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Links 8/1/2019: Godot 3.1 Reaches Beta, Tidelift Gets Money

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • Acer’s New Chromebook is Cheap, Big, And One of the First to Run an AMD Processor
      At CES 2019 Acer took the wraps off a new Chromebook, and it’s one of the first to use an AMD processor. Like so many of the company’s other Chromebooks, it’s an entry-level model.

      At first blush, there isn’t really anything remarkable about the Chromebook 315, but a quick peek under the hood reveals its AMD A-Series processor. While that chip on its own is nothing to write home about, its inclusion in a Chromebook is, since most Chromebooks use either Intel or ARM-based silicon.

      Acer makes the second company to announce an AMD-powered Chromebook at CES (HP also announced one), proving that AMD is looking to start edging its way into the Chromebook market. While both of the current AMD ‘books are very much entry-level machines, more options are never going to be a bad thing.

    • Ten Years After - Part 1
      2008 was a pivotal year for me. For those who do not know, my project places repaired computers into the homes of financially disadvantaged students.

      In 2008, The HeliOS Project was invited to become an affiliate of Software in the Public Interest. That was a huge deal for us in that it allowed us to offer tax receipts for donations. I never fully realized just how important this is until I was able to provide this documentation to donors. It tripled our hardware donations within 90 days of becoming part of SPI.

      It was also the year that HeliOS began our work in earnest. We had potentially stacks and stacks of computers then, as opposed to the half dozen or so out in my garage on any given day. With that growth, we were able to get down to business, the way I had always planned this project to grow. In 2008, we places 291 computers into the homes of disadvantaged kids in and around the Austin area.

    • Computer buffs flock to Ubuntu group to learn more about free OS
      Rochester Hills resident Scott Bicknell got his hands on an older laptop that was headed for the trash.

  • Server

    • Introduction to eBPF in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7
      The recent release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6 enables extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF) in-kernel virtual machine which can be used for system tracing. In this blog we introduce the basic concept of this technology and few example use cases. We also present some of the existing tooling built on top of eBPF.

      Before starting with eBPF it's worth noting that traditional Berkeley Packet Filter available via setsockopt(SO_ATTACH_FILTER) is still available unmodified.

      eBPF enables programmers to write code which gets executed in kernel space in a more secure and restricted environment. Yet this environment enables them to create tools which otherwise would require writing a new kernel module.

      The eBPF in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6 is provided as Tech Preview and thus doesn't come with full support and is not suitable for deployment in production. It is provided with the primary goal to gain wider exposure, and potentially move to full support in the future.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 5 is on the way
      In his Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) post, Torvalds wrote, "The numbering change is not indicative of anything special. If you want to have an official reason, it's that I ran out of fingers and toes to count on, so 4.21 became 5.0."

      Surely, there's more to it than that. Right? Nope.

      Torvalds went on, "Go wild. Make up your own reason for why it's 5.0."

    • Linux 5.0-rc1 Released, Scratch 3 and Raspberry Pi, Phoronix Test Suite 8.6-Spydeberg Milestone 1 Is Now Available, Elteria Adventures Coming to Linux and Chromium Now Supports VAAPI in Fedora
      Linux 5.0-rc1 was released yesterday. Linus Torvalds wrote: "The numbering change is not indicative of anything special. If you want to have an official reason, it's that I ran out of fingers and toes to count on, so 4.21 became 5.0. There's no nice git object numerology this time (we're _about_ 6.5M objects in the git repo), and there isn't any major particular feature that made for the release numbering either. Of course, depending on your particular interests, some people might well find a feature _they_ like so much that they think it can do as a reason for incrementing the major number. So go wild. Make up your own reason for why it's 5.0."

    • Linux Kernel 4.2
      A few weeks ago, in the final days leading up to Christmas, Linus Torvalds released version 4.20 of the Linux Kernel. Collaborans were once again active during this development cycle, contributing 22 patches, 112 reviews & 55 sign-offs. Below is a summary of their contributions. As is the custom, head to if you would like to read more about the merge window for 4.20 (part 1 & part 2).
    • Linux reaches the big five (point) oh
      Penguinistas, take heed. The kernel of your beloved OS has rung in the new year with a brand spanking new version number because... Linus felt like it.

      Linux fans will be relieved to know that while 2019 should feature a gentler, softer and less sweary Torvalds, the man's ability to make arbitrary decisions remains undiminished. The reason version 4.21 became 5.0 is because "I ran out of fingers and toes to count on."

    • How ASLR protects Linux systems from buffer overflow attacks
      Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) is a memory-protection process for operating systems that guards against buffer-overflow attacks. It helps to ensure that the memory addresses associated with running processes on systems are not predictable, thus flaws or vulnerabilities associated with these processes will be more difficult to exploit.

      ASLR is used today on Linux, Windows, and MacOS systems. It was first implemented on Linux in 2005. In 2007, the technique was deployed on Microsoft Windows and MacOS. While ASLR provides the same function on each of these operating systems, it is implemented differently on each one.

    • Aquantia Announces Multi-Gig Ethernet Controllers, Coming Soon To ASUS Boards
      Separately, Intel has been prepping their own 2.5G Ethernet controllers and as of Linux 4.20 is already the "IGC" Intel 2.5G Ethernet driver.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Hyundai joins Automotive Grade Linux and the Linux Foundation to strengthen its innovation plans
        Last week, Automotive Grade Linux, a collaborative project for developing an open platform for the connected car announced that Hyundai joined Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) and the Linux Foundation for innovation through open source. It is a cross-industry effort that brings together automakers, suppliers and technology companies to accelerate the development and adoption of an open software stack for the connected car.

      • The Linux Foundation decides to ACT on compliance
        Compliance is big… so big, in fact, that ‘they’ now have an Open Compliance Summit.

        The last Open Compliance Summit was held in Yokohama in Japan at the tail end of last year — the The Linux Foundation used it as a chance to load up on sushi and also announce a new project to help improve open source compliance tooling called Automated Compliance Tooling (ACT).

        ACT is an umbrella brand that will host various open source projects related to compliance tooling — so the initial four projects to fall under ACT are: FOSSology (existing LF project); QMSTR (being contributed by Endocode); SPDX tools (existing LF project); Tern (being contributed by VMware).

    • Graphics Stack

      • The First AMDVLK Code Drop Of 2019 Rolls Out With New Vulkan Driver Features
        AMD developers maintaining the open-source AMDVLK Vulkan driver that is derived from the same cross-platform code-base of their proprietary Vulkan Windows/Linux driver has seen its first code push of the new year.

      • Nvidia Finally Shows Freesync Some Love
        Freesync and G-Sync are two sides of the same coin but they have been at the forefront of the debate when it comes to a standard for adaptive sync technology. Cases can be made for either of them but there hasn’t been a clear winner adoption wise.

      • A Panfrost milestone
        For more than 10 years, at Collabora we have been happily helping our customers to make the most of their hardware by running free software.

        One area some of us have specially enjoyed working on has been open drivers for GPUs, which for a long time have been considered the next frontier in the quest to have a full software platform that companies and individuals can understand, improve and fix without having to ask for permission first.

        Something that has saddened me a bit has been our reduced ability to help those customers that for one reason or another had chosen a hardware platform with ARM Mali GPUs, as no open driver was available for those.

        While our biggest customers were able to get a high level of support from the vendors in order to have the Mali graphics stack well integrated with the rest of their product, the smaller ones had a much harder time in achieving that level of integration, which manifested in reduced performance, increased power consumption and slipped milestones.

      • A Panfrost milestone
        Collabora's latest contibutions to the Panfrost project include support for running Wayland compositors and zero-copy GPU-accelerated clients. Panfrost is a project that delivers a free and open source implementation of a driver for the newest versions of the Mali family of GPUs.

      • Panfrost Open-Source Mali Driver Now Has A Winsys Working With ARM's Kernel Driver
        Open-source driver developer Tomeu Vizoso of Collabora has taken to some Panfrost driver work for greatly enhancing the viability of this open-source, reverse-engineered ARM Mali Linux graphics driver.

        Replacing the hacky X11 SHM buffer implementation used to get the Gallium3D driver's rendering presented, there is now a preliminary Winsys that works atop ARM's official kernel driver.

      • Chromium blacklists nouveau graphics device driver for Linux and Ubuntu users
        Last week, Ilia Mirkin, a former software engineer of Google, shared on the nouveau mailing list that nouveau is now blacklisted in Chromium 71 and Chrome. Many users have been facing rendering issues with nouveau such as tabs and address bar getting partially or totally covered by multiple black rectangles. Users also experienced memory and CPU leak. Because of these kinds of bug reports, the Chromium team considers the driver unstable.

        The team has disabled the GPU-acceleration by default, but users can still bypass the block if they want to by using these two options: installing proprietary NVidia drivers or running Chrome with –ignore-gpu-blacklist.

      • DRM Graphics Drivers Already Queuing Changes For Linux 5.1
        While the Linux 5.0 kernel merge window (nee Linux 4.21) just closed this past Sunday, already there are Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) driver updates queuing for DRM-Next to then premiere with the Linux 5.1 kernel cycle in about two months.

        Maxime Ripard of Bootlin, serving as a new patch wrangler for drm-misc-next that consists of DRM core changes as well as queuing the changes to the smaller DRM drivers, sent in this first pull request to DRM-Next of Linux 5.1 material. This pull has a few core changes as well as work to Broadcom's V3D and VC4 drivers, Rockchip, Sun4i, and VirtIO.

      • Mesa Driver Releases For 2019 Get Plotted Out From 19.0 To 19.3
        With Mesa3D having a nice release rhythm going on now for their quarterly, time-based release cycles, all of their planned major release dates for the year are now published.

        First up is Mesa 19.0, which has been in development for a while now. That feature freeze and initial release candidate is slated for 29 January followed by weekly release candidates until ready. Tentatively that Mesa 19.1.0 release is planned for 19 February.

    • Benchmarks

      • Linux 5.0 File-System Benchmarks: Btrfs vs. EXT4 vs. F2FS vs. XFS
        With all of the major file-systems seeing clean-up work during the Linux 4.21 merge window (now known as Linux 5.0 and particularly with F2FS seeing fixes as a result of it being picked up by Google for support on Pixel devices, I was curious to see how the current popular mainline file-system choices compare for performance. Btrfs, EXT4, F2FS, and XFS were tested on a SATA 3.0 solid-state drive, USB SSD, and an NVMe SSD.

        As of the Linux Git state from a few days ago following all of the file-system feature pull requests having been honored, I carried out some initial Linux 4.21/5.0 file-system tests using the three solid-state drive configurations with the four tested file-systems. A daily snapshot of Ubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo was running on the Threadripper setup while using the Linux Git kernel from the mainline PPA. Btrfs, EXT4, F2FS, and XFS were tested in their out-of-the-box state / default mount options.

      • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Linux Performance From Gaming To TensorFlow & Compute
        Yesterday NVIDIA kicked off their week at CES by announcing the GeForce RTX 2060, the lowest-cost Turing GPU to date at just $349 USD but aims to deliver around the performance of the previous-generation GeForce GTX 1080. I only received my RTX 2060 yesterday for testing but have been putting it through its paces since and have the initial benchmark results to deliver ranging from the OpenGL/Vulkan Linux gaming performance through various interesting GPU compute workloads. Also, with this testing there are graphics cards tested going back to the GeForce GTX 960 Maxwell for an interesting look at how the NVIDIA Linux GPU performance has evolved.

        The GeForce RTX 2060 features 1920 CUDA cores, a 1365MHz base clock and 1680MHz boost clock speed, 6GB of GDDR6 video memory, and is rated for 37T RTX-OPS and 5 Giga-Rays/s. In comparison, the GeForce RTX 2070 Founder's Edition has 2304 CUDA cores, 1710MHz boost clock speed, and rated for 45T RTX-OPS and 6 Giga-Rays/s; but the RTX 2060 has a launch price of just $349 USD compared to $599 USD for the Founder's Edition model of the RTX 2070. The pricing of the RTX 2060 is certainly quite competitive and the best value we've seen out of the Turing hardware to date, though NVIDIA is also reportedly working on some new lower-end GTX/RTX graphics cards as well, but no announcements at this time.

      • Phoronix Test Suite 8.6 Milestone 1 Released

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • 11 Great LXDE Themes
      When it comes to Linux desktop environment aesthetics, the LXDE desktop environment is probably the weakest. The default skin it comes with, to be frank, is kind of dated and bland. Not to worry! Since this desktop environment is on Linux, you can tear it apart and make it look however you’d like!

      So why not make a list dedicated to great themes you can install right now into your LXDE session? I should mention, since this is LXDE, you’ll be able to use both XFCE4 themes as well as GTK2+ themes.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE Plasma 5.14 Desktop Reaches End of Life, Plasma 5.15 Arrives on February 12
        Initially scheduled for the 1st of January 2019, the KDE Plasma 5.14.5 point release is here to add a final round of improvements to the KDE Plasma 5.14 desktop environment, which probably many of you out there are using right now. It contains a total of 61 changes across various components like Plasma Workspace, Plasma NetworkManager, Breeze GTK, Plasma Discover, and Plasma Desktop.

        The biggest improvements include a default cursor theme to the Breeze cursors theme, more stability improvements to the firmware update mechanism of the Plasma Discover package manager, better support to the KDE Plasma comics widget, a bigger Info Center window size, better Mozilla Firefox integration, as well as a much-improved weather widget.

      • Integration of sandboxed Qt applications
        We have been using various tweaks to make sandboxed Qt apps well integrated into the system. For KDE Plasma integration, we have been allowing access to kdeglobals config file, where we store the most common configuration, like used icon theme, widget style, etc. A similar approach has been used by Gnome, where they need to allow access to DConf, otherwise applications will not be able to read default system configuration. These tweaks have been usually set in the runtimes and applications using these runtimes automatically inherited all the needed permissions during the build. This has some weak spots, because changing permissions in the runtime requires all applications to be rebuild to pick up the changes, or applications not using the runtimes at all had to allow all the access themself and really not everyone knows what everything needs to be enabled.

  • Distributions

    • 8 of the Best Linux Distros in 2019
      Linux is a far cry from the esoteric bundles of code it once was, and the number of polished distros out there, offering variants on Windows, OS X and Ubuntu, is testament to that.

      If you’re new to Linux or are looking for a change, these distributions are easily among the best options in 2018. This list was designed to cover different experience levels and use cases. So whether you’re a system admin, developer, or a desktop user, you’ll find something to interest you.

    • New Releases

      • Sparky 4.9.2 & 5.6.2
        Sparky iso images of both lines stable and rolling have been updated and rebuild again.

        This is a minor but important update which provides fixed chown and chmod of /etc/shadow which makes some problems after installing Sparky on a hard drive; the wrong settings been made via sparkybackup tool during a new iso building process so it happens on both stable and rolling iso images.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora Planning A Per-System Unique Identifier For DNF To Count Users
        Fedora developers are looking at implementing a per-system UUID identifier leveraged by the DNF package manager in order to more accurately count their user-base.

        Red Hat's Matthew Miller who currently chairs the Fedora Council has laid out the proposal for Fedora 30 that would roll out a per-system unique identifier used exclusively by DNF in order to better estimate the Fedora user-base. As it stands now, Fedora tries to estimate its user-base solely upon unique IPs dealing with their package archives.

        Besides communicating the UUID to Fedora servers, the Fedora variant (e.g. Fedora Workstation vs. Fedora Server and the different spins) would also be communicated in order to gauge their popularity. It would also be communicated whether it's a short-lived installation like a Fedora container or on-demand cloud instance as opposed to a long-term installation. But the proposal is quick to acknowledge the intent isn't for tracking users but only counting and this UUID wouldn't be re-used by other systems.

      • To No Surprise, Fedora 30 Will Target GNOME 3.32
        New Fedora releases go hand-in-hand with the latest and greatest GNOME releases. But as a formality, the change proposal has been submitted to officially approve shipping Fedora Workstation 30 with the GNOME 3.32 desktop.

        With needing the approval of the Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee (FESCo), the change proposal was drafted on Monday for updating GNOME against its 3.32 release that will be out in March.

      • Fedora Firefox heads to updates with PGO/LTO.
        I’ve had lots of fun with GCC performance tuning at Fedora but without much results. When Mozilla switched its official builds to clang I considered that too due to difficulties with GCC PGO/LTO setup and inferior Fedora Firefox builds speed compared to Mozilla official builds.

        That movement woke up GCC fans to parry that threat. Lots of arguments were brought to that ticket about clang insecurity and missing features. More importantly upstream developer Honza Hubicka found and fixed profile data generation bug (beside the others) and Jakub Jelinek worked out a GCC bug which caused Firefox crash at startup.

    • Debian Family

      • Debian 10 "Buster" Working To Have UEFI SecureBoot In Good Shape
        While most major Linux distributions have been supporting UEFI SecureBoot for years already in order to work nicely on modern locked-down (generally Windows pre-loaded) PCs, Debian stable releases have yet to properly support SecureBoot but that should be changing with this year's release of 10.0 Buster.

        Debian 9 "Stretch" ended up not having Secure Boot support in time while now for the Debian 10.0 release that's beginning its initial soft freeze, UEFI SecureBoot has fortunately been worked out.

      • Apple Time Machine backups on Debian 9 (Stretch)
        Netatalk 3.1.12 has been released which fixes an 18 year old RCE bug. The Medium write up on CVE-2018-1160 by Jacob Baines is quite an entertaining read.

        The full release notes for 3.1.12 are unfortunately not even half as interesting.

      • Steve McIntyre: Rebuilding the entire Debian archive twice on arm64 hardware for fun and profit
        This has taken a while in coming, for which I apologise. There's a lot of work involved in rebuilding the whole Debian archive, and many days spent analysing the results. You learn quite a lot, too! :-)

        I promised way back before DebConf 18 last August that I'd publish the results of the rebuilds that I'd just started. Here they are, after a few false starts. I've been rebuilding the archive specifically to check if we would have any problems building our 32-bit Arm ports (armel and armhf) using 64-bit arm64 hardware. I might have found other issues too, but that was my goal.

      • ZDBSP
        A Debian package of ZDBSP is now available in the unstable distribution.

      • Derivatives

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • How Should I Run My Community Elections?
    Sooner or later in the growth of a community project, the question arises of how to choose representatives for the community. For some projects, this is when they lose a founder, and as a group decide to move to a “ruling technical council” model; for other projects, the need comes from the move to a non-profit governing body with paying members, and the desire to have a technical steering committee chosen from members; other projects evolve over time to a representative leadership model.

    I have been involved in boot-strapping, reforming, or running elections in a number of different communities over the years (GNOME, Maemo, OpenStack, OPNFV, OpenDaylight,, and others). Which voting system to use, how to define the electorate, and limiting the pool of eligible candidates have tended to create the deepest rat-hole conversations in all projects I have been involved in when the topic of elections has come up.

    The Python project, in the context of debating a governance change, recently put together a comprehensive survey of project governance and voting procedures, and voted to move to an elected Steering Committee model. This article attempts to synthesize some of the best practices I have seen used in various projects and elections, covering who gets to vote, who can be a candidate, and how elections are run.

  • Neary: How Should I Run My Community Elections?
    On the Red Hat community blog, Dave Neary writes about community governance and, in particular, how to choose who gets a vote, who can run, and how to decide a winner when electing a leader or council. He summarizes a number of different options that he has encountered with an eye toward avoiding the deep rat-hole conversations that picking a way to run elections can engender.

  • December 2018 License-Review List Summary

  • December 2018 License-Discuss List Summary
    I've been asked to provide monthly summaries of the license-review and license-discuss mailing lists. The summaries will also be posted on their respective lists, though this blog version includes detailed links into the list archives. Any feedback is welcome, though replies on the content should of course be made to the original threads.

  • Andre Klapper: Wikimedia in Google Code-in 2018
    Google Code-in (GCI) is an annual seven week long contest for 14–17-year-old students exploring free and open source software projects. Organizations, such as the Wikimedia community, offer small tasks in the areas of code, documentation, outreach, research, and design. Students who complete tasks receive a digital certificate and a shirt from Google. The top students in every participating organization win a visit of Google’s headquarters. Students can directly experience how large online projects are organized, collaborate with humans across the planet, and the students’ accepted work is made available to millions of worldwide users.

    For the sixth time, Wikimedia was one of 27 participating organizations which offered tasks mentored by community members.

  • How Open Source Has Turned the Software Industry Upside-Down
    Open source has transformed how the software industry works. Open source makes the cloud possible. And adopting open source changes how companies do business, driving greater transparency and frankness.

    Without open source, you don't get the cloud. "Open source made it cheap and easy to build services you could rent to people," says John Graham-Cumming, CTO of Cloudflare Inc. , which provides security and performance services for online businesses. "It's hard to imagine making something like WhatsApp or Netflix if they had to license Windows Server, Visual Studio and other proprietary tools." (See Cloudflare Wants to Protect the Whole Internet – Legacy Apps, IoT, the Works.)

    Cloud operators need to be able to customize code to deliver necessary performance and capabilities. A vendor would say no to that kind of custom coding, or charge a prohibitive price, Graham-Cumming says.

    "There are many things that it would have been too expensive to build if you had licensed the code from someone else," he says.

  • NSA confirms plans to unveil malware analysis tool at RSA Conference
    The US National Security Agency (NSA) has confirmed plans to make a US government developed reverse engineering tool, GHIDRA, freely available in March.

    The official release of GHIDRA will coincide with a presentation by senior NSA adviser Robert Joyce at the RSA security conference in San Francisco on March 5, featuring the first public demonstration of the tool.

    GHIDRA is a disassembler that presents executable files as instructions in assembly code, so that the functions of suspicious software samples can be analysed by security researchers or corporate blue teams.

    The framework was initially developed at the beginning of the century by the NSA before, more recently, the intel agency began sharing the tool with other US government agencies.

    The existence of the tool was publicly exposed two years ago, in March 2017, when WikiLeaks released Vault7, a collection of internal CIA files.

  • Open source: towards a truly open infrastructure
    The move to microservices and open technologies like containers, Docker and Kubernetes in particular, are helping businesses package up their legacy applications and put them in the cloud.

    Recent estimates from 451 Research noted that the container market, even in the early days of the space, suggested enormous growth, with application containers set to become a $2.7 billion (€2.35 billion) market by 2020.

    The 451 Research report can probably be considered a conservative estimation now, with Docker driving forward its pivot to the enterprise, and considering the popularity of the Google-born Kubernetes container orchestration system, the cash value of the market probably does not reflect usage.

    Not only is Kubernetes adoption growing quickly in the developer world, it is also increasingly informing major enterprise purchasing decisions (see investment – below) such as VMware buying Heptio for a cool half billion dollars.

    There were some interesting developments at the Openstack Foundation in the container space too, with the Intel, and Huawei, backed Kata containers release, which act like lightweight VMs, wrapped with an additional layer of security.

  • How to Overcome the Challenges of Standing Up a Private Cloud with OpenStack for Your Customers
    In “OpenStack: Enabler of Digital Transformation—How Service Providers Can Benefit,” 451 Research speaks directly to some of the concerns you as a service provider probably have, such as utilization rates and scale, when you think of standing up a private cloud for your customers. Your business thrives when you can automate services for your customers, and OpenStack can help. Of course, because OpenStack is an open source technology, you could go the route of downloading the software and setting it up yourself, from scratch—but that will likely involve a lot of DIY work.


    The paper also outlines four main challenges service providers will face when using an open source cloud management platform (CMP) such as OpenStack to set up a private cloud for customers, and shares a few thoughts on facing down those challenges:

  • Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 7.1 source code available from HMD Global
    HMD has finally shifted into a higher gear when it comes to meeting the obligation under which the company uses the open-source software. Basically, to use open source software, HMD has to publish the changes it made, the whole software for which it used the open-source code or something in between, depending on the type of the license. HMD’s kernel list has grown nicely over the past few weeks, with Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 7.1 being the latest additions.

  • Sony appears to be blocking Kodi on its recent Android TVs
    Kodi (formerly XBMC) has attracted an undeservedly bad rap outside media streaming circles, garnering a piracy-associated reputation that isn't quite merited — at least, in my opinion. Whatever you might believe, it looks like Sony might be taking a critical view of the project, too, as reports indicate that at least some of the company's recent Android TVs are actively blocking the app.

    For the unfamiliar, Kodi is an open source, cross-platform streaming and media player solution that allows you to access and play local, network, and remote content. The UI has been extensively optimized over the last 15 years since the XBMC days to provide one of the best big-screen experiences out there, and it's been one of the most popular HTPC media playback applications for years.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • TIL: Firefox has a little-known feature to spare your blushes on the new-tab page
        For many of us, our browsers' new-tab pages are something of a liability. Whichever browser you use, they all follow a fairly similar style: a bunch of boxes linking to the sites that we use and visit regularly. This is great when your regular sites are Ars, Gmail, and Twitter. But all too often, sites of a less salubrious nature find their way onto our new-tab pages, disclosing to the world our dirty habits when nobody's watching. While we can, of course, clean up our new-tab pages by Xing out the buttons for the offending sites, a moment of inattention can all too easily expose our pornographic predilections to the world.

      • Firefox 65 Beta 10 Testday, January 11th
        We are happy to let you know that Friday, January 11th, we are organizing Firefox 65 Beta 10 Testday. We’ll be focusing our testing on: Firefox Monitor, Content Blocking and Find Toolbar.

        Check out the detailed instructions via this etherpad.

      • Mozilla VR Blog: Navigation Study for 3DoF Devices
        Don’t touch the camera. The camera is part of the users head. Don’t try to move it. All apps which move the camera induce some form of motion sickness. Instead use one of a few different forms of teleportation, always under user control.

        The ideal control for me was teleportation to semantically meaningful locations, not just 'forward ten steps'. Further more, when presenting the user with a full 360 environment it is helpful to have a way to recenter the view, such as by using left/right buttons on the controller. Without a recentering option the user will have to physically turn themselves around, which is cumbersome unless you are in a swivel chair.

        To help complete the illusion I suggest subtle sound effects for movement, selection, and recentering. Just make sure they aren't very noticable.

      • This Week In Servo 122
        In the past three weeks, we merged 130 PRs in the Servo organization’s repositories.

        Congratulations to Ygg01 for their new reviewer status for the html5ever repository!

      • Mozilla Announces Deal to Bring Firefox Reality to HTC VIVE Devices
        Last year, Mozilla set out to build a best-in-class browser that was made specifically for immersive browsing. The result was Firefox Reality, a browser designed from the ground up to work on virtual reality headsets. To kick off 2019, we are happy to announce that we are partnering with HTC VIVE to power immersive web experiences across Vive’s portfolio of devices.

        What does this mean? It means that Vive users will enjoy all of the benefits of Firefox Reality (such as its speed, power, and privacy features) every time they open the Vive internet browser. We are also excited to bring our feed of immersive web experiences to every Vive user. There are so many amazing creators out there, and we are continually impressed by what they are building.

        “This year, Vive has set out to bring everyday computing tasks into VR for the first time,” said Michael Almeraris, Vice President, HTC Vive. “Through our exciting and innovative collaboration with Mozilla, we’re closing the gap in XR computing, empowering Vive users to get more content in their headset, while enabling developers to quickly create content for consumers.”

        Virtual reality is one example of how web browsing is evolving beyond our desktop and mobile screens. Here at Mozilla, we are working hard to ensure these new platforms can deliver browsing experiences that provide users with the level of privacy, ease-of-use, and control that they have come to expect from Firefox.

      • Gregory Szorc: Seeking Employment
        After almost seven and a half years as an employee of Mozilla Corporation, I'm moving on. I have already worked my final day as an employee.

        This post is the first time that I've publicly acknowledged my departure. To any Mozillians reading this, I regret that I did not send out a farewell email before I left. But the circumstances of my departure weren't conducive to doing so. I've been drafting a proper farewell blog post. But it has been very challenging to compose. Furthermore, each passing day brings with it new insights into my time at Mozilla and a new wrinkle to integrate into the reflective story I want to tell in that post. I vow to eventually publish a proper goodbye that serves as the bookend to my employment at Mozilla. Until then, just let me say that I'm already missing working with many of you. I've connected with several people since I left and still owe responses or messages to many more. If you want to get in touch, my contact info is in my résumé.


        One of the reasons I worked for Mozilla was because of my personal alignment with the Mozilla Manifesto. So I gravitate towards employers that share those principles and am somewhat turned off by those that counteract them. But I recognize that the world is complex and that competing perspectives aren't intrinsically evil. In other words, I try to maintain an open mind.

        I'm attracted to employers that align their business with improving the well-being of the planet, especially the people on it. The link between the business and well-being can be tenuous: a B2B business for example is presumably selling something that helps people, and that helping is what matters to me. The tighter the link between the business and improving the world will increase my attraction to a employer.

        I started my university education as a biomedical engineer because I liked the idea of being at the intersection of technology and medicine. And part of me really wants to return to this space because there are few things more noble than helping a fellow human being in need.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • 5 open source cloud monitoring tools to evaluate in 2019
      The open source software ecosystem has grown bigger and better over the last decade, and cloud monitoring tools are no exception. In 2019, enterprises will have a wide range of options for open source tools to monitor cloud apps.

      That's good news for developers and admins, since the native monitoring tools available on public cloud platforms, such as AWS and Azure, aren't always enough to properly monitor and manage cloud apps -- particularly those in multi-cloud or private cloud environments.

    • New open source cloud platform in the works after merger
      Cloudera, Inc., an enterprise data cloud company, announced completion of its merger with Hortonworks. Cloudera will deliver the first enterprise data cloud - unlocking the power of any data, running in any cloud from the Edge to AI, on a 100% open-source data platform. An enterprise data cloud supports both hybrid and multi-cloud deployments, providing enterprises with the flexibility to perform machine learning and analytics with their data, their way, with no lock-in.

  • Databases

    • MongoDB in 2019: Cloud, transactions, and mobile will be on the agenda
      In an interview with Colin Barker last month, Eliot Horowitz, MongoDB's CTO, said his goal in creating the platform was to make it the database that just gets out of developers' ways. Not surprisingly, MongoDB's original claim to fame was that it was very developer-friendly, just like its open source ancestor MySQL was as part of the LAMP stack.

      We had a chance to reprise Barker's session with a follow-up discussion at MongoDB's New York offices just before the holidays. First, we looked back. Over the past year, MongoDB's developer focus took it into adding multi-document ACID transaction support, growing its Atlas managed cloud service, and adding a serverless platform called Stitch.

  • LibreOffice

    • Michael Meeks: Marketing in Vendor Neutral FLOSS Projects #3
      One of the particular pathologies of the FLOSS world is that where marketing and investment get out of step. This was particularly obvious around the Linux Desktop and contributed to the tragic commercial failure not only of individual desktop Linux distributions (remember Mandriva?), but also to the significant pruning of both SUSE, and ultimately RedHat’s desktop investment – before finally claiming much of Canonical’s desktop investment too.

      Setting a price expectation in a market of zero (or below), forever and for everyone – is ultimately toxic to building a thriving commercial ecosystem. Therefore, ensuring that marketing and engineering investment are well aligned is in this area is something that TDF must be focused on. Those subsidizing marketing and a zero-price-point by getting others to do the engineering for them - tend to talk about their virtuous investment in growing the pie / market size for all; however driving an unhelpful price expectation for enterprises in an un-sustainable way is ultimately self-defeating.

      It is vitally important that returns are correlated with investments – ie. if one company invests heavily, that its return is reasonably correlated with its investment vs. non-investors, otherwise – the tragedy of the commons yields a set of passive parties eagerly waiting for the returns generated by others’ engineering investment.

      In individual projects this should be addressed through various qualitative and quantitative investment metrics, clearly presenting the realities of what has been contributed, while retaining a neutrality to vendors and investors, and advertising our model to new entrants.
    • Community Member Monday: José Gatica and Andika Triwidada
      LibreOffice is the work of hundreds of volunteers and certified developers across the globe. Today we speak to two members of the community about their activities and experiences in the project!

    • Four ways to get started developing LibreOffice

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Could the rise of open source be the key to wider DevOps adoption?
      Alongside excitement and surprise, both deals have sparked some trepidation and worries in the developer community. With some of the biggest stewards of open source now under the umbrella of big tech, will the basic tenants of the movement be put at risk? What independent organizations might take up the mantle?

      Five years ago, these acquisitions might have been more worrisome, but big companies today understand the importance of open source, Sijbrandij said.

      The acquisition of Red Hat, the largest software company acquisition in history, brought no proprietary source code to IBM. Big Blue knows "they have to be a great steward, because they didn't buy it for the [intellectual property] because there is no IP," he said.

    • Should open leaders expect to have privacy? [Ed: Red Hat's site composed by Microsoft with the typical openwashing of companies]
      As an open leader, I share because I want to be inclusive. In my moment of sharing, I set the example for others to donate their stories so we can be a more fully realized, creative group.

      Sound too touchy feely for you? Think about a time when you feel like you're doing your best work. I bet your best work occurs when you're connecting with and learning from others. These feelings stem from open leaders' desire to create inclusive teams.

      The word "inclusive" is the key word here, as I do not want to inadvertently exclude or marginalize anyone by sharing something private. I value the different perspectives and habits people bring to interactions, so I don't want something I post or share online to quiet others and prevent more sharing in the future. Instead, I want people to feel like they're learning something from what I share.

    • Using a local NuGet server with Red Hat OpenShift [Ed: Red Hat is pushing .NOT on behalf of Microsoft]
    • LeddarTech Joins Baidu’s Apollo Autonomous Driving Open Platform

  • Funding

    • Open Source Software Marketplace Tidelift Raises $25M in Series B

    • These former Red Hat employees just got $25 million to try to find a new business model for open source software
      Back in the early 2000s, people would balk at the notion of using free, open source software to run a serious business — companies like Red Hat, which bet its business model on the concept, were seen as oddities. But times have changed: Open source software is key to most modern computing infrastructures. And over a decade later, IBM plans to acquire Red Hat for a colossal $34 billion.

      Now, a group of former Red Hat employees have co-founded Tidelift, a startup that wants to repeat the trick and pioneer a new business model for open source software. To that end, Tidelift announced on Monday $25 million in new funding from General Catalyst, Foundry Group, and former Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik.
    • Tidelift Raises $25M Series B Just Seven Months After Last Funding
      Tidelift, a startup focused on helping developers work with open source technology, announced today the close of a $25 million Series B round of funding just seven months after its last raise.

      The Boston company has now raised a total of $40 million since it was founded in 2017.
    • Tidelift’s “Netflix for Open-Source Software” Model Gets $25M Boost
      Tidelift, a startup trying to solve some of the open-source software industry’s problems around compensation and security, said it wrapped up a $25 million investment to gather more publicly maintained software projects under its umbrella.

      The Boston-based company, founded in 2017 by four Red Hat vets, said it is trying to recreate what Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) did with the Linux open-source computer operating system—but with as large a swath of the open-source realm as possible.
    • Open source monetization startup Tidelift raises $25m series
    • Open source startup Tidelift grabs $25 mln Series B

    • Former Red Hat CEO Backs Tidelift’s $25M Series B
      Open source software company Tidelift raised $25 million in a Series B funding round, which followed closely on the heels of its $15 million Series A just seven months ago. General Catalyst, Foundry Group, and former Red Hat Chairman and CEO Matthew Szulik co-led the Series B. All three investors also co-led the startup’s Series A.

      The Boston-based company provides support services for open source projects including JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby, Apache Struts, and Mongoose by partnering with project maintainers.

      Its business model works like this: companies pay Tidelift a subscription, and in return they receive professional support for the open source projects they use from the developers who created and maintain these projects. This includes security updates, maintenance, and legal assurances.

      Tidelift, in turn, pays the developers to provide this support. And this cycle “makes open source work better for everyone,” wrote co-founder and CEO Donald Fischer in a blog about the Series B. “More than 35 million open source repositories now depend on packages that are included in the Tidelift Subscription.”

    • Open-source software support provider Tidelift raises $25M
      Open-source software company Tidelift Inc. is heading into the new year with renewed momentum after snagging a $25 million round of funding.

      The Series B round announced today was led by the investment firms General Catalyst and Foundry Group, as well as former Red Hat Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Matthew Szulik. The three investors had all participated in Tidelift’s previous $15 million Series A round in May.

      Tidelift said it will use the new funds to grow what it says is a unique business model for open-source software. It enables its customers to rely on the core developers of the projects they use to provide professional support services.

    • Open-source software maker Tidelift raises $25M funding round

  • BSD

    • LLVM Is Nearly Finalized On Its Repository Conversion To Git
      A new conversion process has wrapped up for the LLVM Git repositories in their migration from Subversion. Unless there are any new, last-minute objections, the conversion is considered final and ready to be made official.

      For a while now LLVM has been looking at migrating their projects to Git and using GitHub to centralize its development. Should you have missed the past articles on the topic, LLVM lays out their case for migrating to Git/GitHub via this documentation. This conversion process now appears ready for production.

    • How I did start using FreeBSD

      Never the less the ALPHA architecture was much ahead of its time. One more example that not always the better or more enhanced technology is adopted.

    • Netgate€® Introduces SG-1100 pfSense€® Security Gateway Appliance

  • Public Services/Government

    • EU offers bug bounties on popular open source software
      The European Union (EU) is rolling out a bug bounty scheme on some of the most popular free and open source software around in a bid to ultimately make the internet a safer place.

      A total of €851,000 (not too far from US$1 million) is up for grabs as rewards for identifying security vulnerabilities in 15 widely used software projects (a full breakdown is shown below). A portion of the cash-for-bugs scheme is kicking off today, while nearly all others are scheduled to begin later this month.

      The program was announced by Julia Reda, a member of the European Parliament, who – together with fellow EU parliamentarian Max Andersson – has spearheaded the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project since 2014.

    • EU launches bug bounties on free and open source software
      After setting up a bug bounty program for VLC Media Player in late 2017, the European Commission (EC) has announced the launch of 14 new ones that will cover other free and open source software used by European Union institutions.

    • EU launches open source bug bounty
      The European Union (EU) has announced it is to support several open source bug bounty programmes. It is doing so in order to protect the open source software that the EU is becoming ever more reliant upon. The move was announced by Member of the European Parliant (MEP) Julia Reda who listed 15 projects. However, only 14 will receive funding although it is not clear which one will be left out.

      The European Union (EU) has announced it is to support several open source bug bounty programmes. It is doing so in order to protect the open source software that the EU is becoming ever more reliant upon. The move was announced by Member of the European Parliant (MEP) Julia Reda who listed 15 projects. However, only 14 will receive funding although it is not clear which one will be left out.

    • NSA to Open Source its Reverse Engineering Tool GHIDRA
      NSA is going to open source its software reverse engineering framework known as GHIDRA. It will be available to the public for free.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Government-Serving GIS Company Boundless Spatial Acquired
        Earth-imaging company Planet is poised to expand its commercial business with government in the U.S. by acquiring Boundless Spatial, a geospatial software company that creates open source products and sells support, training and core development to meet geospatial requirements. The resulting subsidiary, Planet Federal, will focus on working with federal clients.

        Planet announced the agreement in December but did not specify official terms, with the deal expected to close in the coming months.

    • Open Access/Content

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Interview with Patrik Ohldin of Open Source Metal 3D Printing Company Freemelt
        I’ve known Patrik Ohldin for a long time as a supremely knowledgeable metal printing guy. He’s been working in metal 3D printing for over 14 years, 12 of those as an Area Sales Manager for Swedish EBM metal printing company and now GE subsidiary Arcam. He really knows a tonne about EBM and electron beam powder bed fusion technologies. He is also a stand-up guy that knows how to explain, educate and understand business cases in a wide array of areas. Patrik was instrumental in introducing EBM to new areas such as aerospace and orthopedic implants and helped many firms industrialize metal 3D printing. After more than 12 years of selling EBM machines worldwide and being a key player in EBM’s conquest of foreign markets, Patrik co-founded open source electron beam powder bed fusion company Freemelt.

      • I built an open-source robot that steps your steps when the steps you stepped weren't counted by your step counter: Frequently Asked Questions
        The future of fitness tracking is here! reStepper is an open-source, arduino-powered machine to walk your fitness tracker after those unfortunate workouts when your steps didn’t get logged. Did you have the audacity to take you child for a walk in a stroller

      • Member Directory: Raspberry Pi

        Company: Raspberry Pi

        Membership Level: Silver

  • Programming/Development

    • Using the Yeoman Camel-Project generator to jump start a project
      The Red Hat Fuse Tooling team recently broadened its focus from a cross-platform, single-IDE (Eclipse) approach to a cross-platform, cross-IDE approach (Eclipse, VS Code, Che), starting several concerted efforts to provide tools that work across platforms and development environments. Supporting VS Code has become a priority that led us to explore using the Yeoman framework for project and file generation to provide developers a way to jump start their Fuse/Camel development efforts.

      This article describes the Yeoman framework and the new Yeoman-based Camel-Project generator the Fuse Tooling team created, and it shows how to install and run the generator.

    • Using The Pandas Category Data Type
      In my previous article, I wrote about pandas data types; what they are and how to convert data to the appropriate type. This article will focus on the pandas categorical data type and some of the benefits and drawbacks of using it.

    • Everett v1.0.0 released!
      Everett is a configuration library for Python apps.

    • Encrypt the text with python

    • Looking back on 2018, looking to 2019
      This led to the odd situation later in the year when I was given the NumFOCUS Community Service Award – I had to accept it with a bit of a wry grin as I’d already stepped back from many organisational roles in PyDataLondon by this point. The lovely outcome of stepping back was that…nothing really changed for PyDataLondon. I’m immensely proud of the organising team we’ve built, everything just kept ticking along nicely. I’m now back to being more involved and I’m happy to say we’ve got so many suggested talks coming through that we’re scheduled now for a chunk of the year ahead.

      The continued growth in our PyDataLondon community (with 8,500+ members – AFAIK we’re the largest data science event in the UK) and the wider PyData community (over 127 international PyData communities) is lovely to see. I helped open the PyDataPrague meetup a few months back and was happy to share some of our lessons from growing our London community.

    • A sneak preview at the next python pygame project

    • Code Challenge 58 - Analyze Podcast Transcripts with NLTK - Part I - Review

    • The Ultimate Guide to Python Type Checking

    • Quick Tip: Consuming Google Search results to use for web scraping
    • Building a traffic fine scraper with Python

    • Python dictionary views

    • Local web development vs Vagrant vs Docker: What’s right for you?
      What tools do you use to build your web applications? Your choice matters a lot because you’ll spend a lot of time working in that environment.

      If you make a poor choice, you’ll be stuck with something suboptimal that can slow you down massively and make your project grind to a halt.

      If you make a harmonious choice, your tool will aide you on your development journey and let you crank out features to delight your customers.

    • Hacking math education with Python
      Mathematics instruction has a bad reputation, especially with people (like me) who've had trouble with the traditional approach, which emphasizes rote memorization and theory that seems far removed from students' real world.

      While teaching a student who was baffled by his math lessons, Peter Farrell, a Python developer and mathematics teacher, decided to try using Python to teach the boy the math concepts he was having trouble learning.

      Peter was inspired by the work of Seymour Papert, the father of the Logo programming language, which lives on in Python's Turtle module. The Turtle metaphor hooked Peter on Python and using it to teach math, much like I was drawn to Python.

    • EuroPython 2019: Kicking off the organization

    • Extracting popular topics from subreddits

    • William Vincent’s list of programming books for 2019
      Will Vincent, author of Django for Beginners and Rest APIs with Django has his list of book recommendations for the year.
    • Python Operators
    • Calculate the angle of the sun
    • BH 1.69.0-1 on CRAN
      The BH package provides a sizeable portion of the Boost C++ libraries as a set of template headers for use by R. It is quite popular, and frequently used together with Rcpp. The BH CRAN page shows e.g. that it is used by rstan, dplyr as well as a few other packages. The current count of reverse dependencies is at 164.

      Boost releases every four months. The last release we packaged was 1.66 from February—and this BH release gets us to Boost 1.69 released just three or so weeks ago. And as blogged last month, we made a pre-release (following several reverse-depends checks) to allow three packages affected by changes in Boost to adapt. My RcppStreams package was one, and we made an update release 0.1.2 just yesterday. This BH release was also preceded by another reverse-depends check on the weekend.

      Sine the 1.66 release of BH, CRAN tightened policies some more. Pragmas suppressing compiler warnings are now verboten so I had to disable a few. Expect compilations of packages using Boost, and BH, to be potentially very noisy. Consider adding flags to your local ~/.R/Makeconf and we should add them to the src/Makevars as much as we can (eg my ticket #3961 to dplyr). Collecting a few of these on a BH wiki page may not be a bad idea.

    • Rust in 2019: Focus on sustainability
      To me, 2018 felt like a big turning point for Rust, and it wasn’t just the edition. Suddenly, it has become “normal” for me to meet people using Rust at their jobs. Rust conferences are growing and starting to have large number of sponsors. Heck, I even met some professional Rust developers amongst the parents at a kid’s birthday party recently. Something has shifted, and I like it.

      At the same time, I’ve also noticed a lot of exhaustion. I know I feel it – and a lot of people I talk to seem to feel the same way. It’s great that so much is going on in the Rust world, but we need to get better at scaling our processes up and processing it effectively.

      When I think about a “theme” for 2019, the word that keeps coming to mind for me is sustainability. I think Rust has been moving at a breakneck pace since 1.0, and that’s been great: it’s what Rust needed. But as Rust gains more solid footing out there, it’s a good idea for us to start looking for how we can go back and tend to the structures we’ve built.

    • How to Sort a List Using Python Sort List() Method


  • Say What? How Reporters Gather and Use Quotations
    Reporters work hard to get compelling or colorful quotations. It’s how we show people saying what they want to say in their own words. But getting those good quotations can be hard work. For some stories, we interview our subjects several times. Sometimes, we ask the same question more than once, or in subtly different ways, hoping to get a good quotation.

    But what’s a good quotation? For my money, the best quotations reveal a truth about the person being quoted. They help reflect the speaker’s opinion on the subject of the story, hopefully in a lively manner, while offering a clue to their personality in how they use language. They capture a person’s emotions in their own words.


    Quotations also help move stories forward; they don’t echo what the reporter has already written in his or her own voice. Instead, they add an urgency to the story as it moves to its natural finishing point.

  • Science

    • The rise in American high-school graduation rates looks puffed-up

      Then the truth emerged. It began with media reports on shenanigans at Ballou High School, an all-minority and entirely poor high school in the southeastern corner of the nation’s capital. Graduation rates had gone from 50% in 2012 to 64% in 2017. When auditors examined the district’s records, they found that 34% of all diplomas in 2017 year were improperly awarded. Many went to students who seldom showed up at school. Graduation rates at Ballou have since sunk back to Earth.

    • Toll on Science and Research Mounts as Government Shutdown Continues

      The partial shutdown has emptied laboratories across the country, forced scientists from the field and upended several scientific conferences.

  • Hardware

    • Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom

      But the most consequential hit to Apple’s bottom line may be from people who are holding on to their phones for longer. Back in 2015, iPhones were being replaced after roughly two years, on average, according to BayStreet Research, a firm that tracks smartphone sales. That period has jumped to roughly three years, and is expected to grow even more.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • It’s Time for an Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill
      Everyone deserves access to high-quality contraception. Ninety-nine percent of US women aged 15-44 who have ever had sex have used contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, manage health conditions and ensure autonomy over their own bodies. Despite the fact that we need to keep fighting political attacks on birth control insurance coverage and access, we also don’t want to lose sight of the future that reproductive justice advocates are fighting for: truly accessible sexual and reproductive health care for all people and the ability for every person to make decisions about their own bodies and lives with dignity.

      Since the birth control pill first came on the market more than 50 years ago, women have made enormous strides. The pill has helped women to achieve higher levels of educational and career advancement, more fully participate in the workforce, and face less economic insecurity by allowing them to control when and whether they become pregnant. One-third of the wage gains women have achieved over the 1980s and 1990s have been attributed to access to birth control pills. Access to contraception translates to healthier mothers, newborns, families and communities by allowing people to help time and space births.

      Birth control pills are safe and effective, but there are currently too many barriers to access them. Almost one in three women who have ever tried to get a prescription for birth control said they’ve faced obstacles, including not having a regular health care provider, the distance to visit a health care provider, the cost for an appointment, or challenges taking time off from work or school.

    • Coverage Denied: Medicaid Patients Suffer As Layers Of Private Companies Profit
      Marcela Villa isn’t a big name in health care — but she played a crucial role in the lives of thousands of Medicaid patients in California. Her official title: denial nurse.

      Each week, dozens of requests for treatment landed on her desk after preliminary rejections. Her job, with the assistance of a part-time medical director, was to conclusively determine whether the care — from doctor visits to cancer treatment — should be covered under the nation’s health insurance program for low-income Americans.

      She was drowning in requests, she said, and felt pressed to uphold most of the denials she saw. “If it was a high-dollar case, they tried to deny it,” Villa said. “I told them you can’t deny it just because it’s going to cost $20,000.”

      Villa, 32, did not work for the government. She did not even work for an insurer under contract with the government. She worked for a company now called Agilon Health. Owned by a private equity firm, it’s among the legion of private subcontractors looking to profit from Medicaid patients.

    • Center for Science in the Public Interest Greg Jaffe Cornell and GMOs
      But that reputation has suffered over the years because of the group’s stance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – including its opposition to mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

      That GMO stance aligns CSPI with pro-GMO organizations and against other consumer groups – including Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union and US Right to Know.

      In 2015, CSPI refused to debate Consumers Union’s Michael Hansen on the question of mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

      “Why is CSPI defending a technology that has health and environmental risks but nearly no consumer benefits?” asked Gary Ruskin of US Right to Know at the time. “CSPI has done a lot of good work over the years. But on the issue of GMOs, they have lost their way.”

      Now, Greg Jaffe, the head CSPI’s Biotechnology Project, has publically aligned himself with one of the most pro-GMO groups in the country – the Cornell Alliance for Science.

    • Healthy Soils Essential for Food Security
      Esther Ngumbi, a researcher in entomology at the University of Illinois, writes that, “in the race to beat food insecurity, achieve zero hunger, and address climate change, we must look down—to the soil.”

      Noting that the director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), José Graziano da Silva, has recently stated that the future of the planet depends on healthy soils, Ngumbi argued that “the importance of soil cannot be overstated,” and she outlined three major environmental benefits of healthy soils, including mitigating climate change, providing habitat for microorganisms, and increasing agriculture production.

      Healthy soils mitigate climate change by storing carbon. As Ngumbi reported, research studies have shown that healthy soils reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-80 percent.

    • Federal Court Will Appoint Monitor To Ensure Illinois Prisoners Have Basic Health Care
      A settlement that includes the appointment of a monitor by a federal court was reached in a class action lawsuit over the unconstitutional lack of health care in Illinois prisons.

      The draft consent decree between the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and attorneys representing Illinois prisoners marks the culmination of a legal struggle that has unfolded over the past eight years.

      “We hope this is the beginning of the end of prisoners’ needless suffering and even death. It is a long road, and we are committed to ensuring the necessary changes are made,” declared Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center.

      Two reports on Illinois prison healthcare requested by a district court in the Northern District of Illinois were compiled as part of litigation.

      The second report released on November 14, 2018, concluded examples of preventable deaths were worse than initially uncovered, and that the state’s medical services vendor, Wexford, failed to hire “properly credentialed and privileged physicians.”

      “This appears to be a major factor in preventable morbidity and mortality and significantly increases risk of harm to patients within the IDOC. This results from ineffective governance,” the report stated.

      “Wexford and the IDOC fail to monitor physician care in a manner that protects patient safety,” the report added. “There is no meaningful monitoring of nurse quality of care. If care is provided, it is presumed to be adequate when, in fact, it may not be adequate.”

    • Top Cancer Doctor, Forced Out Over Ties to Drug Makers, Joins Their Ranks
      Dr. José Baselga, who resigned his position as the top doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center after failing to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug companies, is now going to work for one of them.

      AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish drug maker, announced on Monday that it had hired Dr. Baselga as its head of research and development in oncology, a newly created unit that reflects the company’s shift toward cancer treatments, one of the hottest areas in the drug industry.

      In a statement, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, described Baselga as “an outstanding scientific leader.” “José’s research and clinical achievements have led to the development of several innovative medicines, and he is an international thought leader in cancer care and clinical research,” he said.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Monday

    • Protego Labs Boosts Serverless Security With Open-Source Project
      While serverless technology is becoming increasingly widely used, there has been a lack of understanding when it comes to serverless security implications. That's a challenge that Protego Labs is looking to help solve with the release of a freely available open-source tool that helps organizations learn about serverless security.

      Serverless, also sometimes referred to as Functions-as-a-Service, is a technology that enables organizations to run functions in an event-driven approach, rather than requiring a long running persistent server. Among the most popular serverless platforms is Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda, which provides some default security capabilities in the cloud at the infrastructure layer. Though AWS provides some security capabilities there are still application layer risks that organizations need to be aware of when it comes to serverless. The Protego Labs Damn Vulnerable Serverless Application (DVSA) is a purposefully insecure serverless application and toolset that provides organizations with insight into how to properly secure serverless deployments.

      "Our customers were looking for a way to help better understand the real risks from serverless," Tal Malemed, head of security research, Protego Labs, told eWEEK. "So we decided to come up with DVSA (Damn Vulnerable Serverless Application) which is an attempt to be a realistic serverless deployment, and it interacts with various cloud resources including databases, that are typical for a serverless application."

    • From Encrypting the Web to Encrypting the Net: A Technical Deep Dive on Using Certbot to Secure your Mailserver
      We’ve come a long way since we launched Encrypt the Web, our initiative to onboard the World Wide Web to HTTPS. Not only has Let’s Encrypt issued over 380 million certificates, but also nearly 85% of page loads in the United States are over HTTPS, and both figures are still on an upward trajectory.

      However, TLS, the technology that helps to secure HTTP connections, can and should be used to protect all Internet communications—not just the HTTP protocol used to fetch webpages. Though HTTP/S makes up the majority of Internet traffic, there are other network protocols out there that are extremely important to secure. The Internet’s address book, file-sharing between computers, and email don’t use HTTP; they use other communication protocols which are also insecure by default and can benefit from TLS as well, to varying degrees of success.

      Since most of Certbot’s users are website owners, most of Certbot’s documentation (and our own TLS messaging) is geared towards this demographic. The “Software” section of Certbot’s instruction generator only lists popular webserver software and reverse proxies.

      But we’ve decided to expand our mission—from Encrypting the Web to Encrypting the Internet. And we’re tackling SMTP, the protocol that servers used to send email, next! With the most recent release of Certbot v0.29.1, we’ve added some features which make it much easier to use with both Sendmail and Exim. In this guide, we’ll explain how to use Certbot and Let’s Encrypt if you’re trying to secure a mailserver (or actually, anything that isn’t a webserver).

    • Have you thought about replacing your Cisco?
      The number of security vulnerabilities is rising. 2018 is another record year. There is a couple of theories why that is: Some say it is only more vulnerabilities being reported. Others are saying more money is being spent on finding vulnerabilities. What ever it is, it is a positive thing. Every vulnerability that is found can be fixed and not be used as a zero-day vulnerability.

      Regardless of that, 2018 has been an especially bad year for Cisco. It feels like there has not been a day without a major security vulnerability in one of their products. There is a total of 16 CVE reports on Cisco's flagship firewall appliance in 2018.
    • Building c-base @ 35C3 with Flowhub

      The Chaos Communication Congress is a major fixture of the European security and free software scene, with thousands of attendees. As always, the “mother of all hackerspaces” had a big presence there, with a custom booth that we spend nearly two weeks constructing.

    • Tiger – The Unix Security Audit and Intrusion Detection Tool
      Tiger is a free, open source collections of shell scripts for security audit and host intrusion detection, for Unix-like systems such as Linux. It’s a security checker written entirely in shell language and employs various POSIX tools in the backend. It’s major purpose is to check the system configuration and status.

      It’s very extensible than the other security tools, and has a good configuration file. It scans system configuration files, file systems, and user configuration files for possible security problems and reports them.

      In this article, we will show how to install and use Tiger security checker with basic examples in Linux.

    • New hardware-agnostic side-channel attack works against Windows and Linux [Ed: OS-agnostic, not hardware-agnostic, but Catalin Cimpanu likes to put "Linux" in headlines for hits (selling ads for CBS/ZDNet in this case)]

    • Early Warning Network [cracked], bogus threats sent out

      Hackers gained access to the database of a New South Wales-based company that sends free weather warnings on the weekend, through the use of stolen credentials and sent bogus alerts to some users of the system.

    • Microsoft pulls Office 2010 updates because they're big in Japan. As in, big pain in the ASCII
      Microsoft has taken down its latest update for Office 2010 following reports the tweak was causing some versions of Excel to crash.

      Redmond said the KB4032217, KB4461627, KB4032225, and KB4461616 updates, each released on January 2 for PCs running Office 2010, were no longer available.

      Redmond notes that those who have installed the non-security patches "may experience difficulties in Microsoft Excel or other applications," and should uninstall the update to return things to normal.

      Other versions of Office were not affected by the issues.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Asylum-seeking Saudi teenager barricades Bangkok hotel room after claiming Saudi officials abducted her

    • Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi woman blocks Bangkok deportation move

      She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and feared she would be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia and killed by her family.

    • Sunni Militants have Quadrupled in Numbers Since 9/11 Attacks
      A November 2018 study found that the number of Sunni militants has increased by 270% since the September 11, 2001, despite the US-led campaign to combat Al Qaeda and ISIS, the Independent and RT News reported.

      The study, conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., estimated that there are between 100,000 and 230,000 Salafi-jihadist and allied fighters in 2018. In 2001, that figure was estimated between 37,000 and 66,000. The 2018 figures were down about five percent from a peak in 2016, the Independent reported. According to the Independent, senior officials at the White House and Pentagon stated that the actual numbers were far lower.

      The countries with the highest number of fighters were Syria (between 43,650 and 70,550 fighters), Afghanistan (between 27,000 and 64,060), Pakistan (between 17,900 and 39,540), Iraq (between 10,000 and 15,000), Nigeria (between 3,450 and 6,900), and Somalia (between 3,095 and 7,240), according to the study.

    • History to Trump: CIA was aiding Afghan rebels before the Soviets invaded in ’79

    • Break the Cycle: Say No to the Government’s Cruelty, Brutality and Abuse
      Folks, it’s time to break the cycle.

      Let’s make 2019 the year we say no to the laundry list of abuses—cruel, brutal, immoral, unconstitutional and unacceptable—that have been heaped upon us by the government for way too long.

      Let’s make 2019 the year we stop living in a state of utter denial, desensitized to the government’s acts of violence, accustomed to reports of government corruption, and anesthetized to the sights and sounds of Corporate America marching in lockstep with the police state.

      Let’s make 2019 the year we refuse to allow the government’s abusive behavior to be our new normal. There is nothing normal about egregious surveillance, roadside strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, censorship, retaliatory arrests, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, indefinite detentions, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, police brutality, profit-driven prisons, or pay-to-play politicians.

      Here’s just a small sampling of what we suffered through in 2018.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • WikiLeaks' Assange issues official denial of Trump election contacts
      WikiLeaks director Julian Assange said on Monday that his anti-secrecy organization never provided election information to Donald Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone or to Jerome Corsi, a conservative author and conspiracy advocate.

      He made the claims in a paper posted on his official Twitter account.

      Wikileaks during the campaign posted thousands of emails the U.S. said were stolen by Russian intelligence officers who now stand indicted by a grand jury on evidence presented by special counsel Robert Mueller.

    • Top 5 WikiLeaks Denials Related to Robert Mueller’s Russia Investigation
      After it was reported on Sunday that WikiLeaks had sent out a lengthy list of statements it considers defamatory, the “confidential legal communication” has been leaked online. The list, which begins by crediting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with publishing “the largest leaks in the history of the CIA, State Department, Pentagon, the U.S. Democratic Party etc.,” says Assange’s leaking explains the existence of many “falsehoods” against him.

      One subject that repeatedly came up was Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation. Each sentence was prefaced with,”It is false and defamatory to suggest,” so they are essentially denials.

    • LEAK: Read WikiLeaks’ List of 140 Things Not to Say About Julian Assange
      Earlier today, it was reported that WikiLeaks had contacted many journalists with a list of 140 things not to say about Julian Assange. Assange who has been held up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for the past 6 and a half years, has been accused of multiple crimes and misdoing by the media during that time.

      The 5,000 word email included a list of statements which have been made toward Assange, that WikiLeaks claims to be “false and defamatory”.

    • Strive Masiyiwa Not Trustworthy, Trevor Ncube Said In 2008 Elections WikiLeaks Cable
      After the first round of elections in 2008, media entrepreneur, Trevor Ncube, said that Strive Masiyiwa was not to be trusted and that he was the reason a coalition of opposition parties against Mugabe did not happen. Ncube also said then that Masiyiwa’s “ego got in the way”.

      The 2008 WikiLeaks cable was tweeted by prominent constitutional law expert, Alex Magaisa recently.

    • State Secrets and the National Security State
      Inadvertently released federal documents reveal that U.S. officials have apparently secured a secret indictment against Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks who released secret information about the internal workings of the U.S. national-security establishment. In any nation whose government is founded on the concept of a national-security state, that is a cardinal sin, one akin to treason and meriting severe punishment.

      Mind you, Assange isn’t being charged with lying or releasing false or fraudulent information about the U.S. national-security state. Everyone concedes that the WikiLeaks information was authentic. His “crime” was in disclosing to people the wrongdoing of the national-security establishment. No one is supposed to do that, even if the information is true and correct.

      It’s the same with Edward Snowden, the American contractor with the CIA and the NSA who is now relegated to living in Russia. If Snowden returns home, he faces federal criminal prosecution, conviction, and incarceration for disclosing secrets of the U.S. national-security establishment. Again, his “crime” is disclosing the truth about the internal workings of the national-security establishment, not disseminating false information.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • 'Shameful Day for Canada': First Nations Encampment Violently Raided, Land Protectors Arrested
      Reacting to footage of the "invasion" by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), author and activist Naomi Klein said it was "a shameful day for Canada, which has marketed itself as a progressive leader on climate and Indigenous rights."

      Klein condemned the government's raid on unceded Wet'suwet'en territory and the arrest of First Nations land defenders, "all for a gas pipeline that is entirely incompatible with a safe climate."

    • Trump's Disregard of Climate Threat Seen as US Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018
      While experts warned, and the evidence subsequently showed, that the post-Paris efforts by Congress and the Obama administration were not enough to meet the challenges of the warming threat—"the United States has never been on target to fulfill its Paris promises," notes the Post—the Trump administration has made matters worse significantly worse by moving to reverse or weaken the policies that were put in place.

      The Rhodium Group does not say it is impossible for the U.S. to meet its initial Paris obligations, the path the achieving those reductions is now going to be all that much harder.

      "To meet the Paris Agreement target of a 26-28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, the US will need to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 2.6% on average over the next seven years — and faster if declines in other gasses do not keep pace," the report notes. "That’s more than twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history. It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future and/or extremely favorable market and technological conditions."

    • Swedes top climate change resisters’ league
      There are countries that are in earnest about the way humans are overheating the planet, the climate change resisters; and there are others that give what is one of the most fundamental problems facing the world only scant attention.

      Annually over the past 14 years a group of 350 energy and climate experts from around the globe has drawn up a table reflecting the performance of more than 70 countries in tackling climate change.

      Together this group of nations is responsible for more than 90% of total climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

      In the just published index looking at developments in 2018, Sweden, Morocco and Lithuania are the top performers in combatting global warming. At the other end of the scale are Iran, the US and – worst performer by a significant margin – Saudi Arabia.

    • Rural Community in El Salvador Generates Its Own Electricity
      Since 2012 farmers from a small, rural community in the mountains of eastern El Salvador have generated their own electricity, the Inter Press Service reported. For generations, the only light sources available to the people of La Joya de Talchiga were candles or wood fires. As IPS reported, because locals lacked formal documentation that they owned their land, the power company operating in the region refused to supply electricity to them.

      In 2012, the residents of La Joya set out to generate electricity on their own, with technical and financial support from national organizations such as Basic Sanitation, Health Education and Alternative Energies (SABES El Salvador).
    • Shutdown, Drilling and Coal: The Trump Administration’s Holiday Gifts to the World
      President Trump didn’t exactly lie low over the holidays.

      The battle over border-wall funding and the announced departures of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stole most of the headlines, but they were hardly the only events of the Trump administration’s Christmas.

      We kept a close watch on news affecting the environment, health and wildlife, and there was plenty to keep us busy. From new developments on plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to attacks on air-pollution regulations, here’s a blow-by-blow account of what you may have missed:

      Dec. 14: Trump tapped his budget director and notorious climate-change denier Mick Mulvaney as his new chief of staff. The former South Carolina Congressman has a 6 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, and when asked about funding for climate programs in 2017, he said, “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”

      Dec. 15: Trump announced that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is facing numerous investigations, would be out at the end of the year. Follow-up reporting reminded folks that Zinke will likely still be forced to account for his actions. And of course, the infrastructure of like-minded fossil fuel boosters that he put into place in Interior will live on long after he’s gone.

    • Protecting Undocumented Victims of Abuse: Does Hope Lie in Legislative History?
      This is no requiem, no eulogy for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — especially as it relates to the undocumented, who are among the most marginalized people it is meant to protect. The current government shutdown triggered the expiration of this statute that makes lawful immigration status a reality for undocumented people who have been victims of domestic abuse by US citizens or lawful permanent resident spouses. VAWA also provides protections for victims with lawful immigration status, including shelter space, counseling or legal assistance in obtaining protection orders.

      Most recently, the statute was set to expire September 30, 2018, but was extended through December 7, 2018, under a stopgap spending bill. Another congressional stopgap funding measure extended VAWA until December 21, 2018. The tenuous extensions for weeks or days at a time only added to systemic disenfranchisement of domestic violence victims, at a time when even the most basic awareness should have led Congress to extend all VAWA protections permanently and without reservation. Now, the expiration of the statute makes these rights seem merely symbolic.

      VAWA provisions creating immigration relief for undocumented victims were first added to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in 1994, when VAWA was passed. Depending on the individual case, VAWA applications are adjudicated either by immigration courts or by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As a result of the government shutdown, immigration courts are closed, except for courts processing detained persons, which means that unless a VAWA applicant is currently in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the application is not being processed by an immigration court.

    • Supreme Court Blocks ExxonMobil's Effort to Conceal Decades of Documents in Probe of Oil Giant's Climate Deception
      "The public deserves answers from this company about what it knew about the impacts of burning fossil fuels, and when," Healey said, responding on Twitter to the ruling. This victory, she added, "clears the way for our office to investigate Exxon's conduct toward consumers and investors."

      The news, which followed a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling against the company in April, was also welcomed by climate activists—including U.S. communications manager Thanu Yakupitiyage, who thanked Healey "for her vigilant leadership in standing up for people over polluters."

      "Executives at Exxon knew about climate change decades ago, but they chose to lie to the rest of us to line their oily pockets," Yakupitiyage declared. "Now, it's those who have done the least to cause the problem who are paying the cost of this deception through our lives and livelihoods. In 2019, we'll use all our power to make sure Big Oil pays its fair share for climate destruction."

    • Senator Warren's push for climate risk disclosure
      Just prior to the new year, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) threw her hat into what is expected to be a crowded 2020 presidential race. Senator Warren has been an advocate for climate action, and her lead climate proposal capitalizes on her market regulatory expertise to require new levels of climate risk disclosure by public corporations—including agribusiness firms. Introduced in September, the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, which also has the support of several other rumored presidential candidates including Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would require public companies to disclose climate related risk to their shareholders. While the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) already advises that publicly traded companies disclose climate change risks to investors, companies are not required to report on climate in any standardized way through their SEC filings. Additionally, the SEC has been lax in enforcing climate change disclosures.

    • Sunrise Movement: Pelosi’s Actions on Climate Fall Woefully & Inexcusably Short of What We Need
      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing criticism from some climate activists for failing to back a Green New Deal. Last week Pelosi announced the formation of a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, headed by long-standing Florida Congressmember Kathy Castor. But the committee is far weaker than what backers of a Green New Deal had envisioned. The committee will not have subpoena power or the power to draft legislation. We speak with Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group that has occupied and lobbied at congressional offices, risking arrest to demand adoption of the Green New Deal and bold climate leadership.

    • New House Speaker Pelosi Calls Climate Change 'Existential Threat' in Opening Remarks
      Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi received a standing ovation after calling for action on climate change during her first address to the 116th session of Congress Thursday, according to a video shared by Newsweek.

      “We must also face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis, a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions. The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them,” she said.

    • The Miraculous Hope of Climate Realists
      We’re stepping into a new year in the climate fight. The turning of the year is a milestone both for stoking our resolve, and for noting how deep we now are into climate overtime. In 2018 there was a lot of talk of diminishing odds and despair, and not without reason. So if, like me, you’re heading into 2019 discouraged or even despairing, I have three things to say: you’re not wrong; the fight from here on out is not the one you signed up for; but there’s more to hope, even your own, than meets the eye.

      A climate scientist and dear friend told me back in 2008 that she had moved into a “post-hope” stage of her life. She wasn’t despondent, more matter-of-fact, as she left her job here at UCS for a 6-month “breather” in Antarctica. I didn’t understand her at the time; what comes after hope? A few months later, though, through my work analyzing climate impacts and following climate science, I had my first paralyzing run-in with climate grief and since then have gone a few times round the grief cycle. And today, we have the latest science and most recent abdications of leadership underscoring how dire things are. I understand better now.

      But I think she misunderstood hope.

      I don’t have some hopeful gospel to preach to you; I’m not even going to encourage you to be hopeful. But since my teens, through my work and personal passions, I’ve been wandering a path from climate awareness to climate anxiety to climate anguish and I couldn’t help but learn something about the true nature of hope after all these years of running it over with a bus. That knowledge – not optimism or determination, or any virtue on my part – has become my superpower over climate despair. In recent years, in fact, I’ve realized that I’m just immune to it; it lands but can’t stick. You may be the same, though you might describe it differently or not even know it yet.

    • As Canadian Police Target Pipeline Protesters on First Nations Territory, Solidarity Actions Planned Across North America
      As Canadian police forces try to enforce a court injunction backing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Wet'suwet'en territory, a First Nations group has vowed to not back down from protecting what they see as unceded land and their supporters have announced dozens of solidarity actions scheduled for Tuesday in cities across North America.

      Ahead of the demonstrations in Canada and the United States, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday arrived at a checkpoint erected by the Indigenous land defenders designed to prevent TransCanada from constructing its Coastal GasLink pipeline through what the protesters have described as "some of the most beautiful and pristine territory in the world."

    • Refuse is the New “R” Word When it Comes to Plastic Pollution
      A 2015 study found that the threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is “global, pervasive, and increasing.” As Lorraine Chow reported for Truthout in September 2018, the researchers estimated that ninety percent of seabirds have ingested some form of plastic, which birds mistake for food. If plastic consumption continues at its current rate, the study’s authors predicted that, by 2050, 99 percent of seabirds will have plastic in their guts.

      In a separate 2015 study, also reported by Chow, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Georgia, and the Sea Education Association calculated that nine billion tons of plastic have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than seventy years.

  • Finance

    • Despite Ban, Indian Companies Are Using Cryptocurrencies For Internal Use
      In spite of a ban on usage of cryptocurrency in India, stated by the Reserve Bank of India, various top companies are experimenting with the use of cryptocurrencies, according to a new report.

      Companies such as Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL), a Mumbai-based consumer goods company, Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), HDFC Bank and ABG Shipyard, and many more are using the cryptos and its blockchain technology for their internal use.
    • Top companies bank on cryptocurrency for internal use
      Several top corporates and banks are experimenting with virtual currency as a more transparent treasury management tool for optimal utilisation of working capital, settlement among subsidiaries and paying vendors and suppliers while being cautious about regulatory compliance.


      "Several large companies are evaluating various use cases of blockchain, including in areas such as managing intra-group transactions and as a logical extension, looking at its use as a group treasury management tool for more efficient cash and working capital management," said Sai Venkateshwaran, partner and head of CFO advisory, KPMG, in India. "Apart from greater efficiency and accuracy, it has the potential to bring enhanced levels of transparency for group treasury management and also cost savings."

      India's biggest consumer goods company said it's working on several test projects.

      "In line with our vision of 're-imagining HUL,' we are constantly looking to augment digital capabilities in our business," a company spokesperson said. "We are currently working on a number of experimentation projects across our value chain which will propel us into the future and redefine the landscape in which we operate."

      Corporates are experimenting with cryptocurrencies to reconcile accounts, with actual money being transferred only at the end of the financial year or quarter.

    • If You Don’t Get Your Tax Refund, Thank the Trump Shutdown
      The third government shutdown of the Trump Eon entered its 17th day today with little hope for a resolution at hand, and many of the most immediate effects are punishing. The looming threat of delayed tax refunds may carry the most political dynamite, despite Vice President Pence’s promises of an easy fix, but it is by no means the harshest side-effect of yet another Trumpian temper tantrum.

      As this partial shutdown enters its third week, the effects are beginning to bleed significantly into the everyday affairs of the people. Some of these effects are unexpected, given the administration in question: The immigration court system, revved up by the Trump administration, has been significantly slowed, and the federal penal system is likewise operating at reduced power.

      The Violence Against Women Act expired just as the shutdown got underway, cutting off funding for programs that help victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and stalking. Domestic abuse shelters, which depend upon vital federal funding, are scrambling to stay open. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers, along with the towns they work in, are feeling the pain of Trump’s erratic intransigence.

      Within the Native communities spread across the country, the effects of the shutdown may be felt most acutely. “The federal government plays a critical role for the 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 566 federally recognized tribes,” reports Al Jazeera America, “providing key services that include health care, schools, social programs and law enforcement protection, all supported by its long-standing treaty obligations made with Native Americans.” Those treaty obligations are being abrogated once again, this time by a shutdown crisis that simply did not need to happen.

    • America’s Official Poverty Rate Is a Total Farce
    • UNICEF France Calls for Donation in DAI Cryptocurrency to Fund Open Source Blockchain Projects
      The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in France has begun a series of events and has called for donations in Dai (DAI), a cryptocurrency that will help in funding blockchain-based projects to educate youths around the world, the organization announced on its portal on January 6, 2019.
    • Trump Heads to TV, Border as Fed Workers Face Paycheck Sting
      With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he’s demanding before ending the partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missed paychecks Friday as the shutdown drags through a third week.

      Trump’s Oval Office speech — his first as president — will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”

      The administration is also at least talking about the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow Trump to move forward on the wall without Congress approving the $5.6 billion he wants. Vice President Mike Pence said the White House counsel’s office is looking at the idea. Such a move would certainly draw legal challenges, and Trump — who told lawmakers he would be willing to keep the government closed for months or even years — has said he would like to continue negotiations for now.
    • Things that Could Trouble Investors in 2019
      But stocks are not moved by measures of social justice, they respond to current and expected future profits. If the profit share falls back to its pre-recession level, that will be bad news for investors.

      So if folks asked me for the bad things that could happen for the stock market in 2019, this story of a potential profit squeeze or higher inflation prompted an overreaction from the Fed would top my list. I’m surprised it didn’t make it to the NYT’s.
    • Gig Workers Are Falling Into the Payday Loan Trap

      It’s not like the company is unaware of these problems: They’re baked into the business model. People who use payday loan services to float them to their next paycheck may naturally find themselves closer to the financial abyss than others. Earnin does have a feature to make payments faster, and another called Balance Shield that automatically transfers money into your account if it dips below $100.

    • Who Would Believe It? Annals of the New Left Era
      Second, the crucial step of “entering” SDS, just then burgeoning upward on dozens of campuses, carried a heavy weight with ultimately disastrous consequences. A few years earlier, SDS had decided upon “non-exclusion,” essentially not to bar outright followers of Lenin, from entering movement ranks. It was not too hard for fair-minded SDSers to oppose “exclusionism,” perhaps most of all because the furious supporters of US foreign policy in SDS’s parent League for Industrial Democracy had always insisted that Communists (actually, they meant no anti anti communists) be kept out.

      Bear in mind that by the middle 1960s, antiwar demonstrators spontaneously refused the pre-printed signs for demonstrations and…made up their own! Resulting in a wide variety of slogans, many of them satirically directed at hawkish Democrats, it was a move bitterly opposed by liberal anticommunists. We, the vast majority of the new demonstrators, not only demanded that the US withdraw from Vietnam. Increasingly, we wanted the Vietnamese themselves to win, the most shocking thought of all.

      Predictably, however, when the PL newcomers actually joined SDS and urged the Worker-Student Alliance, they created their own hard-bitten faction. This action might rightly be seen as a parallel to another political maneuver within the Left. A small band of Trotskyists had earlier entered the flagging Socialist Party, itself a mere remnant of its own glorious past, with the same contest-and-conquer impulses. PL and the socialistic anticommunists insisted alike—despite all their other differences—that they were only being helpful, as they mobilized for convention resolutions, local chapter fights, and so on. In fact, along with the dramatic tempo of events, the “entrists” actually set the stage for all-out, take-no-prisoner factional brawls. Some observers suspected, in both cases, that intelligence agencies had been involved, but if so, perhaps these only added to the political chaos. A sliver of the Socialist Party survived the takeover attempt, in the long run, as the Democratic Socialists of America. SDS did not survive.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: Dispatch #1
      Absent a dramatic change in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s bargaining position, over 30,000 Los Angeles teachers will strike on Thursday, January 10.

      With nearly half a million students at over 1,000 schools, LAUSD is America’s second largest school district. LAUSD and United Teachers of Los Angeles have been negotiating since April, 2017 and are still far apart, and teachers have been working without a contract for 18 months.

      California’s Public Employment Relations Board issued its factfinding report in mid-December—the last step before UTLA could legally strike—and the neutral factfinder affirmed many key UTLA positions. On December 15 over 50,000 parents, students, and teachers rallied in downtown LA in support of UTLA.

      Key issues in the strike include: inflated class sizes, a lack of full-time nurses in 80 percent of Los Angeles schools, a lack of librarians, and a student-counselor ratio so bad that UTLA’s demand is to bring it down to 500-1. UTLA seeks to get rid of Section 1.5 of our contract which allows LAUSD to set aside negotiated class size averages and caps in event of a financial crisis. LAUSD has repeatedly and spuriously invoked this, and UTLA has demanded its removal.
    • #ShutdownStories: Americans Become Intimately Familiar with U.S. Government Form of Repression
      As the #shutdownstories pour in, a different picture of America emerges than the one commonly seen in the TV news. This America lives paycheck to paycheck, worries about how to juggle debt and bills, and feels a deep insecurity about their well-being. Many of the #shutdownstories speak about “elitist” politicians who are out of touch with the reality of common people, of being “held hostage” to political games that they don’t even support, and of realizing that their well-being is not their government’s priority.

      The tactics being used in this circumstance have been used by the American government against many common people in other countries. Whenever we hear the U.S. government “threatening to withhold aid” or threatening “to stop funding major agencies” abroad, now our antennas will be tuned into another frequency.

      Just as the President and other officials make misleading statements about federal workers being “on strike,” or “supporting the shutdown,” or how they will “definitely be paid their back pay,” we can be assured that the statements they make while using these tactics on other countries’ people are likely just as misleading.

      Perhaps some may feel that the government “giving money” to other countries and then withholding it is not a similar situation because they “shouldn’t give that money away” in the first place. However, a closer examination of one highly misunderstood situation will show the complexities of these related international events.

      In January of 2006, the Palestinian people overwhelmingly supported Hamas candidates, who won 74 of 132 seats in parliamentary elections that were lauded by many as being fair. Former President Carter stated: “It seemed obvious to us and other observers that the election was orderly and peaceful and that there was a clear preference for Hamas candidates even in historically strong Fatah communities. Even so, we were all surprised at the enormity of the Hamas victory.” He also stated that the Palestinian people chose not to vote for Fatah “because of its political ineffectiveness and alleged corruption.”
    • The Quintessential American
      The difference between having lived in a foreign country (particularly while you’re young, relatively poor, keenly observant, and ever so slightly insecure) and NOT having lived in a foreign country is profound. If you were paying attention, the experience was life-altering. It made you realize there were no absolutes, that almost everything you previously took as “normal” or “universal” was merely one version of reality. The Western version.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but the difference between having lived abroad and having NOT lived abroad is not unlike the difference between having entered puberty and NOT having entered it. Yes, it’s a dramatic and embarrassing comparison, but it’s true. Once you’ve crossed that line, nothing is ever the same.

      Back when I spent two pre-Internet years working in Northern India (Punjab state), the Indians were still exceedingly curious about America. Even those nominally “anti-American” Indians (political science professors, members of the CPI—the Communist Party of India, students, etc.) couldn’t help themselves. They were clearly fascinated with the United States.

      And because I was likely to be the only American these people (mainly English-speaking city folk and “townies”) were ever going to meet, and was aware that their view of the U.S. was, therefore, going to be based almost exclusively on how I comported myself, I did my best to modulate my responses. Thus, I went out of my way to consciously present myself as the “average” American.

    • How China Colonized An Entire Continent Without Firing A Single Shot

      As the map below, which we first showed in 2012, in just two years after 2010 China had pledged over $100 billion to develop commercial projects in Africa, a period in which the continent had effectively become de facto Chinese province, unchallenged by any developed nation which in the aftermath of the financial crisis had enough chaos at home to bother with what China may be doing in Africa.

    • Do We Really Need Billionaires?
      In March 2018, Forbes reported that it had identified 2,208 billionaires from 72 countries and territories. Collectively, this group was worth $9.1 trillion, an increase in wealth of 18 percent since the preceding year. Americans led the way with a record 585 billionaires, followed by mainland China which, despite its professed commitment to Communism, had a record 373. According to a Yahoo Finance report in late November 2018, the wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by 12 percent during 2017, while that of Chinese billionaires grew by 39 percent.

      These vast fortunes were created much like those amassed by the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century. The Walton family’s $163 billion fortune grew rapidly because its giant business, Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, paid its workers poverty-level wages. Jeff Bezos (whose fortune jumped by $78.5 billion in one year to $160 billion, making him the richest man in the world), paid pathetically low wages at Amazon for years until forced by strikes and public pressure to raise them. In mid-2017, Warren Buffett ($75 billion), then the world’s second richest man, noted that “the real problem” with the U.S. economy was that it was “disproportionately rewarding to the people on top.”
    • After Promising More Jobs From Trump Tax Cuts, Report Shows AT&T Has 'Done Just the Opposite' by Slashing Over 10,000 Jobs in 2018
      "AT&T is breaking its promise to workers, customers, and communities across the country," Linda Hinton, vice president of CWA District 4, said in a statement. "The company pledged to invest in U.S. workers if the tax bill passed, but they've done just the opposite."

      According to the union's report (pdf), AT&T slashed at least "10,700 union jobs across its business" in 2018—cuts that directly undermine CEO Randall Stephenson's lofty promise to invest the billions in gains from the GOP tax cuts in creating jobs and bolstering his company's workforce.

      "AT&T continues to eliminate thousands of good, family-supporting jobs from coast to coast, and has cut more than 16,000 call center jobs in the past seven years alone," the report notes. "Instead of investing in its workforce and transitioning to jobs of the future, AT&T is laying off American workers and relying increasingly on a global web of low-wage contractors to provide customer service and network maintenance."

      Betsy Lafontaine, a CWA member and long-time employee at AT&T's Appleton, Wisconsin call center—which is slashing jobs in March—said in a statement that the company has "shifted our customer calls to offshore vendor centers where workers are paid less than $5 an hour, and at the same time have made our sales metrics tougher and more exacting to meet."
    • Standing Rock’s Surprising Legacy: A Push for Public Banks
      In February 2017, Seattle became the first city to pass legislation to divest from a financial institution because of its role in funding the Dakota Access pipeline.

      Months of rallies, public testimony at city council meetings, and protests at Wells Fargo branches across Seattle led to the unanimous vote to divest billions from the bank. Los Angeles and Philadelphia would follow. But when the time came to withdraw its money from the bank at the end of 2018, Seattle instead renewed its contract with Wells Fargo. The political decision to divest city money from one of the biggest banks funding DAPL was reversed because the city hadn’t found an alternative financial institution to house its money.
    • From Dismal Worker Treatment to Soaring Housing Costs, Seattle Lawmakers Warn New York About What Happens When Amazon Comes to Town
      In an effort to warn New Yorkers about Amazon's dismal treatment of workers, harmful impact on public housing, and myriad other concerns following the sweetheart HQ2 deal that was finalized late last year, two Seattle City Council members traveled to New York City to participate in a summit on Monday that also featured labor officials, Amazon employees, and New York state representatives.

      In Seattle, where Amazon's current headquarters is located, "workers have been pushed out further and further from the city because they can't afford it. The result of having Amazon in town is gentrification, is people losing their family home," said Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda, who joined her fellow lawmaker Lisa Herbold at the event.
    • By Wide, Bipartisan Majority, New Poll Affirms Key Progressive Demand: Congress Should Act to Lessen Crushing Student Debt
      A new poll out Monday points to a progressive mandate for the 116th Congress—it's "extremely important" to do something about the crushing student debt crisis, now at a record high $1.465 trillion, a bipartisan majority says.

      The Politico/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey asked Americans to prioritize six educational policy areas, and according to a bipartisan majority—79 percent—"finding ways to lessen student debt" should be the top priority. That belief was backed by 87 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans who said tackling student debt was "extremely important."

    • It’s Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty
      The good citizens of California have been wondering out loud who killed 86 of their citizens in the Camp Fire, along with dozens of other Californians over the years in other fires. Now both federal and state prosecutors are focusing on a likely suspect: Pacific Gas and Electric.

      California’s largest private, for-profit corporate utility appears to have killed a number of people over the years, in many cases because of negligence apparently prompted by a desire to jack up corporate profits.

      As a corporation, they play by different rules than you or I.

      Imagine you got a holiday package delivery gig, and decided to make more money by increasing the number of packages you can deliver in a day. The easiest way to accomplish this is by ignoring state and local regulations (speed limits) and drive like a maniac.

      But what happens if, in your haste, you hit and kill a bunch of schoolkids in a crosswalk?

      Particularly if you’d already been busted multiple times for felony reckless driving and had already killed other entire families driving badly on public streets…several different times in several different cities. And, on top of that, if you had lied to the police and the courts, saying that you’d been driving very, very carefully—all while you tried to hide or destroy the evidence.

      You’d spend many years in prison for those deaths and the cover-ups; in some states you may even face the death penalty.

    • Poll Finds Millennial Democrats Identifying as Socialists
      A September 2018 poll of 1,006 randomly selected 22-37-year-olds found that nearly half of millennial Democrats identified as “socialist” or “democratic socialist,” The Hill reported.

      The poll was conducted by Maru/Blue and Buzzfeed, and the millennials surveyed were all members of Maru/Blue’s online panel Springboard America. Among millennials who identified as Democrats, 48 percent said they would call themselves a democratic socialist or socialist, The Hill reported.

      For comparison, among millennials who identified as Republicans, 24 percent would call themselves democratic socialist or socialist; while the figure was eleven percent for those who identified as independents.

    • Government Shutdown Won’t Delay Tax Refunds: Trump Official
      Taxpayers who are owed refunds will be paid on time, despite the government shutdown that has closed many federal agencies, a Trump administration official said Monday as concern mounted over the risk that the payments could be delayed.

      The acting director of the White House budget office, Russell Vought, said customary rules will be changed to make the payments possible. He told reporters that an “indefinite appropriation” was available for the refunds, which would go out as normal.

      As it dragged through a third week, the partial government shutdown could not have come at a worse time for the Internal Revenue Service. Tax-filing season officially begins Jan. 28, and while those who owe Uncle Sam will still have to pay up by April 15, people who are due to receive money back have worried about whether the closure could postpone their payments.

      About three-quarters of taxpayers receive annual refunds, giving them an incentive to file their returns early. Many lower-income people count on refunds as their biggest cash infusion of the year.

    • Bitcoin Exposed Silicon Valley's Ultimate Aim: Making Money
      Bitcoin is a prime example of how Silicon Valley touts "democratization" and "decentralization" as righteous motives when wealth is the ultimate goal.

    • Gab Turns to Square's Cash App After Coinbase Allegedly Froze Its Account
      Controversial social media site Gab is reportedly now using the Cash App from United States-based payments firm Square to transact and receive Bitcoin (BTC) donations. The company’s official Twitter posted the announcement Jan. 6.

      Founded in 2016, Gab is a social network which presents itself as a haven for uncensored speech online. It has risen to notoriety due to a perception that it serves as an “echo chamber” for “extremist,” alt- or far-right views — many of whose proponents have allegedly been banned from networks such as Twitter and Facebook on the grounds of their alleged violations of these platforms’ rules on hate speech.

      More broadly, Gab targets a user base of libertarian, nationalist, populist or conservative leanings — or anyone who dissents from the content filtration, anti-disinformation, and data harvesting measures enforced by mainstream platforms, or “Big Tech.” The Gab app has notably been banned both by the Apple and Google App stores.

    • Brexit Bluster: a Sorry Tale About a Country that Wanted to ‘Take Back Control’
      The closure of Gatwick, the second largest airport in Britain, just before Christmas after the sighting of a mysterious drone near the runway, received wall-to-wall coverage from the British media, dominating the news agenda for the best part of a week.

      Contrast this with the limited interest shown when a majority stake in the airport was sold by its owners to a French company. A consortium led by the US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners, which included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, were paid €£2.9bn by the French group, Vinci Airports.

      The change in ownership of an important part of the British infrastructure from one foreign corporation to another came at an interesting moment. It was only a couple of weeks after the Whitehall spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, had issued a report explaining one reason why the British army is short of new recruits.

      It says that back in 2012 the army had agreed a €£495m contract with the outsourcing group Capita Business Services to be its partner in the recruitment of soldiers. But problems with the recruiting systems put in place by the company have made it increasingly complicated for even the most enthusiastic recruit to join up.

      This is at a time when there is a shortfall of 5,500 in the number of fully trained British soldiers with 77,000 in the ranks compared to a target of 82,500.

      The auditor’s report says that it took 321 days for an aspirant soldier to move forward from his or her initial online application to starting basic training. Unsurprisingly, many became discouraged over this long period so no less than 47 per cent dropped out in 2017/18.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

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

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

      “When they trust you on this issue, they trust you on other issues as well,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD, chair of the House Democrats’ Democracy Reform Task Force and a longtime public financing advocate, describing H.R. 1. “That confidence is what democracy is all about.”
    • Why You Couldn’t Find Big Media Coverage of Haaland and Davids
      I got the call around the time I was scrolling my Twitter feed, wiping my eyes dry over the immense promise I felt watching U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) share that heartfelt hug on the House floor yesterday. It was a cable news producer from a network that will remain anonymous, and he was calling to book a panel. He’d heard I knew a few things about Native Americans and its geopolitical frame of reference — except, that’s not what he wanted to talk to me about. He wanted to know if I could sit on a televised segment to discuss Elizabeth Warren.

      He yammered on while I continued to gaze at Twitter, feasting on photo after photo of history literally happening right before my eyes: two Native American women like me doing what has never been done before — breaking into one of the highest political arenas in the land. I waited until the producer stopped talking.

      I politely told him that the problem with Elizabeth Warren isn’t expired controversy over her silly DNA test and, now, her bid for the presidency. Rather, I said, it’s Warren and the media itself capitalizing on this issue and ignoring the very Native Americans central to the debate—arguably the most marginalized voices in the country.
    • Extraordinary Popular Delusions
      In a previous column, I described how the Republican Party’s Bad Ideas-Industrial Complex churns out an endless stream of pernicious policy ideas.

      But that invites a question: how did these ideas get so much traction among ordinary Americans who are being harmed by them?

      As Kurt Andersen exhaustively describes in his book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, America has always been fertile soil for silly or crank beliefs. And given the whole “common man” rigmarole that has become an integral part of the national creed, every manner of unfounded belief that wouldn’t survive three seconds’ analysis has become folk wisdom or bogus “common sense.”
    • WaPo, USA Today, NBC Go Full Breitbart on ‘Prisoners Eating Steak’ Non-Story
      The United States, by all objective metrics, has one of the cruelest, most inhumane prison systems in the world. In addition to having 25 percent of the world’s prison population (despite having only 5 percent of the world’s people), the US carceral state uses tortuous solitary confinement, contains widespread sexual violence, has massive racial disparities, routinely abuses children and is broadly defined by a whole host of other human rights violations. The idea that the US is too soft or nice to people in prison is something even the most right-wing demagogues rarely bother to argue anymore.

      So it may come as a shock that centrist, ostensibly non–white nationalist outlets like USA Today, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution and NBC News thought it newsworthy to point out that prisoners at Coleman federal prison in Wildwood, Florida, received a routine holiday meal that was slightly above their normal, bottom-of-the-barrel provisions. This outrage—clearly fed to the outlets by the federal prison guards’ union—was contrasted with these guards not receiving paychecks due to President Donald Trump’s “government shutdown,” offered as an outrageous unfairness: How dare those hardened criminals live it up while our hard-working government correction officers work for free?
    • News Outlets Shame the Incarcerated for Eating Decent Food on Holidays
      News outlets including NBC News, The Washington Post and USA Today drew criticism for stories that echoed frustrated workers and shamed the incarcerated for being served holiday meals. The articles quoted prison guards who were “bitter” that, as the government shutdown left them working without pay, incarcerated people were allowed to eat a decent meal or celebrate a holiday.

      Several lawsuits claim prisoners are underfed and even starved, while prison food itself is of notoriously poor quality.

      For Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays, inmates are served a slightly nicer meal like steak or Cornish hen, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement. The meals highlighted in the media coverage were “planned weeks… in advance of the government shutdown,” it added.

      Prison guards are among 420,000 essential federal employees working without knowing when their next paycheck will come and unsure of how to put food on the table. The articles never explain what almost seems too obvious, though: incarcerated people have no say in a government shutdown or when it ends.
    • Networks Accused of 'Capitulating' to Deceitful President as #BoycottTrumpsAddress Surges
      "You are willingly helping Trump spread disinformation," the Washington Post's Greg Sargent wrote in response to news late Monday that ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox will all run Trump's speech at 9:00 pm ET.

      In 2014, as many observers were quick to point out, these same networks refused to carry an immigration speech by former President Barack Obama on the grounds that it was "overtly political."

      "The networks are capitulating to Trump," Sargent added. "The only way for them to redeem this is to break major new ground rebutting his lies. It's as if the last two years of disinformation, abuse of journalists and efforts to destroy the media's institutional role didn't happen."
    • Forgotten France Rises Up
      December 15, place de l’Opéra, Paris. Three yellow vests read out an address ‘to the French people and the president of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron’ saying: ‘This movement belongs to no one and to everyone. It gives voice to a people who for 40 years have been dispossessed of everything that enabled them to believe in their future and their greatness.’

      The anger provoked by a fuel tax produced, within a month, a wider diagnosis of what ails society and democracy. Mass movements that bring together people with minimal organisation encourage rapid politicisation, which explains why ‘the people’ have discovered that they are ‘dispossessed of their future’ a year after electing as president a man who boasts he swept aside the two parties that alternated in power for 40 years.

      Macron has come unstuck. As did previous wunderkinder just as young, smiling and modern: Laurent Fabius, Tony Blair, Matteo Renzi. The liberal bourgeoisie are hugely disappointed. His French presidential election win in 2017 — whether it was a miracle or a divine surprise — had given them hope that France had become a haven of tranquillity in a troubled West. When Macron was crowned (to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy), The Economist, that standard-bearer for the views of the international ruling class, put him on its front cover, grinning as he walked on water.

      But the sea has swallowed up Macron, too sure of his own instincts and too contemptuous of other people’s economic plight. Social distress is generally only a backdrop to an election campaign, used to explain the choice of those who vote the wrong way. But when old angers build and new ones are stirred up without consideration for those enduring them, then, as the new interior minister Christophe Castaner put it (1), the ‘monster’ can spring out of its box. And then, anything becomes possible.

    • Trump Can Relate … and So Can MSNBC’s Stephanie Rhule
      It’s always interesting when members of the ruling-class reveal their cluelessness about the lives of ordinary working people. Sometimes it can cost them dearly in the political realm.

      The late George H.W. Bush famously expressed amazement as president over the workings of an electric scanner in a grocery check-out line. In doing so, he unwittingly exposed the interesting fact that he never shopped for food and other necessities like regular people. That hurt him in his re-election bid amidst the onset of a recession in 1991.

      Mitt Romney got caught telling a gathering of wealthy campaign donors that 47% of the nation was composed of no-account moochers who just want to collect welfare checks and avoid paying taxes. That classist reflection on the nation’s working-class poor and near-poor cost him in the 2012 presidential election (when he received exactly 47% of the popular vote).

      And then there’s Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul who posed as the “populist” champion of the heartland working-class (its white component at least) and went on to pass a giant tax cut for the rich in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 percent already owned more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
    • Apocalypse in America: The Smell of Fascism in the pro-Trump QAnon Conspiracy
      QAnon - vengeful, sprawling, non-sequential, self-referential, uncommitted to democratic process and full of hot air - is the perfect conspiracy theory for the Trump era. And, like the president, its fans are doubling down

    • Disputed Voter Purge in Indiana
      In October 2018, Greg Palast reported that as many as 20,000 voters may have been purged from Indiana’s electoral roles, “some apparently in violation of a federal court order.” According to the Palast Investigative Fund, “thousands of voters” were purged, in violation of a June 2018 federal court order that barred Indiana officials from using the “notorious” Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program to purge voters.

      The Crosscheck program—which Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, a Republican, introduced in 2005—purports to identify voters who may have registered or voted in two or more states. In 2016 Rolling Stone published an article by Palast that showed how Crosscheck “disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters.” Palast’s 2016 Rolling Stone article noted that two crucial swing states with tight Senate races, Ohio and North Carolina, were the sites of some of the biggest Crosscheck purges.

    • 'Time to Play Hardball': Progressives Pressure Senate Democrats to Stonewall All Bills That Don't End Trump Shutdown
      "Instead of addressing the most urgent issue, Mitch McConnell is planning to bring unrelated bills to the floor for a vote," declared Indivisible, one of the groups leading the pressure campaign. "He'd like to pretend that it's business as usual in the Senate—not that hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay."

      "It's time to play hardball," the group added. "It's simple: the only thing that the Senate should be working on right now is ending this shutdown. The House has done its job. Now it's time for the Senate to do the same."

      On Tuesday, McConnell reportedly plans to hold a procedural vote on Senate Bill 1 (S.1), bipartisan legislation that would hand companies more power to punish boycotts of Israel—a move the ACLU condemned as a flagrant attack on the First Amendment.

      Ahead of the scheduled vote,, Indivisible, the AFL-CIO, and other progressive groups are calling on the public to flood their senators' phonelines and urge them to oppose Tuesday's motion to proceed, as well as any other measures unrelated to solving the ongoing government shutdown.

    • Trump’s Delusion About the Wall That Never Was
      Three weeks have passed since Donald Trump shut down much of the government because Congress won’t give him $5.6 billion in taxpayer money to build 200 miles of his illusory Wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      Let’s be clear on one thing: There is no Wall. There never has been a serious plan to build a Wall. And there never will be a Wall. And that’s just fine with Trump, as long as he continues to keep the Wall as a political cudgel.

      Like most everything else having to do with the so-called “Wall,” the government shutdown is nothing more than Trumpian political theater aimed at his base and their media enablers like Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

    • As Critics Struggle to Portray 70% Tax Rate for Rich as Unrealistic, Dems Get Behind Idea Ahead of 2020 Election
      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) unflinching support for taxing the wealthiest Americans at a rate doubling what they currently pay each year made waves among conservatives over the weekend—but at least one likely Democratic presidential candidate's backing of the proposal may indicate that it may soon get broader support from the party.

      On ABC's "The Week," former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro unequivocally told George Stephanopoulos that he has "no problem" forcing Americans who make more than $10 million per year to pay far more than they currently pay in taxes.

    • Trump’s New Jersey Golf Club Allegedly Gave Out Fake Green Cards and Social Security Numbers
      In 1993, President Bill Clinton‘s nomination of Zoe Baird for U.S. Attorney General fell apart when it was revealed that she and her husband had employed two undocumented immigrants from Peru as a nanny and chauffeur for her young child. In addition, they had not paid Social Security taxes for the two workers.

      “Nannygate” was born, public opinion was fiercely against Baird and her nomination was soon withdrawn.

      Then Clinton’s choice of federal judge Kimba Wood was kicked out because she had employed an undocumented immigrant to look after her child, even though she had done so when this was legal.

      Now it’s looking like supervisors at Trump’s National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, employed undocumented immigrants and gave out fake green cards — but nobody seems to be paying attention.

      Why is this not front-page news? Where is the public outrage in 2019? Have we become so inured to Trump’s lies and cruelties that we don’t care any more?

      On December 6, 2018, the New York Times published a story about Victorina Morales, from Guatemala, and Sandra Diaz, a native of Costa Rica, who worked as undocumented immigrants at Trump’s Bedminster golf club.

    • Progressives Demand Democrats Stonewall on All Senate Bills
      With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refusing to allow a floor vote on government funding bills that passed the Democratic House last week, progressive organizations are attempting to force the GOP leader’s hand by pressuring Democrats to stonewall all Senate business and legislation that is unrelated to reopening the federal government.

      “Instead of addressing the most urgent issue, Mitch McConnell is planning to bring unrelated bills to the floor for a vote,” declared Indivisible, one of the groups leading the pressure campaign. “He’d like to pretend that it’s business as usual in the Senate—not that hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay.”

      “It’s time to play hardball,” the group added. “It’s simple: the only thing that the Senate should be working on right now is ending this shutdown. The House has done its job. Now it’s time for the Senate to do the same.”

      On Tuesday, McConnell reportedly plans to hold a procedural vote on Senate Bill 1 (S.1), bipartisan legislation that would hand states and localities more power to punish boycotts of Israel—a move the ACLU condemned as a flagrant attack on the First Amendment.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Patreon is a threat to the free [Internet]

      [...] Over the years, the internet and social media have become a de facto public square: central to political organising, campaigning and debating. Yet now, the big-tech firms of Silicon Valley want to sanitise this public square and are using their corporate muscle to silence certain voices.

      The latest site to start purging wayward users is Patreon. [...]

    • The betrayal of Charlie Hebdo

      Four years ago today, self-styled jihadists burst into the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and shot to death 10 members of the magazine’s staff and also a police officer and security guard.

    • New York Times Moves To Dismiss Joe Arpaio's Defamation Lawsuit By Pointing Out It's Impossible To Defame Him
      Last month, ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio sued three publications, claiming their unflattering articles had done $300 million in damage to his reputation. There's money in politicking, Arpaio figured, stating these publications had made it all but impossible for him and his sterling reputation to secure a Senate seat and move on towards securing his rightfully-owed $300 million.

      The New York Times has filed its motion to dismiss [PDF] and it is an entertaining read. It points out the statements it made were substantially true, and if Arpaio doesn't like his villainous misdeeds characterized as villainous, perhaps he should have spent more of his law enforcement career not acting like a villain.
    • Abby Martin, Nora Barrows-Friedman, Eleanor Goldfield, John Collins, Nicole Eigbrett, and Steve Peraza at the Media Freedom Summit 2.0
      This week’s show presents speeches and conversation from Project Censored’s 2018 Media Freedom Summit 2.0

      The first 2/3 of the show is from the keynote panel, then we hear part of the “News Abuse” discussion.
    • Reliance Jio Is Blocking Access To VPN And Proxy Sites In India
      Telecom operator Reliance Jio seems to be blocking proxy and VPN websites, as reported by several Reddit users in India.

      According to a report by Quartz, the various websites which have been blocked include, VPNbook, Hidester, Kproxy, Proxysite, Proxy.toolur, andMegaproxy. These websites allow users to download VPN software and hide users’ IP address.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Kiss What Is Left of Your Medical Data Privacy Goodbye
      Matt Stoller warned back in 2012 that insurers would increasingly induce, then force, customers to agree to surveillance. But a Wall Street Journal story tonight describes how insurers and medical providers, meaning your doctor’s employers, are actively cooperating, so as among other things, to help Big Pharma peddle more drugs to you.


      The article describes how the data hounds have had some success in getting hospitals to hand over emergency room data as well as medical images.

    • You Should Have the Right to Sue Companies That Violate Your Privacy
      It is not enough for government to pass laws that protect consumers from corporations that harvest and monetize their personal data. It is also necessary for these laws to have bite, to ensure companies do not ignore them. The best way to do so is to empower ordinary consumers to bring their own lawsuits against the companies that violate their privacy rights. Such “private rights of action” are among EFF’s highest priorities in any data privacy legislation.

    • Why Machine Identities Matter in the Fight for Privacy
      Other countries, where the privacy issues are less acute, went even further. One example is the so-called "Yarovaya law" in Russia, which recently came into force. The law obliges all providers to store all the transmitted data for six months, and that companies such as Facebook, give the law enforcement authorities the keys to access the encrypted data of all its users. In April of this year, Russian providers have already begun to block the Telegram messenger for refusing to provide such machine identities. Meanwhile the European court of human rights has ruled that GCHQ’s methods for bulk interception of online communications violated privacy and failed to provide sufficient surveillance safeguards. Many of the government's requirements to change the mechanisms for managing machine identities, designed to simplify the access of law enforcement bodies to the correspondence of citizens, do not in fact eliminate the threats to which they are directed, but create new ones. Information about the very fact of having keys that can decrypt any user's correspondence by itself gives a new attack vector. And if successful, such an attack will allow adversary to compromise security of all participants, including those who were not specifically targeted.
    • Beijing turns to facial recognition to combat public housing abuses
      Beijing is speeding up the adoption of facial recognition-enabled smart locks in its public housing programmes as part of efforts to clamp down on tenancy abuse, such as illegal subletting. The face-scanning system is expected to cover all of Beijing’s public housing projects, involving a total of 120,000 tenants, by the end of June 2019, according toThe Beijing News. By combining facial recognition with smart locks, the Beijing authorities hope to not only improve the security of public housing communities but also prevent illegal subletting, to make sure the limited housing resources are only allocated to those in genuine need.Beijing turns to facial recognition to combat public housing abuses

    • China Starts Using Facial Recognition-Enabled 'Smart' Locks In Its Public Housing
      Surveillance using facial recognition is sweeping the world. That's partly for the usual reason that the underlying digital technology continues to become cheaper, more powerful and thus more cost-effective. But it's also because facial recognition can happen unobtrusively, at a distance, without people being aware of its deployment. In any case, many users of modern smartphones have been conditioned to accept it unthinkingly, because it's a quick and easy way to unlock their device. This normalization of facial recognition is potentially bad news for privacy and freedom, as this story in the South China Morning Post indicates...
    • Give Up the Ghost: A Backdoor by Another Name
      Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK’s counterpart to the National Security Agency (NSA), has fired the latest shot in the crypto wars. In a post to Lawfare titled Principles for a More Informed Exceptional Access Debate, two of Britain’s top spooks introduced what they’re framing as a kinder, gentler approach to compromising the encryption that keeps us safe online. This new proposal from GCHQ—which we’ve heard rumors of for nearly a year—eschews one discredited method for breaking encryption (key escrow) and instead adopts a novel approach referred to as the “ghost.”

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

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

      What has changed is the legal landscape governing encryption and law enforcement, at least in the UK. 2016 saw the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, which gives the UK the legal ability to order a company like Apple or Facebook to tamper with security features in their products—while simultaneously being prohibited from telling the public about it.

    • Submission: Open Rights Group submission to the IPCO request for comments on bulk warrants
      ORG responded to a call for comments Investigatory Powers Commissioner Office, raining our concerns with the bulk warrants regime that enables mass surveillance in the UK.

    • We Should Be Able to Take Facebook to Court
      After The New York Times revealed last month that Facebook continued to share personal information of millions of consumers with companies like Netflix, Yahoo, Spotify and Google — despite contrary assertions to Congress — many people decided to delete their Facebook accounts. But if Facebook’s actions, as described by The Times, violated the law, consumers should be able to send an even more powerful message, one that could leave a much larger imprint on the company’s ledger books: suing the company for damages.

      Facebook knows this and has been working to make it near impossible to do so.

      For example, consumers recently filed a lawsuit in Illinois claiming Facebook violated a state privacy law by using facial recognition technology on their uploaded photographs without their consent. Facebook is fighting the lawsuit by trying to get the court to buy into troubling arguments that would make it even more difficult for consumers to sue lawbreaking companies for damages.

      Facebook is arguing that the law at issue doesn’t grant consumers the ability to sue companies, otherwise known as a “private right of action,” based solely on the fact that a company violated the law. Instead, according to Facebook, consumers should have to show that the lawbreaking practice caused additional harm beyond a mere violation to get their day in court and damages.

    • Home Items Are Getting Smarter and Creepier, Like It or Not
      One day, finding an oven that just cooks food may be as tough as buying a TV that merely lets you click between channels.

      Internet-connected “smarts” are creeping into cars, refrigerators, thermostats, toys and just about everything else in your home. CES 2019, the gadget show opening Tuesday in Las Vegas, will showcase many of these products, including an oven that coordinates your recipes and a toilet that flushes with a voice command.

      With every additional smart device in your home, companies are able to gather more details about your daily life. Some of that can be used to help advertisers target you — more precisely than they could with just the smartphone you carry.

    • They’re dead to us: The Ars Technica 2019 Deathwatch

      And yet, here we are, putting Facebook on Deathwatch. The reasons have only a little bit to do with financials. We don’t expect that Facebook will go away, but this year is going to probably determine whether Facebook’s management team will continue as it is—or whether there’s a stockholder rebellion, or a government lawsuit, or some combination of both that drives CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others out

    • Government hands key Whitehall contract to Amazon

      The Cabinet Office has quietly handed a key Whitehall contract to Amazon, throwing doubt over its claims it has made it easier for small businesses to win government contracts.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Appeals Court Says Gov't Will Be Paying Even More Legal Fees For Its Extended Loss In TSA No Fly List Lawsuit
      Fourteen years after an FBI agent mistakenly dumped Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim on the TSA's "No Fly" list, the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court is calling out the government for its horrendous behavior during the case, as well as ordering it to cough up more in legal fees.

      The government's concession in this lawsuit was full and complete. It admitted Ibrahim posed no threat to national security, had never posed a threat to national security, and never should have been placed on the list, which stranded her in Malaysia back in 2005. En route to her victory, the government engaged in all sorts of malicious behavior, including arguing her No Fly status couldn't be discussed in open court, placing one of her witnesses on the No Fly list, and doing everything in its power to drag out the litigation. Stripped of all the legalese, the government basically spent most of decade arguing that an FBI agent's mistake fully justified Ibrahim being treated like a national security threat.

    • Surviving R. Kelly: New Doc Says Time’s Up for Singer Accused of Abusing Black Girls for Decades
      We look at the shocking Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which chronicles two decades of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against the celebrated R&B singer and producer. R. Kelly has been accused of abuse, predatory behavior and pedophilia throughout his career but has avoided criminal conviction despite damning evidence and multiple witnesses. We speak with Angelo Clary, whose daughter Azriel Clary met R. Kelly at the age of 17 and moved in with him with hopes of advancing her music career. He hasn’t seen her in almost four years. We also speak with Oronike Odeleye, co-founder of #MuteRKelly—a campaign to end R. Kelly’s music career—and an Atlanta-based arts administrator.

    • ‘The Idea Is to Have a Conversation About What Happened to Us’ - The Best of CounterSpin for 2018
      CounterSpin looks behind the media headlines, asking what context is missing, what assumptions glossed over — and who’s being excluded that might challenge that. It’s not a rhetorical exercise: Understanding the limits of the dialogue possible in the elite but influential press is crucial to understanding our political lives…and the importance of maintaining spaces where we can openly debate and challenge a status quo that’s harming millions of people and the planet.

    • Celebrating Cyntoia Brown's Clemency, Rights Advocates Vow to Continue Fighting for Human Trafficking Survivors Behind Bars
      A decade-long campaign which garnered national headlines in recent months came to fruition on Monday, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking survivor who has been behind bars for 15 years for murder.

      After facing pressure from human rights groups, hundreds of thousands of Americans who signed petitions and wrote letters protesting Brown's imprisonment, and celebrities who helped bring attention to her case, Haslam announced days before he is to leave office that Brown will be released from prison in August.

      On social media, many of Brown's supporters gave credit to the groundswell of activism on her behalf that gained national attention in recent months, as well as efforts by Tennesseeans who have been fighting for her release for at least a decade.

    • Standing With Angela: Because Freedom Is A Constant Struggle
      Now they've taken back the offer and cancelled the February gala where she would have received it because "upon closer examination of Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria” for the award. Noting Davis' passionate criticism of Israel's ethnic cleansing, activists promptly called bullshit. "To argue that Angela Davis is unworthy of a civil rights award is beyond shameful," said Jewish Voice For Peace. "And to dance around the fact that it’s due to her outspoken support of Palestinian rights makes it outrageous."

      Born in Birmingham and raised on "Dynamite Hill" - so dubbed because it was often bombed - Davis, 74, has long called out the injustices of the prison industrial complex, the connections between racist violence and capitalism, and violence against black women. But it's her longtime support for Palestinian rights that evidently sparked the ire of Zionists, both Jewish groups like the Birmingham Jewish Federation and powerful pro-Israel evangelical Christians. Using the hashtag #IStandWithAngela, critics blasted craven Institute members for crumbling under such pressure. From the ACLU's Jamil Dakwar: "Calling to boycott Israel for violating int’l law and human rights is not only a constitutionally protected right, but the right thing to do."

    • For the First Time Since 9/11, There are a Few Hopeful Signs in the Preemptive Prosecutions of Muslims
      I have been studying the prosecution of Muslims in the “war on terror” since 2006, and the courts have been consistently and resoundingly unfair. Constitutional protections under the First Amendment; Fourth Amendment (illegal wiretapping); Fifth Amendment (tortured confessions); Sixth Amendment (secret evidencegiven to the judge but not the defense, anonymous witnesses), and Eighth Amendment (long term solitary confinement and torture) have been eviscerated, held not to apply under “these circumstances.”

      We in CCF call these cases “preemptive prosecutions” because they are not generally based on anything the defendant has actually done, but rather on a fear of what s/he might do in the future. This is the purported justification for sting operations, where even severely mentally ill young men are manipulated by a government agent into agreeing to a crime. It is also the rationale for criminalizing “material support” to particular groups, even when the aid is completely non-violent. It is rooted in extreme Islamophobia, as it is Muslims who are targeted in this way, not, for example, right-wing extremists, who are responsible for a far greater number of attacks in the US.

      There have been life sentences for ridiculously unfair sting operations where the Muslim defendants were not even aware of the “conspiracy” for which they were found guilty, and for completely non-violent humanitarian aid to those desperately in need.

      99% of the defendants were found guilty, even in cases where there was compelling evidence of their innocence. An even higher proportion of cases were upheld on appeal, and none of the cases were accepted by the Supreme Court. Hoped-for reforms under Obama completely failed to materialize. Our data shows an even higher rate of prosecutions between 2011-2018 than from 2001-2010. Things looked extremely bleak.
    • American Civil Rights Institute Rescinds Angela Davis Honor
      Black activists on Monday called for leadership changes and protests at an Alabama civil rights museum after it rescinded an award for political activist Angela Davis, a move the mayor said followed complaints from the Jewish community.

      Speaking outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located in the same downtown area where civil rights violence once shocked the nation, organizers told a news conference that Davis, a Birmingham native, was wronged by the decision to rescind the honor.

      Davis, a longtime activist who has supported Palestinian rights and criticized Israeli policy, is on a par with civil rights legend Rosa Parks, activist Frank Matthews said.

      “This is the ultimate insult to deny Angela Davis her inheritance,” he said. Museum leaders should quit, he said, and protests will be held. Other speakers called for a boycott.

      The institute announced in September that Davis would receive the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, named for the late minister who once prominently led civil rights demonstrations in the city.
    • ICE Raids Make Families Afraid to Leave Their Homes
      With the recent large-scale work raids at sites like Bean Station, Tennessee, or Sumner, Texas, in which ICE agents arrested upwards of 100 community members at a time, it is easy to forget that immigration home raids happen all year, all over the country. These raids are happening not only in Chicago, Los Angeles, or other cities with large immigrant communities, but also in small West Michigan cities like Holland. Whether ICE raids entrap over a hundred community members or a lone father in a family of four, the emotional, psychological, and financial impacts can be devastating.

      I sat down with Sarah Yore-Van Oosterhout, founder of Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates, to talk about her work supporting immigrant families in West Michigan. Her organization, a nonprofit immigration law office and advocacy center in Holland, Michigan, principally serves low-income immigrants and refugees in the region, providing them with legal services, advocacy and education.

    • Something That Doesn’t Love a Wall. A President Who Does.
      Trump likely would throw a fit at such audacity (once the poem and veiled insult had been explained to him). He would try to fire the poet but by then it would be too late.

      “Oh, just another kind of out-door game,” Frost would read. “One on a side. It comes to little more.” Trump would have been left muttering to himself about his ultimate reality show, “American Carnage.”

      A wall like the kind our semi-president envisions across the southern border is an ugly, useless thing, no matter what it’s made of (by the time you read this Trump may have suggested constructing it from stale Christmas fruitcake).

      Last fall, I was in Berlin and saw the few remaining bits of the wall that divided that city for 28 years, needlessly creating death, separation and heartache in a place that since the destruction of the wall has become a buzzing hub of entrepreneurship, politics and the arts. (“Poor but sexy” is how former mayor Klaus Wowereit described it.)

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Chairman Pai Can't Win for Losing
      No amount of spin can undo that. But that hasn’t stopped Pai from trying and trying, again and again.

      His latest came in the form of a statement, released Wednesday, touting the expiration of a bipartisan congressional effort to restore the Net Neutrality protections.

    • AT&T misleads customers by updating phones with fake 5G icon
      AT&T has updated three smartphones from Samsung and LG to make them show 5G connectivity logos, even though none of them are capable of connecting to 5G networks.

      Now, when the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active, LG V30, or LG V40 are connected to portions of AT&T’s LTE network that have received some speed-boosting updates, they’ll show an icon that says “5G E” instead of “LTE.”

      That “E” in the “5G” logo is supposed to tip you off that this isn’t real 5G — just some marketing nonsense. But there’s no way of knowing that just from looking at the logo. The “E” is smaller than the rest of the icon. And even if you do learn that “5G E” stands for “5G Evolution,” it isn’t immediately clear what that means.

    • Cable's Response To Surging Streaming Competition? More Price Hikes
      While most cable operators will place the blame for these higher rates exclusively on the shoulders of broadcasters, that's not really always true. Yes, much of the unsustainable rate hikes you'll see in cable TV are due to programmers constantly wanting more money for the same content. That, however, ignores that most cable operators contribute to the rate-hike festivities by also socking consumers with a universe of higher rates for things like DVR and cable box rental, not to mention the universe of fees, many of which are completely made up with no tether to any real-world cost.

      So why does a company like Comcast continue to raise rates on traditional cable TV, knowing this is just driving more users to cut the cord? For one, while streaming video is increasingly popular, most TV watchers (around 90 million Americans) still subscribe to traditional TV, making these rate hikes a quick, all-too-tempting source of up front cash they've grown used to. Many cable executives still believe that cord cutting is a temporary storm they'll be able to weather without having to make too many concessions (like lowering rates or improving historically terrible customer support).

  • DRM

    • Apple Admits The Obvious: User Repairs Harm The Bottom Line
      It should probably go without saying, but Apple has never looked too kindly upon users actually repairing their own devices. The company's ham-fisted efforts to shut down, sue, or otherwise imperil third-party repair shops are legendary. As are the company's efforts to force recycling shops to shred Apple products (so they can't be refurbished and re-used), and Apple's often comical attacks on essential right to repair legislation, which only sprung up after companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony, John Deere, and others created a grass-roots counter-movement via their attempts to monopolize repair.

      The motivation for these behaviors is obvious: if users are repairing or recycling their iDevices, that means fewer sales. As such, Apple has increasingly become more and more obnoxious on this front, regardless of the impact on consumer satisfaction, customer rights, or the environment. You know, like that time it claimed that Nebraska would become a "mecca for hackers" (oh no!) if the state embraced legislation protecting a consumer's right to repair their own devices.

      Fast forward to last week, when Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to write a letter to investors announcing that it had to dramatically scale back revenue projections after it sold fewer iPhones than it had hoped. Part of the problem is that, contrary to the traditional gushing mainstream tech press narrative, Apple's products (and smartphones in general) have become arguably more derivative and less innovative than in recent years, slowing the upgrade cycle. Though Cook states the primary culprit was a slowdown in the Chinese economy (caused in part by Trump's "easy to win" trade war), resulting in fewer iPhones being bought.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Day 2 of FTC v. Qualcomm: patent exhaustion; leveraging of chips in licensing negotiations; rival chipset makers
      Friday, the first day of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in the Northern District of California (San Jose, to be precise), couldn't have gone much better for the Federal Trade Commission. Today, Monday, the FTC made further headway, but to the extent that Qualcomm's lawyers had the chance to ask witnesses questions, they made the most out of that opportunity. If this weren't a bench trial in front of a judge who understands this industry and the issues involved so very well, but a jury trial, then Qualcomm would already have created enough confusion that anything could happen.

      Let me explain this in connection with a particularly important issue: the licensing of rival chipset makers (and Qualcomm's refusal to do so). Qualcomm's counsel presented MediaTek-internal documents and elicited testimony from MediaTek's Finbarr Moynihan that it was, at a certain time, standard industry practice that patent holders would not extend standard-essential patent (SEP) licenses at the chipset level (only at the device level). With a jury of laypeople, that could be all that Qualcomm would need to have a chance of defending its practice. However, Judge Lucy H. Koh will consider that confirmation of one of Qualcomm's claims along with all other factors that will inform her future ruling on whether or not Qualcomm has an antitrust duty to extend SEP licenses on FRAND terms to rival chipset makers such as Intel and MediaTek. Those other factors are partly already known to her as her contract-based (not antitrust-based) summary judgment ruling indicated. She's well aware of Qualcomm itself having secured many chipset-level licenses (which, combined with Qualcomm's own patents, positioned Qualcomm as a SEP clearing house). She also heard today from former Qualcomm president Derek "Duct Tape" Aberle that Intel, Broadcom, MediaTek, Samsung, and Huawei had asked for exhaustive chipset-level SEP licenses from Qualcomm. And I'm unaware of a case where multiple actors (here, multiple SEP holders) could shirk an antitrust duty to deal by pointing to the fact that "everyone" behaved in a certain way. Uniform behavior doesn't move the fairness goal posts in antitrust law.

    • The U.S.’s Star Witness in the Qualcomm Antitrust Suit: China's Huawei

      Huawei Technologies Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd. provided testimony that the FTC argues proves that Qualcomm threatened to withhold chip supply unless they continued to pay technology licensing fees. The non-jury trial that started Friday is scheduled to run before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh through Jan. 28 in San Jose, California.

    • Pooey Puitton Proactively Sues The Shit Out Of Louis Vuitton
      All one needs to do to get a sense of how Louis Vuitton, famed maker of bags, views trademark law is do a short review of past stories it's been involved in on this site. What you will come away with is the clear sense of the company as laughably litigious, insanely aggressive in bullying others, and as being entirely devoid of having anything resembling a sense of humor or respect for parody.

      And that last bit appears to be resulting in yet another dispute, this time between Louis Vuitton and MGA Entertainment Inc., which makes the Pooey Puitton toy handbag. And, yes, that toy handbag is literally shaped like a piece of poop. Apparently, Louis Vuitton has been making comments to some of MGA's commercial clients that the toy handbag infringes its trademarks, leading to MGA filing suit against LV asking for a declaratory judgement that its parody bag is not in fact infringing.

    • Regardless of Qualcomm's patent injunction, iPhone 7 and 8 still widely available in Germany
      Compared to the fundamental competition issues in the FTC case (which pretty much all industry players appear to take issue with, though it remains to be seen what testimony Qualcomm will present in its case-in-chief), Qualcomm's patent infringement campaign against Apple in three jurisdictions is but a sideshow. Regardless of strategic relevance, the pair of injunctions (same patent-in-suit against Apple Inc. in one case and against two European Apple entities in the other case) recently handed dow by the Munich I Regional Court (announcement; impact assessment; defendant's dilemma) made more headline news than the FTC trial. A sales ban is something that consumers can relate to, and the very term sounds scary, but a here's a reality check.

      It's now early Monday afternoon in Germany, and so far there's no indication that Qualcomm's enforcement efforts are having even remotely the impact that patent holders and their shareholders would usually expect to have when posting bonds over $1.5 billion, as Qualcomm did last week.

      As I explained in my original impact assessment, those injunctions are binding on only the particular defendants in those cases. They don't have an erga omnes effect that would require third parties to comply.

      Even from over here in the Bay Area, it's easy for me to ascertain that German iPhone resellers don't give a damn. Four links and screenshots prove that you can still get iPhone 7, 8 and even the X (though Apple stopped selling it) from the three major mobile carriers (T-Mobile, Vodafone, and O2) as well as the leading consumer electronics retail chain, MediaMarkt.

    • US patent grants fell 3.5% in 2018 after nearly a decade of increases: IFI Claims
      IBM was the US patent leader for the 26th year in a row in 2018 while China was the only major patenting country to show a net increase in US grants, according to IFI CLAIMS Patent Services’ new ranking

    • PGR popularity tipped to soar among US biosimilar makers
      Biosimilar makers will increasingly use post-grant reviews (PGRs) – a type of proceeding available at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) – to cut down US patent thickets on biologics instead of inter partes reviews (IPRs), according to in-house counsel.

      Sources at global pharmaceutical firms say explain that PGRs are better for challenging biologic registrations at the PTAB because biologic patents often have broad specifications that make them vulnerable to description attacks.

    • When Worlds Collide
      A newsfeed came across our inboxes that promoted a notion that China was somehow misbehaving regarding the use of CRISPR to create edited humans. The dialectic was a non-sequitur because earlier press releases on the efficiency of CRISPR read like a high school newspaper writing about the success of its stageplay being a success because it was over, yet was a total train wreck of a production. CRISPR can indeed edit a genome for the target mutations, however there can be a hundred downstream changes that were neither intended or predicted or controllable. That used to be called: The Operation Was A Success But The Patient Died.

    • Copyrights

      • 7 Best Pirate Bay Alternatives To Use When TPB Is Down [Working In 2019]
        What do the fans do when The Pirate Bay is down due to some error or federal actions? They have to accept the hard truth and look for some alternatives to The Pirate Bay or ripoffs like

        Commonly known as TPB, the popular torrent site has been around for almost 15 years currently running on domain. Over the period of this time, it went away and came back multiple times and changed domains as well. Its operators even thought about setting up TPB servers on a satellite where law enforcement can’t reach.

      • "The Criminals Who Run The Deep State Will Be Exposed": Kim Dotcom Teases "Next Round Of Leaks"
      • Despite Losing Its Copyright Case, The State Of Georgia Still Trying To Stop Carl Malamud From Posting Its Laws
        When we last checked in with Carl Malamud and his Public.Resource.Org, they were celebrating a huge victory in Georgia, where the 11th Circuit had ruled that of course Malamud was not infringing on anyone's copyrights in posting the "Official Code of Georgia Annotated" (OCGA) because there could be no copyright in the law. As we explained at length in previous posts, Georgia has a somewhat bizarre system in which the only official version of their law is the "officially" annotated version, in which the annotations (with citations to caselaw and further explanations) are written by a private company, LexisNexis, which then transfers the copyright (should one exist) on those annotations to the state.

        Malamud, of course, has spent years, trying to make it easier for people to access the law -- and that means all of the law, not just some of it. So when he posted a much more accessible version of the OCGA, the state sued him for copyright infringement. While the lower court ruled that the OCGA could have copyright, that the State of Georgia could hold it and that Malamud's work was not fair use, the 11th Circuit tossed that out entirely, saying that since the OCGA was clearly the only official version of the law, there could be no valid copyright in it.

        It was a pretty thorough and complete win. And, if the state of Georgia were mature and reasonable, you'd think that they'd (perhaps grudgingly) admit that anyone should have access to its laws and move on. But, this is the state of Georgia we're talking about. And, it appears that the state has decided that rather than taking the high road, it's going to act like a petty asshole.

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