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Links 15/3/2019: Linux 5.0.2, Sublime Text 3.2

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Free Software/Open Source

  • US red lines for digital trade with the UK cause alarm
    The US government has published its negotiating objectives for a trade deal with the UK, which include some worrying proposals on digital trade, including a ban on the disclosure of source code and algorithms, and potential restrictions on data protection.


    The US wants to stop the UK government from “mandating the disclosure of computer source code or algorithms”. This is one of the most concerning aspects of the new digital trade agenda, already found in other recent trade agreements, and criticised by groups such as Third World Network. Restricting source code and algorithms is problematic for various reasons. In particular, the UK government has been pioneering open source software, despite some setbacks, and these clauses could be used to challenge any public procurement perceived to give preference to open source.

  • New service mesh emerges from the creators of gRPC and Istio
    The creators of gRPC and Istio have created a new enterprise-grade service mesh that is launching today. Tetrate is built on top of Istio and Envoy, and adds enterprise-grade scalability, performance, and ecosystem adapters. Envoy is a network load balancer for microservices, while Istio is a service mesh that acts as a control plane layer over Istio.

  • Tetrate Launched, Google Chrome 73 Released, Godot 3.1 Is Now Available, Enroll to Try Android Q Beta, and Pi Day Live Stream Event and Contest
    Tetrate, a new enterprise-grade service mesh from the creators of gRPC and Istio, launched yesterday. Varun Talwar, CEO of Tetrate and formerly co-creator of Istio at Google, says "Tetrate's mission is to create a secure and flexible application networking layer to help enterprises transition from their decades-old rigid networking stack. Our tools and technologies will help customers with availability and manageability of their applications as they undergo this transformation." In addition, "Tetrate is launching with $12.5 million in funding from Dell Technologies Capital, as well as from participating investors 8VC, Intel Capital, Rain Capital, and Samsung NEXT." It also plans to use the funding to "extend its open-source leadership and further contribute to the open-source community". See this ITOps Times article for more information.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla releases Iodide, an open source browser tool for publishing dynamic data science
        Mozilla wants to make it easier to create, view, and replicate data visualizations on the web, and toward that end, it today unveiled Iodide, an “experimental tool” meant to help scientists and engineers write and share interactive documents using an iterative workflow. It’s currently in alpha, and available from GitHub in open source.

        “In the last ten years, there has been an explosion of interest in ‘scientific computing’ and ‘data science’: that is, the application of computation to answer questions and analyze data in the natural and social sciences,” Brendan Colloran, staff data scientist at Mozilla, wrote in a blog post. “To address these needs, we’ve seen a renaissance in programming languages, tools, and techniques that help scientists and researchers explore and understand data and scientific concepts, and to communicate their findings. But to date, very few tools have focused on helping scientists gain unfiltered access to the full communication potential of modern web browsers.”

      • Rep of the Month – February 2019
        Please join us in congratulating Edoardo Viola, our Rep of the Month for February 2019!

        Edoardo is a long-time Mozillian from Italy and has been a Rep for almost two years. He’s a Resource Rep and has been on the Reps Council until January. When he’s not busy with Reps work, Edoardo is a Mentor in the Open Leadership Training Program. In the past he has contributed to Campus Clubs as well as MozFest, where he was a Space Wrangler for the Web Literacy Track.

      • Firefox Send is a Free, Encrypted File Sharing Service
        It just got easier (and more secure) to share files with your friends and family online — all thanks to Mozilla, makers of Firefox.

        The free-web advocating non-profit has announced that its ‘Firefox Send‘ feature has graduated from (the now axed) test pilot programme to fully fledged service in its own right.

        And the best bit? You don’t even need Firefox to use it.

      • Thank you, Denelle Dixon
        I want to take this opportunity to thank Denelle Dixon for her partnership, leadership and significant contributions to Mozilla over the last six years.

        Denelle joined Mozilla Corporation in September 2012 as an Associate General Counsel and rose through the ranks to lead our global business and operations as our Chief Operating Officer. Next month, after an incredible tour of duty at Mozilla, she will step down as a full-time Mozillian to join the Stellar Development Foundation as their Executive Director and CEO.

  • BSD

    • Microkernel Failure | BSD Now 289
      A kernel of failure, IPv6 fragmentation vulnerability in OpenBSD’s pf, a guide to the terminal, using a Yubikey for SSH public key authentication, FreeBSD desktop series, and more.


    • Activists and experts gather in Cambridge for ethical tech conference to celebrate software freedom on March 23-24
      Next weekend, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) presents the eleventh annual LibrePlanet free software conference in Cambridge, March 23-24, 2019, at the Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LibrePlanet is an annual conference for people who care about their digital freedoms, bringing together software developers, policy experts, activists, and computer users to learn skills, share accomplishments, and tackle challenges facing the free software movement, including 3D printing, cryptography, medical devices, privacy, security, and current issues in software licensing. LibrePlanet 2019 will focus on the exploration of software freedom and how to bring to life trailblazing, principled new technologies.

      LibrePlanet 2019 will include four keynotes. Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician, will talk about his work on making medical devices accessible through free designs that meet medical industry standards. Micky Metts, a member of the Agaric Design Collective, will talk about your collective and individual roles in maintaining your freedoms, with free software as the foundation. Bdale Garbee, longtime free software contributor and former Debian Project Leader, will tell us about the fun in free software, using personal anecdotes as examples. Richard Stallman, founder of the FSF and president of the board of directors, will discuss current issues facing user freedom, and announce the winners of the 2018 Free Software Foundation awards.

    • Software Freedom Conservancy Becomes an Open Source Initiative Affiliate Member

    • Conservancy Becomes an Open Source Initiative Affiliate Member
      Conservancy joins a long list of Open Source Initiative Affiliate Members. We believe that the non-profits serving free and open source software communities should seek out ways to support each other. There are certainly many different strategies that help us build and maintain a robust commons and a solid consistent understanding of the licenses that enable collaborative development is critical. The Open Source Initiative's role as steward of the Open Source Definition is extremely compatible with our own work to provide a fiscal home for community-driven free software projects and our ongoing work to enforce the General Public License (GPL).

      "We're excited to participate in the Open Source Initiative's ongoing work to educate users and decision-makers about how licensing and cooperation go hand in hand. By joining as an affiliate member, we affirm our support of collaboration to promote the ideals of software freedom." says Karen Sandler, Software Freedom Conservancy's Executive Director.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Norway’s new health archive is being built on open source

      The new Norwegian Health Archives (Norsk helsearkiv, NHA) is being built using open source software, including operating system Linux, relational database management system MariaDB, search engine Elasticsearch, and digital preservation system Archivematica.

  • Programming/Development

    • Tutorial: Why Functions Modify Lists and Dictionaries in Python
      Python’s functions (both the built-in ones and custom functions we write ourselves) are crucial tools for working with data. But what they do with our data can be a little confusing, and if we’re not aware of what’s going on, it could cause serious errors in our analysis.

      In this tutorial, we’re going to take a close look at how Python treats different data types when they’re being manipulated inside of functions, and learn how to ensure that our data is being changed only when we want it to be changed.

    • Introduction to Python FTP
      In this tutorial, we will explore how to use FTP with Python to send and receive files from a server over TCP/IP connections.

      To make things easier and more abstract, we will be using Python's ftplib library which provides a range of functionalities that make it easier to work with FTP. We'll see the implementation for uploading and downloading files from the server, as well as some other cool things that "ftplib" allows us to do.

    • Emmanuele Bassi: A little testing
      Years ago I started writing Graphene as a small library of 3D transformation-related math types to be used by GTK (and possibly Clutter, even if that didn’t pan out until Georges started working on the Clutter fork inside Mutter).

      Graphene’s only requirement is a C99 compiler and a decent toolchain capable of either taking SSE builtins or support vectorization on appropriately aligned types. This means that, unless you decide to enable the GObject types for each Graphene type, Graphene doesn’t really need GLib types or API—except that’s a bit of a lie.

      As I wanted to test what I was doing, Graphene has an optional build time dependency on GLib for its test suite; the library itself may not use anything from GLib, but if you want to build and run the test suite then you need to have GLib installed.

    • Fair Resource Distribution Algorithm v1
      Imagine a finite resource that you want to distribute amongst peers in a fair manner. If you know the number of peers to be n, the problem becomes trivial and you can assign every peer 1/n-th of the total. This way every peer gets the same amount, while no part of the resource stays unused. But what if the number of peers is only known retrospectively? That is, how many resources do you grant a peer if you do not know whether there are more peers or not? How do you define “fairness”? And how do you make sure as little of the resource as possible stays unused?

    • Fast, Bump-Allocated Virtual DOMs with Rust and Wasm
      Dodrio is a virtual DOM library written in Rust and WebAssembly. It takes advantage of both Wasm’s linear memory and Rust’s low-level control by designing virtual DOM rendering around bump allocation. Preliminary benchmark results suggest it has best-in-class performance.

    • Step-by-step how-to guide to use uWSGI with Python 3.7 for Ubuntu 18.04 and 18.10.

    • Using Pipfile in Binder


  • Science

    • Ï€ day
      Pi Day is celebrated everywhere on March 14th (3/14), since Ï€ is the mathematical symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter – numerically, approximately 3.14159.


      So let’s celebrate. Recite as many of the infinite digits of Pi as you can remember, memorizing is good for the brain anyway. Organize Ï€-reciting contests. Eat pie. Eat pizza, it counts as pie. Eat anything round (and edible, please). Eat cake with friends (it’s also Einstein’s birthday, if you need a reason); eat donuts, eat cookies. Walk around in circles, have circular thoughts, throw pies at your colleagues, appreciate the casual relation between the ratio of the circumference of a circle and the English word for pastries filled with sweet goodness.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Judge in Second Roundup Cancer Trial Worked for Firm that Defended Monsanto
      On March 12, both sides in the Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto case delivered their closing arguments in San Francisco Federal Court. Hardeman sued Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), alleging that his longtime use of Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

      The jury could return its verdict any day now. The six-juror panel must return a unanimous decision, or a mistrial will be called. A new trial would likely take place in May. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the case will enter the second phase, where Monsanto’s liability will be determined and damages may be awarded to the plaintiff.

      This week’s closing arguments followed a recent favorable ruling for the plaintiff—this despite new revelations about Chhabria’s past ties to Monsanto.

    • How Much Difference Will Eli Lilly’s Half-Price Insulin Make?
      When Erin Gilmer filled her insulin prescription at a Denver-area Walgreens in January, she paid $8.50. U.S. taxpayers paid another $280.51.

      “It eats at me to know that taxpayer money is being wasted,” said Gilmer, who has Medicare and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while a sophomore at the University of Colorado in 2002.

      The diagnosis meant that for the rest of her life she’d require daily insulin shots to stay alive. But the price of that insulin is skyrocketing.

      Between 2009 and 2017 the wholesale price of a single vial of Humalog, the Eli Lilly and Co.-manufactured insulin Gilmer uses, nearly tripled — rising from $92.70 to $274.70, according to data from IBM Watson Health.

    • The FDA Should Protect Consumers, Not a Dying Dairy Industry
      Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that’s what it’s telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like “milk” on their labels, citing consumer confusion.

      The National Milk Producers Federation even helped get the “Dairy Pride Act” introduced, as part of its war on plant-based products. My organization, Compassion Over Killing (COK) and more than 10,000 petition signers suggest a better option: If the dairy industry has “pride” in its own product, why not clearly label it “cow’s milk”?

      Last fall, COK, Animal Legal Defense Fund and the University of California Los Angeles’s Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy submitted joint comments urging the FDA not to back the dairy industry’s anti-competitive efforts by restricting plant-based dairy products from being labeled with terms like “milk,” along with thousands of public comments submitted.

      Now, the agency has received thousands of responses to its call for public comments on other terms, such as “yogurt” and “cheese.” Though it’s doubtful that consumers who are not confused by almond milk would suddenly become confused by almond cheese.

    • Beating the Big Pharma Shell Game
      A trillion-dollar industry is in trouble. And it is fighting back.

      A Harvard-Politico poll taken after the 2018 elections showed that both Republican and Democrat voters cite prescription drug pricing as the top priority for this new Congress. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that nearly one in three US adults don’t take their medicines as prescribed at some point each year because of the cost. The same survey shows 80% of Americans agreeing that the price of medicines is unreasonable. Elected officials at the federal and state levels are reacting to this rising level of voter frustration by lining up to propose significant reforms.

      But Big Pharma did not get big by rolling over when challenged. The industry that tops the lists for US campaign contributions and lobbying dollars is aggressively countering the criticism with a classic tactic: a shell game designed to distract our attention elsewhere.

      In this case, the shiny object we are supposed to pay attention to is the so-called ‘middleman’ of the drug pricing process. Sometimes, the pharma industry tries to point our attention toward pharmacies or hospitals or insurance companies. But the usual target is pharmacy benefit managers, (PBMs), who act as buying networks for insurers and employers.

      As the Wall Street Journal has recently reported, this ‘hey, look over there’ approach by Big Pharma is the foundation of a thoroughly-planned, carefully-executed corporate disinformation strategy:

    • Clean Water at Risk as Trump Administration Ignores Science
      When lawmakers passed the Clean Water Act of 1972, they agreed the federal government needed stronger regulations to protect the waterways that we rely on for drinking, fishing, recreation and supporting a healthy environment.

      But our watersheds are more than just major rivers — there are wetlands, ponds and small streams, some of which only contain water part of the year. And it’s in these waterways that an ongoing, unseen conversation happens between surface and groundwater.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Thursday

    • 25 Most Common IoT Security Threats in an Increasingly Connected World
      The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly. IoT is the connectivity of devices over the internet. It’s like a social network or an email service, but instead of connecting people, IoT actually connects smart devices which include, but not limited to your computers, smartphones, smart home appliances, automation tools, and more.

      However, similar to all types of technologies out there, IoT is a double-edged sword as well. It has its upsides, but there are serious threats that accompany this technology. As manufacturers are racing against each other to bring the latest device in the market, not many of them are thinking about the security issues associated with their IoT devices.

    • Facebook Suffers Global Outage, Claims DDoS Not the Cause
      Facebook users around the world had a singular question for much of March 13: Is Facebook down?

      As it turns out, the global social media giant and its related Instagram and WhatsApp services were in fact unavailable and down for much of the day. Some service was restored by March 14, though full global availability across all Facebook services is still intermittent. With Facebook down, the company ironically had to resort to using rival social media service Twitter to keep many of its users informed.

      "We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps," Facebook wrote in a Twitter message. "We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible."

      Facebook also provided minimal updates via its platform status dashboard for developers, with the first indication of trouble reported at 10:32 a.m. PT on March 13.

      "We are currently experiencing issues that may cause some API requests to take longer or fail unexpectedly," the status page reports. "We are investigating the issue and working on a resolution."
    • Kali Linux Forensics Tools
      Kali Linux is a powerful Operating system especially designed for Penetration Tester and Security Professionals. Most of its features and tools are made for security researchers and pentesters but it has a separate “Forensics” tab and a separate “Forensics” mode for Forensics Investigators. Forensics is becoming very important in Cyber Security to detect and backtrack Black Hat Criminals. It is essential to remove Hackers’ malicious backdoors/malwares and trace them back to avoid any possible future incidents. In Kali’s Forensics mode, Operating System doesn’t mount any partition from System’s hard drive and doesn’t leave any changes or fingerprints on host’s system.

      Kali Linux comes with pre-installed popular forensics applications and toolkits. Here we’ll review some famous open source tools present in Kali Linux.

    • What is SSH (Secure shell protocol)?
      SSH stands for Secure Shell which is a security protocol based on the application layer. We use the SSH to securely access the remote servers and Desktops to execute various commands. In short, we can control the complete system remotely, if we have login information and SSH server access. Because The Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol designed to replace the Telnet and access the remote system even on the unsecured remote shell by encrypting data before sending.

    • Security Researcher Discovers Flaws In Yelp-For-MAGAs App, Developer Threatens To Report Him To The Deep State
      Even a cursory look at past stories we've done about how companies treat security researchers who point out the trash-state of their products would reveal that entirely too many people and companies seem to think shooting the messenger is the best response. I have never understood the impulse to take people who are essentially stress-testing your software for free, ultimately pointing out how the product could be safer than it is, and then threatening those people with legal action or law enforcement. But, then, much of the world makes little sense to me.

      Such as why a Yelp-for-MAGA people should ever be a thing. But it absolutely is a thing, with conservative news site releasing a mobile app that is essentially a Yelp-clone, but with the twist that its chief purpose is to let other Trump supporters know how likely they are to be derided when visiting a restaurant. This is an understandable impulse, I suppose, given the nature of politics in 2019 America, though the need for an app seems like overkill. Regardless, the app was released and a security researcher found roughly all the security holes in it.

    • “Yelp, but for MAGA” turns red over security disclosure, threatens researcher

      But the safe space for 63red founder Scott Wallace was violated quickly when French security researcher Elliot Alderson discovered some fundamental security flaws in Safe's architecture—making it not so safe.

      Because the application is build in React Native, a JavaScript- and JSX-based scripting language that basically turns Web apps into "native" Apple iOS and Android applications, the entire architecture of the application is available to anyone who downloads and unpacks it. And in that code, Alderson discovered a few things: [...]

    • SMB Exploited
      Server Message Block (SMB) is the transport protocol used by Windows machines for a wide variety of purposes such as file sharing, printer sharing, and access to remote Windows services. SMB operates over TCP ports 139 and 445. In April 2017, Shadow Brokers released an SMB vulnerability named “EternalBlue,” which was part of the Microsoft security bulletin MS17-010.

      The recent WannaCry ransomware takes advantage of this vulnerability to compromise Windows machines, load malware, and propagate to other machines in a network. The attack uses SMB version 1 and TCP port 445 to propagate.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Boeing to Update Planes' Software After Two Deadly Crashes

      The company noted on Tuesday that a flight control software enhancement for the aircraft model has been in the works for several months, following last year’s Lion Air Flight 610 crash of the same model that killed 189 people flying out of Indonesia.

    • Tribunal Declares Trump and Duterte Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity
      Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his government committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, aided and abetted by US President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a recent ruling from the International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines.

      The tribunal, which was held in Brussels, Belgium, on September 18 and 19, 2018, rendered its 84-page decision on these crimes on March 8. Conveners of the tribunal included the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. A panel of eight jurors from Egypt, France, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States heard testimony from 31 witnesses, including me.

      These jurors ordered the defendants to make reparations; to provide compensation or indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation; and to be subjected to possible prosecution and sanctions for their crimes. Although the tribunal does not have the power to enforce those measures, its findings of facts and conclusions of law could be used to bolster the preliminary examination of crimes by the Duterte regime currently pending in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    • Reputed Gambino Crime Boss Shot to Death in New York City
      The reputed boss of New York’s Gambino crime family was gunned down outside his home, dying a virtual unknown compared with his swaggering 1980s-era predecessor, the custom-tailored tabloid regular John Gotti.

      Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds at his red-brick colonial-style house on Staten Island on Wednesday night and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

      Witnesses reported seeing a blue pickup truck speeding away, police said. No immediate arrests were made.

      Federal prosecutors had referred to Cali in court filings in recent years as the underboss of the Gambino organization. News accounts since 2015 said he had ascended to the top spot.

    • State Supreme Court Allows Lawsuit Against Gun Maker to Move Forward in 'Massive Victory' For Sandy Hook Families
      The maker of the semi-automatic assault rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 can potentially be held liable for the 26 killings the gun was used to commit, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

      The decision represents a major victory for the families of the 20 first-grade children and six educators who were killed in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, which inflamed outrage among gun control advocates who demanded lawmakers work to prevent mass shooting.

      "I am thrilled and tremendously grateful," Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, told the New York Times. "No one has blanket immunity. There are consequences."

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Laura Poitras ‘Sickened’ By Layoffs at The Intercept

      “I am also sickened by your joint decision to shut down the Snowden archive, which I was informed of only yesterday—a decision made without consulting me or the board of directors.”

    • Met Police collaborated with US prosecutors in WikiLeaks investigation
      The Metropolitan Police shared information about WikiLeaks journalists with US prosecutors for at least four years as the US Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted secret investigations into the whistleblowing website and its founder Julian Assange.

      The Met has disclosed that it has shared correspondence with the US since at least 2013 on WikiLeaks’ UK staff, which include former investigations editor Sarah Harrison, editor in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson and section editor Joseph Farrell.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Despite Risks, Canada's Tar Sands Industry Is Betting Big on Oil Trains
      Last year, Canada exported a record amount of tar sands oil to the U.S., despite low oil prices leading to major losses once again for the struggling tar sands industry. That achievement required a big bump in hauling oil by rail, with those daily volumes in late 2018 more than double the previous record in 2014 during the first oil-by-rail boom.

      Canada's oil industry essentially has reached its limit for exporting oil into the U.S. through pipelines. That's why it's turning to rail to export more and more oil, but as an ever-increasing number of oil trains hit the tracks of North America, expect more accidents and oil spills to follow.

    • Enough Inaction: Green Groups Sue to Make France Act Boldly on Climate Crisis
      Four advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against France on Thursday for failing to take necessary action to tackle the climate crisis.

      The French groups—Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (FNH), Greenpeace France, Notre Affaire à Tous, and Oxfam France—filed their case, which they've dubbed "l'Affaire du siècle" or the case of the century, in the administrative court of Paris.

    • ACLU Offers Legal Guidance for US Students Joining Friday's Global Climate Strike
      That's the message from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which reminded students of their rights Thursday by linking to a comprehensive overview of Constitutional protections on school grounds the group created last year.

      "If you're a public school student, you don't check your constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors," the ACLU document says. "But whether schools can punish you for speaking out depends on when, where, and how you decide to express yourself."

      While students might face some school punishment for taking part in the strike, the ACLU notes that the punishment cannot exceed that of similar actions.

      "Because the law in most places requires students to go to school, schools can discipline you for missing class," according to the ACLU. "But what they can’t do is discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action."
    • Brazil to open indigenous reserves to mining without indigenous consent
      For many years, international and Brazilian mining companies have dreamed of getting access to the mineral wealth lying beneath indigenous lands. And finally, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to give them that opportunity. On 4 March, while Brazilians were distracted by Carnival celebrations, the new Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced plans to permit mining on indigenous land.

      Speaking at the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), a major event in the mining world that attracts tens-of-thousands of attendees, the Minister said that Brazil’s indigenous people would be given a voice but not a veto in the matter. The opening of indigenous ancestral territories to mining, he predicted, would “bring benefits to these communities and to the country.”

      He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current 150-kilometer (93-mile) wide mining buffer zone at the frontier.

      The minister said that current mining restrictions are outdated. The long-restricted indigenous and border areas “have become centers of conflict and illegal activities, that in no way contribute to sustainable development or to sovereignty and national security.” The administration will shortly be holding a nationwide consultation to discuss how the changes should be made, he concluded.
    • Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Remain in the World, Scientists Announce
      Scientists announced Thursday that only 10 vaquita porpoises likely remain in the world and that the animal's extinction is virtually assured without bold and immediate action.

      The vaquita, the world's smallest and most endangered cetacean, is found only in Mexico's northern Gulf of California. The release of the new vaquita estimate comes just two days after reports of the possible first vaquita mortality of 2019. More details are expected in the coming days.

    • Beto O’Rourke Becomes Latest 2020 Contender to Pledge Climate Action
      "This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us," O'Rourke said in a video announcing his campaign. "The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater. And they will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America."

    • Transformative Climate Action Is Possible — If Polluters Stay Away
      2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in “the number of Americans who say they worry ‘a great deal’ about climate change.”

      That was before the release of two reports in the fall by scientists commissioned by the United Nations and the U.S. federal government. Both reports painted a dire picture of the coming climate catastrophe and a clear timeline. They warned that if we don’t take drastic action to cut emissions globally, we will face global catastrophic effects of climate change. According to the U.N, we have about a decade. That’s no time at all.

      So it makes sense that at the very end of 2018, even as global greenhouse gas emissions rose alarmingly, two bold plans for climate action took hold of the public imagination: the international People’s Demands for Climate Justice, and in the U.S., the Green New Deal. But in order to move these plans from visions to actual policies that are just and effective, we must address the largest obstacle that lies between today’s status quo and a livable future for all: the influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy.

    • Fiat Chrysler Recalls 900,000+ Cars in U.S. and Canada for Excessive Nitrogen Oxide Emissions
      Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) is recalling around 965,000 gas-powered cars in the U.S. and Canada after they failed in-use emissions tests conducted by the company and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Reuters reported Wednesday.

      The company will need to replace the vehicles' catalytic converters, which were shown to deteriorate during driving tests, leading to nitrogen oxide emissions above U.S. limits. Nitrogen oxide is associated with ozone and particulate matter pollution, which has serious health impacts.

    • Investigation Finds Southern California Edison Power Lines Sparked Massive, Deadly Thomas Fire
      Another California utility has been found responsible for sparking a deadly wildfire, according to the results of an investigation announced Wednesday.

      The massive Thomas Fire, which burned through 281,893 acres of Southern California in 2017, was sparked when two Southern California Edison (SCE) power lines slapped together on the night of Dec. 4, 2017, the Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) said.

    • To Clean Up the Planet, Clean Up Washington
      For decades, majorities of Americans have favored swift, meaningful action on climate change. They understand that we must transition away from dirty fuels and toward clean, renewable energy. Yet despite this overwhelming support, Congress has repeatedly failed to act. This jarring disconnect between what the public wants to see and what Washington is prepared to deliver doesn’t just threaten the health and safety of everyone in our country — it undermines the very principle of representative democracy. The reason that Congress hasn’t acted is an open secret. Follow the trail of the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from corporate polluters over the years, and you’ll find countless lawmakers who’ve worked to block action on climate change. The special interests that are hostile to our environment have designed a sophisticated toolkit for furthering their narrow agenda, while avoiding accountability. This assault on our democracy must end. That’s why the new House majority passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act — a bold suite of reforms that will transform our government and our political system for the better. Every provision of the bill is guided by one overarching imperative: restore the power and the voice of Americans who for too long have felt locked out of their own democracy. First, H.R. 1 will push back hard against the influence of big money in our politics. That means bringing more transparency to the world of campaign finance so that polluters can no longer use shadowy organizations to hide their political spending. In addition, by building a new system of citizen-owned elections that amplifies the power of small donors, H.R. 1 will reduce the financial influence of PACs and big corporations. The result will be environmental policy made for the public interest, not the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Second, H.R. 1 will make sure that public officials serve the public, not themselves or some hidden group of industry patrons. The bill extends conflict of interest rules to presidents and vice presidents and requires the release of their tax returns. It will prohibit members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and establish a code of ethics for the justices of the Supreme Court. And it will end the practice of corporations giving giant bonuses to employees who join the regulatory agencies overseeing them.

    • Ahead of Global #ClimateStrike She Inspired, 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
      "We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict," Freddy Andre Oevstegaard, a parliamentary representative in Norway, told Norwegian newspaper VG.

    • UN Report Warns 'Locked In' Arctic Temperature Spikes Will Unleash Global Sea Level Rise
      The report was prepared by U.N. Environment (UNEP) and the Norwegian foundation GRID-Arendal, in close consultation with the Arctic Council. It is a product of the UNEP's Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), a comprehensive assessment released Wednesday, as U.N. Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

      Both Global Linkages and the GEO-6 underscore the vital importance of policymakers pursuing a coordinated global effort to drive down greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). As the report points out, "even if we stopped all emissions overnight, winter temperatures in the Arctic will still increase by 4 to 5€°C compared to the late twentieth century."

      While human-generated GHGs boost temperatures on a global scale, warming occurs faster in the Arctic. That's because of a phenomenon called Arctic or polar amplification—which, the report explains, "causes higher temperatures near the poles compared to the planetary average because of a combination of feedback processes."
    • The Arctic’s ticking ‘carbon bomb’ could blow up the Paris Agreement
      Even in a dream-come-true scenario where we manage to stop all the world’s carbon emissions overnight, the Arctic would inevitably get hotter and hotter. That’s according to a new report by U.N. Environment, which says the the region is already “locked in” to wintertime warming of 4 to 5 degrees C (7.2 to 9 degrees F) over temperatures of the late 1900s.

      The report, released at the U.N. Environment conference in Kenya on Wednesday, says that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planetary average, and models show that it’s on track to become ice-free during the summer as soon as 2030.

      That’s the bad news. So here’s even worse news. The Arctic contains much of the world’s permafrost, which holds what the report calls a “sleeping giant” made of greenhouse gases. As the ground warms, the microbes in the soil wake up and start belching greenhouse gases. Estimates vary, but the report says 1.5 trillion tons of carbon dioxide lurk beneath the Earth’s permafrost. That’s more than 40 times as much CO2 as humans released into the atmosphere last year, and double the amount of the gas in the atmosphere today.

    • UN report finds temperature rise is 'locked in' for Arctic
      The Arctic is now “locked in” to experiencing unnatural levels of temperature rise by as early as 2050, according to a new United Nations environmental report out Wednesday.

      Dramatic temperature increases in the globe’s northernmost region, which is typically covered by permafrost, is unavoidable, according to the report released at the United Nations Environment Assembly.

      Even if countries were to meet the original goals of the Paris climate agreement, it would do nothing to stop Arctic winter temperatures from increasing 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 5 to 9 degrees Celsius by 2080, according to the report.

    • A Mother Swept Away by Climate Change
      Yes, it’s happening. It really is. And I’m not just thinking about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal and the support it’s getting from Democratic presidential candidates or the controversy it’s generating. I’m also thinking about Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s entry into the 2020 presidential race on a platform that boils down to a climate-change crusade. I’m thinking about the way Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer -- not your usual definition of a radical thinker or activist -- is now planning to make global warming a key issue in the 2020 elections. I’m thinking about the fact that some Democrats suddenly are convinced the subject will be a winner on the campaign trail. I'm thinking about the fact that a book on climate change, David Wallace-Wells's The Uninhabitable Earth, has just hit the bestseller list. I’m thinking about the strike-for-the-future movement, all those Generation Z kids that TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan writes about today who have started a wave of global protests about the increasingly degraded world they’re likely to inherit.

      And I’m also thinking about the fact that every new study of climate change seems to offer worse news about the fate of the planet -- greater potential temperature rises; more drought and famine; larger population displacements; faster-melting Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets leading to radically rising sea levels; more unexpected climate feedback loops that will only heighten the ravages of global warming; record levels of greenhouse gases still entering the atmosphere; and, most recently, the unexpected phenomena of heat waves not on land (yes, they’re coming, too, and they’re likely to be devastating) but in the planet’s oceans that could, among other things, significantly reduce fish populations and so humanity’s food supplies yet more.

      In other words, don’t think of the recent rise in climate-change attentiveness and concern among Americans as a passing thing. It’s not for the simplest of reasons: climate change itself isn’t passing. Human-caused it may be, but it’s not faintly part of human history in terms of its potential time scale, and whatever effects we’re already feeling are essentially nothing compared to what’s likely to come. So in a country that, in 2016, elected history’s greatest crew of climate-change aiders and abettors, men who may one day be seen as the worst criminals in history, something’s finally starting to happen, even if just what it is still isn’t exactly clear. Under the circumstances, parents like Frida Berrigan have a tough job ahead. They're going to have to explain to their children just how we adults have so royally screwed up this planet, the one that should have been their birthright. And that, as she makes clear today, is the necessary conversation from hell.

    • Trump Uses 'Art of Distraction' to Push Through Dangerous Policies Like Offshore Drilling, Interior Official Admits
      Confirming what a number of Trump critics have pointed out about the president's ability to pass some of his most dangerous policies while stoking public outrage about unrelated matters, a top Interior Department official shared with fossil fuel executives recently how this strategy has been beneficial to corporate polluters.

      According to the Guardian, at a meeting of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) in February, assistant secretary for land and minerals management Joe Balash told the crowd that Trump's ability to distract the public has made it possible for the administration to forge ahead with a plan to open up the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas drilling, likely beginning in the coming weeks.

  • Finance

    • Of Course College Admissions Rigged for the Rich. The Whole Economic System Is
      The children of working stiffs learned a brutal lesson this week as federal prosecutors criminally charged rich people with buying admission to elite universities for their less-than-stellar children.

      The lesson is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how smart or talented you are, a dumb, lazy rich kid is going to beat you.

      It’s crucial that everyone who is not a wealthy movie star, hedge fund executive, or corporate CEO—that is, 99 percent of all Americans—sees this college admissions scandal for what it really is: a microcosm of the larger, corrupt system that works against working people, squashing their chances for advancement.

      This system is the reason that rich people and corporations got massive tax breaks last year while the 99 percent got paltry ones. It is the reason the federal minimum wage and the overtime threshold are stuck at poverty levels. It is the reason labor unions have dwindled over the past four decades.

    • Breaking up Big Tech: Advocates spar over how to trim sails of technology giants at SXSW [iophk: Liz Warren "already in Microsoft's pocket"]
    • A Wall Street Mini-Tax Could Benefit the Poor and Reduce Public Debt
      With great fanfare, politicians on the left are thinking big on tax reform: a 70 percent rate on incomes over $10 million, a wealth tax on the super-rich, estate taxes as high as 77 percent. With no fanfare at all, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has made the case for thinking small. According to the CBO, a mini-tax on sales of stocks, bonds and other holdings could boost revenues by scores of billions a year.

      The estimate came in December 2018 when the CBO released its list of options for cutting the federal deficit. For the period 2019-2028, a Wall Street tax of 0.1 percent would bring an extra $777 billion into the Treasury. Market declines were predicted early on, along with lower capital gains and lower trading volumes. Even so, after factoring in all the headwinds, the tax still produced average annual revenue increases of almost $78 billion. The numbers rose as the years went by: the inflow totaled $534.5 billion in the closing half-decade, compared to $242.2 billion from 2019-2023.

      The tax is called a financial transactions tax, “FTT” for short. The United States had one from 1914 until 1965; it could be coming around again as lawmakers try to cope with “the defining challenge of our time,” income inequality.

      Such a levy would instantly become the single biggest non-income tax on wealth in America. Five days a week and after-hours, the financial markets execute millions of trades involving billions of shares. The huge majority belongs to taxpayers in the upper rungs. Given the volume and the value of the trades, even a tiny tax would generate giant revenues. The Institute for Policy Studies, in a Q&A on the tax, said the burden “would fall overwhelmingly on short-term speculators. For most pension funds and traditional stock-and-bond-holders, the cost would be negligible—in fact less than typical portfolio management fees.”
    • We Will Not Rest Until Housing Justice Is Done
      I have been homeless myself, and experienced housing instability my whole life. Together with other People’s Action members from around the country who are directly affected by our nation’s housing emergency, I met with Senator Warren’s team on Capitol Hill last December to discuss this bill. We liked what we heard, but there were certain parts of the legislation we definitely wanted to improve.

      We shared our stories, gave feedback to the Senator’s team, and have worked with them for three months to improve this bill, which she first introduced last Fall. The version Senator Warren introduced yesterday includes important changes, and is revitalized with the support of Congressional Black Caucus and the outspoken progressives who took the House back for Democrats in November’s elections.

      This new version reflects what’s possible when grassroots leaders like us get to be at the table, and participate in the creation of policy that impacts our lives.

      I live in Los Angeles, and was homeless for two years as a child, starting at age six, when my mom sought to escape domestic violence. We lived out of a car, because my mom and I had nowhere to go. We had nobody to help us, and we didn’t know about resources that might have been available.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • George Conway Urges ‘Serious Inquiry’ Into Trump’s Mental Health After Latest Lie

      The husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway slams the "brazen, pathological mendacity" of the president.

    • Beto O'Rourke Is Running for President
      After a campaign in which he came tantalizingly close to winning a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas has announced that he’s running for president, joining an ever-growing field of Democratic candidates looking to deny President Donald Trump a second term.

    • Beto O’Rourke Announces 2020 Democratic Presidential Bid
      Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced Thursday that he’ll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ending months of intense speculation over whether he’d try to translate his newfound political celebrity into a White House bid.

      Until he challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O’Rourke was little known outside his hometown of El Paso. But the Spanish-speaking 46-year-old former punk rocker became a sensation during a campaign that used grassroots organizing and social media savvy to mobilize young voters and minorities. He got within 3 percentage points of upsetting Cruz in the nation’s largest red state — and shattered fundraising records in the process — immediately fueling chatter that he could have higher ambitions.
    • Good-Bye Electoral College? Popular Vote Movement Gaining Steam
      There’s new momentum around the National Popular Vote movement, where states will award Electoral College votes to elect the president based on which candidate has won the most votes nationwide—instead of today’s state-by-state winner-take-all system.

      “It does have new momentum, because there was a [recent] period starting with the second Obama election when Democrats bought into this blue-wall theory” that their political party had a lock on the White House, said John Koza, a former Stanford University scientist who co-founded the National Popular Vote project in 2006.

      The reform is based on states joining an interstate compact, a legally binding vehicle where states make agreements among themselves despite a national federal government. In this case, states, which the U.S. Constitution empowers to oversee its Electoral College process, agree to award their presidential votes to the national popular vote winner. As of early 2019, the project was two-thirds of the way toward reaching the threshold needed for a 270-vote Electoral College majority, but more states are poised to join.

      Last week, Delaware’s Senate passed legislation to join the compact, and sent that bill to its House where it has passed twice before. In Colorado, where one legislative chamber was first to pass National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation in 2006, a compact bill recently passed both chambers and is heading to a governor ready to sign it. New Mexico’s Senate just passed the bill and sent it to its House. A bill currently has bipartisan support in Michigan and Oregon.
    • Born to Run? As Beto Enters 2020 Race, Progressives Still Unclear Where Texas Democrat Stands on Key Priorities
      As the New York Times put it, "in a primary so far defined by big-ticket policy ideas, like the economic agendas of Senators Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.] and Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.], Mr. O'Rourke enters without a signature proposal that might serve as the ideological anchor of his bid."

      On Twitter, the Washington Post's Jenna Johnson pointed out that O'Rourke does not yet have policy positions listed on his official campaign website. The Post's Jeff Stein asked O'Rourke's team about "his key policy priorites," and has yet to hear back.
    • Impeaching Trump: Pelosi Says It’s “Not Worth It,” But Progressive Democrats Push Ahead
      Democratic lawmakers are continuing to push for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking out against impeachment in an interview earlier this week. Impeachment rumors have been swirling since the Democrats regained control of the House in January. Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said last week that she will formally introduce articles of impeachment this month. We speak with John Bonifaz, an attorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights. He is the co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment.

    • When a Bill to Revive Democracy Is Called an Ode to Socialism
      The New York Times’ editorialists last week called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the only “roadblock” preventing a vote on the For the People Act, the sweeping voting, ethics, and election rights legislation House Democrats passed on Friday. That’s true. But the fight is broader than that. The early Republican response to the popular bill suggests the GOP sees it as an existential threat to white supremacy in an era of changing demographics. This helps explain why they would so eagerly oppose a measure that would make it easier for American citizens to vote and harder for their elected officials to hoard power.

      For now, McConnell and company are trying to frame the debate over the bill as an ordinary partisan battle over a piece of traditional legislation. But that’s not what the bill is. Yes, it raises legitimate constitutional questions of campaign finance and election law. But it’s a form of meta legislation that would affect the way all subsequent federal legislation is debated and enacted. And, if enacted, the For the People Act would force Republicans to compete for votes on the merits of their ideas: Republican policy choices like opposing background checks on gun sales or opposing the fight against climate change that are historically unpopular.

      The GOP’s initial line of attack won’t last long beyond the corridors of the White House and Fox News. It can’t. It’s just not strong enough and it insults the intelligence of the American people. I mean, for example, there is no rational policy argument at this point not to make Election Day a federal holiday. And so, sometime soon, I bet we start seeing darker attacks on this legislation. Attacks aimed at the white Republican base; one that explicitly seeks to frame the bill as an attempt to transfer power from white Americans to Americans of color. That’s precisely the “power” McConnell has in mind when he calls the bill a “power grab.”

    • Marie Antoinette Stages a Comeback on Capitol Hill
      More than 225 years after losing her head to a guillotine, Marie Antoinette has made a grand re-entrance into the halls of power.

      With her reattached head holding up a frothy mound of white curls, she descended on Capitol Hill on March 14 to attend a House Oversight Committee hearing. The star witness: billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

      Ross is just one of numerous Trump administration officials who’ve distinguished themselves with statements so cluelessly elitist as to make comparisons with the French Queen unavoidable.
    • 'Marie Antoinette' Comes to House Hearing So Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Has a Partner in Arms
      Marie Antoinette traveled over two centuries into the future to express solidarity with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a House hearing Thursday.

      "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and several other members of Trump World had #LetThemEatCake moments during the government shutdown," said progressive advocacy group American Family Voices in a tweet, referencing the famous quote attributed to the 18th century French queen. "We decided they should meet their inspiration in person."

      Among the "let them eat cake" moments noted by the group was when Ross expressed confusion as to why some federal workers were forced to rely on food banks and homeless shelters for basic necessities during the recent partial government shutdown.

      "I felt I must meet this man who clearly draws so much inspiration from me," Antoinette said in a spoof interview.
    • DHS’s Own Statistics Show That It Is Lying About a Border-Security Crisis
      Last week, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security and Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, testified at the same time in different congressional hearings. They seemed to be in a competition to see who could be more misleading about border realities.

      Nielsen claimed that she lacked “context” to address what Politifact has determined to be false: President Trump’s claim in January that a border wall is justified since there were “never so many apprehensions ever in our history.” McAleenan continued to defend the administration’s obsession with preventing Central American families and children from applying for asylum, asking Congress to lengthen their detention and end the fair process they are due under U.S. and international law.

      What dominated both hearings – one before the House Homeland Security Committee, and the other before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- was newly released data by CBP showing an increase in the number of people arriving at the southwest border. As the Trump administration uses these vulnerable migrants to justify its racist attacks on asylum seekers, there are three key points that you won’t hear in the administration’s propaganda.

      First, the demographics of border arrivals have shifted. Those crossing the border are increasingly families and unaccompanied children -- they make up 61 percent in the new data. The number of apprehensions of individuals who are not juveniles continues to fall. This new reality makes Border Patrol agents’ mission different from what it had been because the majority of apprehensions now are not people evading detection. Instead, they are vulnerable families and children turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents so that they can seek asylum protection.

    • Senate Rejects Trump Border Emergency as Republicans Defect
      The Republican-run Senate rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border on Thursday, setting up a veto fight and dealing him a conspicuous rebuke as he tested how boldly he could ignore Congress in pursuit of his highest-profile goal.

      The Senate voted 59-41 to cancel Trump’s February proclamation of a border emergency, which he invoked to spend $3.6 billion more for border barriers than Congress had approved. Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in defying Trump in a showdown many GOP senators had hoped to avoid because he commands die-hard loyalty from millions of conservative voters who could punish defecting lawmakers in next year’s elections.

      With the Democratic-controlled House’s approval of the same resolution last month, Senate passage sends it to Trump. He has shown no reluctance to casting his first veto to advance his campaign exhortation to “Build the Wall,” and it seems certain Congress will lack the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override him.
    • 'Major Rebuke of Trump's Authoritarianism': Senate Votes to Terminate National Emergency
      Rights groups celebrated a "historic rebuke" of an unconstitutional power grab Thursday after the Senate voted to terminate President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration by an overwhelming bipartisan margin.

      "Today's vote is a major blow to President Donald Trump's autocratic ambitions," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "The American people don't want a racist border wall, and by overwhelming numbers they oppose Trump's emergency declaration. They rose up and made their voices clear."

      The final vote count was 59-41, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to pass the resolution of disapproval.

    • BBC scores first interview with one of 13 ‘Russian trolls’ indicted by Robert Mueller last year
      It’s been more than a year since the U.S. Justice Department indicted 13 “Russian trolls” for interfering in America’s 2016 presidential election. Despite this publicity and the passage of time, the entrepreneurs, translators, analysts, and office managers whom Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation linked to the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA) have remained largely out of reach to journalists in Russia. With the publication of Mueller’s long-awaited report now imminent, one of the “trolls” has suddenly agreed to an interview with the BBC Russian Service. Meduza summarizes what he said.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Down the Rabbit Hole of Political Intolerance in Silicon Valley

      Absolutely. As I said above, I spent several years on this book, and that’s largely because the final two were spent going down this rabbit hole of political intolerance in Silicon Valley. The deeper I delved into this topic and the more people I spoke with, it became very clear to me that what happened with Palmer—from the inaccurate reporting, to the online mob, to the professional discrimination—was not an isolated instance; in fact, part of the reason I focused so heavily on this was because his situation seemed to so perfectly personify Life Circa 2016. And the other reason I focused so heavily on this was because Facebook is one of the most powerful companies in the world—a company built on an ethos of “openness” and transparency”; who literally hangs up posters on campus with the slogans “Always Assume Positive Intent” and “Bring Your Authentic Self to Work”—and, well, given that Facebook has ambitions of owning virtual reality, I think their actions in actual reality are incredibly important to assess and evaluate.

    • As Russians protested ‘Internet isolation’ last weekend, hackers launched DNS attacks against Yandex, exploiting flaws in the government’s censorship system
      Several major Russian Internet companies, including Yandex and the news outlet RBC, suffered massive network attacks this week that were made possible by vulnerabilities in the system the federal government uses to block websites. Sources told RBC that the perpetrators carried out DNS attacks, hijacking domain name system servers and domain registrars to direct traffic away from legal websites, like Yandex, to IP addresses that have been blacklisted by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state censor.

      During the attacks, several small Internet service providers blocked access to a few of Yandex’s IP addresses, sources told RBC. Major ISPs utilized more sophisticated censorship methods, filtering the traffic to Yandex’s servers using deep packet inspection, which caused the website to load more slowly than normal.

      Yandex told Meduza that it doesn’t consider the DNS hijacking to constitute a cyberattack. “This isn’t an attack, but an exploitation of existing flaws in the mechanism for administering the block list,” spokespeople said, pointing out that any website could fall victim to these defects in Roskomnadzor’s procedures.
    • Texas Senator Who's Experienced Some Press Criticism Introduces Bill To Gut State's Anti-SLAPP Law
      Everything's bigger in Texas. Even the free speech protections. Texas has one of the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation. These protections against bogus, speech-chilling lawsuits are so big they even covered a US President who complained libel laws in America were too restrictive, resulting in a swift dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought against him over a fairly innocuous, if invective-loaded, tweet.

      Some Texas legislators like the bigness of their home state, but not so much the anti-SLAPP law that deters bogus lawsuits filed to silence critics. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press brings news that a bill that would gut a substantial amount of Texas' anti-SLAPP protections has been introduced into the state Senate.
    • Critical Free Speech Protections Are Under Attack in Texas
      EFF has long been concerned about these types of lawsuits, called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, as they use legal claims as a pretext to punish individuals exercising their First Amendment rights. That’s why EFF supports efforts to limit or prevent SLAPPs.

      28 states have so-called “anti-SLAPP” laws, which provide invaluable protections to speakers exercising their First Amendment rights, both online and off. While the laws vary, they typically allow the target of the SLAPP suit to quickly get a court to decide whether the case can go forward, and often require the party bringing the claims to demonstrate they have legitimate legal claims. Anti-SLAPP laws also often allow a victorious target of a SLAPP suit to recover attorneys’ fees from the party who brought the meritless claims.

      Without anti-SLAPP laws, plaintiffs could bring a meritless claim against speakers that they have no intention of winning—just to stop the speech or inflict financial stress by forcing those targeted by the suits to pay for attorneys to defend against meritless claims.

      Texas has one of the premier anti-SLAPP laws in the country: the Texas Citizens Participation Act, or TCPA. The law currently applies to a broad range of protected First Amendment activity, including discussing matters of public importance or speaking at a government proceeding. A bill introduced earlier this month, H.B. 2730, would gut these and other important protections.

      The attempt to substantially weaken and narrow the TCPA is particularly concerning because, since its passage in 2011, the law has disposed of numerous lawsuits filed against Texans who were exercising their free speech rights.

    • Thai Government Uses Fake News Law To Lock Up Opposing Party Leaders
      Thailand's government continues to make life miserable for its citizens. Pretending mass censorship and broken encryption are just the price citizens have to pay for a "secure" nation, the government has turned the internet into a minefield for critics and political opponents. This is all on top of a lese majeste law that criminalizes badmouthing the king, which would be horrible enough on its own.

      Thanks to the leader of the free world, the term "fake news" is now being deployed to put people in real jails for sharing content of dubious origin or not in alignment with the official narrative. Shutting down criticism by deploying anti-fake news laws is a horrendous abuse of government power. But even legitimate uses of these laws are still troubling. Should the sharing of actually fake news be a criminal offense? The Thai government says yes.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Facebook Facing Criminal Probe Over Data Sharing
      Last October, Mark Zuckerberg was still optimistic. “We have great products here that people love,” the Facebook founder said during an earnings call. The social network’s year, however, hasn’t been so rosy. As Vox explained in December, Facebook “has found itself at the center of a growing storm over a wide array of issues, ranging from data privacy to Russian meddling to fake news,” and despite multiple apologies, “the scandals keep coming.”

      In June, The New York Times reported that Facebook entered into data-sharing partnerships with such smartphone makers as Apple and Samsung, selling access to Facebook users’ data, often without their knowledge or consent. This week, the Times reports, those partnerships are under criminal investigation, as a New York grand jury subpoenaed records from at least two of the 150 companies with whom Facebook had agreements, according to sources who requested anonymity.

    • 'Zoink': Facebook Facing Criminal Charges Over Data Sharing Deals
      The New York Times reported Wednesday evening that a federal grand jury in New York issued subpoenas to the company at some point over the last few months, though, as the Times pointed out, it was unclear exactly when.

      What is clear, however, is that Facebook's data sharing deals violated users' privacy and that the activity may rise to the standard of criminality. It's possible that the deals violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree the company made with the Federal Trade Commission.
    • Facebook’s Data Deals Are Under Criminal Investigation
      A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users.

      The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world’s dominant social media platform. The agreements, previously reported in The New York Times, let the companies see users’ friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent. Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years.

    • Facebook Is Under Criminal Investigation Over Data Sharing Deals: Report
      Facebook has gained a lot of negative spotlights for all the data breach scandals it has got its head into. Adding more to the scrutiny, the social networking site is now under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors, as per a report by The New York Times.

      It is suggested that a New York jury has summoned records from two of the major smartphone makers, according to two unnamed sources. These two companies stand in the list of around 150 tech companies which have been involved with Facebook to access millions of users’ data. Following this, Facebook ended most of the collaborations over the past two years.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Ontario wants to ban phones in the classroom. Critics wonder how that will be enforced

      The province, according to information released Tuesday by Education Minister Lisa Thompson, will ban the use of phones during instructional time across Ontario by the start of the coming school year.

    • Artificial Morality
      With this contract, the letter goes on, Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development. . . . The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

      This revolt was what Smith was responding to when he said he believed in a “strong defense,” implying that moral clichés rather than money are what drive the decisions of large corporations, or at least this particular large corporation. Somehow his words, which he attempted to convey as reflective and deeply considered, are not convincing — not when juxtaposed with a defense contract worth nearly half a billion dollars.

    • Rights Group Charges Trump's Prolonged Detention of Children 'Completely Illegal'
      An immigrant rights group on Wednesday filed a civil rights complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that the Trump administration is blatantly flouting the Flores agreement—the law that dictates how long the U.S. government can keep children in custody.

      The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) says that five children have been held at a detention center in Karnes City, Texas for at least 41 days, with at least one held for nearly three months. The prolonged detention is a clear violation of Flores, which prohibits the government from holding children for longer than 20 days, the group argued.

    • Until We Reckon: Mass Incarceration, Violence & the Radical Possibilities of Restorative Justice
      A staggering 2.2 million people are locked up in America’s sprawling prison system, and more than half of those currently confined in state prisons have been convicted of violent crime. In order to radically reduce the prison population and transform criminal justice in this country, author and community organizer Danielle Sered argues that reformers must reckon with violent crime and come up with radically new ways to address it. She lays out a path for this transformation in her new unflinching book, “Until We Reckon.” Sered has spent nearly a decade working directly with people that have committed violent acts and survivors of violence as the executive director of Common Justice, a Brooklyn-based organization that offers alternatives to incarceration for people charged with violent felonies. Her experience anchors her book as she calls for a complete overhaul of the way we’ve been taught to think about crime, punishment and justice. We speak with Sered about restorative justice and how incarceration perpetuates the very violence it is meant to curb.

    • Stop Making Women Apologize
      It’s something we’re taught at an early age — to be nice and polite as all young girls should be, reinforcing gender norms that began at this country’s inception.

      Our culture is one that silences women in order to uphold patriarchy. “I’m sorry” has become a filler in the English language. Whether asking for what we need, or stating our opinion, women often begin with an apology for having the audacity to speak at all.

      A study done in 2010 confirmed that women apologize more than men. The research speculated that women were “more concerned with the emotional experiences of others” — no doubt a symptom of our socialization.

      In 2014, Pantene put out an ad campaign entitled “Not Sorry,” which highlighted the various ways women issue apologies almost immediately in most settings — at work, at home, even with strangers.

      It seems no matter how far we’ve come in the era of #MeToo, women are expected to deflect, give excuse, and provide explanation with just two simple words: “I’m sorry.”

      Holding oneself accountable for genuine wrongdoing should be the norm. For women, however, our “wrongdoing” is often simply our attempts to take up space and have a seat at the table.

      To remain “collegial,” for example, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was apologetic throughout her entire testimony against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She was testifying about a sexual assault against her, yet she was the one apologizing.

    • Saudi Women's Rights Activists Receive 'Freedom to Write' Award as They Stand Trial in Riyadh
      PEN America, which works to defend free expression globally through the advancement of literature and human rights, announced Thursday that imprisoned writers Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan will be honored with the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at the PEN America Literary Gala in May.

      "These gutsy women have challenged one of the world's most notoriously misogynist governments," PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement, "inspiring the world with their demand to drive, to govern their own lives, and to liberate all Saudi women from a form of medieval bondage that has no place in the 21st century."

      "We are proud to honor these drivers of change," Nossel added, "for their fearless words and actions, and to send a strong signal that international pressure on the Saudi Kingdom to respect dissent and adhere to international norms of free expression will not relent."

    • Head of Rhode Island’s 911 System Is Removed From Post
      Col. James Manni, who took over as superintendent of the agency last month, said in a statement released Wednesday night that Scungio’s certification from the Red Cross to teach basic first aid and CPR and to operate an automated external defibrillator, also known as an AED, expired in February 2016. Any employees Scungio trained since then do not have valid certification.

      A spokesperson for the state police said the agency plans to properly certify all 32 of the center’s call takers and eight managers by next Wednesday.

      Rhode Island State Police Lt. Michael McGlynn will take over as acting director of 911.

    • Saudi Arabia: Women Activists Persecuted Under Bogus Charges
      The prosecution of 11 women activists before a Criminal Court in Riyadh for their human rights work and contact with international organizations is an appalling escalation of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown on peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

      Some of the women were charged with promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system. The women were also charged with contacting international organizations, foreign media and other activists, including their contact with Amnesty International
    • Stop and Frisks Plummeted Under New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, but Racial Disparities Haven’t Budged
      Stops dropped a reported 98 percent under New York’s current mayor, but people of color are still disproportionately targeted by police. We’ve come a long way since 2011.

      That year, New York Police Department officers made nearly 700,000 stops as part of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s aggressive and controversial stop-and-frisk program. Six years later in 2017, under current-Mayor Bill de Blasio, the NYPD reported 11,629 stops, a 98 percent decrease from 2011.

      Though the NYCLU believes the actual number of stops is considerably higher because officers are failing to document many stops, current stop activity undoubtedly is a small fraction of what was occurring during the Bloomberg years.

      One of the keys to this dramatic decline was transparency. In 2007, the New York Civil Liberties Union successfully sued to get access to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk database, which contained information about the stops that were taking place and who was being stopped. Then in 2012, we released a report analyzing NYPD stop-and-frisk activity in 2011 with a level of detail never before available to the public.

    • SA must take the lead in legalising euthanasia
      Human dignity is the essence of what defines us as individuals and as members of our respective societies and communities.

      There is no us or me without dignity, or botho or ubuntu, as referred to in the Sesotho and Nguni language groups in South Africa.

    • Death Penalty Debate Takes a Turn Toward Sanity
      When news broke Tuesday night that California Gov. Gavin Newsom had decided to sign an executive order imposing a moratorium on the death penalty in the Golden State, I was staggered. My heart pounded, and my mind raced back to all the years I spent as a young attorney representing defendants in capital cases—a physically exhausting and emotionally draining task, and one that, at times, seemed utterly futile.

      Now that the order has been signed and I’ve had an opportunity to review it, I’m stunned by the scope and honesty of the governor’s action. Not only does it grant reprieves to the state’s 737 death row inmates, it repeals the state’s lethal-injection protocol and will close the infamous execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

      The reasoning Newsom offered for his decision is especially compelling. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as Governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” he said in a press release issued by his office. “Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure. It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”

    • At 89, Would-Be Ford Assassin Sara Jane Moore Back Behind Bars
      Sara Jane Moore, the woman who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975 and missed him by six inches, is back in prison after 12 years of freedom.

      According to officials, the 89-year-old violated her lifetime parole by leaving the country without permission, even though she had been granted a passport. Her name was placed on a list of parole violators and she was arrested at Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 23, after returning from Israel.

      She has a long history of not letting rules get in the way of what she wants to do. Her failure to follow her parole conditions fits with her behavior in prison, where she continually butted heads with prison authorities and spent many days in solitary confinement.

    • Arkansas Senate Unanimously Approves A Conviction Requirement For Asset Forfeiture
      Some more good news about asset forfeiture comes our way, courtesy of Lauren Krisai. It appears the Arkansas senate overwhelmingly agrees the abusive state of forfeiture it oversees cannot continue. The state senate unanimously passed an asset forfeiture reform bill that would institute a conviction requirement for seized assets, preventing law enforcement from policing for profit.

      The bill would basically outlaw civil asset forfeiture in its current form, replacing it with criminal asset forfeiture. And it would prevent cops from using rinky-dink criminal charges to take property away from state residents.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The web we broke.

      If you’re not familiar, WebAIM is a non-profit that’s worked for years to make the web more accessible. They’ve written software and disability simulators, shared in-depth surveys of users with disabilities, and generally published more articles and resources than you can shake a stick at—all to help us do our job a bit better, and to help more people access the web.

      At the end of February, WebAIM published an accessibility analysis of the top one million home pages. The results are, in a word, abysmal. Eric Bailey covered this last week, far better than I will, but here were a few highlights for me: [...]

    • Why, Exactly, Do We Still Trust Telecom Megamerger 'Synergy' Promises?
      America has a very Charlie Brown and Lucy football approach to its relationship with megamergers, especially in telecom. Time after time, major tech and telecom companies promise consumers and employees the earth, sea, and sky if they're allowed to become bigger and more powerful. And time after time these promised "synergies," jobs, and expanded investment promises wind up being empty. In merger after merger (especially in telecom), it's been made repeatedly clear these megadeals only really benefit investors and executives. For everybody else, they're an expensive shitshow.

      The primary culprit continues to be the country's waning interest in meaningful antitrust enforcement, Luddite Judges, and the steady lobbyist erosion of antitrust itself. That was proven loudly when the DOJ recently tried to prove the obvious when it challenged AT&T's $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The government repeatedly provided economic models showcasing that the megadeal would immediately result in higher prices for consumers and competitors alike. But a lobbyist-dictated narrowing of what constitutes a competitive threat often leaves government lawyers trapped within narrow corridors of economic theory to prove painfully obvious points.

    • 'Don't Sell Out to Big Cable': Internet Defenders Warn Democrats Against Watering Down Net Neutrality Bill
      Internet defenders are raising alarm and warning against telecom-backed sabotage after several Democratic lawmakers signaled they would be willing to water down their party's net neutrality legislation in order to appease Republican objections.

      "The message from net neutrality supporters and the grassroots has been simple: pass a clean bill out of committee to keep this a simple up or down vote on restoring strong net neutrality rules," Josh Tabish, a tech fellow at the digital rights group Fight for the Future, told Motherboard. "There's really no excuse. They have the votes to do this."

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Finland: Supreme Court Rules on Information Disclosures in Patent Litigations
      The Finnish Supreme Court resolved in February 2019 on the matter of whether or not the preconditions for precautionary measures were at hand in a patent law infringement case.


      The Finnish Code of Judicial Procedure (4/1734) stipulates that a person may refuse to testify regarding a commercial or professional secret, unless very important reasons, taking into consideration the nature of the case, the significance of the evidence in respect of deciding the case, and the consequences of presenting it as well as the other circumstances require such testimony. This meant that the Court had to make an interpretation on the content of the term “very important reason”. The Court concluded that since the requested documents are specified and related to a product group directly infringing on the patent rights of the applicant, there is a very important reason to present the information. The Court (partly) approved the precautionary measure and granted the applicant the right to become acquainted with the material related to the precautionary measure with the bailiff. The presented ruling can perhaps best be seen as an indication of slow movement towards recognising more open document disclosure requests in connection with patent litigations. It will further be interesting to see how these various specific conditions such as the very important reason in this case are interpreted in the future so we will continue to monitor the developments.

    • Claims are Invalid (not Patents)
      The two paragraph decision in this case is designed to serve as a reminder that patent validity/infringement is considered on a claim-by-claim basis.

      RPost sued Sophos alleging infringement its U.S. Patent No. 8,504,628. However, during the litigation RPost filed infringement contentions that focused only on claims 14, 19, 24, 26, 27 and 30. In its invalidity argument, Sophos directed its attention only to these asserted claims. However, the district court wrote more broadly “that the ‘628 patent is invalid.”

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the summary judgment of invalidity with the caveat that the district court’s opinion should be limited only to the asserted claims.

    • Boalick and Bonilla appointed as PTAB Chief and Deputy Chief
      Congratulations to Scott Boalick and Jacqueline Bonilla for their appointments as Chief Judge and Deputy Chief Judge for the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Judges Boalick and Bonilla have already been doing the work since September 2018 in their roles as Acting Chief and Deputy Chief. Earlier this year, Dir. Iancu also appointed Thomas Krause as USPTO Solicitor. These three individuals are each highly qualified with deep intellectual property and government experience.

    • Apple obtains summary judgment against Qualcomm, can keep billions of dollars: no breach of contract by responding to antitrust regulators
      Qualcomm now has to digest a summary judgment order adverse to its interests in the Southern District of California, where Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel has determined that Qualcomm cannot claw back incentive payments made to Apple under a Business Cooperation and Patent Agreement (BCPA) based on allegations of Apple being responsible for some of Qualcomm's antitrust worries in the U.S., the EU, and South Korea, or based on Apple allegedly having induced its contract manufacturers to underreport royalties.

      Considering that $1 billion out of the roughly $30 billion Apple and its contract manufacturers are seeking from Qualcomm in that San Diego action relates to Qualcomm having stopped such payments at some point, the amount at stake in this summary judgment context must be multiple billions of dollars as the BCPA took effect at the beginning of the 2013, so the period with respect to which Qualcomm was trying to claw back money must be a lot longer than the one during which Apple believes it should have received another billion dollars that Qualcomm withheld--simply because there were no signs of a dispute during most of that period. Apple's original 2017 complaint said in its ۤ 160 that "Qualcomm conditioned billions of dollars on Apple's silence before courts and regulators about Qualcomm's business practices" (emphasis added).

    • Copyrights

      • Paris Tribunal strikes again and guts Google’s T&C’s…including its copyright clauses for user-generated content
        Readers will recall the decision of the Paris Tribunal, which nullified a significant portion of Twitter’s terms and conditions on the basis of French privacy data protection and copyright law (see here and for previous post see here). Last month, it was the terms and conditions of Google that were subjected to judicial scrutiny, in a decision handed by the same Tribunal on 12 February 2019 (decision: Paris Tribunal (Tribunal de Grande Instance), UFC-Que Choisir v Google Inc (12 February 2019), see here for the decision in French).

        As in the Twitter case, the instant proceedings were brought by the French consumer association “UFC Que Choisir?” (UFC). UFC applied to the Paris Tribunal that Google’s terms be declared unlawful in light of French contract and privacy law and data protection regulation.
      • SaReGaMa Pa-rdon Me, You Have the Wrong Address: On the Perils and Pitfalls of Notice and Takedown
        The universe surely has a strange sense of humour.

        Imagine our surprise when we received a notice from Google Inc., that they had de-indexed one of blogs after a complaint was filed against it by Saregama India Pvt. Ltd. On December 13, 2018, Google informed us that:

        “Google has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that some of the material found on your site allegedly infringes upon the copyrights of others. Although some of these URLs may not be available in our search results now, we are retaining these notices and will act on them if at some point in the future we do crawl these pages for inclusion in search results.”

        For further information, we turned to the Lumen database, a wonderful and necessary third-party takedown notice database maintained by the folks at the Berkman-Klein Centre. Here, we saw that Saregama, on November 28, had sent Google a list of 99 problematic URLs, of which ours was one. In particular, Saregama (in its notice to Google) claimed that:
      • Bogus DMCA Takedown Targeting Indian Copyright Blog Demonstrates The Problems Of Notice And Takedown
        The blog further points out that this problem is likely to get worse, not better. We've already been talking about how Article 13 could soon require automated takedowns and content monitoring, India is exploring a very similar law to put more liability on the platforms to not allow any infringement at all. In such cases, the problem becomes much, much worse, and some content may never be allowed to be uploaded at all, even if it's perfectly legal.

      • Rebuilding the ARC: America’s Largest Music Collection Needs Your Help

        The day the music died is a lie. Music never dies. It’s the one thing our minds protect at all costs. If only our wallets were so loyal. Now they have a chance to be: This week, the largest popular music collection in America (3 million recordings!) is, for the first time, asking the public for financial help. Is New York’s legacy as a music town worth $100,000? That’s the question the Archive of Contemporary Music is asking.

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