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

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

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

  • Desktop

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

    • System76 refreshes Serval WS Linux laptop with 9th Gen Intel Core CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20-Series GPUs
      Nowadays, many consumers put a premium on having a thin and light computer. This is understandable, as no one wants to lug around a big and heavy notebook. With that said, some people only care about raw power -- weight and size be damned. System76's Serval WS is one such laptop -- insanely powerful, but boy howdy, it is a biggun! The 15-inch model weighs 7.5 pounds, while the 17-inch variant tips the scales at 8.6!

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

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

  • Server

    • SUSE OpenStack Cloud 9 Release Candidate 1 is here!

    • The New News on OpenShift 3.11
      Greetings fellow OpenShift enthusiasts! Not too long ago, Red Hat announced that OKD v3.11, the last release in the 3.x stream, is now generally available. The latest release of OpenShift enhances a number of current features that we know and love, as well as a number of interesting updates and technology previews for features that may or may not be included in OpenShift 4.0. Let’s take a look at one of the more exciting releases that may be part of The Great Updates coming in OpenShift 4.0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.20.10
      I'm announcing the release of the 4.20.10 kernel.

      All users of the 4.20 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at: git:// linux-4.20.y and can be browsed at the normal git web browser:
    • Linux 4.19.23
    • Linux 4.14.101
    • Linux 4.9.158

    • Linux 4.20.9
      I'm announcing the release of the 4.20.9 kernel.

      Stay away from this, use 4.20.10 instead.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at: git:// linux-4.20.y and can be browsed at the normal git web browser:
    • Linux 4.19.22
    • Linux 4.14.100
    • Linux 4.9.157

    • Linux 5.1 Kernel Bringing New Option For Drivers To Be Async Probed
      This driver_async_probe option added by Intel Linux developers allows specifying a list of drivers for the given system that can be probed asynchronously. While the Linux kernel has supported asynchronous driver probing during boot time, some drivers still don't behave properly in this context. As a result, using driver_async_probe= is a safe route for specifying drivers that can be probed asynchronously or for easily testing drivers to verify their async behavior.

    • Linux 5.1 To Deal With More Quirky Hardware From The Lenovo X1 Tablet To ASUS Transbook
      There's no shortage of quirky HID hardware out there. With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle will be more fixes/workarounds for such consumer devices.

    • The Linux Vendor Firmware Service Has Served Up More Than 5 Million Firmware Files
      The Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS), which serves up system BIOS/firmware files from many different vendors as well as various devices so that hardware can see firmware updates under Linux and be updated via Fwupd, has served up more than five million firmware images.

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

    • Graphics Stack

      • Intel's OpenGL Mesa Driver To Better Handle Recovery In Case Of GPU Hangs
        It's sure been a busy week in the Intel open-source graphics driver space... The latest improvement is a patch series providing better context restoration in the case of GPU hangs.

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

      • Intel's Linux DRM Driver To Enable PSR2 Power-Savings By Default
        The Intel DRM/KMS kernel driver will soon see PSR2 panel self refresh capabilities enabled by default for allowing more power-savings on Intel-powered ultrabooks/notebooks.

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

      • Intel Linux Graphics Driver Adding Device Local Memory - Possible Start of dGPU Bring-Up
        A big patch series was sent out today amounting to 42 patches and over four thousand lines of code for introducing the concept of memory regions to the Intel Linux graphics driver. The memory regions support is preparing for device local memory with future Intel graphics products.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • Mir 1.1.1 - release candidate
        I’ve just kicked off the process for a bugfix release of Mir. An initial release-candidate is currently building in ppa:mir-tream/rc.

      • Mir 1.1.1 RC1 Has Fixes For PostmarketOS, Demo Shells Using Wayland
        Mir 1.1 was released back in December as the first post-1.0 feature update while now preparing for release is the Mir 1.1.1 maintenance milestone.

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

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

      • Wayland's Weston 6.0 To Support XDG-Shell Stable, Helping Apps Like MPV Video Player
        While the current Wayland/Weston release cycle is a bit behind schedule, it has allowed time for another addition to be made to the Weston 6.0 compositor.

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

    • Benchmarks

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

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

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

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

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Chakra GNU/Linux Users Get KDE Plasma 5.15 Desktop and KDE Applications 18.12.2
        Users of the Chakra GNU/Linux distribution have received yet another batch of updates that bring them all the latest KDE technologies and security fixes.

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

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

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


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

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

      • Latte – Excellent KDE Dock based on Plasma Frameworks
        Let’s tackle the obvious starting question for 10. What’s a dock? I doubt this will ever be a question on the TV programme University Challenge…

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

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

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

      • Latte bug fix release v0.8.6
        Latte Dock v0.8.6 has been released containing important fixes and improvements!

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

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

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME Security Internship - Update 5
        This project started with a simple on/off switch in control center that entirely enabled or disabled the USB protection. A respectively so called always on and always off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Distributions

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

    • Reviews

      • First Look: Tuxedo InfinityCube Linux Desktop PC With Intel Core-i7 8700
        I've played with Linux on several of my own machines, but I recently unboxed my first custom-built Linux PC courtesy of Tuxedo Computers. It's called the InfinityCube v9, and it's left me very impressed. In fact I've been leaning on it more than the beefy AMD Ryzen 1950X rig I built because it's silent and super stable. Tuxedo Computers just launched the InfinityCube on their web shop, so let's take a quick look at this new desktop along with some initial benchmarks.

      • elementary 5 "Juno"
        In the spring of 2014 (nearly five years ago), I was preparing a regular presentation I give most years—where I look at the bad side (and the good side) of the greater Linux world. As I had done in years prior, I was preparing a graph showing the market share of various Linux distributions changing over time.

        But, this year, something was different.

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

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

    • New Releases

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

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

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

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

    • Gentoo Family

      • Redcore Linux Gives Gentoo a Nice Facelift
        like the overall look and feel of Redcore Linux. I generally do not use Gentoo-based Linux distros.

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

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • The ibmvnic driver with SR-IOV is now supported by SLES 12 and SLES 15 on IBM POWER9 processor-based systems
        The ibmvnic driver enables PowerVM Single Root I/O Virtualizations (SR-IOV) for improved network capabilities including reduced systems processor utilization, decreased network latency, and enforcement of network Quality of Service.

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

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

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

    • Slackware Family

      • Lumina Desktop will be removed from my -current repository
        The Lumina Desktop is part of the TrueOS project, a FreeBSD variant. I packaged version 1.4.0.p1 for Slackware and it is part of the Plasma5 variant of my Slackware Live Edition.

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

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

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

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

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

    • Fedora

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

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

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

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

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

      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-07
        Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week.

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

      • Fedora 30 Might Enable DNF's "Best" Mode By Default
        Under a late change proposal for Fedora 30, the DNF package manager's "best" mode might be enabled by default.

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

      • Bodhi 3.13.0 released

    • Debian Family

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


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

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

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

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

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

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Now Available With The New HWE Stack

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

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

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

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

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

          • SUSE OpenStack Cloud v9, Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Released, Happy Birthday Steam for Linux, WebKitGTK v 2.23.90 Released, Future Support of Virtual Desktops Hinted at in Chromium Codebase
            After a bit of delay, Canonical just released the released Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (Bionic Beaver) packaged with a patched 4.18 Linux kernel to address the boot failure bug pushing its release by a week.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Released, Available to Download Now
            Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS is available to download, albeit a week later than originally planned.

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

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

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • SVT-AV1 Already Seeing Nice Performance Improvements Since Open-Sourcing
    It was just a few weeks ago that Intel open-sourced the SVT-AV1 project as a CPU-based AV1 video encoder. In the short time since publishing it, there's already been some significant performance improvements.

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

  • Events

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

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

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

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

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

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • LibreOffice

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

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

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

    • Zowe Makes Mainframe Evergreen [Ed: Swapnil Bhartiya greenwashing and openwashing 2-in-1]
      Zowe also offers a vendor-agnostic experience allowing users to mix and match tooling and technologies. It provides interoperability, through the latest web technologies, products, and solutions from multiple vendors, and it allows developers to use the familiar, industry-standard, open source tools to access mainframe resources and services.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Public Services/Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Licensing/Legal

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

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

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

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

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

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

      • Data Conspiracy RISC | User Error 59
        Is the great hope for open hardware actually going to materialize or is RISC-V just hype? Are some conspiracy theories worth more than just passing disdain?

  • Programming/Development

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

    • Introducing the Meson Quest

    • Eighth Annual PyLadies Auction at PyCon 2019

    • Episode #117: Is this the end of Python virtual environments?

    • Talk Python to Me: #199 Automate all the things with Python at Zapier

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

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

    • PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 4
      Our fourth Early Access Program (EAP) version for PyCharm 2019.1 is now available on our website.

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

    • The developer’s dilemma: Choosing between Go and Rust
      If you were to make a list of important programming languages that have appeared in the past decade, Go and Rust would almost certainly be featured on it.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

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

    • Jayapal Says Medicare for All Bill Coming in Two Weeks as Expert Calls Plan 'Astonishingly Strong'
      In just two weeks, what is being heralded as an "astonishingly strong" plan to create a Medicare for All system in the United States will be introduced in the U.S. House.

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

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

    • Analysis Shows Exposure to Monsanto's Glyphosate-Based Roundup Increases Cancer Risk by More Than 40%
      A far-reaching new scientific analysis found that the weed-killing chemical glyphosate is far more dangerous than U.S. government officials admit, showing a 41 percent increased risk of developing cancer for people who have frequent exposure.

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

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

    • Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
      In the struggle to address rising levels of opioid misuse and mortality, an unlikely ally has emerged: marijuana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Security

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

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

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

    • Consistent security by crypto policies in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8
      Software development teams, whether open or closed source, are often composed of many groups that own individual components. Database applications typically come from a different team than ones developed by HTTP or SSH services, and others. Each group chooses libraries, languages, utilities, and cryptographic providers for their solution. Having specialized teams contributing to an application may improve the final product, but it often makes it challenging to enforce a consistent cryptographic policy on a system.

    • Security updates for Friday

    • Hacker Exploits Snapd Flaw to Obtain Access on Linux System

    • Australian channel player finds big Linux bug

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

    • Here We Go Again: 127 Million Accounts Stolen From 8 More Websites
      Several days ago, a hacker put 617 million accounts from 16 different websites for sale on the dark web. Now, the same hacker is offering 127 million more records from another eight websites.

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

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

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

    • Vendors Issue Patches for Linux Container Runtime Flaw Enabling Host Attacks

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

  • Defence/Aggression

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

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

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

    • Cuba Warns US Moving Special Forces Closer to Venezuela Under Guise of 'Humanitarian Intervention'
      As Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro urges the international community to condemn an ongoing U.S.-backed effort to overthrow him and calls for peaceful negotiations with critics led by self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaidó, the Cuban government—which supports Maduro—claimed on Thursday that the Trump administration is moving special forces closer to Venezuela "in preparation for a military adventure under the guise of a 'humanitarian intervention.'

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

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

    • 1,200 Kids' Gun Deaths Since Parkland: Did I Say I Love You?
      A year after the Parkland slaughter, a hopeful sliver of light with the House Judiciary Committee's passage of a background checks bill, the first step forward in years thanks to the fierce and furious Parkland kids fighting for change by "laying the bleeding bodies of their classmates across the nation's heart." They have forged powerful connections with other still-healing survivors, advocates who insist on honoring the victims, and grieving parents who agonize over whether they told their kids they loved them that final day. The last year has also seen some 67 state gun safety laws passed, 40 gun lobby allies defeated in Congress, and a House majority elected that wants to end the carnage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Maduro Reveals Aide’s Secret Meetings With U.S. Envoy Abrams
      President Nicolas Maduro has invited a U.S. special envoy to Venezuela after revealing in an AP interview that his foreign minister recently held secret meetings with the U.S. official in New York.

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

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

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

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

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

      Imagine that moment so many years later and consider the crew of neoconservatives who, under the aegis of George W. Bush, the son of the man who had “won” the Cold War, came to power in January 2001. Not surprisingly, on viewing the planet, they could see nothing -- not a single damn thing -- in their way. There was a desperately weakened and impoverished Russia (still with its nuclear arsenal more or less intact) that, as far as they were concerned, had been mollycoddled by President Bill Clinton’s administration. There was a Communist-gone-capitalist China focused on its own growth and little else. And there were a set of other potential enemies, “rogue powers” as they were dubbed, so pathetic that not one of them could, under any circumstances, be called “great.”
    • Investigation of Disasters Sparks Debate Over Navy’s Readiness and Responsibilities
      Since then, conversations about the Navy and its readiness to fight have sprung up all over the place: social media, the dining rooms on Navy ships, the halls of Congress. We’ve had active duty enlisted sailors, retired captains and admirals, family members of fallen sailors and our readers weigh in.

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

    • The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
      The United States government’s new offensive against Venezuela is an act of naked imperialism.

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

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

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

    • A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
      At the far end of Fort Santiago, I discovered a small museum dedicated to the memory of the Spanish dissident, José Rizal, who before the Spanish-American war of 1898 was imprisoned for advocating Philippine independence from Spain.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

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

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

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Fossil Fuels Are Bad for Your Health and Harmful in Many Ways Besides Climate Change
      Many Democratic lawmakers aim to pass a Green New Deal, a package of policies that would mobilize vast amounts of money to create new jobs and address inequality while fighting climate change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
      Donald Trump: “America will never be a socialist country.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Blow to 'Powerful Corporate Interests' as Federal Court Throws Out Pipeline Company Lawsuit Against DAPL Water Protectors
      District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed (pdf) all claims against all defendants in a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which sought to hold the water protectors liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for millions of dollars in alleged damages.

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

    • Our Food Is Killing the Planet — But It Doesn’t Have To
      The world needs to change the way it eats, not just as individuals but as a society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Youth Climate Leaders Launch Campaign to Make McConnell Regret 'Shameless' Green New Deal Ploy
      While McConnell appears to believe that he can expose divisions in the Democratic caucus by forcing senators into an up-or-down vote on the Green New Deal, Sunrise campaigners declared that—with urgent organizing and mobilization nationwide—they can build enough support for the resolution to "turn the tables on Mitch and create a political earthquake."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
      It’s easy for small news items to get lost amid the noise of the news cycle. Two stories I recently came across that piqued my interest have gotten almost no major media attention save for one or two easily missed articles.

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

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

    • 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Cheers 'Beginning of Great Changes' as Climate Strike Goes Global
      The world may be edging toward "environmental breakdown"—but 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sees signs for hope.

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

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

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

    • 'Our Generation Will Suffer': Tens of Thousands of Students From 60+ UK Communities Join Climate Strike
      Speaking to Sky News in London's Parliament Square on Friday, 12-year-old Theo said he is striking "because there are people in that building over there, going in week in and week out, and completely declining the fact that our world is dying out."

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

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


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

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

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

    • The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
      This week in Olympia, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 5671 to ban nontribal gillnetting in Washington state. The legislation would eliminate 445 small fishing businesses in rural and coastal areas.

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

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

  • Finance

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

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

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

    • BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize

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

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

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

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

    • Activision Blizzard axes 800 jobs despite record growth

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

    • 'Anything Is Possible,' Declares Ocasio-Cortez After Defeat of 'Amazon's Corporate Greed' in New York
      Months of tireless organizing, campaigning, and mobilization by ordinary New Yorkers was credited with Amazon's decision on Thursday to cancel its widely condemned plan to locate a second headquarters site in Long Island City, New York.

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

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cheers after Amazon scraps planned New York campus: "Anything is possible"
      Amazon announced it has scrapped its plans to build a second headquarters in New York, casting blame on "a number of state and local politicians" who "have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward."

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

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

    • Not Welcome: ‘Petulant Child’ Amazon Cancels New York HQ Plans
      More than 200 cities across the U.S. fought for the prize of being Amazon’s second headquarters. As Erin Durkin wrote in The Guardian, the courting process included promises of “lavishing tax breaks and other goodies for the chance to host the tech giant’s HQ2.”

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

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

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

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

      Providing a critical but sympathetic analysis of the records of the left governments across the continent, Gonzalez offers a refreshing reflection on the prospects and future of Latin American politics, asking whether Chavez’s vision of twenty-first century socialism may ever be realised.
    • Following Three-Day Strike, Denver Teachers Score Latest Victory in Nationwide #RedForEd Movement
      After staging the country's ninth major teachers' strike in the past 12 months, teachers on Thursday scored the latest victory for their students, communities, and profession as they reached a tentative deal with the school district that they say will help combat the city's teacher turnover crisis.

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

      After an all-night bargaining session, the DCTA and Denver Public Schools announced that they had reached an agreement that would send teachers back to their classrooms as early as Thursday afternoon.
    • American investment manager detained in Moscow on multi-million-dollar fraud charges
      Here's what we know so far about the criminal case against one of Russia's biggest foreign investors, U.S. citizen Michael Calvey

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

    • Here's what we know so far about the criminal case against one of Russia's biggest foreign investors, U.S. citizen Michael Calvey
      This week, police in Moscow detained Michael Calvey, the U.S. founder of the private equity group Baring Vostok. The other suspects in the case are Baring Vostok partners Vagan Abgaryan and French citizen Philippe Delpal, investment director Ivan Zyuzin, First Collection Bureau CEO Maxim Vladimirov, and Alexey Kordichev, an adviser to Norvik Banka’s board chairman.
    • Of Stress and Inequality
      Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being” is a follow-up to their 2009 best-seller “The Spirit Level.” That book reviewed several hundred studies expounding on their book’s subtitle: “Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger,” and came to the breakthrough finding that “inequality affects the vast majority of the population, not only the poor minority.”

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

    • CBS’s Horror Stories on National Debt Aren’t Actually All That Scary
      The first three countries are all in the euro zone. They do not have their own currency, but rather must adhere to rules set by the European Central Bank and the European Commission. Their situation is comparable to that of a state in the United States. No one disputes that it would be a big problem for Utah or California to run up very large debts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Amazon’s Decision To Pull Out of NYC Is a Massive Blow To Corporate Welfare
      Amazon announced Thursday the company has canceled its bid to acquire nearly $3 billion in public dollars to locate a facility in New York City—the most substantial setback for corporate welfare in recent memory.

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

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

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

    • Amazon Won't Pay a Dime in Federal Taxes This Year
      Amazon won’t pay a dime in federal taxes this year—just as it didn’t pay a dime in federal taxes in 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • New York HQ Fiasco and $0 in Federal Taxes, Say Critics, Confirm Amazon's Status as Deadbeat Corporation
      A day after Amazon announced it was canceling plans to establish a new headquarters in New York City, critics pointed to a new report on the company's federal taxes for 2018 as more evidence that its exit was no loss for New York.

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

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

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

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

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The courts will likely let Trump declare an ‘emergency,’ even if it’s made up

    • How YouTube Drives Shane Dawson and Other Creators to Conspiracy Theories

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

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

    • 'Constitutionally Illegitimate': McConnell Confirms Trump Will Declare National Emergency to Build Wall
      McConnell said that he would support the bill that was negotiated with Democratic leaders—which will provide $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences in Southern Texas and boost the budget of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by over $500 million—as well as the the emergency declaration.
    • Senate OKs Border Deal; Trump Will Sign but Declare Emergency
      The Senate resoundingly approved a border security compromise Thursday that ignores most of President Donald Trump’s demands for building a wall with Mexico but would prevent a new government shutdown. The White House said Trump would sign it but then declare a national emergency and perhaps invoke other executive powers to try to shift money to wall-building from elsewhere in the federal budget.

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

      House passage and Trump’s signature were assured for the basic spending bill compromise, which for now would stamp a bipartisan coda on a nasty melee that’s dominated the initial months of power sharing in Washington.
    • National Emergencies: Constitutional and Statutory Restrictions on Presidential Powers
      When a president threatens to exercise the power to declare a national emergency, our system of checks and balances faces a crucial test. With President Trump threatening such a declaration in order to build his proposed physical border wall, that test could be an important one that could quickly implicate your right to privacy and a transparent government.

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

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

      So when the President threatens to use those same emergency authorities to try paying for a border wall after Congress has refused, we watch closely. And so should you.
    • New Hampshire Is Trying to Stop College Students From Registering to Vote
      Voting is my right. I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to exercise it. Growing up, my parents taught me that voting is not only a right, but a privilege. They voted in every local, midterm, and presidential election, and every time they did so they were sure to show me their “I voted” sticker.

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

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

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

    • Volunteers sifted through tens of thousands of hours of footage to spot election fraud near Moscow. Here’s what they found.
      In the months since Russia’s nationwide gubernatorial elections on September 9, 2018, Moscow Oblast has emerged as one of the regions with the most widespread record of election fraud. As early as December, news emerged of massive “carousels,” or systems by which voters circulate among precincts and vote multiple times in each, in the city of Balashikha on Moscow’s outskirts. Carousels require the cooperation of election officials, and the violations in Balashikha led to multiple investigations and resignations. To find the “carousel riders,” election observers used recordings from surveillance cameras posted in voting sites. Here, Meduza reports on what might be an even more notable instance of mass corruption near Moscow on Election Day. Observers in the city of Roshal told Meduza that official turnout figures there far exceeded the turnout they observed on camera not just in one but in all eight of the city’s precincts.
    • Contrary Creatures
      As a preschooler I liked some stories about Dr. Dolittle, who could speak with animals, and especially his pushmi-pullyu, a “gazelle/unicorn cross” with two heads, one at each end, pulling in opposite directions. And that resembles Germany’s current politics.

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

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

      The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, sent threatening letters to German companies, threatening: “We emphasize that companies involved in Russian energy exports are taking part in something that could prompt a significant risk of sanctions.”
    • Progressives Need to Ignore the Noise and Stay Ambitious
      The Green New Deal isn’t the only such proposal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s estate tax, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent income tax over $10 million, Rep. John B. Larson’s Social Security expansion, jobs programs from Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Ron Wyden, universal health coverage plans from every Democratic senator running for president (which is itself a sizable subset of the party’s caucus). None of these ideas will become law through this Congress because that’s just the political reality of divided government.

      So what’s the point of offering them?

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

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

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

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

      The deterioration of democratic institutions should be setting off daily alarm bells, but instead, we feel like things must be working, because Congress appears to have agreed on Monday not to shut the government down on Friday (though the president had yet to agree). Talk about lowering the bar!
    • The Shutdown as Shock Doctrine
      As the dust settles from the last long government shutdown, it’s time to reflect on some fundamental truths about our political system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      And in North Carolina, communities devastated by Hurricane Florence — an event whose damaging impacts were amplified because of climate change — couldn’t access reconstruction funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development because of the shutdown. Remember that the people hurt most by Hurricane Florence were disproportionately Black or Native, and low-income.
    • After Trump's National Emergency Declaration, Legal Scholar Says, Initiate Impeachment 'Immediately'
      While Democrats are preparing to propose a joint resolution challenging President Donald Trump’s expected national emergency declaration in order to obtain funding for a border wall, one legal scholar is among those arguing the time has come to pursue a far more direct and effective method of combating the president’s lawlessness: impeachment.

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

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

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

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

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

    • Former Trump Officials Are Openly Flouting Rules Against Lobbying
      It’s been more than two years since President Donald Trump, who rallied campaign supporters with calls to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and their ilk, took office. But despite that campaign promise, Washington influence peddlers continue to move into and out of jobs in the federal government.

      In his first 10 days in office, Trump signed an executive order that required all his political hires to sign a pledge. On its face, it’s straightforward and ironclad: When Trump officials leave government employment, they agree not to lobby the agencies they worked in for five years. They also can’t lobby anyone in the White House or political appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the Trump administration. And they can’t perform “lobbying activities,” or things that would help other lobbyists, including setting up meetings or providing background research. Violating the pledge exposes former officials to fines and extended or even permanent bans on lobbying.

      But loopholes, some of them sizable, abound. At least 33 former Trump officials have found ways around the pledge. The most prominent is former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in December after a series of ethics investigations. He announced Wednesday that he is joining a lobbying firm, Turnberry Solutions, which was started in 2017 by several former Trump campaign aides. Asked whether Zinke will register as a lobbyist, Turnberry partner Jason Osborne said, “He will if he has a client that he wants to lobby for.”

    • Here's the 3-Part Rapid Response Plan to Defeat Trump's "Full-Fledged Attack on Democracy"
      President Donald Trump has officially declared a national emergency to construct his "racist" border wall, and progressive groups have a plan to fight back.

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

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

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

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

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

    • Calling It "Gross Abuse of Power," Democrats Vow to Move Swiftly to Nullify Trump's National Emergency Declaration
      Bypassing Congress, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday morning to access funding for "his racist and wasteful wall"—a move Democrats decried as a "gross abuse of power" and vowed to quickly nullify.

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

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

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

    • Calling Emergency Declaration a 'Patently Illegal Power Grab,' ACLU Sues Trump
      President Donald Trump's prediction that he'll be taken to court over his national emergency declaration proved correct on Friday afternoon, with the ACLU announcing it would file one of several lawsuits against the Trump administration over the "blatantly illegal" move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • 'I Didn't Need To Do This': Watch That Little Moment in Bizarre Speech When Trump Admits National Emergency Is a Sham
      Amid the bizarre calvacade of lies, false assertions, exploitive tropes, and sing-song explanations of the likely legal battle to come over his national emergency declaration on Friday morning at the White House, President Donald Trump let one little thing—obvious to many—slip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • There Is No ‘National Emergency’ at the Border, and Trump’s Declaration Is Illegal
      President Donald Trump admits he’s making his move because he didn’t get his way with Congress, and in the process, he hurts American communities. After more than a month of threats, a government shutdown, and bipartisan action by Congress, President Trump has finally declared a national emergency to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on his border wall obsession. In response, the ACLU will file a lawsuit early next week challenging this blatantly illegal executive action.

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

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

    • We Have a National Emergency, All Right. Its Name Is Donald Trump.
      We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    • Suddenly, It’s Completely Normal for Women to Run for President
      Something new is happening in the 2020 presidential election cycle. For the first time ever, running for president is a normal thing that women do.

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

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

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

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

      This time, that’s changed.

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

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

    • How Scott Walker Made Wisconsin the National Poster Child for Dark Money Corruption
      Transparency in campaign spending is overwhelmingly popular with both Democrats and Republicans, because average folk know that dirty deeds go on behind closed doors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Here is my response:

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

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

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

    • Putting Trump to Shame Without Ever Saying His Name
      “In a second I’ll tell you how little / Writing rescues,” writes Terrance Hayes in the opening poem of his most recent collection, “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin.” Written in the days after Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Hayes’ sonnets have an urgency and a potency that will leave readers’ heads spinning. And while it can be hard for this reader to be grateful for anything remotely related to Trump, I must say that if the anger he inspired erupted into poetry this powerful, I am thankful, at the very least, for Hayes’ verses.

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

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

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

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

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • The chilling legacy of the Rushdie affair

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

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

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

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

      After much careful consideration, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh has decided to release some of the eyewitness accounts of the incident involving Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson …
    • Formal Internet Censorship: Copyright blocking injunctions
      Copyright-blocking injunctions have one major advantage over every other system except for defamation. They require a legal process to take place before they are imposed. This affords some accountability and that necessity and proportionality are considered before restrictions are put in place.

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

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

      Copyright blocking injunctions are usually open-ended. There is not usually an end date, so they are a perpetual legal power. The injunction is against the ISPs. Rights-holders are allowed under the standard terms of the injunctions to add new domains or IP addresses that are in use by an infringing service without further legal review. ISPs and rights-holders do not disclose what exactly is blocked.
    • EFF to State Department: Respect Freedom of Speech of Chinese Students
      EFF joined a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opposing a proposal to deploy stronger vetting procedures against Chinese students intending to study in the United States because the procedures would threaten the free speech interests of both Chinese students and their American associates.

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

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

  • Privacy/Surveillance

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


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

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

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

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

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

    • Can Amazon, Facebook, Google be tamed by being forced to share their data? [Ed: What about Microsoft? The company that puts back doors in everything and which turned its OS into a keylogger? ZDNet and parent company CBS paid/bribed enough to look the other way?]
      Facebook, Amazon and Google have become extremely powerful off the back of users' data, she said, and use their control of that data to enforce monopolies that stymie startups and hurt consumers.

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

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

    • Facebook Just Can’t Stop Getting FINED!!!
      However, the FTC and the blue network are still under negotiations over the exact fine the company would have to pay, sources told The Post. Also, Facebook is expected to make some changes in its business practices.

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

    • More Border Surveillance Tech Could Be Worse for Human Rights Than a Wall
      President Trump wants a border wall — a symbolic monument to xenophobia and hate. But Democrats’ counterproposal could be even more dangerous for human rights.

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

      These are more than just TV talking points. During the most recent round of negotiations to avert another government shutdown, Democratic lawmakers came in not just with a conciliatory offer of more than $1.3 billion for fencing, but also proposals to fund a swath of invasive surveillance technologies. Expanding these programs will simply shift migration routes to more remote terrain, leading to more unnecessary suffering, dehydration and death at the border. They also pose a grave threat to millions of citizens’ privacy and civil liberties across the nation.
    • Powerful Permissions, Wimpy Warnings: Installing a Root Certificate Should be Scary
      Last week, Facebook was caught using a sketchy market research app to gobble large amounts of sensitive user activity after instructing users to alter the root certificate store on their phones. A day after, Google pulled a similar iOS “research program” app. Both of these programs are a clear breach of user trust that we have written about extensively.

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

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

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

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

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

      What are “Dark Patterns”?

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

      The Norwegian Consumer Council (the ForbrukerrÃ¥det or NCC) builds on this critical UX concept in a recent report that criticizes “features of interface design crafted to trick users into doing things that they might not want to do, but which benefit the business in question.”
    • Facebook uses its apps to track users it thinks could threaten employees and offices
      In early 2018, a Facebook user made a public threat on the social network against one of the company's offices in Europe.

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

      "He made a veiled threat that 'Tomorrow everyone is going to pay' or something to that effect," a former Facebook security employee told CNBC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Redditors are less valuable than Facebook and Twitter users

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


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

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

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

  • Civil Rights/Policing

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

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

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

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

    • ICE Set Up A Fake College To Bust Immigrants For Trying To Legally Stay In The Country While They Earned Degrees
      This is ICE's take on the arrests. What actually happened here is something bordering on entrapment.

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

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

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

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

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

    • If Northam Wants to Do Better on Racism, Standing Against Confederate Monuments Is an Easy First Step
      Nearly four decades after smearing his face with shoe polish and doing a blackface impersonation of Michael Jackson, Virginia governor Ralph Northam says he wants to be a beacon of racial reconciliation. To that end, advisers tell BuzzFeed News, Northam has embarked on a survey course in wokeness: boning up on the horrors of U.S. slavery via Alex Haley’s Roots; studying the legacy of American racism through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations”; watching the heroic cinematic portraiture of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation. (A film, it should be noted, that features an astounding amount of blackface.) Northam’s apology-slash-rebranding campaign is also slated to feature a policy agenda focused on racial equity, putting desperately needed resources into public transportation, affordable housing and Virginia’s historically black colleges.

      Also supposedly on Northam’s to-do list? Finally calling for the removal of Virginia’s many racist statues and monuments glorifying the Confederacy, a nation founded specifically to ensure the preservation of black chattel slavery. According to BuzzFeed, “a source close to the governor said Northam is telling people privately that if the commonwealth’s legislature puts a bill on his desk that provides the authority to bring down Confederate statues that he would sign it.”

    • FBI's Internal Investigations Of Shootings By Agents Clears Agents 98% Of The Time
      It's impossible to say if any of these might be one of the five incidents the FBI found problematic. The agency refused to comment on any of these shootings when questioned by NBC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The judge says he’ll “punish” anyone who reveals the names of the alleged victims in the prosecution of two anti-abortion activists charged with secretly taping them in conversations regarding procurement of fetal tissue.
    • Texts Show Police and Far-Right Extremist Collusion: Oregon Official
      A member of Portland’s city council said Thursday a newspaper’s report that the commander for the police rapid response team exchanged friendly text messages with a leader of far-right protests that have rocked the city confirms collusion exists between some police and right-wing extremists.

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

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

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

      “Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention,” Niiya texted Gibson on Dec. 9, 2017, Willamette Week reported. “If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason.”
    • U.S. Border Patrol Detained U.S. Citizens for Speaking Spanish in Montana
      Illegal arrests and seizures reflect an out-of-control agency emboldened by Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. For Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez, May 16, 2018, began like any other in Havre, Montana: work, school, and a trip to the gym once their kids were in bed. They stopped by Town Pump — a local convenience store — to pick up groceries. While in line, the friends were chatting in Spanish, just two people having an ordinary conversation. But the Customs and Border Protection agent standing in line behind them did not see it that way.

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

    • Border Patrol Detained Me for Speaking Spanish in Montana. Then My Town Turned Against Me.
      Customs and Border Protection violated our rights as U.S. citizens just for speaking Spanish in a grocery store.

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

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

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

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

    • Amid Alarm Over National Emergency Declaration, Border Deal Denounced as 'Betrayal of Immigrant Communities'
      "This fundamentally bad deal represents an attack on immigrant communities and their allies and a gift to Trump and his deportation force," CREDO Action co-director Heidi Hess declared in a statement early Thursday. "It is a betrayal of immigrant communities and the Democratic Party's progressive base."

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Trump Administration Is Illegally Forcing Asylum Seekers Out of the United States
      The administration is once again breaking the law in order to shut the door on immigrants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Jesus Christ's Lesson for the 21st Century
      The biblical story of the good Samaritan is one that Tom Catena not only knows well, but strives to live by. A devout Catholic and Ivy League-educated doctor, Catena realized early on that he would dedicate his time on earth to helping those in need, though he couldn’t have predicted the heroic path his life would take.

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

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

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

      Listen to Catena and Scheer discuss faith and service in the face of great adversity, as well as heart-wrenching scenes the doctor has witnessed in the Nuba Mountains. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the media player.
    • What happened at the Brooklyn jail is part of a deeper human rights crisis
      Recent headlines over the plight of people imprisoned in the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn begs for a deeper look into the conditions of confinement in the U.S. prisons, jails, and juvenile and immigrant detention facilities. Although the electricity and heat are back on at the Brooklyn federal facility, the continuing and staggering neglect that led to this humanitarian crises continues – and will continue. Not only did the federal officials lie about conditions at the facility, they refuse to acknowledge the situation as part of a deeper human rights crisis.

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

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

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

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Oakland Renters Deserve Quality Service and The Power To Choose Their ISP
      If you live in Oakland and have had trouble acquiring service from the ISP of your choice, EFF wants to know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Meme of the day: Russian Twitter teams up the sign bunny with its swole cousin
      An apparently original Russian meme has taken Twitter by storm in recent days. In the meme, the ASCII sign bunny that gained international popularity in 2014 before surging again last year is joined by another ASCII rabbit: the buff bunny, which also saw a brief resurgence in 2018.

    • The FBI Is Dismantling Its War Crimes Unit
      The FBI is dismantling a special unit that investigates international war crimes and hunts down war criminals – including suspected torturers and perpetrators of genocide, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.

      The unit, which was created a decade ago and has its roots in federal efforts to hunt Nazis living in the United States after World War II, has had a hand in many high-profile prosecutions.

      Most recently, its investigators helped take down the Liberian warlord Thomas Woewiju, whom agents found living a quiet life in Philadelphia. At trial, witnesses said Woewiju’s men herded civilians through checkpoints decorated with severed heads and strings of human intestines. He was convicted of perjury in July.

      Now, human rights advocates worry that criminals like Woewiju could evade justice.

      “These are difficult cases to prove because they need rock-solid investigations,” said Beth Van Schaack, a law professor at Stanford University who was deputy ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues in the Obama administration. Scrapping the FBI unit “is inevitably going to jeopardize prosecutions,” she said.

      In a statement, the FBI confirmed the shuttering of the war crimes unit but argued its dissolution “in no way reflects a reduced commitment by the FBI” to enforce human rights law. The agents previously dedicated to human rights work will continue that work as members of the FBI’s civil rights program, the agency said.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Unified files IPR against US 8,964,847 owned by Velos Media, LLC
      On February 14, 2019, Unified filed a petition (with Baker Botts serving as lead counsel) for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 8,964,847, owned by Velos Media, LLC (Velos) as part of Unified's ongoing efforts in its new SEP Video Codec Zone.

      The ‘847 patent and its corresponding extended patent family is the largest family known to be owned by Velos and represents approximately 2.3% of Velos’ known U.S. assets. Including this petition, Unified has now challenged patents representing 12% of Velos’ total known U.S. assets.

    • Automated Delivery Notification is Ineligible Subject Matter
      The Southern District of Florida recently granted a motion to dismiss in favor of Minted LLC, and a motion for judgment on the pleadings in favor of LLC based on lack of patent-eligible subject matter, under 35 U.S.C. €§ 101 and the Alice/Mayo test. At issue wasclaim 11 of U.S. Patent No. 9,373,261, directed to a system for automating notification of delivery or pickup of a good or service. Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC v. Minted, LLC, No. 16-81669-CIV (S.D. Fla. Jan. 18, 2019); Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC v., LLC, No. 16-81677-CIV (S.D. Fla. Jan. 18, 2019). Claim 11 of the ‘261 patent was ineligible because the claim was directed toward the abstract idea of “providing advance notification of the pickup or delivery of a mobile thing,” and the claim recites “purely generic and conventional computer equipment” that operates in a “routine and conventional” manner.

    • NASDAQ Patent Doesn’t Claim Covered Business Method
      The PTAB has declined to institute a Covered Business Method (CBM) review for a patent, owned by NASDAQ, claiming a computerized system for executing securities transactions. Investors Exchange LLC v. NASDAQ, Inc., Case CBM2018-00038 (Patent 7,895,112 B2). According to the PTAB, the Petitioner did not meet its burden of showing that the claims were not a technical solution to a technical problem, and therefore did not meet the requirements of Section 18(d) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”).

    • What Kind of Technical Improvement Is Enough for Patent Claims to Survive Alice?
      Three patents directed to improving wireless digital signal transmission by “protecting data from loss due to transmission errors” have survived a summary judgment motion seeking to invalidate claims under 35 U.S.C. €§ 101 and the two-part Alice/Mayo test. The California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Ltd., (C.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2019). The court found that claims of US Patent Nos. 7,116,710, 7,421,032, and 7,916,781 “improve[d] on previous data encoding methods by allowing for more efficient data transmission,” and that this was a patent-eligible technical solution.

      The three patents had a common priority claim and a common specification. At risk of oversimplification, the specification described, and the claims purportedly embodied, the technical improvement of manipulating bits of data to provide error correction codes to improve accuracy without bloating the amount of data being transmitted.

    • Technological Improvement in Roof Imaging is Patent-Eligible
      Can claims directed to correlating images into a three-dimensional model provide a technological improvement sufficient to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. €§ 101? Yes, says the Court in Eagle View Techs., Inc. v. Xactware Sol’ns, Inc., No. 15-07025 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2018).

      Plaintiffs’ asserted patents (U.S. Patent No. 8078436 is representative) for providing a roof repair estimate based on aerial images. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claims are invalid under 35 U.S.C. €§ 101 as an abstract idea without significantly more. The Court denied the motion, holding under the 2-part Alice test that the claims were directed to a technological improvement, and thus not an abstract idea.

    • Patent-Eligibility Not Supported by an Ordered Combination of Generic Technology Elements
      Patent claims reciting “buying and selling an item relating to unique subjects” unsurprisingly could not meet the patent-eligibility bar of 35 U.S.C. €§ 101 and the Alice/Mayo test when the patent owner appealed a lower court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal. VOIT Technologies, LLC v. Del-Ton, Inc., No. 2018-1536 (Fed. Cir. Feb 8, 2019) (non-precedential). The trial court had found the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,226,412 directed to the abstract idea of buying and selling products without an additional inventive concept. The Federal’s circuit agreed.

      Turning first to part one of the applicable patent-eligibility test, whether the claims are directed to an abstract idea, the court stated that the claims of the ’412 patent

      are directed to the abstract idea of entering, transmitting, locating, compressing, storing, and displaying data (including text and image data) to facilitate the buying and selling of items.

    • USPTO Further Delays PKI Certificate Termination Date [Ed: technically incompetent still]
      In a Patent Alert e-mail distributed earlier today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that "[d]ue to recent technical issues, the PKI authentication and migration deadlines associated with the authentication change for EFS-Web and Private PAIR are no longer applicable until further notice." The Office had announced in late December that the initial December 31, 2018 deadline for the retirement of PKI certificates was being postponed until February 15, 2019. The Office has not yet set a new deadline for retirement of PKI certificates.

    • Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Research Corporation Technologies, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)
      Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that the claims of U.S. Reissue Patent No. RE38,551 challenged in inter partes review were not unpatentable for obviousness, in Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Research Corporation Technologies, Inc.

      The claims of the '551 reissue patent were directed to compounds for treating epilepsy (as well as other central nervous system disorders).


      Finally, the opinion rejected Petitioners' contention, at oral argument (and rebuttal at that, timing that seemed to annoy the Court), that the Court should remand the case to the PTAB in view of the Supreme Court's intervening decision in SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, 138 S. Ct. 1348 (2018), finding that issue to have been waived as in PGS Geophysical AS v. Iancu, 891 F.3d 1354, 1362–63 (Fed. Cir. 2018), due to untimeliness.

      In addition to the SAS aspect, this case illustrates the capacity of the PTAB to enter a decision, after oral argument and Patent Owner's opportunity to present evidence, contrary to the decision to institute. This makes invalidation much less of a foregone conclusion in IPRs, which must be seen by Patent Owners as a welcome development.

    • A Written Description of the Invention (including how it is made?)
      The district court dismissed this infringement lawsuit on summary judgment — finding the asserted claims invalid for lack of written description or not infringed (or both). On appeal the Federal Circuit reversed that determination — finding both issues ripe with “genuine disputes of material fact.”

      The patent at issue here claims the use of ultrasound signals to track location of a mobile device (typically a patient in a hospital). U.S. Patent 8,604,909. There are several reasons why ultrasound can be a better option than WIFI or infrared (IR) signals for location detection within a small area. For example, the steeper proximity decay makes it much less likely that a distant base-station would pick-up the signal. Thus, location can be discovered and without needing triangulation or highly precise equipment. Both the patentee and accused infringer deal in ultrasonic location equipment.


      In its invalidity decision, the district court focused on the testimony of no example device and concluded that the mere mention of ultrasonic techniques was not sufficient to satisfy the written description requirement. The court explained, for instance, that the claims include timing synchronization elements that were explained for IR, but that timing could be quite different for ultrasound of speed (speed of light vs speed of sound) and reflection differences.


      the district court also dismissed the case for lack of infringement. The claims require use of wireless computer network, including a backbone, Wi-Fi access points, and server hardware. The accused infringer does not supply this material but instead piggy-backs its systems as an add-on to the already existent network. The district court found that no single entity had “made” the system and so Sonitor could not be liable as a direct infringer.

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit rejected that analysis — finding material evidence that Sonitor was the “final assembler” of the system and thus could be held liable for “making” the invention. I’ll note here that the hospitals themselves could be held liable, but the patentee would rather extract rents from its direct competitor rather than its potential clients.

    • Apple to ship iPhones with only Qualcomm chips to German stores
      Apple Inc said Thursday that it will resume selling older iPhone models in its stores in Germany, where they were banned last year due to a patent infringement ruling.

    • Trademarks

      • Scammers Are Filing Fake Trademarks to Steal High-Value Instagram Accounts

        Usually when you think of someone taking over an Instagram account, you probably imagine a hacker breaking in with an unearthed password, or tricking the victim into giving up their credentials. But Instagram scammers have another, sometimes more effective method too: just asking Instagram to hand over the account.

        Scammers do this by creating fake companies and trademarks to convince Instagram they should be the legitimate owner of a username in question, with fraudsters using “trademarking,” as the technique is known, to get ahold of sought-after, valuable handles, according to posts and evidence of the process in action obtained by Motherboard. The scammers can then keep these handles as digital mementos, brag about their acquisition, or resell them at a profit in a thriving underground community.

    • Copyrights

      • EU Copyright Directive: rejection of entire bill or of Article 13 only realistic options for opponents of idiocy
        I'm a copyright hardliner regarding the scope of copyrightable works, a reasonably narrow exception for fair use, and remedies. I can say so without fear of contradiction from those who read my postings on copyright on this blog, particularly on Oracle v. Google, or who debated the Blizzard v. bnetd DMCA case with me back in the day. Copyright has been the basis of my livelihood ever since I started writing articles for computer magazines first, then computer books, while in high school. Meanwhile I've spent a lot of time and money developing software, and I've written tens of thousands of trivia questions (even thousands in recent years).

        It says something about the utter lunacy that the EU's proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market ("EU Copyright Directive") is when a staunchly pro-copyright blogger and creator of copyrightable works like me opposes it--obviously not every single word of it, but, at a minimum, Articles 11 ("link tax") and 13 ("upload filter"). The only other occasion on which I felt like this involved the EU as well: the CJEU's outrageous link liability decision.

        The purpose of this post is to provide some unsolicited advice to the companies, industry bodies, NGOs and activist groups thinking about their strategy in a situation in which there's every reason to assume, based on the information available, that the "trilogue" (EU-style backroom negotiations between Commission, Council (= Member States), and Parliament) resulted in a very bad deal.

      • South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill Still Moving
        Copyright law stakeholders and pundits are keeping a close watch on the progress of South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill, as it makes its way to the National Council of Provinces in Parliament this week for further deliberation.

      • Gigi Hadid faces another Copyright Infringement Claim after posting picture of herself on Instagram
        Social media is a real spanner in the IP works, since it’s all about sharing content that IP is in the business of restricting. Social media platforms were crowned a haven for counterfeited goods by the UK IPO report Share and Share Alike, and they can also cause havoc for copyright holders as their content is shared without permission, not to mention the dubious terms and conditions! Recently GiGi Hadid has found herself in the hot seat for sharing images on Instagram, and not for the first time.


        Xclusive have now brought a civil complaint against Hadid in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking a trial by jury and damages for copyright infringement under the copyright laws of the United States (17 U.S.C. €§ 101). In the claim Xclusive argue that Hadid’s Instagram account includes at least fifty (50) examples of uncredited photographs of Hadid in public, at press events, or on the runway, posted by Hadid without license or permission from the copyright holder. The claim states that Xclusive believes these acts of infringement are willful and intentional, in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of copyright holders.

      • Wrestler Booker T Sues Activision For Copyright Infringement Over Fairly Generic Character Depiction
        It's old hat by now to point out that on matters of copyright far too many people are unaware of the nuances of the law as to what constitutes infringement and what doesn't. While this is generally true, it's all the more so when it comes to how copyright covers specific characters or settings. For instance, George Lucas may have a copyright claim on the specific character of Darth Vader, but he most certainly does not have any claim to the more generic black-armored space-magician with a laser sword and a bad attitude. Copyright covers expression, in other words, not mere ideas.

      • Good Luck, Japan: Government About To Make All Copyright Infringement A Criminal Offense
        We often bemoan the sheer volume of copyright infringement lawsuits that occur here in America. With an overly protectionist mentality coupled with a culture of ownership, the civil courts are frankly bursting with these lawsuits when there are so, so many more efficient ways we could do things. But we can at least take some comfort in the fact that in America copyright infringement is largely a civil matter, with criminal copyright infractions being relegated to true commercial uses of infringing activities, or those over a certain dollar amount. This saves an insane amount of undue headache for our criminal justice system.

        But not every country does it this way. In Japan, for instance, copyright law has long been such that any copyright infringement having to do with music and movies has been the subject to potential criminal prosecution. This has already resulted in citizens being hauled into court by the government under potential sentences of two years in prison for the downloading of a single movie or music file. That outlandish disparity in crime and punishment has resulted in call outs from groups like the EFF. And, yet, despite such clapback, the Japanese government is currently recommending that this exact same criminalization and punishment regime be rolled out to every instance of copyright infringement, rather than relating only to music and movies.

      • Appeals Court Takes No Time At All In Rejecting Patent Troll's Ridiculous Lawsuit Against Cloudflare
        You may recall that back in May of 2017, a patent trolling operation called Blackbird Technologies picked on the wrong internet company to troll. Having built up some success blasting frivolous lawsuits at other internet companies, it chose to go after Cloudflare. That was a mistake. Cloudflare didn't just hit back, it promised to destroy the patent trolling firm, Blackbird Technologies. It opened up a campaign to crowdsource prior art not just on the patent at issue in its lawsuit but on every patent that Blackbird Technology claimed to hold.

        Almost exactly a year ago, Cloudflare won its case with the court invalidating the patent. It was such an easy decision that it took US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria barely over a page explaining why the patent was so clearly invalid and the case was dismissed.

        Blackbird, for reasons that escape me, decided to appeal to the Federal Circuit. Now, we've spent the better part of two decades mocking the Federal Circuit and its history of nutty decisions, but there are some cases so obviously bad that even the CAFC can't fuck them up. This is one. A CAFC panel heard the case last week and found the situation so utterly stupid that it only took a few days for it to affirm the lower court ruling. Indeed, its ruling is even shorter than the district court's ruling. The CAFC opinion doesn't even say anything other than: "Affirmed."
      • Calling Out Copyright Troll Mathew Higbee
        Over the last few months, I've been hearing an awful lot about a copyright trolling operation that goes by the name Higbee and Associates. We had written about them years back when they (incredibly) threatened Something Awful for using a photo in a movie review (which was clear fair use). A few months back we wrote about them again when they (you guessed it) threatened Something Awful again over someone in its forums hotlinking a picture of Hitler that was actually hosted on Imgur.

        While that's all we've written about the firm on Techdirt, Higbee's name keeps coming up in other conversations -- among copyright lawyers who have been seeing a massive increase in Higbee demand letters, and even from some friends who have received such letters (which nearly always involve clearly bogus threats). One thing that has happened over and over with Higbee claims that I've been privy to is that they are over unregistered images, meaning that Higbee is unlikely to actually be able to sue over those images, and even if they could, it wouldn't be for statutory damages. And yet, the threat letters tend to allude to statutory damages are part of the scare tactic.
      • Study Reinforces How Much The Internet Has Enabled Content Creators To Make Money
        A year ago, we wrote about a wonderful study that showed how the internet and its various platforms were (contrary to the stories that the legacy entertainment industries keep spreading) enabling more content creators to make more money than ever before. That study, by the Re:Create Coalition has just published an updated version of that study, again showing how important the internet has been in enabling creative people to make money from their creations.
      • Sony Using Copyright To Take Down Its Own Anti-Piracy Propaganda
        Sony has apparently decided that you can't see its anti-piracy propaganda, because it might be pirated.

        There are a few iconic sitcoms I remember from my childhood and What's Happening!! is probably near the top of that list. What I had forgotten, is that the show once included a two part episode all about the evils of bootlegging, with guest stars, the Doobie Brothers. In that "very special episode," the character of Rerun is caught trying to secretly tape the Doobie Brothers playing a show at their high school.
      • Sony: We Are Totally Open For Crossplay, Game Developers: No, You Totally Are Not
        t's a really dumb saga that has gone on for far too long, but Sony has built for itself a public history of not allowing gamers to cross-play multiplayer games on their Playstations with players on other consoles. This is all an attempt to get Playstation owners to convince their friends to also buy Playstations so that they can game together, which is exactly the kind of protectionist hardball that makes Sony, you know, Sony. The backlash against Sony last summer was bad enough that Microsoft and Nintendo, rivals in the console space, decided to put out joint advertisements together along with a social media campaign essentially trolling Sony over the issue, while pointing out to gamers worldwide that owners of Nintendo and Xbox consoles very much could play with one another.

        In one of the all-time underwhelming responses to a PR crisis in the history of gaming, Sony did enable crossplay... for exactly two games. Fortnite and Rocket League have crossplay enabled, but literally nothing else. Which made it somewhat baffling that the Chairman of Sony Interactive managed to claim in a recent interview that the lack of crossplay at this point was all the developers' fault.

      • Downloading Any Pirate Content To Be Made Illegal in Japan

        Japan is set to make it illegal to download any infringing content from the Internet after the government adopted the policy this week. The law currently covers movies and music but will be extended to encompass games, manga, and other copyrighted content. Infringers will face up to two years in jail.

      • EU Reaches Deal on Article 13 and Other Copyright Reform Plans

        The European Parliament and Council agreed on the final text of the EU Copyright Directive. This includes the controversial Article 13, which opponents fear will lead to broad upload filters. The full package will now go to the European Parliament for a final vote, which is expected to take place in March or April.

Recent Techrights' Posts

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Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
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Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock