever more ridiculous Telegraph’s Gordon Rayner.

      Rayner has persuaded former MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove (no, I assure you that’s NOT a made-up name taken from a 1970s James Bond film) as the latest establishment figure to try to persuade the country that electing Corbyn as PM would be tantamount to electing Blofeld to Number 10:

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • MEPs continue to pile on pressure for anti-SLAPP legislation

      A cross-party initiative by MEPs that are committed to working to protect media freedom have called on Commission Vice-President to propose Anti-SLAPP legislation.

    • New UN report cites violations of rights to freedom of opinion and expression in South Sudan

      The report identifies 60 verified incidents – including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, closure, suspension or censorship of newspapers, and blocking of websites – in the period from July 2016 to December 2017.

      It also found that Government security forces, including the National Security Service, Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and the South Sudan National Police Service, were responsible for two-thirds of the verified cases of human rights violations.

    • UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

      In at least 60 incidents over the last year and a half journalists in South Sudan were killed, beaten, detained, denied entry or fired for doing their jobs, a UN report said Thursday.

    • FOSTA Would Be a Disaster for Online Communities

      The House of Representatives is about to vote on a bill that would force online platforms to censor their users. The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865) might sound noble, but it would do nothing to stop sex traffickers. What it would do is force online platforms to police their users’ speech more forcefully than ever before, silencing legitimate voices in the process.

      Back in December, we said that while FOSTA was a very dangerous bill, its impact on online spaces would not be as broad as the Senate bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). That’s about to change.
    • German FCJ: doctors can have their profile deleted from rating site - but can they?
      Germans like to rate things online. We have rating sites for hotels, restaurants, playgrounds and of course - doctors. Jameda is one (of about 10) such websites that focusses on user-generated, anonymous reviews of doctors.

      It has been around for over 10 years, lists around 250.000 German doctors and attracts more than 10m visitors each month. These numbers show how important it is for doctors who appear on the website to be described in a positive light by their patients in order to remain competitive.
    • Loss In 9th Circuit Appeals Court Isn't Slowing 1-800-LAWFIRM's Lawsuit Crusade Against Social Media Companies
      1-800-LAWFIRM's oblique assault on Section 230 continues. This firm, along with Excolo Law, have been behind several Plantiff v. Social Media lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. responsible for acts of terrorism. The legal theories are as terrible as they are long-winded. In an effort to route around Section 230 immunity, these firms have tried to portray the mere existence of terrorist groups on social media platforms as active material support for terrorism by tech companies. But Section 230 itself is also targeted, just in case the plaintiffs happen to luck into a federal judge willing to punch holes in immunity.

      So far, none of these efforts have been successful. The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court recently rang up another loss for 1-800-LAWFIRM, finding none of its arguments credible. Unfortunately, it did not go so far as to reaffirm Section 230 immunity, limiting itself to 1-800-LAWFIRM's novel legal theories about the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). But, as Cathy Gellis noted in her coverage of the decision, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. By focusing on the ATA, Section 230 remains undamaged, and doesn't draw the attention of enterprising politicians who might try to "do something" (terrible) to keep terrorists from using social media platforms.
    • Opposition grows among students and youth to Internet censorship

      There is growing outrage among students and workers throughout the United States to the efforts of social media companies and the US government to censor the Internet under the guise of combatting “fake news” and promoting “authoritative content.”

      The International Youth and Student for Social Equality (IYSSE) spoke with students on campuses from coast to coast who denounced censorship and talked about the power of the Internet to organize opposition and disseminate information outside the control of the corporate and state media.
    • BIFFes: Filmmakers call censorship ‘absurd’ and ‘fascist’

      The recent controversies over censorship of films took centre stage on Saturday at a debate on the second day of Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes). Most filmmakers strongly opposed it, instead arguing that the industry should practice self-censorship.

      At a panel discussion ‘Censorship in India’, several filmmakers, led by M.S. Sathyu, recounted the ordeal they had to face in their creative careers.

    • Shriver denounces 'politically correct censorship' in literature
      Lionel Shriver has criticised the “politically correct censorship” in fiction and urged writers to take a stance against it.

      The We Need To Talk About Kevin author revealed her thoughts on cultural appropriation and the possible impact on literature of the #MeToo controversy, in Prospect magazine on Wednesday (21st February), and revealed how she has been criticised for featuring black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) characters in her books.

      “I’ve plenty of recent experience of using non-white characters in my novels, only to have them singled out and scrutinised for thought crime,” she writes in the article titled 'Writers blocked: how the new call-out culture is killing fiction'.

    • Game Studio Threatens Employees' Jobs If They Don't Write Positive Reviews Of Own Game, Then Steam Pulls Game Entirely
      It's no secret that Valve's Steam platform is the dominant marketplace for PC video games. Much comes along with that status, including the strategies and metrics studios must employ to get their games noticed on Steam. One of the important metrics for recognition is Steam reviews. And it's not just the review scores themselves that are important, but actually getting reviews -- any reviews -- to begin with is a big deal.

      So it's no surprise that game studios strategize on how to get their games in enough customer hands to generate reviews. Still, one studio's strategy has massively backfired. Insel Games out of Malta recently released Wild Buster, it's latest title. Sadly, in the all important initial release window, the game was not generating enough reviews to result in a general review score on the game page. Those scores are often used by consumers to quickly decide whether a title deserves their attention at all and a lack of a score can indicate that the game isn't good enough to even warrant a look. Insel's CEO, Patrick Steppel, decided to address this with a strongly-worded email to his own staff insisting that they all buy the game and review it, despite having had a hand in making the game. If employees refused to do this, Steppel warned that it could mean that they would no longer have a job at the studio.

    • [INFOGRAPHIC] Online Censorship, how does your country rate?
      The proliferation of the internet and the seemingly unlimited access many of us have to it often leads to the feeling that the world is all online, all interconnected, and all free. In reality, this freedom is largely a perceived truth, rather than a factual one. In fact, according to Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom on the Net report, less than one-fourth of the world’s internet users reside in countries where the internet is technically designated “free.”

      Freedom House’s study ranked 65 countries worldwide on their level of censorship based on 21 questions and nearly 100 subquestions, which were divided into three categories: obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. The study found that not only are many of the world’s internet users censored online, disinformation and online manipulation tactics have actually increased, leading to an overall decline of internet freedom around the world for the seventh consecutive year. Of the 65 countries studied, 32—almost half—have seen an overall decline in internet freedom.

    • ‘Free Speech’ Suit Aims to End Twitter’s Political Censorship

    • SAG-AFTRA’s Gabrielle Carteris Blasts Ruling on Actor-Age Censorship Law
      SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris has blasted a federal judge’s recent ruling barring California’s legislation requiring that subscription entertainment database sites remove an actor’s age, if requested by the actor.

      U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued the ruling on Feb. 20, backing IMDb’s 2016 lawsuit attempting to invalidate AB 1687. IMDb — a subsidiary of Amazon — had contended in its suit that the law, which applies only to subscription sites such as IMDb Pro, was unconstitutional.

      The defendants in the suit are Secretary of State Xavier Becerra and SAG-AFTRA, which joined the suit as a defendant after campaigning vigorously for the law in 2016. The union has already declared it will appeal Chhabria’s ruling.
    • Federal Court Shuts Down IMDb-Targeting 'Anti-Ageism' Law Permanently
      In the annals of stupid legislation, California's attempt to fight ageism at Hollywood studios by targeting third-party websites and using the First Amendment as a doormat will secure a prominent place in infamy. Rising from the ashes of a failed lawsuit brought by an actress who claimed IMDb cost her untold amounts of wealth by publishing her age, the law basically said IMDb couldn't publish facts on its website. Those pushing the legislation included the Screen Actors Guild, which apparently doesn't have the spine to stand up to studios and target them for discriminating against actors and actresses.

      Last year, IMDb secured a temporary injunction against the state of California, forbidding it from enforcing the law while the courts sorted out its constitutionality. That day has arrived. A federal court has declared the law unconstitutional and permanently blocked California from going after IMDb because Hollywood producers participate in discriminatory hiring. (h/t Jacob Gershman)

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • NSA Warns Australia Not To Use Huawei 5G Equipment: Report [Ed Just put everywhere the equipment with back doors of the US in it (enabling the Pentagon's all-seeing eyes)]
      United States intelligence chiefs from the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security warned Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to enlist Huawei’s help in its efforts to deploy the fifth generation of mobile networks, AFR reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. The officials are said to have personally briefed Mr. Turnbull on the matter earlier this month, urging the head of the state to reconsider Canberra’s collaboration with Huawei due to the tech giant’s close ties to Beijing that raise various security concerns, insiders claim. The chiefs reportedly identified “Beijing’s cyber espionage” as one of the top risks on their joint cybersecurity agenda.

    • US warns Australia against Huawei 5G involvement: report

      The Australian Financial Review reported that Turnbull, who is on a visit to the US, was told of Washnigton's concerns about Huawei when he met the head of the NSA, Mike Rogers, and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, on Friday.

    • Patent Agent Privilege in Texas

      In the case, the trial court had concluded that a party’s communications with a patent agent were only privileged to the extent that the patent agent was acting under an attorney’s direction. The court here reverses that judgment — no supervision is necessary. The court does offer a major caveat — that communications outside of the patent agent’s authorized practice area might not be protected...

    • Ulbricht v. U.S.: Privacy Interest in your Home Router Traffic
      Ulbricht is known as the Dread Pirate Roberts, Frosty, Altoid, and creator of the Silk Road dark web marketplace. Here, Ulbricht challenges his conviction and sentencing for drug trafficking, money laundering, and hacking — arguing that the evidence used to convict was illegally obtained in violation of his constitutional rights.
    • Arm To Merge SIM Cards With Processors For A Cheap Compact Future [Ed: It’s going to get a lot harder to escape mobile surveillance. First they make batteries impossible to remove. Now this...]

    • China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious

      It would be remarkably easy to achieve. It’s just a matter of making explicit the determinations that already go into credit scores—of binding together the data brokerages that even now siphon up public records, social-media profiles, web searches, and similar digital traces of life here in the West, and making our rights and privileges as city dwellers and citizens contingent on what they infer from our behavior. Unless this tendency is contested and defeated now, what has unfolded in China since 2014 might become an early preview of the way order is achieved and maintained in the cities of the 21st century.

    • It could happen here: How China's social credit system demonstrates the future of social control in smart cities

      Greenfield writes about China's "Citizen Scores", a rapidly growing system of social control that marries your credit report, internet usage, location data, snitching by your peers, and other factors (like your perceived "sincerity") to determine whether you can borrow money, use high-speed transport, get a job, or rent an apartment.


      The Chinese-Western feedback loop involves each worsening the other's worst ideas, lather-rinse-repeating in the most dystopian of fashion. China's social control is just neoliberal capitalism's social control, plus ten years.

    • Report On Device Encryption Suggests A Few Ways Forward For Law Enforcement
      Another paper has been released, adding to the current encryption discussion. The FBI and DOJ want access to the contents of locked devices. They call encryption that can be bypassed by law enforcement "responsible encryption." It isn't. A recent paper by cryptograpghy expert Riana Pfefferkorn explained in detail how irresponsible these suggestions for broken or weakened encryption are.

      This new paper [PDF] was put together by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (h/t Lawfare) It covers a lot of ground others have and rehashes the history of encryption, along with many of the pro/con arguments. That said, it's still worth reading. It raises some good questions and spends a great deal of time discussing the multitude of options law enforcement has available, but which are ignored by FBI officials when discussing the backdoors/key escrow/weakened encryption they'd rather have.

    • Hacker [sic] Strikes ‘Stalkerware’ Companies, Stealing Alleged Texts and GPS Locations of Customers

      This story is part of When Spies Come Home, a Motherboard series about powerful surveillance software ordinary people use to spy on their loved ones.

    • Tor director Shari Steele will step down at the end of the year

      Responsible for the development and maintenance of the Tor anonymity network, the Tor Project has long been a central institution in the internet freedom community. For many, Steele’s directorship, which started in December 2015, signaled a sea change within the organization and shifted Tor towards being more inclusive and community focused. The following May, developer Jacob Appelbaum left the Tor Project amid widespread accusations of sexual assault, triggering a broader crisis within the organization. (Appelbaum denies the allegations.) The following month, Tor replaced its board of directors.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Five young women in porn have died within a few months – it’s time for a change

      Given the narratives that surround the industry, it would be easy to fall into the trap of suggesting that these women suffered as a result of the cruel and degrading conditions working in porn involves, as suggested by some commentators, such as Julie Bindel. But to do so is to ignore the realities of the industry as told by the workers themselves and to talk about porn in a manner removed from wider discussions on workplace rights, gender and culture. This tendency also prevents us from engaging in a wider conversation about mental health, sex work and stigma. And this is key to understanding the circumstances surrounding each death.

    • Ezra Zaid’s firm raided over ‘confusing’ book content, Shariah court told

      When asked by Selangor Sharie prosecutor Sofian Ahmad if she had referred to any other materials before making the complaint, Sulastri replied: “I did not base it on anything, I just read from the book censorship report.

      Today was the first day of trial and Sulastri was the first prosecution witness.

      Ezra is facing a charge under Section 16(1)(a) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995 as the director and main shareholder of ZI Publications for allegedly publishing a book written by Irshad Manji and titled Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta with contents purportedly contrary to Islamic law in terms of faith.

    • Can Schools Discipline Students for Protesting?
      Students have turned last week's school shooting into an exemplary push for change. Here's a quick primer on their rights.

      Students around the country are turning last week’s heartbreaking school shooting in Parkland, Florida, into an inspiring and exemplary push for legislative change. In the last few days, many people have a written by Irshad Manjisked whether schools can discipline students for speaking out. The short answer? It depends on when, where, and how the students decide to express themselves.

    • Everyone In the Cook County Criminal Court System Too Busy Pointing Fingers To Fix Its Antiquated Records System

      When you write regularly about lawsuits, you learn very quickly that not all court systems are equal when it comes to allowing modern access to public filings and records. The country is a veritable panoply of an access spectrum, with some districts offering modern e-filing systems and websites to review documents, while other districts are far more antiquated and restrictive. That said, it's hard to imagine a county court system more backwards than that of Chicago's Cook County.
    • Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student
      ProPublica obtained the chat logs of Atomwaffen, a notorious white supremacist group. When Samuel Woodward was charged with killing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein last month in California, other Atomwaffen members cheered the death, concerned only that the group’s cover might have been blown.
    • There's No Such Thing as 'Consensual Sex' When a Person Is in Police Custody
      In New York and 34 other states, police officers accused of raping people in their custody can offer a consent defense.

      On the night of Sept. 15, 2017, Edward Martins and Richard Hall, narcotics detectives with the New York Police Department, pulled over an 18-year-old woman and her two male friends for being in a park after dark. After finding marijuana in the car’s cup holder, they handcuffed the woman and told her friends to leave. The woman says that the detectives then put her in their unmarked police van with tinted windows and raped her as she cried and repeatedly told them “no.” Semen collected in a forensic evidence kit matched the DNA of both men.

      In November, Martins and Hall resigned from the NYPD and currently face rape and kidnapping charges. Both pleaded not guilty. Their defense against these allegations is almost as disturbing as the crimes they are accused of. They claim that they had consensual sex with the woman while she was in their custody.

    • Lee Drutman on Gun Control Politics, Pat Elder on School Militarization
      This week on CounterSpin: “A ‘gun-free’ school is a magnet for bad people” is a real statement from the actual president, in response to a horrific event in which a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida. Which suggests that waiting for Trump to act to prevent gun violence should be no part of an effort to prevent gun violence.

      If Americans really want to stop being “the only country where this happens,” which keeps officially claiming there’s “no way to prevent” it, it will require not just deep examination of the multiple roots of mass violence of this sort, but also an approach to political processes that keeps its eye on the prize of real change. We’ll talk about possibilities of movement on the issue of gun control and about some of the other cultural aspects of this violence, whose examination has to be part of getting beyond this cycle of mass shootings and ‘thoughts and prayers’ and more mass shootings.

    • Feds have spent 13 years failing to verify whether passport data is legit

      An e-passport is essentially a passport that includes machine-readable RFID chips containing a traveler's personal information. These more digitally secure passports, which began to be required by the United States for visitors form visa waiver countries beginning in 2007, are scanned at the border by a CBP agent’s computer. However, without a digital signature, it is impossible to validate that the data contained on the passport is actually authentic.

    • US Border Officials Have Never Verified Chipped Passports, Despite Demanding Their Usage
      Ron Wyden is at it again. Sending pesky letters to government officials who appear to be completely falling down on the job. The latest is asking Customs and Border Patrol why it's still not verifying the e-passport chips that have been in all US passports -- and in all countries on the visa waiver list -- since 2007 (hat tip to Zach Whittaker). The letter points out that the US government pushed hard for these chips... and then never bothered to check to make sure no one has tampered with them.

    • US Border Patrol Hasn’t Validated E-Passport Data For Years

      This means that since as far back as 2006, a skilled hacker [sic] could alter the data on an e-Passport chip—like the name, photo, or expiration date—without fear that signature verification would alert a border agent to the changes. That could theoretically be enough to slip into countries that allow all-electronic border checks, or even to get past a border patrol agent into the US.

    • Lawsuit: Detained immigrant beaten for role in hunger strike
      A guard at a privately run immigration jail beat a detainee because the man joined a hunger strike protesting conditions at the facility, the Washington state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit Friday.

      The organization sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the GEO Group, which operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

      According to the lawsuit, Jesus Chavez Flores is one of more than 120 immigrant detainees at the facility who began a hunger strike Feb. 7 to protest the conditions of their confinement, including the quality of the food they are served and that the prisoners are paid just $1 per day to perform janitorial, kitchen, laundry or other work there.

    • New Data Reveals Milwaukee Police Stops Are About Race and Ethnicity
      Milwaukee residents have long thought they were targeted for their race. New data reveals they were right all along.

      For years, Black and Latino residents of Milwaukee have protested the fact that they and their neighborhoods have been consistently and unfairly targeted for overzealous police stops. They were right to do so. New expert evidence unmasks the city’s stop-and-frisk program for what it is: a program that encourages routine stops of individuals that are without a sufficient legal basis and that are often based on the individual’s race or ethnicity.

      With this new evidence, Milwaukee joins a host of cities nationwide whose stop-and-frisk practices — as reflected in their own data — run afoul of the law.

    • Public-Sector Union Fees Don’t Violate the First Amendment
      Can state employees who decline to join a union in their workplace be required to pay fees to support the union’s work? On February 26, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case pitting the First Amendment claims of dissenting employees against the interests of public-sector unions. Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who opposes the union, argues that a state law allowing public-sector unions to charge nonmembers fees for collective-bargaining activities violates his First Amendment rights. Were the Court to accept this argument, it would severely undermine such unions, by requiring them to provide services free of charge to any worker who says he objects to the union. Regardless of what you think about unions, such a ruling would turn First Amendment law on its head.

    • Census Rushes to Respond to Request to Add Citizenship Question

      The Census Bureau is scrambling to respond to a last-minute request by the Justice Department to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 census, according to hundreds of pages of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

      The emails show that the DOJ’s December request set off a flurry of activity in the bureau as career Census officials hurried to research the history of how citizenship has been handled in past surveys, raced to come up with alternatives to the DOJ request and vented their frustration over public outrage on the issue.

      As ProPublica first reported, the DOJ asked for the question to be added in a December letter, saying it needed more data to better enforce voting rights laws.

    • Good Faith Beats Bad Warrant In Another Win For FBI's World-Traversing NIT Malware
      Another challenge of the NIT (Network Investigative Technique) warrant used by the FBI during its investigation of a dark web child porn website has hit the appellate level. A handful of district courts have found the warrant used invalid, given the fact that its reach (worldwide) exceeded its jurisdictional grasp (the state of Virginia, where it was obtained). That hasn't had much of an effect on appeals court rulings, which have all found the warrant questionable to varying degrees, but have granted the FBI "good faith" for violating the jurisdictional limits the DOJ was attempting to have rewritten (Rule 41 -- which governs warrant jurisdictional limits, among other things) to allow it to do the things it was already doing.

      Even though the FBI had to have known searches performed all over the world using one Virginia-based warrant violated Rule 41 limits, appellate judges have declared the FBI agent requesting the warrant wasn't enough of a legal expert to know this wasn't allowed. Two appeals courts have stated suppressing the evidence is pointless because the law changed after the jurisdiction limit violation took place. The appellate decisions have been troubling to say the least, providing further evidence that the good faith exception is the rule, rather than the outlier.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • NRA gives Ajit Pai “courage award” and gun for “saving the Internet”

      Schneider did not explain how eliminating net neutrality rules preserved anyone's "free speech rights."

    • We still don’t know when net neutrality rules will come off the books [Updated]

      The repeal is contingent on US Office of Management and Budget [OMB] approval of modified information collection requirements, the FCC said. Later, the FCC will publish another document in the Federal Register "announcing the effective date(s) of the delayed amendatory instructions," the FCC said. "The Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order will also be effective upon the date announced in that same document." The FCC voted to repeal its net neutrality rules on December 14,

      "OMB approval needs to happen before any of the substantive rules take effect, and the date they come into effect will be in a future Federal Register publication," Senior Counsel John Bergmayer of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge told Ars.

    • Why states might win the net neutrality war against the FCC

      The major obstacle for states is that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has claimed the authority to preempt states and municipalities from imposing laws similar to the net neutrality rules his FCC is getting rid of. ISPs that sue states to block net neutrality laws will surely seize on the FCC's repeal and preemption order.

    • FCC's net neutrality repeal published, opening door to opposition efforts

      The final draft of the rules sets April 23 as the day the repeal goes into effect, but portions of the order are still pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which could delay its implementation.

    • The FCC's 'New' Broadband Availability Map Hallucinates Broadband Competition
      A few years back the FCC (under Obama's first FCC boss Julius Genachowski) spent around $300 million on a broadband availability map that did a crap job actually measuring broadband availability. As we noted at the time, the map tended to hallucinate both available competitors and the speeds they could deliver to any address, providing a completely bogus sense of the nation's competitive options. It also failed utterly to include pricing data at ISP behest, lest somebody actually look at the data and realize that a lack of competition drives high prices and abysmal customer service from coast to coast.

    • As Protection Ends, Here’s One Way to Test for Net Neutrality

      None of the five governors’ offices responded to our questions about how they plan to monitor broadband providers for net neutrality violations. Falcon says states will need hard data, and engineers to review that data, to identify throttling, discrimination, or prioritization. That's part of the motivation behind Northeastern University's Wehe project, which helps users check to see how neutral their connections are.

    • Now that Trump's FCC has killed Net Neutrality, we all need to participate in instrumenting the net to document violations

      Ajit Pai's Net Neutrality-killing order is scheduled to go into effect on April 23, and when that happens, it'll be open season on the free, fair and open internet.

    • The FCC’s Net Neutrality Order Was Just Published, Now the Fight Really Begins
      Today, the FCC’s so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” which repealed the net neutrality protections the FCC had previously created with the 2015 Open Internet Order, has been officially published. That means the clock has started ticking on all the ways we can fight back.

      While the rule is published today, it doesn’t take effect quite yet. ISPs can’t start blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization for a little while. So while we still have the protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order and we finally have a published version of the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” it’s time to act.

      First, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can reverse a change in regulation with a simple majority vote. That would bring the 2015 Open Internet Order back into effect. Congress has 60 working days—starting from when the rule is published in the official record—to do this. So those 60 days start now.

      The Senate bill has 50 supporters, only one away from the majority it needs to pass. The House of Representatives is a bit further away. By our count, 114 representatives have made public commitments in support of voting for a CRA action. Now that time is ticking down for the vote, tell Congress to save the existing net neutrality rules.

    • San Francisco: Building Community Broadband to Protect Net Neutrality and Online Privacy
      Like many cities around the country, San Francisco is considering an investment in community broadband infrastructure: high-speed fiber that would make Internet access cheaper and better for city residents. Community broadband can help alleviate a number of issues with Internet access that we see all over America today. Many Americans have no choice of provider for high-speed Internet, Congress eliminated user privacy protections in 2017, and the FCC decided to roll back net neutrality protections in December.

      This week, San Francisco published the recommendations of a group of experts, including EFF’s Kit Walsh, regarding how to protect the privacy and speech of those using community broadband.

      This week, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Municipal Fiber released its third report, which tackles competition, security, privacy, net neutrality, and more. It recommends San Francisco’s community broadband require net neutrality and privacy protections. Any ISP looking to use the city’s infrastructure would have to adhere to certain standards. The model of community broadband that EFF favors is sometimes called “dark fiber” or “open access.” In this model, the government invests in fiber infrastructure, then opens it up for private companies to compete as your ISP. This means the big incumbent ISPs can no longer block new competitors from offering you Internet service. San Francisco is pursuing the “open access” option, and is quite far along in its process.

  • DRM

    • Game Studio Found To Install Malware DRM On Customers' Machines, Defends Itself, Then Apologizes
      The thin line that exists between entertainment industry DRM software and plain malware has been pointed out both recently and in the past. There are many layers to this onion, ranging from Sony's rootkit fiasco, to performance hits on machines thanks to DRM installed by video games, up to and including the insane idea that copyright holders ought to be able to use malware payloads to "hack back" against accused infringers.

      What is different in more recent times is the public awareness regarding DRM, computer security, and an overall fear of malware. This is a natural kind of progression, as the public becomes more connected and reliant on computer systems and the internet, they likewise become more concerned about those systems. That may likely explain the swift public backlash to a small game-modding studio seemingly installing something akin to malware in every installation of its software, whether from a legitimate purchase or piracy.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • RELX 2017 profit jumps; to shift to single company

        The Anglo-Dutch professional-information and events company also said it intends to buy back further shares worth 700 million pounds ($974.4 million) this year, of which GBP100 million have already been repurchased. This adds to the GBP700 million buyback the company conducted last year.

      • Dutch Continue to Curb Illegal Downloading But What About Streaming?

        After previously being legal for personal use, in 2014 the Netherlands banned downloading of copyrighted content. In 2013, 41% of people engaged in the practice but according to a new study, just 24% admitted to having downloaded pirate media within the previous 12 months. While that sounds like good news, unauthorized streaming is absent from the stats.

      • It You Can't Beat Purveyors Of Unauthorized Copies, Join Them -- With Style
        One of the perennial questions around here is what companies should do about unauthorized copies of physical products. As readers will know, on Techdirt we don't think automatically filing lawsuits is the way to go. This little vignette from the New York Times reveals an alternative approach that is smarter and more remunerative:
      • Judge Turns Back Software Maker's Copyright Claims Over Film Special Effects

        U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California on Wednesday dismissed without prejudice software company Rearden’s copyright claims against major picture studios, including The Walt Disney Co., Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount.

      • Judge finds that Disney "misused copyright" when it tried to stop Redbox from renting download codes

        A 9th Circuit judge found in Redbox's favor, holding that the DVDs' license agreement were not a binding contract, and slamming Disney for "copyright misuse" in trying to impose conditions on people who buy its products by sneaking in some legal fine-print that tries to convert the sale into a license.

      • Disney loses in Redbox copyright row

        He also sided with Redbox's argument that Disney was misusing its copyrights by trying to restrict the reselling of copies of its movies after they had already been sold.

      • Court Destroys Future Public Art Installations By Holding Building Owner Liable For Destroying This One
        Last week was a big week for dramatically bad copyright rulings from the New York federal courts: the one finding people liable for infringement if they embed others' content in their own webpages, and this one about 5Pointz, where a court has found a building owner liable for substantial monetary damages for having painted his own building. While many have hailed this decision, including those who have mistakenly viewed it as a win for artists, this post explains why it is actually bad for everyone.

        The facts in this case are basically this: the owner of a run-down, formerly industrial building in a run-down neighborhood aspired to do something to redevelop his property, but it would be a few years before the time would be right. So in the meantime he let some graffiti artists use the building for their aerosol paintings. The building became known as 5Pointz, and the artwork on it soon began to attract attention. The neighborhood also began to change, and with the improvement the prospects for redeveloping the property into residences became more promising. From the outset everyone knew that redevelopment would happen eventually, and that it would put an end to the arrangement since the redevelopment would likely necessitate tearing down the building, and with it the art on the walls. As the date of demolition grew closer, the artists considered buying the building from the owner in order to prevent it from being torn down and thus preserve the art. However the owner had received a variance that suddenly made the value of the property skyrocket from $40 million to $200 million, which made the buyout impossible. So the artists instead sued to halt the destruction of their art and asked for a preliminary injunction, which would ensure that nothing happened to the art while the case was litigated. But in late 2013 the court denied the preliminary injunction, and so a few days later the building owner went ahead and painted over the walls. The painting-over didn't end the litigation, which then became focused on whether this painting-over broke the law. In 2017 the court issued a ruling allowing the case to proceed to trial on this question. Then last week came the results of that trial, with the court finding this painting-over a "willfully" "infringing" act and assessing a $6.7 million damages award against the owner for it.

      • Facebook signs music licensing deal with European rights company ICE

        ICE’s deal with Facebook covers 290,000 rights-holders across 160 territories, and as part of the deal, ICE will be working with Facebook to help develop its rights reporting system for more accurate royalties data. ICE currently has over 40 online music licenses in place with various streaming platforms and has distributed over 300 million euros to rights-holders since 2016. Specifics of ICE’s payout structure with Facebook have not been disclosed.

      • Facebook inks music licensing deal with ICE covering 160 territories, 290K rightsholders on FB, Insta, Oculus and Messenger

        Facebook today took its latest step towards making good on paying out royalties to music rightsholders around tracks that are used across its multiple platforms and networks. The company has signed a deal with ICE Services — a licensing group and copyright database of some 31 million works that represents PRS in the UK, STIM in Sweden and GEMA in Germany — to provide music licensing and royalty collection for works and artists represented by the group, when their music is used on Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and Messenger.

      • Digital Rights Groups Cry Foul Over Canada’s ‘FairPlay’ Coalition and Pirate Site Blacklist

        Recently, FairPlay Canada — a coalition of more than 25 telecom companies, broadcasters, and other organizations — unveiled a proposal that asks the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to order internet service providers (ISPs) to block their customers from accessing websites that host what regulators deem to be pirated content. Michael Geist, a University of Ottowa law professor, notes that such a pirate site blacklist would inevitably be expanded, maybe to include VPN

      • Finnish researchers examine Spotify's artist payment scheme, suggest alternative

        Mikko von Hertzen, who sings and plays guitar in the popular rock band the Von Hertzen Brothers, says he thinks the way Spotify and other streaming services pay artists for their compositions and performances is murky. Few artists seem to know, he says, how money is being shared.

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