EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

12.11.18

Number of Filings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Highest in Almost Two Years

Posted in America, Patents at 11:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Objections (post-grant) to particular US patents

Andrei IancuSummary: Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs), which typically invalidate software patents by citing 35 U.S.C. § 101, are withstanding negative rhetoric and hostility from Iancu (on the right)

IMPROVING the quality of US patents would improve their overall value. Maybe not revenue of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but it’s not a corporation and it has no shareholders.

Michael Loney has just crunched some numbers and it looks encouraging. PTAB is, in the simplest of terms, some entity you can tell, “hey, this patent is rubbish, invalidate it already!” And they do. So this highest filing level (in nearly 2 years) is good news for patents’ quality:

November’s 230 petitions filed at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board was the highest monthly figure since January 2017, while the newly-formed Precedential Opinion Panel will address issue joinder

Challengers flocked to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in November, with 230 petitions filed. This was the largest monthly figure since the 246 petitions in January 2017.

Unhappy about 35 U.S.C. § 101, Watchtroll is attacking SCOTUS again. This is from yesterday. They’re totally losing their minds and their ‘business’ (litigation). The writer this time is Eric Guttag, who boasts “private intellectual [sic] property [sic] law experience on patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret” (what he actually means by ‘IP’). It was only yesterday that we wrote about these ugly tendencies of Watchtroll in light of SCOTUS’ insistence on Alice, not to mention insistence on IPRs (Oil States).

With ‘Brexit’ in a Lot of Headlines Team UPC Takes the Unitary Patent Lies up a Notch

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 11:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bristows EPO

Summary: Misinformation continues to run like water; people are expected to believe that the UPC, an inherently EU-centric construct, can magically come to fruition in the UK (or in Europe as a whole)

THE lies told by Team UPC are nowadays pathetic. The European Patent Office (EPO) seems more reluctant to lie after António Campinos started his term, so the EPO basically says almost nothing.

Funnily enough, even the biggest liars have been mostly silent. Bristows LLP, for instance, barely posts anything on the matter (since the summer) and when Alan Johnson mentioned the UPC a few days ago it wasn’t even about the UPC but about SPCs. It seems as though his employer is now paying to spread its nonsense elsewhere (from its marginalised blog that is barely active anymore). We took note of it at the time.

“They don’t want people to publicly call them “liars” (even implicitly) when they lie. They believe that massively repeating the lies ad infinitum will help these lies stick and thereby shape perceptions. At the same time they attack their critics, albeit only anonymously.”An article by Alistair Maughan, Wolfgang Schönig, Sana Ashcroft, Robert Grohmann and Jana Fuchs (Morrison & Foerster LLP) promoted the same old UPC myths earlier this week. UPC was also mentioned here yesterday. They don’t seem to care about facts. It’s just that same old nonsense about Britain joining something that does not even exist and that it cannot technically join anyway. Team UPC’s Wouter Pors wrote about it first thing in the morning; he carries on with the infamous UPC lies (citing as sources other Team UPC fantasists). These ‘unitary’ patents do not exist and will never exist; they’re just fantasies. They’re staging a legislative coup for self enrichment and in order to succeed they increasingly attempt to rely on lying to politicians, e.g. Wouter’s claim that “if it [UK] does leave the EU, it can still remain part of the UPC, which at least in my view is an honourable cause.”

No, it profitable for you, Wouter, it’s harmful to the UK, and technically it is not even possible. Deep inside Wouter knows it.

Even though they ‘sanitise’ comments to remove dissent (to the UPC) from this blog, Concerned observer’s first and sole comment soon thereafter appeared (one must remember that these commenters have to be exceedingly polite to not have their comment deleted at the back end). To quote:

Wouter,

With all due respect, I think that the above analysis misses one or two key points.

Firstly, it is important to note that Opinion 1/00 included the following conclusion:
“Therefore, the mechanisms for ensuring uniform interpretation of the rules of the ECAA Agreement and for resolving disputes WILL NOT HAVE THE EFFECT OF BINDING THE COMMUNITY and its institutions, in the exercise of their internal powers, to a particular interpretation of the rules of Community law incorporated in the agreement”.

In other words, rulings on provisions of EU law in connection with the ECAA Agreement (in common with rulings of the EFTA Court) would NOT be binding on any EU Member States, and so would not threaten the autonomy of EU law. By way of contrast, the UPC Agreement purports to make rulings of the UPC binding upon the Participating Member States. This is a highly significant difference, meaning that it is IMPOSSIBLE to draw any positive conclusions from Opinion 1/00 (or either of Opinions 1/91 and 1/92) when it comes to the question of compliance of the UPC Agreement with EU law.

Secondly, I do not believe that paragraph 26 of the CJEU’s ruling in Wightman and others has any significance for the UPC. The key part of that paragraph reads as follows:
“it is solely for the national court before which the dispute has been brought, and which must assume responsibility for the subsequent judicial decision, to determine in the light of the particular circumstances of the case, both the need for a preliminary ruling in order to enable it to deliver judgment and the relevance of the questions which it submits to the Court”.

In essence, the CJEU is saying that it is up to the national court to determine the need for a preliminary reference under Article 267 TFEU. However, the CJEU’s answer is based upon the undisputed assumption that the national court in question was a “court or tribunal of a Member State” in accordance with Article 267 TFEU. Given that the UK’s future participation in the UPC appears to hinge upon that court being classified an INTERNATIONAL court (ie NOT a “court or tribunal of a Member State”), there is at least a prima facie reason to doubt that the CJEU would accept any preliminary references from the UPC.

In other words, the ruling of the CJEU in Wightman and others simply does not address the key point of contention for the UPC.

One final point: the combination of the above two points could well provide reason to doubt Prof. Tilmann’s assertion that the UK’s loss of EU membership is not a fundamental change of circumstances within the meaning of Article 62 VCLT. This is because a potential consequence of that change is the conversion of the UPC to the status of an international court, the rulings of which could then threaten the supremacy and autonomy of EU law. Thus, whilst it is clear that the CJEU is prepared to entertain arguments based upon the VCLT, I do not believe that this would be the end of the matter for the UPC.

One might assume that other comments have been posted or will be posted albeit removed before anyone can see them. Such is the nature of this blog and such is the nature of Team UPC in general (it censors other blogs too, as we’ve demonstrated for a number of years). They don’t want people to publicly call them “liars” (even implicitly) when they lie. They believe that massively repeating the lies ad infinitum will help these lies stick and thereby shape perceptions. At the same time they attack their critics, albeit only anonymously [1, 2].

The EPO Not Only Abandoned the EPC But Also the Biotech Directive

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 10:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Like outlaws still run the Office

Topić France

Topić letter

Summary: Last week’s decision (T1063/18, EPO Technical Board of Appeal 3.3.04) shows that there’s still a long way to go before the Office and the Organisation as a whole fulfil their obligation to those who birthed the Organisation in the first place

EUROPEAN Patents (EPs) which threaten lives and software patents that are EPs were mentioned in our last post. How far is António Campinos willing to go? How far will Iancu at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) go?

How about patents on life itself?

It is widely known that this subject is ‘controversial’, by which we mean on one side we have large corporations like Monsanto and on the other side virtually everyone else, i.e. the public (those not striving to ‘own’ all lives using bizarre patents).

Last week there was some disturbing development/news which made one wonder if judges had been having dinners at Bayer or something like that. There has been no word on this decision from the EPO’s Twitter account, which has been unusually quiet lately (the past few days). Those who covered the decision have been almost without exception patent maximalists; the same goes for comments. Apparently all that matters is how much they can profit from it, not how much sense it actually makes. Miquel Montañá wrote about this yesterday (“The Political Dimension of Tomatoes, Broccoli and Peppers”); it’s about the incredible stance of the European Patent Office’s (EPO) Board of Appeal (BoA), which decided that patents on seeds, pigs, plants etc. are acceptable as if people “invented” these. Does the EPC not matter anymore?

Here’s a new comment on the connection between the EU and the EPO:

In response to ‘EPO is not EU…’, please see http://patentblog.kluweriplaw.com/2018/05/08/eu-bring-unitary-patent-system-control/

Already the economic and academic arguments are being made as can be seen in that article. The EPO is being entrusted with the Unitary Patent, but that will bring the responsibility of harmonising with EU. It does not make sense to have 2 different sets of appeal systems in Europe (The EPO Boards and the CJEU). A single system of control is sensible, and I am sure will come into being at some point.

“Finally, as has already been pointed out, Opinion 1/09 closes the door to the EPO becoming an EU institution. Indeed, it is not 100% clear whether the EPO as it currently stands is compliant with EU law.”

Here’s another comment of interest:

I would like to address a number of inaccuracies in (implied) statements in your comment from 7 December.

Firstly, it is the Member States that are bound by the Biotech Directive. The role of the courts is to interpret that legislation, ie to determine the meaning of rules that bind the Member States (and other individuals / entities towards which those rules are directed).

Secondly, only the CJEU is able to provide a binding interpretation of the Biotech Directive. Whilst the views of the Commission and of the Member States may be of interest, they are meaningless if they do not align with the CJEU’s interpretation of that Directive.

Thirdly, there has already been national litigation (in the Netherlands) on relevant claims. Contrary to what you asserted would be the inevitable result, those claims were held by the Dutch court not to be excluded from patentability.

Finally, as has already been pointed out, Opinion 1/09 closes the door to the EPO becoming an EU institution. Indeed, it is not 100% clear whether the EPO as it currently stands is compliant with EU law. In this respect, a positive aspect of the Board of Appeal’s decision is that it avoided an outcome that would have been a blatant example of non-compliance with EU law (specifically, with Article 267 TFEU, which is essential to preserving the autonomy and supremacy of EU law).

If the Biotech Directive does not matter and the EPC does not matter either, what does that make the EPO? An outlaw organisation? An organism? If it’s an organism, maybe people can apply for a patent on it.

“There is a large uncertainty regarding patenting of plants and animals exclusively obtained by means of essentially biological processes in Europe,” Valea AB’s Joanna Applequist and Karolina Wiktorson wrote earlier this week. Over at Mondaq, J A Kemp (promoter of antibody patents) seemed rather happy to see this. “We understand that, at an oral hearing held on 5 December 2018 in relation to case T1063/18 concerning an application entitled “New pepper plants and fruits with improved nutritional value”, EPO Technical Board of Appeal 3.3.04 held that Rule 28(2) EPC introduced in July 2017 is in conflict with Article 53(b) EPC. Once confirmed, this will have important implications for EPO practice regarding inventions in the field of plant (and animal) breeding as in principle the Rule can no longer stand or be used to reject patent applications if it does not conform to the Article it is supposed to implement,” J A Kemp’s Andrew Bentham wrote.

Patent propaganda site Managing IP chose a headline that says “Plants patentable in Europe”. How misleading. It’s not actually over yet. Moreover, as we explained some days ago, the EPO is simply enraging farmers, who have already protested such moves. The ramifications remain to be seen, but for a patent office that just strives to increase so-called ‘production’ this may seem (artifiically, on the surface) like a positive development. At what cost?

Patents on Abstract Things and on Life (or Patents Which Threaten Lives) Merely Threaten the Very Legitimacy of Patent Offices, Including EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Limits are necessary

Low maximum speed

Summary: Patent Hubris and maximalism pose a threat or a major risk to the very system that they claim to be championing; by reducing the barrier to entry (i.e. introducing low-quality or socially detrimental patents) they merely embolden ardent critics who demand patent systems as a whole be abolished; the EPO is nowadays a leading example of it

Disguising/framing bogus, invalid software patents as “AI” isn’t so hard anymore. António Campinos, who has no grasp of the concept (he’s not a scientist but a former banker), thinks of the term like it’s pixie dust that miraculously makes everything “innovative”.

As IPPro Magazine put it yesterday: “According to Khan, the US has seen the most AI-related patents granted, but it is the European Patent Office (EPO) in which he sees some difficulty in terms of filing.

“They don’t even use the term “AI” in its classic/traditional sense; they just call almost any ‘clever’ algorithm or computer “AI”.”“He described the EPO’s take on the excluded subject matter in its guidelines relation to AI inventions as “easy to overcome” but warned that the inventive step aspect will be the opposite of that, likening it to pole-vaulting.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) also started to adopt this buzzword more recently, quite likely in pursuit of tricks by which to overcome (at least at the Office) 35 U.S.C. § 101 (SCOTUS). They don’t even use the term “AI” in its classic/traditional sense; they just call almost any ‘clever’ algorithm or computer “AI”. This is what happens when nontechnical people are put in charge of leadership roles. Law firms run the asylum.

IP Kat‘s Neil Wilkof has just written about how Singapore deals with trademark maximalists while lawyers who produce nothing pocket lots of money.

“…letting such patents persist simply delegitimises the Office in the public eye…”IP Watch‘s article from yesterday (“Singapore IP Office Grants First Accelerated Patent Under New FinTech Initiative”), relating directly to what we wrote about yesterday, speaks about Singapore accelerating the granting process for some bogus/abstract patents and uses the buzzword “FinTech” to justify that. In their own words: “This accelerated patent application-to-grant process comes at no additional cost and is open to any FinTech enterprises from anywhere in the world who file through IPOS.” The European Patent Office (EPO) has a similar program, notably PACE although PPH and Early Certainty also relate to so-called ‘speed’ (shortcuts rather). It’s to do with backlogs really (the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) obsesses over it) and the EPO doesn’t seem to care much about 9,000+ appeals in the pipeline, addressing for the most part erroneous or controversial grants, not rejections. Some of these patents have many lives at stake. There are some notable examples of these, e.g. as covered by a propaganda site for patents on nature and life, Life Sciences Intellectual Property Review, as recently as yesterday:

Six organisations have appealed against the European Patent Office’s (EPO) decision to uphold a patent for a key hepatitis C drug.

The appeal, which concerns Gilead Sciences’ patent for sofosbuvir, was filed on Wednesday, December 5, by Médecins du Monde (MdM), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), AIDES (France), Access to Medicines Ireland, Praksis (Greece) and Salud por Derecho (Spain).

According to a statement released by MSF, the EPO should revoke Gilead’s patent (EU number 2,604,620) for sofosbuvir because “it does not meet the requirements to be a patentable invention from a legal or scientific perspective”.

We wrote about it several times last week. As we put it some days ago, letting such patents persist simply delegitimises the Office in the public eye; we’ll say more about this in the next post.

12.10.18

Links 10/12/2018: Linux 4.20 RC6 and Git 2.20

Posted in Site News at 3:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • How Can We Bring FOSS to the Virtual World?

    Will the free and open-source revolution end when our most personal computing happens inside the walled gardens of proprietary AI VR, AR, MR, ML and XR companies? I ask, because that’s the plan.

    [...]

    Buying all this is the cost of entry for chefs working in the kitchen, serving apps and experiences to customers paying to play inside Magic Leap’s walled garden: a market Magic Leaps hopes will be massive, given an investment sum that now totals close to $2 billion.

    The experience it created for me, thanks to the work of one early developer, was with a school of digital fish swimming virtually in my physical world. Think of a hologram without a screen. I could walk through them, reach out and make them scatter, and otherwise interact with them. It was a nice demo, but far from anything I might crave.

    But I wondered, given Magic Leap’s secretive and far-advanced tech, if it could eventually make me crave things. I ask because immersive doesn’t cover what this tech does. A better adjective might be invasive.

  • Open source will be the next big thing for the channel

    With cloud vendors developing more industry-specific solutions, channel partners must also hone in on vertical industry knowledge to capitalise on these markets.

    Flexibility will also be a key selling point which open source solutions provide: enterprises are seeking a hybrid-cloud approach to eliminate vendor lock-in, which means they’re likely to benefit from working with open source channel partners.

    With the rapid development and maturity that open source solutions provide, a shift toward higher adoptions rates in cloud workloads on Linux will become the new norm.

  • AI & data science: Open source makes NSE smart and secure

    National Stock Exchange of India (NSE which used V-SAT to transmit data securely in 1993, had shifted to Red Hat open source later. In the last few years it has been strengthening that partnership further with the integration of cloud infrastructure in its data systems to not simply improve data security, but also to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science in its systems. The implementation of cloud-based AI platform enables NSE to clock a daily turnover of Rs 3,00,000 crore with 1.2 billion daily transactions. It is the largest stock exchange in India in terms of market volume and market share.
    Says Yatrik R Vin, CFO, NSE India, “There are certain cases on which we use open source’s capabilities extensively. They are risk management at client and investor level, cost reductions and making our systems talk to the public without manual intervention.” He reminisces that during the financial crisis of 2008, not a single rupee was affected, because of the risk management capabilities of the eight-sigma level open source core systems that were in use at NSE India.

  • List of Twitters of Free Software Projects and Communities
  • OpenSMTPD proc filters & fc-rDNS

    I have committed full proc filtering support today, allowing a standalone filter to perform all kind of filtering on every single phase of an SMTP session.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • TenFourFox FPR11 available

        TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 11 final is now available for testing (downloads, hashes, release notes). Issue 525 has stuck, so that’s being shipped and we’ll watch for site or add-on compatibility fallout (though if you’re reporting a site or add-on that doesn’t work with FPR11, or for that matter any release, please verify that it still worked with prior versions: particularly for websites, it’s more likely the site changed than we did). There are no other changes other than bringing security fixes up to date. Assuming no problems, it will go live tomorrow evening as usual.

  • LibreOffice

  • Public Services/Government

    • New Czech law makes ICT neutrality a right

      A law being prepared by the Czech Republic on eGovernment services (‘Právo na Digitální Služby’ or ‘Right to Digital Service’) will establish technological neutrality for companies and citizens. This means they may not be forced to use any particular software because of technology choices made by public services, Ondřej Profant, Chairman of the Parliamentary Subcommittee on eGovernment, told the European Commission’s Open Source Observatory.

  • Programming/Development

    • Git v2.20.0

      The latest feature release Git v2.20.0 is now available at the usual places. It is comprised of 962 non-merge commits since v2.19.0 (this is by far the largest release in v2.x.x series), contributed by 83 people, 26 of which are new faces.

    • Git 2.20 Brings Many Fixes, Updates To Windows Port

      Junio Hamano has released Git 2.20 as the newest version of this widely-used distributed revision control system.

      Git 2.20 is another incremental update to this widely used tool by developers. Some of the many changes to Git 2.20 includes:

      - The Git clone process will better warn users when cloning to a case-insensitive file-system where there are files in that repository that only differ with their cases.

    • Parallel Programming: December 2018 Update

      This release features Makefile-automated running of litmus tests (both with herd and litmus tools), catch-ups with recent Linux-kernel changes, a great many consistent-style changes (including a new style-guide appendix), improved code cross-referencing, and a great many proofreading changes, all courtesy of Akira Yokosawa. SeongJae Park, Imre Palik, Junchang Wang, and Nicholas Krause also contributed much-appreciated improvements and fixes. This release also features numerous epigraphs, modernization of sample code, many random updates, and larger updates to the memory-ordering chapter, with much help from my LKMM partners in crime, whose names are now enshrined in the LKMM section of the Linux-kernel MAINTAINERS file.

    • Lets put the game instruction online instead

      In the previous article we have successfully created an about page which contains both game instruction as well as game credit, however it is better to put the game instruction into it’s own page to make our game looks more professional. In this article we are going to create an online game manual which will open up once the player has clicked on the manual button on the main game page.

    • qpropgen 0.1.1

      Continuing on this release month idea started last week, here is a release of another project. Today is the first release of qpropgen, a tool to generate QML-friendly QObject-based C++ classes from class definition files

    • PyBites Twitter Digest – Issue 38, 2018
    • Create PDF files from templates with Python and Google Scripts
    • Dockerizing a Python Django Web Application
    • Django Authentication — Login, Logout and Password Change/Reset
    • Fedora 29 : Python 3 and Jupyter notebook.

    • C Programming Language – Introduction

      This tutorial is the first part of a C programming language course on Linux. C is a procedural programming language that was designed by American computer scientist Dennis Ritchie. Please note that we’ll be using Linux for all our examples and explanation. Specifically, we’ll be using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

    • DSF 2019 Board Election Results

      I’m pleased to announce the winners of our 2019 DSF Board of Directors election.

      [...]

      This year we had 17 great candidates and while not everyone can get elected each year I hope they all consider running again in the 2020 election.

      Another item of note with this election is that our Board is now comprised of two thirds women, which is a first for the DSF.

    • coloured shell prompt
    • Create multiple threads to delete multiple files with python

Leftovers

  • Electron and the Decline of Native Apps
  • Science

  • Health/Nutrition

    • [Older] In a nutshell: technology and progress in health IT

      On an average day, the computer adds a minimum of 10 minutes of work per patient seen. We have electronic health records to comply with the massive number of Federal mandates requiring it and to avoid the financial penalties for not complying. The Feds offered each hospital an 11 million dollar incentive for putting in these systems which made their decision to computerize far simpler.

    • Big Tobacco Won’t Take Menthol Ban Lying Down

      On November 15, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to ban menthol cigarettes in a move that agency officials described as part of an aggressive new campaign against certain tobacco products. The plans have been welcomed by campaign groups who see mint-flavored smokes as a key means of hooking young people, particularly people of color. But given that certain manufacturers, like Altria Group, make as much as 20 percent of their profits from menthol cigarettes, the agency can expect a fierce battle. The industry will fight hard – and dirty – in its attempts to wriggle free of regulation.

      The menthol ban is just one of a package of proposals designed to protect teens from tobacco. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb – a cancer survivor – also plans to curb the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars. Yet, there’s no doubt which is the most significant of the proposals; the FDA has been planning a crackdown on menthol for years and has already secured a ban on several other flavors, thanks to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which expanded the agency’s ability to regulate the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of tobacco products. If the agency manages to outlaw menthol smokes as well, it will have struck a decisive blow against what Gottlieb describes as “one of the most common and pernicious routes” toward heavy smoking.

    • Doctors Who Facilitate Torture Must Be Held to Account

      To prevent further stains on the medical profession, the names of those involved in torture and executions need to be made public.
      Physicians hold a special position in U.S. society. They are given a place of honor in return for the expectation that they will use their knowledge and skills in the public interest and adhere to a clear set of ethical standards.

      Under pressure from the government to misuse their expertise, though, some doctors have been willing to rationalize cooperation in unethical behavior. In recent years, nowhere has such ethical deviation been so starkly on display as in the case of the participation of medical professionals in the CIA torture program. The recent release of a CIA report, secured through an ACLU lawsuit, details how doctors willingly and even proudly became complicit in the CIA’s torture program.

      The warped rationalizations the CIA doctors used to justify their participation reflect a blatantly unprofessional eagerness to violate medical ethics when encouraged by a government agenda. Once they began participating in interrogations — which is clearly prohibited by American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines — CIA medical professionals went to absurd lengths to deny the reality of the abuses and physical and psychological harms they were witnessing and effectively presiding over.

      At one point, CIA doctors decided that waterboarding actually “provided periodic relief” to one prisoner “from his standing sleep deprivation.” The CIA doctors also claimed that when a different prisoner was forced into a coffin-sized box, this provided a “relatively benign sanctuary” from other torture methods. The descent into complicity with torture was so deep that they lost sight of the clear ethical breach in helping to modulate relative levels of pain infliction.

      Torture isn’t the only recent example of unethical physician complicity in U.S. human rights violations. Throughout the last century, and into the current one, physicians have participated in all methods of executions, most recently through lethal injection, in violation of professional ethical guidelines. In a number of states that execute prisoners by lethal injection, physicians have continued to consult on lethal dosages, examine veins, start intravenous lines, witness executions, and pronounce death.

    • ‘Victory’ for Women as Supreme Court Rejects Case Challenging Medicaid Funds for Planned Parenthood

      In a development hailed as “victory,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case that sought to prevent Medicaid patients from accessing key healthcare services from Planned Parenthood.

      By rejecting (pdf) the appeals from Kansas and Louisiana, the court leaves in place lower court rulings that bar the states from blocking Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid healthcare provider option to access services including contraception, wellness exams, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.

      In the 6-3 decision, it was Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch who dissented, saying the high court should have taken up the cases. Notably, conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the liberal justices in refusing to hear the challenges.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • This turbulent monk: Did the CIA kill vocal war critic Thomas Merton?

      Fifty years ago next Monday, Thomas Merton was found dead in his room near Bangkok, where he had been the main speaker at an international monastic conference.

      This most vocal critic of war was repatriated to the US on a military plane with the bodies of American soldiers killed in Vietnam. At the time, he was the best-known Catholic monk in the world and the news of his death at 53 was reported on the front page of the New York Times, beside that of the great German theologian, Karl Barth.

      It was 27 years exactly to the day since he had entered, at age 27, the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani, Kentucky, and this was the first time he had been allowed to travel abroad since then. His Asian Journal, including his encounters with the Dalai Lama, was to be published posthumously.

      In his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (Elected Silence in the English edition), he relates his religious conversion was a best seller when it was published in 1948, translated into several languages and is still in print. Merton published more than 70 books, essays, poems and wrote thousands of letters. From his monastery and then his hermitage, he corresponded with Rosemary Radford Ruether, Boris Pasternak, DT Suzuki and countless others.

      [...]

      However, the cause of death given by the Thai police was a heart attack, and there was no autopsy. The presence of a bleeding wound at the back of Merton’s head was not investigated. Was Thomas Merton murdered and was there a cover-up?
      In 1997, Jim Douglass, a friend of Merton had already publicly raised the issue. In 2016, theologian Matthew Fox, who believes that Merton had been assassinated by one of the many CIA agents active in Thailand, reported that one of them had actually told him so.

    • We Bear Responsibility for the Conditions in Honduras Causing Its People to Flee

      The question is how much of the turmoil we own—and how we’re going to make good on our moral debts.

    • Oil tycoon, CIA chief, President: George H.W. Bush was the epitome of American empire

      The late US President George H.W. Bush, a luminary of America’s most powerful family, was the personification of a nation addicted to oil, obsessed with secrecy and war, and self-assured of its exceptional qualities.
      When considering the life and times of George Herbert Walker Bush, one is forced to enter into a well-guarded mansion that is steeped in so many accumulated layers of wealth, power and secrecy that just scratching the surface requires a pickaxe and dynamite. For here we are dealing with no ordinary politician, but rather the scion of a dynastic clan who had a profound hand in shaping America into the country it is today.

      George H.W. Bush was not necessarily predestined for a life of politics in the same way that career politicians, like John F. Kennedy, for example, or Bill Clinton were. Conquering a chunk of the global monopoly board took priority in the Bush household; political power came – like an after-dinner mint – more as a complement to the wealth obtained, and perhaps as a way to acquire more.

    • Let’s Talk About George HW Bush’s Role in Iran-Contra

      Hagiographies of the late president neglect his role in a secret war in Nicaragua and illegal weapons sales to Iran for the release of hostages.

    • How The CIA Used Brain Surgery To Make Six Remote Control Dogs

      Newly released files from “behavior modification,” or mind control, projects conducted as part of the infamous Project MKUltra reveal the CIA experimented in more than controlling humans with psychotropic drugs, electrical shocks and radio waves—they also created field operational, remote-controlled dogs.

      The documents were provided under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by John Greenewald, founder of The Black Vault, a site specializing in declassified government records. In one declassified letter (released as file C00021825) a redacted individual writes to a doctor (whose name has also been redacted) with advice about launching a laboratory for experiments in animal mind control. The writer of the letter is already an expert in the field, whose earlier work had culminated with the creation of six remote control dogs, which could be made to run, turn and stop.

    • How George H.W. Bush Rode a Fake National Security Scandal to the Top of the CIA

      On December 15, 1975, a Senate committee opened hearings on whether George H.W. Bush should be confirmed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    • Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: A Practical Proposal

      In late November 2018, Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned public intellectual, remarked that “humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war.”

      Curiously, although a widespread environmental movement has developed to save the planet from accelerating climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster. Indeed, this danger―exemplified by the collapse of arms control and disarmament agreements, vast nuclear “modernization” programs by the United States and other nuclear powers, and reckless threats of nuclear war―has stirred remarkably little public protest and even less public debate during the recent U.S. midterm elections.

      Of course, there are peace and disarmament organizations that challenge the nuclear menace. But they are fairly small and pursue their own, separate anti-nuclear campaigns. Such campaigns―ranging from cutting funding for a new nuclear weapon, to opposing the Trump administration’s destruction of yet another disarmament treaty, to condemning its threats of nuclear war―are certainly praiseworthy. But they have not galvanized a massive public uprising against the overarching danger of nuclear annihilation.

      In these circumstances, what is missing is a strategy that peace organizations and activists can rally around to rouse the public from its torpor and shift the agenda of the nuclear powers from nuclear confrontation to a nuclear weapons-free world.

      The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, launched decades ago in another time of nuclear crisis, suggests one possible strategy. Developed at the end of the 1970s by defense analyst Randy Forsberg, the Freeze (as it became known) focused on a rather simple, straightforward goal: a Soviet-American agreement to stop the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.

      As Forsberg predicted, this proposal to halt the nuclear arms race had great popular appeal (with polls showing U.S. public support at 72 percent) and sparked an enormous grassroots campaign. The Reagan administration, horrified by this resistance to its plans for a nuclear buildup and victory in a nuclear war, fought ferociously against it. But to no avail. The Freeze triumphed in virtually every state and local referendum on the ballot, captured the official support of the Democratic Party, and sailed through the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority.

    • The Disasters of War

      Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church is located in the city of Kingston. Kingston, one of the hubs of New York’s Hudson Valley, has received a good deal of attention these last few years, as New York City continues–at an ever-growing rate–to function as a domain of the wealthy. Holy Cross/Santa Cruz, though, sits amid the large, ungentrified swath of Kingston unlikely to attract the attention of the New York Times or expatriate Brooklynites.

      The church’s hybrid name reflects its bilingual English-Spanish congregation. The divisions are purely linguistic. It is, Father Frank Alagna stresses, emphatically one community.

      Holy Cross/Santa Cruz is part of a sanctuary parish; Kingston itself—in no small part because of Father Alagna’s efforts–is a sanctuary city. The Trump administration’s bluster over the State of California’s sanctuary policies—besides playing on some of the populace’s natural antipathy toward California—is also a useful distraction. In reality, sanctuary cities and entities are widespread and geographically diverse, a good deal of them located in the so-called heartland: Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota.

      Father Alagna is a firm, yet soft-spoken presence. It is instructive, he notes, to consider the various meanings of the word sanctuary itself: a sacred space, a safe haven. Sanctuaries can exist within one’s heart and exist in the wider world. Holy Cross/Santa Cruz has applied the meaning of the word both as a spiritual manifestation and as an impetus for straight-out activism.

      [...]

      These refugees from Central America need shelter, food. They need pro bono legal representation. There are mandatory meetings with ICE that require transportation. Refugee parents can be snatched up a moment’s notice with no provisions whatsoever for their children, leaving them suddenly abandoned. It is important for the refugees to know their legal rights. ICE, as deadly as it is, does operate under legal strictures. They cannot, for example, enter a dwelling without a federal warrant.

      American racism is supple and easily adaptable. The Latino population is a visible part of the American fabric, yet amid this current orgy of hatred and fear, this same populace has been transformed into invasive hordes, ready to seize jobs, spread disease, sow wanton violence. And that, Father Alagna reflects, is inevitable when a convenient enemy is needed: The invisible are made visible.

      The endless analogies that render Donald Trump akin to a foreign despot—Hitler, Mussolini, Putin—are ultimately a cop-out; as if the administration’s destructive rampage is so exceptional and unprecedented that it simply must have come from outside, foreign sources. It is just the opposite: The ravaging of Central America has been an all-American legacy. The current fear-mongering, xenophobia, the outright sadism directed at children—all it needs no inspiration from abroad. It is ours as a country.

    • Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia

      All over Europe, the First World War had brought about a potentially revolutionary situation as early as 1917. In countries where the authorities continued to represent the traditional elite, exactly as had been the case in 1914, they aimed to prevent the realization of this potential by means of repression, concessions, or both. But in the case of Russia, the revolution not only broke out but succeeded, and the Bolsheviks began work on the construction of the world’s very first socialist society. It was an experiment for which the elites of the other countries felt no sympathy whatsoever; to the contrary, they fervently hoped that this project would soon end in a dismal fiasco. (It was also a revolutionary experiment that would disappoint numerous sympathizers because the socialist Utopia failed to spring whole, Athena-like, from the brow of the Russian revolutionary Zeus.)

      In elitist circles in London, Paris, and elsewhere, they were convinced of the ineluctability of the failure of the Bolsheviks’ bold experiment but, just to be sure, it was decided to send troops to Russia to support the “white” counterrevolutionaries against the Bolshevik “reds” in a conflict that was to morph into a great, long, and bloody civil war. A first wave of allied troops arrived in Russia in April 1918, when British and Japanese soldiers disembarked in Vladivostok. They established contact with the “whites,” who were already involved in a full-blown war against the Bolsheviks. In total, the British alone would send 40,000 men to Russia. In that same spring of 1918, Churchill, then minister of war, also sent an expeditionary corps to Murmansk, in the north of Russia, in order to support the troops of the “white” General Kolchak, in the hope that this might help to replace the Bolshevik rulers with a government friendly to Britain. Other countries sent smaller contingents of soldiers, including France, the United States (15,000 men), Japan, Italy, Romania, Serbia, and Greece. In some cases, the allied troops became involved in fighting against the Germans and Ottomans on Russia’s frontiers, but it was clear that they had not come for that purpose, but rather to overthrow the Bolshevik regime and to “strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib,” as Churchill so delicately put it. The British, in particular, also hoped that their presence might make it possible to pocket some attractive bits and pieces of territory of a Russian state that seemed to be falling apart, much like the Ottoman Empire. This explains why a British unit marched from Mesopotamia to the shores of the Caspian Sea, namely to the oil-rich regions around Baku, capital of modern Azerbaijan. Like the Great War itself, the allied intervention in Russia aimed both to fight the revolution and to achieve imperialist objectives.

    • Rebranding Bundy

      Recent efforts to burnish the image of members of the Bundy Public Land Grab clan bear close watching. A flurry of Bundy-friendly articles and videos commenced in early November. This began with a fawning piece in the Idaho Statesman featuring Ammon Bundy “a sunlight kind of guy” at his apple orchard in Emmett Idaho. The article ran in papers across the region. The piece appeared just after Ryan Bundy was not elected Governor of Nevada, having garnered a whopping one percent of the vote.

      [...]

      Bundy should know about fear-based policies. He and his gang of militants and paranoid followers inflicted a great deal of fear when they seized Malheur Refuge and militants lurked around Burns. Not to mention the fear felt by federal workers on other remote Refuges or public land areas across the country — as the standoff dragged on and on, with the Feds failing to cut the power, failing to cordon off the Refuge and letting the situation devolve into a media circus, replete with lavish photo ops and videos of “patriot” gunslingers.The Bundy gang and Militia at Malheur intimidated the federal agencies, local officials, members of the community, and even hikers on the Refuge. They snuck around and spied on people and vehicles.While saintly Ammon was not photographed in public wearing a gun, his acolytes and the militia thugs that gravitated to Refuge were armed to the teeth.

      It’s clear that Bundy’s vision for the public lands he wants to take from the public is defense with the use of guns and fear. Henchman Lavoy Finicum promised range vigilante protection to public lands cattle ranchers who renounced federal grazing permits and let their cows roam a la Cliven during a strange “ceremony” held by Bundy at the Refuge to celebrate a New Mexico rancher renouncing his grazing permit.

    • Is Kushner Covering for Bin Salman Murder Charge so Israel can Usurp Palestinian West Bank?

      Kushner famously made a relationship with Bin Salman when he was still third in line to the throne, in spring of 2017, and may have tried to pull strings for his friend so as to slip him into the position of crown prince in summer of 2017. Kushner has stood with Bin Salman through a whole series of crimes, including extorting $100 bn from some 200 fellow princes and his Yemen war that has resulted in starving 85,000 Yemeni children to death. And now the advice to “weather the storm” of being caught red-handed murdering Khashoggi.

    • Tell Your Representative and Senators to Create a GAO Investigation Before Another Base Is Built in Okinawa

      Okinawa suffers under the burden of major U.S. military bases. The people of Okinawa and their elected representatives do not want another one built. Nor is it in the interest of the people of the United States.

    • Public Pressure Could Halt US Support of Yemen War

      US tax dollars are supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which has already claimed the lives of some 85,000 children, and 12 million more people are likely on the brink of starvation. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, “the starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it.”

      The United States has long been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, and both the Obama and Trump administrations have provided considerable military support to the Saudi war in Yemen.

      But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has finally spurred both Democrats and Republicans to take steps to end US military involvement in Yemen.

      On November 28, the Senate voted 63-to-37 to advance a resolution that would direct the removal of US Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen. However, S. J. Res. 54 carves out an exception for continued US-supported military measures against “al Qaeda or associated forces” that could be twisted to rationalize nearly any military assistance Donald Trump provides to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Details emerge on HK biz partner of CIA mole recruited by Beijing

      Documents recently declassified by the United Kingdom National Archives could help unravel the mystery behind how Barry Cheung Kam-lun, the colonial-era Hong Kong business partner of an alleged CIA mole, was locked up, interrogated and eventually recruited by Chinese agents.

      Jerry Lee Chun-shing, a Hong Kong resident who spent 13 years working in the field for the US Central Intelligence Agency, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he touched down at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at the beginning of the year.

    • CIA employees called for “abolishing FOIA” as one of Agency’s goals for 1984

      During a four-hour team-building exercise, staff frankly discussed what the Agency should – and shouldn’t – be doing on the world stage

    • Politico Cites Anonymous ‘Ex-CIA Agent’ in Report Manafort-Assange Story Was Russia Disinformation

      As the Guardian’s scoop alleging Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadoran embassy in London appeared to fall apart, Politico published a story that suggested the reporters involved were pranked by someone who wanted to discredit their work on Russia collusion.

      The piece was written by Alex Finley, which, according to Politico,” is the pen name of a former CIA officer and author of “Victor in the Rubble,” a satire of the CIA and the war on terror.”

      If it was true that Manafort, who briefly served as President Trump’s campaign manager, visited Assange, “the ramifications are immense,” Finley wrote.

      “It means the guy running Trump’s campaign met directly with the head of the organization that served as a tool of Russia’s intelligence services, distributing stolen Democratic emails in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election. It could be the proverbial smoking gun that shows Trump’s campaign knew it was receiving help from Russian intelligence services and perhaps even aided the operation.”

      Reporters Luke Harding and Dan Collyns relied entirely on anonymous sources. They also said they saw an internal document from Ecuador’s intelligence service that lists “Paul Manaford” as a frequent visitor to the embassy.

    • WikiLeaks skewers Guardian writer for zany theory that RT is, wait for it… reporting news

      A Guardian writer failed to impress WikiLeaks after furnishing damning evidence that RT has run stories on Julian Assange, Nigel Farage, and even Russia’s special forces. Do you know what this means? Neither do we.
      After decrying a short RT video about Russia’s special forces, Carole Cadwalladr shared a major revelation with her 220,000 Twitter followers on Sunday: RT covers news stories and current events.

      “You know who else RT boosts? Julian Assange & Seamus Milne. But given the reaction yesterday I thought I’d put that in a separate tweet. I’m somehow to blame for pointing out facts. Huge apologies but Milne’s support for Putin has made him a Russian propaganda tool,” she wrote, misspelling the name of fellow Guardian contributor and communications director for Jeremy Corbyn, Seumas Milne.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘These False Solutions Are a Joke’: Trump’s Pro-Coal Panel at COP24 Shut Down With Laughter by Climate Campaigners

      U.S. President Donald Trump’s representatives at the U.N. climate talks in Poland were openly laughed at on Monday.

      Disrupting the Trump administration’s attempt to promote planet-destroying fossil fuel production during a side panel at the COP24 climate talks in Poland, hundreds of indigenous and youth climate leaders captured the international community’s collective disdain for U.S. President Donald Trump’s subservience to Big Oil by laughing loudly at U.S. envoys as they attempted to speak, chanting “Keep it in the ground,” and taking over the panel to demand bold and just solutions to the global climate crisis.

      “These false solutions are a joke,” declared one demonstrator after the derisive laughter subsided, “but the impact on our frontline communities are not. We hold the solutions and we know that we must keep it in the ground.”

    • #NoMoreExcuses: Mass Action on Capitol Hill to Demand Dems Back Green New Deal Instead of Fossil Fuel Interests

      The protesters are expected to call on Democrats to reject the influence of carbon-emitting industries, from which the party received more than $5 million in 2018.

      “Politicians are giving bogus excuses for why they can’t support the Select Committee on a Green New Deal,” the group wrote in their call for attendees at Monday’s action. “They have told us us they haven’t read the resolution yet, that they support a Green New Deal but not this committee, that they admire our passion, but that we’re young and naive and impatient…They’re hoping our movement is just a flash in the pan and that they can wait us out.

      “That’s why now is the time to go bigger than ever. Between now and their final day on December 13th, Congress will be setting their agenda for 2019. That means we have just days to make sure a Green New Deal is front and center on the House’s agenda.”

      Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, rallied more than 800 demonstrators Sunday night at the pre-lobbying training.

    • Thousands Protest at U.N. Climate Summit in Coal-Heavy Poland, Facing Riot Police & Intimidation

      This week Democracy Now! is broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait have blocked language “welcoming” October’s landmark IPCC climate report that warned of the catastrophic effects of a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which global crises could unfold at a rapid pace. The four countries rejected using the word “welcome,” insisting that members instead “note” the findings of the widely cited U.N. report. We begin our coverage with voices of some of the thousands of climate activists from around the world who marched in Katowice on Saturday, calling for world leaders to do more to keep rising greenhouse gas emissions in check. We also speak with a member of the European Parliament who confronted undercover Polish officials who were monitoring the protest.

    • 2018 will show record carbon emissions

      For the second year running, the world will have a doubtful achievement to claim by 31 December: record carbon emissions.

      Even before the close of 2018, scientists behind the biggest accounting effort on the planet, the Global Carbon Budget, warn that emissions from coal, oil and gas will have dumped a record 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (a way of comparing the emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential) into the atmosphere by the end of this month.

      This is 2.7% more than last year, which also showed an increase. Human destruction of the world’s forests will add another four billion tonnes in the same 12 months.

      The news comes as 190 nations negotiate in Katowice in Poland to work out how to meet the targets they set in 2015 in Paris, to contain global warming to no more than 2°C by 2100, and if possible no more than 1.5°C.

    • Alberta tarsands production cuts here to stay: Indigenous-led movement will make sure of it

      An alliance of Indigenous Nations from across Canada and the U.S., now numbering 150 Nations, warned back in 2016 when the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion was first launched, that all attempts to further increase production of the tarsands, whether by pipeline, rail or marine tankers, would be blocked.

      An entire Indigenous-led movement of people of all ages and backgrounds has been standing up to these tarsands pipelines and enforcing the ban, including by starving the tarsands of its financial backers, sometimes by even going to jail and putting their bodies on the line. Heroes, all of them.

      Industry chose to ignore these warnings and continued to increase production, with plans for much more. They are now butting up against current pipeline capacity, adding to the already existing price differential that heavy tarsands oil always suffers from as a result of increased refinement costs and its distance from refineries.

      These production cuts are exactly what are needed and what this movement has been fighting for — to limit expansion of the Alberta tarsands.

      And for those saying this will be a temporary problem that will soon be solved when Enbridge’s Line 3 comes on line next year, don’t count on it — the resistance to that tarsands pipeline is massive and growing. Enbridge is truly in for a repeat of its Northern Gateway experience.

    • Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Conservation

      Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are — far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

      These animals (by which I mean any large shark, not just hammerheads) are at the top of the marine food chain. They are important keystone predators that can help structure marine ecosystems. Their role as predators can even help with carbon dynamics, keeping carbon locked up in marine sediments, or by controlling the amount of respiring biomass in our seas.

    • Carbon emissions will reach 37 billion tonnes in 2018, a record high

      Carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise more than 2% (range 1.8% to 3.7%) in 2018, taking global fossil CO₂ emissions to a new record high of 37.1 billion tonnes.

      The strong growth is the second consecutive year of increasing emissions since the 2014-16 period when emissions stabilised, further slowing progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement that require a peak in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Strong growth in emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas suggests CO₂ emissions are likely to increase further in 2019.

      [...]

      These analyses are part of the new annual assessment of the Global Carbon Project (GCP), published today in three separate papers. The GCP brings together scientists who use climate and industrial data from around the world to develop the most comprehensive picture of the Earth’s sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.

    • Better land use could slash US emissions

      US scientists have found a new way to cut or offset 22% of the greenhouse gas emissions from American factory chimneys, car exhausts and power stations: better land use.

      Their answer is to leave it to nature. What they identify as 21 natural climate solutions – better use of croplands, the restoration of forests and tidal wetlands, slowing the felling of timber and the containment of urban sprawl – could help limit global warming, slow climate change and reduce sea level rise for the nation that has over the last century emitted more greenhouse gas than any other country.

      The most effective single action in a study launched by the US Nature Conservancy and 21 other institutions, and published in the journal Science Advances, would be to step up reforestation: this alone could absorb the emissions of 65 million passenger cars.

      “One of America’s greatest assets is its land. Through changes in management, along with protecting and restoring natural lands, we demonstrated we could reduce carbon pollution and filter water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and have better soil health to grow our food — all at the same time,” said Joseph Fargione, director of science for the Nature Conservancy, who led the study.

      [...]

      That more efficient use of land is a net benefit is not news: researchers have repeatedly argued that world food security is consistent with forest restoration, and that forests left untouched are of greater overall economic value than cleared land, and that considered changes to farming practices could both deliver more food and leave farmers better off.

      But, ironically, efforts to promote natural climate solutions in the US get only 0.8% of public and private climate finance, even though these could provide 37% of the climate mitigation needed by 2030. The scientists argue that if the US is to commit to the Paris Accord of 2015, to contain global average warming to 2°C or less above the levels for most of human history, then natural climate solutions make a promising start.

    • COP24: climate protesters must get radical and challenge economic growth

      At the COP24 conference in Poland, countries are aiming to finalise the implementation plan for the 2015 Paris Agreement. The task has extra gravity in the wake of the recent IPCC report declaring that we have just 12 years to take the action needed to limit global warming to that infamous 1.5ᵒC target.

      Although the conference itself is open to selected state representatives only, many see the week as an opportunity to influence and define the climate action agenda for the coming year, with protests planned outside the conference halls.

      A crucial role of environmental activists is to shift the public discourse around climate change and to put pressure on state representatives to act boldly. COP24 offers a rare platform on which to drive a step change in the position of governments on climate change.

      However, many environmental movements in Europe are not offering the critical analysis and radical narratives needed to achieve a halt to climate change.

    • ‘We Cannot Accept an Unjust Energy Transition’: Future of Coal Communities Becomes Crucial Issue at Climate Talks

      For the first time, the future of coal workers and communities across the world has become one of the most pressing issues of the global climate negotiations — infusing a sense of social reality within what is otherwise a very technical and political process.

      “We have been waiting for this for 30 years,” said Brian Kohler sustainability director for IndustriALL, a union representing 50 million workers across 140 countries.

      In the corridors of the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, Kohler is “delighted” that the topic has found its way high on this year’s agenda. It couldn’t have come soon enough.

      One of the first to have coined the term “just transition” in the 1990s, Kohler is well aware of challenges facing workers and communities relying on fossil fuels extraction for their livelihoods and the necessity to ensure the energy transition will leave no-one behind.

      Scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that the world has 12 years to take “rapid and transformative measures” and reduce emissions by 45 percent to remain below 1.5 degrees of warming and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

    • US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait Launch ‘Ludicrous’ Effort to ‘Sabotage’ Support for Key UN Climate Study

      Most world leaders gathered in Poland to discuss how to meet the goals of the Paris agreement seemed eager to heed the warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on what the world could look like if the global temperature rises to 1.5°C versus 2°C (2.7°F versus 3.6°F)—which has elicited demands for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” reforms to avert climate catastrophe.

      The four-nation coalition of oil-exporting nations, however, wasn’t having it—and aimed to make it easier for governments to ignore such calls for urgent action to address the climate crisis by fighting against a motion to “welcome” the study. Instead, they suggested, it should merely be “noted.”

      “The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

      Last year, President Donald Trump revealed his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, provoking immediate condemnation across the United States and the rest of the world. Within a few months of that announcement, all other countries had signed on to the accord, leaving the U.S. as the sole nation opposed to it.

      Efforts by the U.S. and others on Saturday to block global support for the IPCC report raised immediate concern and frustration among climate experts.

    • ‘Shame on You’: Campaigners Disrupt US Fossil Fuel Event Attended by Climate Science Deniers

      Campaigners disrupted a US event promoting “greener and cleaner” fossil fuel energy at the UN climate talks, calling it “a farce” that had no place within the global climate negotiations process.

      Minutes after the start of the event on the fringe of the climate conference in Katowice, Poland, dozens of youth activists, indigenous campaigners and community leaders burst out laughing and stood up in front of the panel chanting “keep it in the ground”.

      A large banner with the “keep it in the ground” was deployed in a way to hide the panel from the audience.

    • Warning of Solar Geoengineering’s Dangers, Group Recommends a Global Ban

      A Harvard research team recently announced plans to perform early tests to shoot sunlight-reflecting particles into the high atmosphere to slow or reverse global warming.

      These research efforts, which could take shape as soon as the first half of 2019, fall under the banner of a geoengineering technology known as solar radiation management, which is sometimes called “sun dimming.”

      However, less than two weeks after the announcement, the climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics took aim at these ambitions in a new briefing titled ”Why geoengineering is not a solution to the climate problem,” which goes as far as recommending a global ban on solar geoengineering.

      The group’s briefing warns about the dangers of proceeding with solar radiation management (SRM) in particular.

      The basic idea behind SRM is to release particles into the Earth’s stratosphere, the atmospheric layer approximately 6–30 miles above the surface, where they would then reflect some of the sun’s light (and heat) away from Earth, resulting in atmospheric cooling.

  • Finance

    • Richard Wolff: There Are No Blueprints for Revolution

      Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Programs in International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. In this interview, Wolff discusses how the revolutions that overthrew feudalism laid the foundations for our current crisis of capitalism, why historical models of socialism put into practice failed, and what lessons we can learn from them in creating a new socialism.

    • Chicago Task Force Will Take on Ticket and Debt Collection Reform

      The city of Chicago on Thursday took a potentially big step toward reducing the harmful impact of its ticketing and debt collection practices on low-income and minority motorists, launching a task force that will examine issues ranging from disparities in enforcement to punishments for people who don’t pay their tickets.

      The task force, called the Chicago Fines, Fees & Access Collaborative, was created by City Clerk Anna Valencia and will bring together officials from police, finance and other key city departments, as well as more than a half-dozen aldermen, community organizations and independent researchers.

      The task force was prompted by reporting over the past year from ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ on the disproportionately heavy effects of ticketing on low-income and black communities. The reporting, combined with growing advocacy from community groups, has fueled an urgency for reform on the issue ahead of city elections in February.

    • Top FTC official is so such a corporate shill that he has conflicts of interest for 100 companies, including Equifax and Facebook

      Andrew Smith is Trump’s chief of the FTC Consumer Protection Bureau, in charge of investigating companies that abuse Americans — but he can’t, because he has previously provided services for over 100 of America’s largest companies, including Facebook, a whack of payday lenders, Amazon, American Airlines, Amex, BoA, Capital One, Citigroup, John Deere, Equifax, Expedia, Experian, Glaxosmithkline, Goldman Sachs, Jpmorgan, Linkedin, Microsoft, Paypal, Redbubble, Twitter, Sotheby’s, Transunion, Uber, Verizon, Visa, Disney and Wells Fargo.

    • The FTC’s top consumer protection official can’t go after Facebook — or 100 other companies

      Andrew Smith, who heads the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, would be in charge of handling investigations into some of the country’s largest companies and any consumer protection violations that may occur. But due to his conflicts of interest, Smith is barred from participating in any investigations involving the companies he previously provided legal services for.

    • Jared Kushner’s close relationship with Saudi officials is reportedly the result of a 2-year influence mission

      The Times, citing former officials, text messages, and emails, reported that Kushner and the crown prince have been in close contact for nearly two years, despite efforts from the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, to rein in one-on-one communications with foreign leaders.

    • The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House

      Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

    • US-Saudi relationship enters uncharted territory

      “The Saudis have had public relations problems in Washington for many, many years,” he said. “I think that the Khashoggi murder in a sense crystallized some of these issues for people.”

    • Swept Up in France’s Yellow Vest Protests

      I’ve never been tear gassed before. The smell is similar to fireworks and the effect is explosive—and effective. I immediately wanted to get as far away as I could from the noxious source of burning eyes and throat.

      I was in Paris when France’s “yellow vest” (gilet jaune) movement shut down the center of the city.

      There were thousands of demonstrators, all wearing the bright yellow safety vests drivers are required by law to have in their cars.

      They had come from all over the country. The Paris demonstration was the latest escalation in a leaderless movement organized by activists through social media.

      The movement originated out of resentment over a hike in the price of diesel gas announced by President Emmanuel Macron as part of his efforts to address climate change. The price of gas in France is already the equivalent of $6.74 a gallon. Rural families dependent on vehicles would be stretched even further with the gas tax hike.

      But this is no American-style Taxed Enough Already (TEA) party protest.

      “These protests are not a backlash against the presence of the French state in the economy,” said Cole Stangler, a labor journalist who reports from Paris. “Many yellow vests are just asking that it act more fairly, infuriated by a government that asks them to give up more income each month at the same time as it grants tax cuts to the super-rich.”

    • More Than a Thousand Arrested as Yellow Vests Protests Over Economic Frustration Rage on Across France

      Some 1,220 people were arrested in France on Saturday as more than a hundred thousand took to the streets—leading to a lockdown and armored vehicles pouring into Paris—as part of the “Yellow Vests” or “Gilets Jaunes” movement that initially came as a response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise taxes on gasoline and diesel, which critics warn would primarily impact the working- and middle-class.

      The movement’s name comes from many supporters wearing the yellow high-visibility vests that all drivers in France are required to keep in their vehicles. Although Macron’s centrist administration announced last week that it was suspending fuel and electricity hikes for six months, outrage over growing inequality across the country has continued to produce massive protests.

    • Philadelphia Just Passed the Strongest Fair Scheduling Law in the Nation

      Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the country, just enacted the most sweeping bill yet to give low-wage workers some control over their schedules.

      The city’s new law, which passed the city council on Thursday, will require businesses with more than 250 employees and more than 30 locations worldwide to provide employees their schedules at least 10 days in advance. If any changes are made to their schedules after that, employers will owe employees more money. Employers will also be required to offer more hours as they become available to existing employees who want them rather than hiring new people, and they’ll be banned from retaliating against those who either request or decline more hours.

      The law is poised to have a huge impact: A recent survey conducted by UC Berkeley found that among food and retail sector workers in Philadelphia, 62 percent receive their schedules less than two weeks ahead of time and two-thirds work irregular or variable schedules. Almost half usually work 30 hours or less each week even though less than 15 percent have a second job to supplement their incomes.

      “It seems that employers are being less and less cognizant of their workers’ needs and home lives,” noted Nadia Hewka, an employment lawyer with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, which advocated for the bill. “This would just put a little bit of balance back into that equation.”

    • Macron to break silence, address French nation amid protests

      Pressure mounted on French President Emmanuel Macron to announce concrete measures to calm protests marked by violence when he addresses the nation Monday evening, and breaks a long silence widely seen as aggravating a crisis that has shaken the government and the whole country.
      The president will consult in the morning with an array of national and local officials as he tries to get a handle on the ballooning and radicalizing protest movement triggered by anger at his policies, and a growing sense that they favor the rich.
      Macron will speak from the presidential Elysee Palace at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT), an Elysee official said. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
      Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said earlier on LCI TV station he was “sure (Macron) will know how to find the path to the hearts of the French, speak to their hearts.” But, he added, a “magic wand” won’t solve all the problems of the protesters, known as “yellow vests” for the fluorescent safety vests they often wear.

    • French Working-Class Protesters Demand Higher Standard of Living

      Nearly 1,000 people are in police custody and at least 71 have been injured after protests that turned violent in France on Saturday. The grassroots protesters, called Gilets Jaunes—“Yellow Vests”—have expressed frustration with the high cost of living in France and the pro-business policies of centrist President Emmanuel Macron, called by some “the president of the rich.”

      Macron has proposed increasing taxes on diesel and gas, and although the government has since acquiesced and scrapped the proposal, many working-class people considered that demand a only starting point. The approximately 125,000 people wearing yellow vests who took to the streets Saturday in ongoing protests were joined by about 89,000 police officers, some of whom used tear gas on the crowds. Single mothers, factory workers, delivery workers, secretaries and other workers joined to protest tax cuts for the wealthy and a minimum wage that doesn’t cover basic expenses.

      “The Gilets Jaunes that you see in the streets, they’re mainly middle-class, and they’re being bled dry financially,” said Jacques, a technical college teacher and Gilets Jaunes organizer. “The wealth gap is getting wider, and we’ve reached a point where there are the very rich and the very poor—and more and more people are slipping into poverty.”

      “Macron’s first move in office was to slash the wealth tax for the mega-rich while cutting money from poor people’s housing benefits,” said Céline, a classroom assistant for children with special needs. “That is a serious injustice.”

    • Joe Kennedy and the Precarious Promise of “Moral Capitalism”

      We are a nation that was founded in opposition to hereditary rule. The founders rejected the notion of a king and embraced the principle that there were to be no royal families who generation after generation governed on the assumption of divine right.

      In recent decades, we have made two notable exceptions to this democratic disdain of dynasties. And no, the Kardashians don’t count.

      True, members of these two American dynastic families didn’t officially inherit office like kings and queens. They were elected, and to their credit, usually have embraced the concept of public service—albeit often in the tradition of a patrician noblesse oblige, which can translate as making lofty decrees from a pedestal while letting other “lesser” people do the dirty work.

      And like so many crowned heads, money has been involved. Lots of it, and much of it ill gotten, the profits of war, resource depletion, and the exploitation of humankind’s pleasures and sins. One of the sons of privilege joked after a primary victory that his father sent a telegram: “Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.”

      This past few days we’ve been reminded of one of the two families with the death of ex-President George Herbert Walker Bush: blue-blooded son of a U.S. senator; father of one son who served as president and governor of Texas, another who served as governor of Florida and unsuccessfully ran for the White House; and grandfather of the Texas land commissioner—which may not sound like a big deal, but if you live there, is.

    • The Inequality to Be Suffered by Our Children

      The fortunate ones will not be suffering. In the past eight years, the richest 5% of Americans have increased their wealth by $30 trillion — almost a third of total U.S. wealth — while the poorest 50% have seen their average wealth drop from $11,500 to $9,500. There is ample evidence for a nation soon to be made even more unequal by the transfer of wealth from rich baby boomers to their children and grandchildren, who will have done little if anything to earn it. The middle class will be further crippled by the ongoing growth in inequality. Unless progressive policies are demanded by American voters, most of our children and grandchildren will suffer from the continuing expansion of a Great-Depression-like wealth gap that already “dwarfs” the rest of the developed world.

    • Low-Income People Pay When Government Tech Contracts Sour

      Earlier this year, the tech company Novo Dia Group announced it would not continue as a vendor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, due to a switch in federal contractors. What seemed a run-of-the-mill business decision threw a very real wrench into the availability of locally-grown foods for low-income Americans.

      The problem was that Novo Dia held the only keys to a USDA program dedicated to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program processing software and equipment for 1,700 farmers’ markets nationwide. Without Novo Dia providing this service, markets would have no way to accept SNAP — a disruption that would cost farmers income and SNAP recipients food.

      If you’ve ever attempted to switch your cell phone provider but keep your actual device, you might be able to relate: Farmers’ markets had perfectly functional and expensive equipment that simply would not work with any other SNAP processing software. It’s the government equivalent of trying to keep your iPhone when you move from Verizon to AT&T.

      This episode raised a lot of questions about the government’s relationship with tech companies tasked with administering public programs: How does it choose who to hire? How does it hold those companies accountable? And how do those decisions affect the daily lives of low-income Americans who rely on being able to access their benefits?

      The answers are vitally important: Governments are increasingly relying on new technologies to sort applications, manage caseloads, and distribute benefits. How such technology is contracted, developed, and deployed will have real impacts on millions of low-income Americans.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • After weekend with Bernie, Niki Ashton talks Progressive International: ‘Our movement is a global movement. It must be.’

      The time to act is now. No longer can progressives afford to work only in silos.

      That’s why I joined Jane Sanders, David Driscoll, Renata Avila, Yanis Varoufakis and many others in launching Progressive International, a call for a grassroots movement for global social, environmental and economic justice.

      This call came at The Sanders Institute Gathering in Vermont last week, which brought together progressive leaders, activists, and movement builders from communities across the globe. I was on the panel with Sen. Bernie Sanders that preceded the call to create Progressive International.

    • Paul Ryan Was Always More Political Hack Than Policy Genius

      Paul Ryan’s farewell tour is going about as well as you might imagine. The retiring speaker of the House, who made a career out of promoting his aw-shucks humility, has presided over the revealing of not one but three painted portraits of himself. In less-controlled settings, his interviews with media outlets have, rather than provide a victory lap, only served to highlight the emptiness of Ryan’s words and the failures of his time in office. Speaking of those empty words, Ryan was also set to leave us with a formal farewell address at the Library of Congress earlier this week ― until George H.W. Bush’s funeral threw off the plans. It was yet another reminder that history has rarely been on Ryan’s side.

      Not surprisingly, that’s not Ryan’s own assessment of his time in public life. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Ryan blithely proclaimed that “history is going to be very good to this majority” ― the same majority that had just suffered the worst Republican losses since Watergate. Like so many of Ryan’s supposed grand ideas, the comment was little more than mere grandstanding. And it betrayed what has always been at the heart of his rise to power and his fall: a plain disconnection from the reality around him.

      Given the breathless media coverage Ryan enjoyed throughout his career, it’s perhaps remarkable how thoroughly both pundits and partisans are now ragging on him. Criticism from places like Salon and Vanity Fair was predictable, but conservative voices have also joined in, such as the libertarian outlet Reason, which pronounced Ryan an “abject failure,” and the conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, who provided a scathing review of his tenure. “Good riddance, Paul Ryan,” a headline in The Week happily announced.

    • Top 8 Ways John Kelly was an Embarrassment as WH Chief of Staff

      Trump announced Saturday that his chief of staff, John Kelly, will leave at the end of the month. It has been reported that the two men are not speaking. Kelly was often seen as a force for stability in the Trump administration, but as I warned when he first came in, he shared many of Trump’s crackpot far rightwing ideas and therefore was not in fact a source of stability for the country.

    • Project Troy: How Scientists Helped Refine Cold War Psychological Warfare

      This was a new kind of conflict requiring new kinds of weapons: psychological weapons. The question of psychological warfare preoccupied a small but influential group of foreign-policy officials during President Harry S. Truman’s second term. By the time that Truman left office in January 1953, the United States had laid the legal and institutional foundations for overt propaganda campaigns as well as covert action. During that period of experimentation leading up to the Eisenhower presidency, almost anything U.S. strategists could dream up, short of overthrowing foreign governments (that would come later), was up for discussion. Among other things, the Marshall Plan allotted $13 billion to rebuild Western Europe, Voice of America transmitted jazz and news to listeners in 46 languages in more than a hundred countries, and the CIA sent tens of thousands of balloons filled with anti-Communist pamphlets into China.

    • Progressive Activists Are Winning in Red States

      The tireless organizing of progressives in red states this fall did not just deliver one-time wins for progressive policies in areas controlled by Republican governments — it also established an infrastructure that could pave the way for progressive triumphs in the future.

      The numerous progressive policy victories declared this November — including many in states where Republicans were victorious on election night — were a result of dogged campaigns and a variety of strategies.

      Ballot minimum wages passed in Arkansas and Missouri. Voters expanded Medicaid in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska. Utah legalized medical marijuana. Voters in Charlotte passed what one community organizer called “the largest housing bond in the history of Charlotte.” In Austin, a $250 million housing bond was approved. Nashville approved a community oversight board for police misconduct cases. In Texas’s Harris County, 19 Black women running on criminal justice platforms were elected to various benches and a socialist became a misdemeanor court judge.

      All of these wins were made possible by an infrastructure that has been built by progressives over the course of many years. While election coverage tends to simply tabulate wins and losses, the backstory of these victories is the most crucial component. It’s this groundwork that can potentially deliver more wins to these regions, both inside and outside of the ballot box.

    • Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already

      American politicians can’t seem to make themselves wait until 2019 to start acting like it’s 2020.

      Former vice president Joe Biden wants us to know that he’s “the most qualified person in the country to be president.”

      Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick “is calling close allies and informing them he is not running for president in 2020.” The senior US Senator from his state, Elizabeth Warren, clearly wants to run but can barely walk at the moment after shooting herself in the foot with a DNA test.

      Outgoing Ohio governor John Kasich is still flirting with a doomed GOP primary challenge or an equally doomed third party run. The senior Senator from HIS state, Sherrod Brown, “doesn’t know” whether or not he’s the best candidate. Pretty much everyone else knows he isn’t. If they even know his name, that is (they don’t).

      Can you hear the voice of the late John Spencer as Leo McGarry on The West Wing, whispering in your ear? “I’m tired of it! Year, after year, after year of having to choose between the lesser of who cares?”

      Yes, the next presidential election will almost certainly be as nasty as the last one. It will also almost certainly prove even less consequential than the 2018 midterm, which was only “the most important election of your lifetime” if you happen to have been born on or after November 9, 2016.

    • Undocumented Citizen

      When Jose Antonio Vargas was sixteen years old, he discovered that his green card was a fake. Unbeknownst to the grandparents with whom he was living in Mountain View, California, the young Filipino immigrant took himself to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license, only to be told by the clerk that his card was fraudulent: “This is fake. Don’t come back here again.”

      Vargas, who had been sent to the U.S. by his mother at the age of 12 (with the misplaced hope that she’d be able to follow him) was stunned and disoriented. He soon learned that the “uncle” who accompanied him on the flight from Manila was a smuggler hired by his grandfather, and he found himself as a teenager questioning all his relationships and his capacity for trust. Yet he persevered as one of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., succeeding in school and in college, and ultimately finding his way as a journalist, all the while engaging in what he called the common moves of undocumented people: “lying, passing, and hiding.”

      Recently Vargas came out with a new book, Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen, and in it he bears witness to the “homelessness” that he and others experience: not a traditional kind of homelessness, “but the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves in.” Vargas argues that if the politics of immigration are ever to change, the “culture in which immigrants are seen” has to change, and to this end he has dedicated his writing, his documentary-making, and his public appearances to storytelling that can help change the image of immigrants and the understanding of immigration in American life.

    • A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity

      For 30+ years I taught a senior seminar course that I’d designed and titled The Politics of Personal Identity (or POPI). Limited to 12 students during their final college semester, it was a capstone course that endeavored to make sense of their liberal arts experience. Over the term we examined identity from every possible angle and their final assignment, announced the first day of class, was a 40-minute oral presentation titled “Who Am I? What Do I Believe? Why Do I Believe it?” This was followed by an extensive Q & A from the other members. The ground rules were that nothing revealed in the presentations would be disclosed beyond the classroom.

      In part, we relied upon McGill University professor Charles Taylor’s work to set our frame of reference of what it means to be a self, a human agent, a person. For Taylor, one’s identity is defined by knowing where one stands. That is, what are the commitments which provide the horizons upon which I base my actions in life, upon which I’m willing take a stand. In Taylor’s words and put counterfactually, “… if they were to lose this commitment or orientation they would be at sea, as it were; they wouldn’t know anymore, for an important range of questions, what the significance of things was for them.” If such a situation were to arise we would call it “an identity crisis,” a disorienting, radical uncertainly of where they stand. Put another way, to know who are is to know where you stand with regard to certain basic moral questions.

      Taylor reminds us that people we judge as shallow also have a sense of what’s most important but for whatever reasons it’s not well thought out or simply given by the prevailing culture. People considered to have depth or character have moved beyond this or are struggling to know what they believe is the “good” or what issues truly have meaning for them. Taylor again: we are authentic selves not because we possess livers and hearts but because we can answer the question “Who Am I?” How are my most critical defining relations lived out? What kind of life is worth living? Does my life amount to something? Where is my allegiance? How did I get where I am today and where is this quest heading?

    • Top EU Court Rules UK Can Change Mind Over Brexit

      The European Union’s top court ruled Monday that Britain can change its mind over Brexit, boosting the hopes of people who want to stay in the EU that the process can be reversed.

      The European Court of Justice ruled that when an EU member country has notified its intent to leave, “that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.”

      Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process.

    • Green Party says European Court of Justice ruling ‘lights way out of Brexit chaos’

      The Green Party of England and Wales and Scottish Green Party welcome the news this morning that the European Court of Justice ruling has confirmed the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50.

      Ross Greer, Green Member of Scottish Parliament and one of the pursuers of the action to the ECJ said:

      “This is a huge victory for the UK, achieved despite the Conservative government’s attempts to prevent it and limit their own options. We now have legal certainty that the UK is free to change its mind and stop the process of leaving the EU. We can stay in and enjoy not just the significant benefits of membership but the unique benefits of the UK’s advantageous membership and all of the opt-outs which come with it.

      “That is a choice for us alone to make and does not require the approval of any other EU state and it is a choice the people should be free to make via a referendum. It is clear that we don’t have to choose between becoming poorer with May’s deal or much poorer very quickly with No-Deal, there is another way. It’s time to let the public take back control of the Brexit process.”

    • Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism

      The UK has long been divided by class, region and race, but these divisions have been masked by political and economic success. This has meant the English, as the dominant nation in the UK, are not good at coping with a sense of failure and a loss of self-confidence.

      The current focus is on parliamentary turmoil and the acceptance or rejection of Theresa May’s muted version of Brexit but, whatever happens in the coming weeks, there will be no resolution of the overall crisis. On the contrary, the divisions exacerbated by Brexit will only get deeper and more toxic, dominating the national agenda to the exclusion of everything else.

      The nature of English nationalism – deeply ingrained but so self-confident its norms were assumed by most English people to be part of the natural order of things – is changing. George Bernard Shaw said “a healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man is of his bones”. Smaller nations like the Irish and the Poles, with a history of defeat and occupation, have grim experience of having to nurse back to health the fractured bones of their nation but for the English worrying about their national identity and the future status is a new and unnerving experience.

    • Democrats Raise Prospect of Impeachment, Jail for Trump

      Top House Democrats on Sunday raised the prospect of impeachment or almost-certain prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed illegal hush-money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.

      “There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”

      Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the details in prosecutors’ filings Friday in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as evidence that Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud.”

    • Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond

      The November 2018 election resulted in small but important victories for the American people and the progressive movement in the United States. Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives and flipped seven governorships. In the Deep Red South, Beto O’Rourke came close to beating the reactionary incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, and progressive African American candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum just missed being elected as the governors of Georgia and Florida.

      Understanding the election victories in the context of the overall distribution of power – political, economic, and social – in this country is critical to developing a progressive path towards the 2020 election and beyond.

      [...]

      The Republicans’ Senate victories were primarily corrective realignments rather than actual shifts in power. The Democratic Senators who were defeated – Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota – were never progressive and wore the Democratic label incongruously in their conservative states. Their defeats actually pushed the center of the Democratic Party a bit to the left. The Senate elections in 2020 will provide greater opportunities for Democratic victories, if only because in 2020 there will be 21 seats now controlled by Republicans and only 12 by Democrats on the ballot, almost a complete reverse of this year’s numbers.

      By design the Senate will continue to be an obstacle to progressive political power in the U.S. The decision of the Founders to favor the interests of the less populated, agrarian, slave-holding states by awarding two Senate seats to each state means that 40 million Californians have the same representation as 580,000 citizens of Wyoming. Democratic candidates for the Senate received 46.7 million votes this year (40.3 million if California, where both candidates were Democrats, is excluded) compared to just 33.8 million for Republicans.

    • Sorry, Say Legal Experts, Creating Shell Company During 2016 Campaign for Secret Payments to Hide Extramarital Affairs Not ‘Simple Private Transaction’

      Legal experts and prosecutors are pushing back against the claim President Donald Trump made early Monday morning when he said his secret payments to silence women claiming extramarital sexual affairs with him were nothing more than a “simple private transaction.”

      Trump was referring to the recent court filings involving his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and the revelations that Cohen, at the order of the president, created payment schemes to get both porn actor Stormy Daniels and former playboy model Karen McDougal to be quiet about the affairs they claim to have had with Trump while he was married to First Lady Melania Trump. Trump has denied the affairs, but previously pretended not to know anything about the payments.

    • News From the Far Side of Nowhere

      All in all, check off these first two presidential years of his as a bravura performance, which shouldn’t really surprise any of us. What was he, after all, but a whiz of a performer long before he hit the White House? And what are we — the media and the rest of us — but (whether we like it or not, whether we care to be or not) his apprentices?

      Now, for a little breaking news of another sort! Unbelievably enough, despite all evidence to the contrary, there’s still an actual world out there somewhere, even if Donald Trump’s shambling 72-year-old figure has thrown so much of it into shadow. I’m talking about a world — or parts of it, anyway — that doesn’t test well in focus groups and isn’t guaranteed, like this American president, to keep eyes eternally (or even faintly) glued to screens, a world that, in the age of Donald Trump, goes surprisingly unnoted and unnoticed.

      So consider the rest of this piece the most minimalist partial rundown on, in particular, an American imperial world of war and preparations for the same, that is, but shouldn’t be, in the shadows; that shouldn’t be, but often is dealt with as if it existed on the far side of nowhere.

    • 8 Reasons That John Kelly Will Not Be Missed

      Trump announced Saturday that his chief of staff, John Kelly, will leave at the end of the month. It has been reported that the two men are not speaking. Kelly was often seen as a force for stability in the Trump administration, but as I warned when he first came in, he shared many of Trump’s crackpot far right-wing ideas and therefore was not in fact a source of stability for the country.

      1. Kelly thought that we are under siege:

      “We are under attack from failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals. And we are under attack every single day. The threats are relentless.”

      As journalist Michael Cohen wrote in response at the Boston Globe, “Cyber-terrorists have never killed an American citizen, no failed state threatens America and more Americans are killed by lightning strikes than sadistic radicals.”

      2. Kelly believed that construction on Trump’s border wall would begin by summer of 2017, and seemed to think that if it had, it would have been a good thing.

      3. Nor is the wall needed or wanted by a majority of Americans. Kelly was almost delusional about U.S. immigration enforcement: “Nothing’s been done in the past eight years to to enforce the border rules and regulations, not to mention many of the immigration laws inside of the United States.”

      Fact: The Obama administration deported at least as many people as the Bush administration had, if you use the same definition for deportations in both administrations. By sheer reported numbers, Obama deported some 2.5 million people during his eight years while Bush deported 2 million. They probably actually deported about the same number. Kelly’s bizarre notion that the laws were not implemented since 2009 is flat wrong.

    • If There’s “No Smocking Gun,” Why Is Trump So Terrified?

      The honorific changes hands with the speed of the news cycle, but for the time being, the title of “Smartest Person In DC” belongs to a 36-year-old Republican operative from Georgia named Nick Ayers. Currently serving as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Ayers’s name was all over the news this weekend after Donald Trump announced the at-long-last departure of his own chief of staff, John Kelly.

      Ayers was a shoo-in to replace Kelly, most everyone agreed. Those who considered him a good fit for the spot pointed to his youth and vigor — Ayers looks a fair bit like the cherubic mass-murderer from the second half of “Breaking Bad” — and his deep connections with the Freedom Caucus wing of Congress. Both would serve him well in the storms to come, but for one problem: Turns out he is actually too smart to take the job.

      Ayers took a long look at what was a supremely bad weekend for the White House and said, “Check please.” On Sunday afternoon, he sent his official regrets at turning down the C-o-S position with a tweet: “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House. I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause. #Georgia”

      Translation: “Thank you but nope nope nope nope I’ll be over there doing MAGA things but nope nope nope no way no how. #nope”

    • Has Emmanuel Macron Lost the People for Good?

      French President Emmanuel Macron will be speaking to his nation at last Monday, after increasingly violent, radicalized protests against his leadership have shaken the country and scarred its beloved capital. His long silence has aggravated that anger and many protesters are hoping only to hear one thing from Macron: “I quit.”

      That’s a highly unlikely prospect.

      Instead Macron is expected to announce measures to reduce taxes and boost purchasing power for France’s working classes who feel his presidency has favored the rich. He’s being forced to act after four weeks of “yellow vest” protests that started in France’s struggling provinces and morphed into surging riots in Paris, scaring tourists and foreign investors alike.

      The 40-year-old leader met Monday in his presidential palace with local and national politicians, unions and business leaders to hear their concerns — but with no representatives of the scattered, leaderless protest movement.

      On Monday evening, Macron will give a national televised address, his first public words in more than a week. Some fed-up demonstrators have already promised new demonstrations this Saturday, regardless of what the president says.

      Participants at Monday’s meeting said the president didn’t leak his plans but seemed to grasp the gravity of the yellow vest crisis.

    • Marcy Wheeler: Mueller Probe Could Lead to Indictment of the Trump Organization

      Federal prosecutors have accused President Trump of committing a federal crime by directing illegal hush money to two women during the presidential election. The accusation was revealed Friday in filings made public by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, including a damning sentencing memo for Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who has admitted to paying adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the campaign in order to prevent them from speaking to the media about their alleged affairs with Trump. The sentencing memo was made public along with two new sentencing memos from special counsel Robert Mueller: one for Cohen and another for Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort. “We keep talking about whether you can indict a sitting president,” says independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, editor of EmptyWheel.net. “There’s still a debate about that, but, really critically, you can indict a corporation. You can indict Trump Organization.”

    • With an Impeachable Trump and Pence, Are You Ready for President Pelosi?

      So, now that we know that Donald Trump and Mike Pence reached the White House through at least two specific and separate criminal conspiracies, what do we do about it?

      Can they be removed from office? Can the election be done over? Can the Trump/Pence administration’s actions over the past two years be reversed, particularly the appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and all the damage to our federal agencies?

      According to federal court filings last week from the Southern District of New York, and from the Special Counsel’s office, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen criminally conspired to hide from the American people the fact that Trump had sexual relations immediately after the birth of his son Baron with both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and that his affair with McDougal lasted about a year.

      Had Republican voters known about those affairs long before Trump gained the momentum he did during the period of the cover-up, Trump wouldn’t have become the GOP’s nominee and would now be back to playing the roles of a faux billionaire and a reality TV star.

      Similarly, those same court filings tell us that even after Trump won the GOP’s nomination for president, he continued to negotiate with the Russian government to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Presumably construction would begin right after he lost the election of 2016, which is fully what he expected: he hadn’t even bothered to write an acceptance speech.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Jewish Voice for Peace Targets CNN Over Dr. Marc Lamont Hill Firing in Sunday Paper

      Dr. Hill is accused of antisemitism by over-zealous organizations who falsely conflate visible support for equal rights and justice for Palestinians with antisemitism. A growing trend of Jewish progressives are calling for greater debate around Israel. By firing Dr. Hill, CNN is promoting a cynical and dishonest use of the term “anti-Semite.”

    • Will European Parliament oppose Authoritarian Censorship?

      On the 12 December, the European Parliament will vote on the “Report on findings and recommendations of the Special Committee on Terrorism”. If adopted, this text would not be legally binding but would recommend the adoption of the measures included in the Anti-terrorism Censorship Regulation: outsourcing censorship to Internet Giants and bypassing national judges (read our last analysis).

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Australian Government Passes Law Forcing Tech Companies To Break Encryption

      An actual software developer, Alfie John, has put together a splendid Twitter thread pointing out the flaws in the government’s assumptions about software development. Since the compelled participants are forbidden from discussing surveillance court orders with anyone (which would include coworkers, supervisors, the general public, etc.), these requested alterations would have to be implemented in secret. The problem is coding changes go through a number of hands before they go live. Either everyone involved would need to be sworn to secrecy (which also means being threatened with jail time) or the process falls apart. Changes ordered by a court could be rejected by those higher up on the chain. Worse, the planned encryption hole could see the compelled coder being viewed as a data thief or foreign operative or whatever.

      Law enforcement is going to have to make everyone involved in the product/device complicit and covered under the same prison threat for this to work. The more people its exposed to, the higher the chance of leakage. And if the code will break other code — or the request simply can’t be met due to any number of concerns — the government make ask the court to hold the company and its personnel in contempt for their failure to achieve the impossible.

      To make matters worse, the company targeted with a compelled access request may be monitored for leaks before and after the request is submitted, putting employees under surveillance simply because of their profession.

      In some cases, the only weakness that can be introduced will be systemic, which will run contrary to the law. How will the government handle this inevitable eventuality? Will it respect the law or will it simply redefine the term to codify its unlawful actions?

    • Goodbye FastMail: Aussie government succeeds in undermining trust in Australian tech companies

      I’ve been with multiple email service providers over the years, and have always used my own domain name so that I don’t get locked into any particular email provider. I believe this is important to maintain control over your own digital life and also crucial to be able to root up and move to another provider when there is reason to leave one provider for another. Whether that be for market forces like price, innovation, service policy changes, or as in this case: a change in service trustworthiness ushered in by the introduction of a new law in the country the company operates in.

      Long story short: The Australian government don’t believe anyone should be able to keep any secrets from them in any sphere so they’ve voted in a incredible dangerous law that seeks to undermine security and privacy protections on the web. The Telecommunications Assistance and Access Bill (TAAB or AssAccess) require technology companies like FastMail, Google, Apple, Cisco to provide Australian law enforcement and security agencies with access to all communications without any judicial oversight, transparency, or reason. The only restrictions offered to protect people’s privacy is the vague terms “reasonable and proportionate.”

    • Former GCHQ head warns of Facebook ‘threat to democracy’

      The former head of UK intelligence agency GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, has warned that Facebook could become a threat to democracy if it is not subjected to stricter regulation, reports BBC News.

      Hannigan told the BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme that Facebook was more interested in exploiting users’ data for profit than protecting their privacy. He said that it was an international business and made most of their money from advertising, warning that it cannot reform itself and needs outside regulation.

    • Facebook Plans to Repurchase $9 Billion More of Its Shares

      Facebook said in a regulatory filing that its board had previously authorized share repurchases of up to $15 billion as part of a program started in 2017. The $9 billion buy back announced on Friday is in addition to those prior authorizations, the company said.

    • Baby steps

      Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.

      This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.

    • UK Intelligence Agencies Are Planning a Major Increase in ‘Large-Scale Data Hacking’

      Intelligence agencies in the UK are preparing to “significantly increase their use of large-scale data hacking,” the Guardian reported on Saturday, in a move that is already alarming privacy advocates.

      According to the Guardian, UK intelligence officials plan to increase their use of the “bulk equipment interference (EI) regime”—the process by which the Government Communications Headquarters, the UK’s top signals intelligence and cybersecurity agency, collects bulk data off foreign communications networks—because they say targeted collection is no longer enough.

    • Bikini app maker draws another disgruntled developer to its Facebook fight

      However, Six4Three’s recent court filings show that its lawyers are also involved in a second lawsuit brought by a different company—one that promoted breast cancer awareness, among other apps—that levies very similar allegations against Facebook.

      This new case, Styleform IT v. Facebook, which was filed last month in San Francisco County Superior Court, makes sweeping claims that for years Facebook engaged in “fraudulent and anti-competitive schemes designed and effectuated by Defendant Facebook Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, with the intention of deliberately misleading tens of thousands of software companies.”

    • Facebook kept granting private data to high-profile advertisers long after it said it stopped

      Collins summarized the emails that were seized in a preface, stating: “Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data. It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.” The existence of a “whitelist” suggests that the company was not serious about protecting user data nor honoring the privacy agreements it claimed to have put in place at the time.

    • Facebook Used People’s Data to Favor Certain Partners and Punish Rivals, Documents Show

      The documents show how Facebook executives treated data as the company’s most valuable resource and often wielded it to gain a strategic advantage. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, were intimately involved in decisions aimed at benefiting the social network above all else and keeping users as engaged as possible on the site, according to emails that were part of the document trove.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Arrest of Huawei CFO a dangerous precedent and threat to global trade

      COMMENT: The arrest of the CFO of Huawei Technologies Meng Wanzhou in Canada for the alleged violation of the company trading with Iran in contravention of US sanctions on that country has heightened already shaky trade relations between China and the US. It also threatens relations between China and the wider West.

    • Will Trump ever turn on Saudi Arabia? Pressure mounts for U.S. to prosecute Khashoggi’s killers

      Qahtani, with 1.36 million followers of his Saudq1978 Twitter feed, served as an ideological enforcer of MBS’s message in Middle Eastern media and was harshly critical of Khashoggi. The CIA believes Qahtani supervised the 15-member hit team drawn from Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency and other security forces.

      The Saudi public prosecutor has arrested 18 Saudis in connection with Khashoggi’s death—but Qahtani is not one of them. A prosecutor in Argentina is looking into the case as a possible war crime. Yet, aside from the CIA, the Trump administration insists the intellectual author of the crime cannot be identified.

    • The Central European University is moving to Vienna

      Following an 18-month legal war of attrition between the Central European University (CEU), founded by the philanthropist George Soros, and his arch-enemy, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, CEU has thrown in the towel. On December 3rd the university said it will relocate its American-accredited programmes, the bulk of its operation, from Budapest to Vienna from September 2019.

    • The CIA killed my father. What did they do with his body?
    • Why the Spectre of Truth Serums Haunts CIA Interrogations

      During the Cold War, the CIA conducted human behavior experiments using truth serums alongside LSD for interrogation purposes. However, in the Congressional enquiries held on the subject in 1977, CIA officials stated, “No such magic brew as the popular notion of truth serum exists.”

      The truth serum thus became a staple for Hollywood fantasies such as Meet the Fockers, where an ex-CIA agent drugs his son-in-law for possible infidelity. And yet, when I interviewed forensic psychologists in 2013 in Mumbai, Bangalore and Gandhinagar for my book manuscript titled Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogations in India, they invariably insisted that truth serums are being used in the US.

      [...]

      The Office of Medical Services report notes a very explicit discussion and exploration for 2-3 months in 2002 on whether Versed, a more recent sedative, could be utilised for interrogations. The Project Medication (as it was termed) was apparently shelved in early 2003. The OMS report mentions that the use of the drug depended on two potential legal obstacles: prohibition against medical experimentation on prisoners, and a ban on interrogational use of “mind altering drugs” or those which “profoundly altered the senses.”

      Although authorisation was never formally requested, some scholars did acknowledge the legality of the technique. Alan Dershowitz famously wrote that there would be little difference between the act of injecting a liquid into a person without consent (in truth serum) and withdrawing blood for testing (for alcohol). At the core of such debates was whether the US Federal Torture Statute passed in 1994 would prohibit the truth serums since mind-altering drugs are specifically mentioned in the statute. The debate relied on whether the impact of the drug will lead to prolonged mental harm or not or whether there is specific intent to create such prolonged harm.

    • Truth about CIA’s illegal MKUltra mind-control experiments

      One document details how the CIA planned to drug “criminals awaiting trial held in a prison hospital ward” in a bid to develop “improved techniques in drug interrogation”.

    • Hypnosis, truth drugs and remote-operated dogs: Declassified papers on CIA’s ‘mind control’ research

      A renowned government secret hunter has published new documents detailing the CIA’s Cold War “behavioral modification” experiments (ranging from the bizarre to the stomach-churning), released under the Freedom of Information Act.

      The documents were published by “The Black Vault”, a site which has published enough government documents on the paranormal, UFOs and government mind control experiments to provide material for a dozen new seasons of The X-Files. While the site might sound like a fringe web-community indulging in paranoid cliches, it is also the largest repository of its kind aside from the US government with over 2,000,000 pages of information. The 800 pages of classified information published in November had been withheld from previously released documents that were made public through FOIA requests in 2004 and 2016.

      The newest documents, if verified, showcase some unprecedented disturbing outcomes of the CIA’s attempts to develop mind control techniques and truth serums as a part of its “MKultra” project, which the agency admitted to having secretly run until 1973. The releases include documents on a “successful” effort to create 6 dogs that could be “operated” to complete basic commands by remote control in the late 1960s. There are even diagrams of the surgical implants that employed “Electrical Stimulation of the Brain” to create controlled responses.

    • Spy watchdog completes probe into CIA rendition

      New Zealand’s spy agency watchdog has completed an inquiry into whether New Zealand was involved in the American CIA’s rendition programme.

      [...]

      The “enhanced interrogation” programme involved questioning al Qaeda and other captives around the world. The CIA used secret flights, detention and torture against terrorism suspects and others.

      “This inquiry has required considerable resources, not least identifying and evaluating the agencies’ relevant activities and records over the period 2001 to 2009,” Ms Gwyn said in the her office’s annual report.

    • MFIA Clinic Files Lawsuit Against CIA

      Acting for two investigative journalists, the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic has sued the Central Intelligence Agency for silencing the top FBI interrogator of Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah. The lawsuit alleges a CIA effort to mislead the American public about the effectiveness of torture.

      The lawsuit was filed on December 3, 2018, in federal court in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Raymond Bonner and Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney. Bonner and Gibney are collaborating on a documentary about the CIA’s use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11. The film focuses on the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to waterboarding at least 83 times after being secretly detained as a suspected member of al-Qaeda.

    • William Barr Is Out of Step on Criminal Justice Reform

      President Donald Trump announced Friday his plan to nominate William Barr as the next attorney general. Barr previously held the same role from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would replace Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed by Trump as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions resigned last month under pressure from the White House.

      [...]

      Barr’s previous stint as attorney general also included troubling positions on criminal justice issues. During his tenure in the Bush administration, Barr helped devise federal policies that furthered mass incarceration and the war on drugs. Notably, in 1992, he published a book by the Department of Justice called The Case for More Incarceration, which argued that the country was “incarcerating too few criminals.” After serving as attorney general, Barr led efforts in Virginia to abolish parole in the state, build more prisons, and increase prison sentences by as much as 700 percent.

      To be sure, that was an era when tough criminal justice policies attracted support across the political spectrum. But Barr’s more recent record suggests, that unlike many in his party, his thinking hasn’t changed significantly since then, even as the failure of mass incarceration has become too glaring to ignore.

    • North Carolina’s Election Fiasco Is About Voter Suppression, Not Voter Fraud

      North Carolina voting issues are in the spotlight once again, thanks to swirling questions around the use of absentee ballots in the 9th Congressional district.

      Last week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously not to certify the 9th District’s U.S. House race — in which Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by a slim margin — because of irregularities in the district’s absentee ballots.

      In particular, fewer ballots were returned in the 9th District than in the rest of the state. In addition, out of the 9th District ballots that were returned, there was a higher rate of ballots that were spoiled — and thus uncounted — than in other districts, the Brennan Center’s analysis confirms. To top it off, these discrepancies appear to have disproportionately affected low-income communities.

      At least three voters in the 9th District have provided affidavits stating that individuals came door-to-door to collect mailed ballots, according to reports in the New York Times. These unknown visitors allegedly told the voters that they would deliver their ballots. One voter, Datesha Montgomery, reported that she voted only for school board members and sheriff, but the woman who collected her ballot said that “she would finish it herself.” This is illegal under North Carolina law. If voters are getting help with the ballot delivery, it can only be from certain direct family members (unless one of the special rules for nursing home residents is applicable).

    • Karen Kwiatkowski Delivers Speech After Receiving 17th Annual Sam Adams Award

      Ed Snowden, Sam Adams awardee in 2013, noted that we tend to ignore some degree of evil in our daily life, but, as Ed put it, “We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act.” As did Karen. As did 16 of Karen’s predecessors honored with this award.

      With all the gloom and doom enveloping us, we tend to wonder whether people with the conscience and courage of Ed or Karen still exist in and outside our national security establishment. Our country is in dire need of new patriots of this kind.

      Meanwhile, we call to mind the courageous example not only of Karen and Ed, but also of Coleen Rowley and Elizabeth Gun, our first two awardees, who took great risks in trying to head off the attack on Iraq. And we again honor Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange who is now isolated in what the U.N. has called “arbitrary detention,” for exposing the war crimes resulting from that war.

    • Europe’s History With Refugees Has Something to Tell the U.S.

      Not long ago, the world watched heartbreaking images of fleeing refugees, not unlike those now emerging from the southern U.S. border.

      Within months, beginning in 2015, more than 1 million migrants and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, and Africa had crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe—some escaping war and violence, some seeking work—and their numbers overwhelmed the continent.

      And now, as thousands of Central American refugees from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala continue to surge toward the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s worth noting important similarities to how European countries responded to its migrant crisis, the impact of which is still being felt there.

      “It really is kind of a search for survival, economic survival, political survival,” says Dr. Kathie Friedman, associate professor at University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

      Like the Central Americans coming to the U.S. border, those arriving on Europe’s doorstep also did so en masse. Some experts hesitate to call it the “new normal.”

    • How the More Than Me Charity Gamed the Internet and Hollywood to Win a Million Dollars

      It was the breakthrough moment for More Than Me. On Dec. 7, 2012, Katie Meyler’s tiny New Jersey-based charity defeated 24 other nonprofits to win $1 million at the Chase American Giving Awards, a weeklong competition for Facebook votes that culminated in a star-studded, nationally televised event.

      Most of the competing nonprofits dwarfed MTM in experience, exposure and cashflow. Some had annual revenue over $3 million; Meyler’s charity had $300,000. The previous year’s winner had over a million Facebook followers. Even now, after years of accolades, MTM has only 30,000.

      But More Than Me’s mission — educating girls in Liberia and saving them from sexual exploitation — had seemingly resonated with the voting public. That night, Meyler told the audience about a 12-year-old girl named Abigail, who she said was a child prostitute who dreamed of going to school. Meyler said a grassroots movement of passionate supporters had made it happen:

      “Thousands of you wrote I Am Abigail on your face, on your arms, even on your pets,” Meyler said. “You pushed your dad to email his network, and he smiled as he did. You stood in front of hundreds of people in lecture halls, and you spoke for Abigail; you were shaking, but that did not stop you…”

      The victory propelled Meyler and her charity to a new level of funding and prominence, and enabled her to launch an all-girl school in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

      This October, ProPublica published an investigation, in collaboration with Time magazine, revealing how MTM had missed opportunities to prevent prominent employee Macintosh Johnson from raping girls in the charity’s care. After the story, the charity issued an apology and Meyler stepped down pending the outcome of investigations by the Liberian government, the charity’s board of directors and its Liberian advisory board. Protestors marched in Monrovia, board members resigned and a major donor suspended funds, citing the organization’s lack of honesty.

    • New York Police Union Says More Reporting On Stops/Frisks Will Hurt The NYPD’s Effectiveness

      The NYPD has been ordered to document its stops numerous times since the 2013 decision. And it has continued to fail to do so. Officers blame a lack of instruction and/or clarity from upper management. Upper management blames multiple court orders and outside oversight for its inability to deliver clear instructions. And the PBA blames the whole mess on officers being forced to engage in Constitutional policing, which apparently is the opposite of “proactive” policing.

      What the PBA is agitating for is the return to halcyon days of stop-and-frisk when NYPD officers performed hundreds of thousands of stops a year, a majority of them targeting the city’s minorities. Constitutional policing would trim hundreds of man hours from the production of mandated reports, but the PBA wants nothing to do with keeping officers on patrol, rather than tied up doing internal bookkeeping for the DA’s office.

    • The Strange Case Of The Guardian & Brasil

      The Guardian is of course the closest thing that the UK has to a mainstream progressive newspaper, and it had, until relatively recently, a rich history of quality investigative reporting. In the 1970s its coverage of Latin America, with writers the calibre of Richard Gott, was responsible for fixing stories like that of Chile’s in the public consciousness, and with that fuelling solidarity movements for the region’s oppressed peoples, suffering under sub-fascist imperial rule. It continues to host important and talented writers, and publish valuable material, particularly in its comment is free section.

      But in 2018 The Guardian is in trouble, financially and editorially. A far cry from the 1970s, it just published a sycophantic eulogy to former US President George HW Bush, whose own CIA oversaw the horrors of Operation Condor.

      To get a sense of the mindset now running the Guardian, contrast that of Bush Senior with its sour, dismissive obituary of lifetime champion of human rights, long serving Cabinet Minister and Labour MP Tony Benn, who wrote of the newspaper in 2008: “The Guardian represents a whole batch of journalists, from moderate right to moderate left – i.e. centre journalists – who, broadly speaking, like the status quo. They like the two-party system, with no real change. They’re quite happy to live under the aegis of the Americans and NATO. They are just the Establishment. It is a society that suits them well.”

      Earlier in 2018 The Guardian faced criticism for running propagandist advertisements for the Saudi Arabian regime, and is now facing questions over an apparently false article claiming that Trump ally Paul Manafort had visited Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The story was quickly debunked, and the paper is now refusing to answer questions as to how they came to publish such claims without evidence. No other media outlet corroborated the report.

    • The Heresy of White Christianity

      There are, as Cornel West has pointed out, only two African-Americans who rose from dirt-poor poverty to the highest levels of American intellectual life—the writer Richard Wright and the radical theologian James H. Cone.

      Cone, who died in April, grew up in segregated Bearden, Ark., the impoverished son of a woodcutter who had only a sixth-grade education. With an almost superhuman will, Cone clawed his way up from the Arkansas cotton fields to implode theological studies in the United States with his withering critique of the white supremacy and racism inherent within the white, liberal Christian church. His brilliance—he was a Greek scholar and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Swiss theologian Karl Barth—enabled him to “turn the white man’s theology against him and make it speak for the liberation of black people.” God’s revelation in America, he understood, “was found among poor black people.” Privileged white Christianity and its theology were “heresy.” He was, until the end of his life, possessed by what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called “sublime madness.” His insights, he writes, “came to me as if revealed by the spirits of my ancestors long dead but now coming alive to haunt and torment the descendants of the whites who had killed them.”

      “When it became clear to me that Jesus was not biologically white and that white scholars actually lied by not telling people who he really was, I stopped trusting anything they said,” he writes in his posthumous memoir, “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian,” published in October.

      “White supremacy is America’s original sin and liberation is the Bible’s central message,” he writes in his book. “Any theology in America that fails to engage white supremacy and God’s liberation of black people from that evil is not Christian theology but a theology of the Antichrist.”

    • Greens: “The Stansted 15 are human rights defenders – the real criminals are the Home Office.”

      “The treatment of the Stansted 15 is unprecedented and is wrong. From the trumped up charges they faced to the verdicts handed down. The principled action the Stansted 15 took exposed the brutality of these secretive charter flights, and a number of people set to be removed from the UK on that plane have been able to stay in the UK safely as a result of their principled actions. The Stansted 15 are human rights defenders – the real criminals are the Home Office.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • AT&T Finds Yet Another Way To Nickel-And-Dime Its Broadband, TV Customers

      You’ll recall AT&T just got done jacking up streaming TV prices on the heels of its massive merger with Time Warner, just like deal critics had warned. AT&T then quickly doubled an already bogus “administrative fee” on the company’s wireless customers, alone netting AT&T an additional estimated $800 million per year. AT&T’s now hinting it will raise streaming prices even higher (AT&T’s version of competition). This is of course on top of existing TV and broadband rate hikes, usage caps, hidden fees, and other soaring consumer costs.

      Most of this is occurring for two reasons. One, AT&T’s desperately trying to bounce back from the utterly massive debt load it incurred from the one-two punch of the DirecTV and Time Warner mergers. As is usually the case, the one paying for our mindless merger mania is usually… you. Two, because AT&T and other telecom and media giants have been on a tear effectively neutering all federal oversight of their efforts, there’s nobody really in power interested in doing much about it. The above example makes it pretty clear why AT&T and Ajit Pai have also tried to neuter state consumer protection authority.

    • Dark Days are Waiting the Open Internet

      There’s no argument that the Internet is one of the backbones of the modern world today. Yet, it seems that we are heading toward the end of the open Internet on the long run; An Internet that respects the user privacy & security, and protects him both from censorship and tracking seems to be long gone. The future is yet to become darker with corporations gaining more power.

      If you are someone interested in online privacy and security, then you need to understand all these dynamics together, as many independent forces each doing their best to serve their own interests rather than a linear set of factors happening at specific points in time. Just like you try to understand history as social, economic, political, religious and scientific factors, you should try to understand how the dynamics are working today to sum in total to destroy the open Internet.

      There’s no secret Illuminati-supported foundation to destroy the Internet, it’s just the combination of governments, spy agencies, and giant corporations putting their hands on it each by its own. We are going to see why this is the case.

  • DRM

    • [Old] Apple can delete purchased movies from your library without telling you

      “You may be able to redownload previously acquired Content (‘Redownload’) to your devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID (‘Associated Devices’),” says the TOS, but also, “Content may not be available for Redownload if that Content is no longer offered on our Services.” For reasons that are easy to guess, Apple has never widely advertised that, by deleting locally stored content, users are actually rolling the dice as to whether they will ever be able to get it back.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Germany: Synchronmotor, Federal Court of Justice of Germany, X ZR 51/06, 29 May 2018

      The FCJ confirmed that inventive step is to be acknowledged if the feature(s) distinguishing the claimed invention from the starting point for the assessment of inventive step are not directly and unambiguously derivable or at least rendered obvious by the prior art.

    • Trump and China: Going with Patent Holders Against Workers

      While most of us don’t have access to the inner workings of the Trump administration to know exactly what is going on with its negotiations with China, given the public accounts and statements, it seems workers have clearly lost. Trump seems to have made the concerns of companies like Boeing, who want more help maintaining their control over technology, his top priority. The impact of an under-valued Chinese currency, which has led to a large U.S. trade deficit, seems to have been dropped from discussion.

      The disappearance of currency “manipulation” from the discussion is more than a bit ironic, since Trump made this a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. He ran around the country complaining that China was a world class currency manipulator. He pledged that he would declare China a currency manipulator on Day One of his administration and apply corresponding trade sanctions.

      We’re getting close to Day 700 and there is still no declaration on China’s currency practices. Furthermore, the topic has been virtually dropped from public discussions.

    • Trade: It’s Still About Class, Not Country

      While Donald Trump keeps taking wild shots in his trade wars with China and other countries, the media have been cheering him on in at least one aspect of his campaign. All the elite types agree that “we” have an interest in clamping down on China’s alleged theft of our intellectual property. While some “we” might share that interest, most of the country does not.

      Just to be clear on the agenda here, the alleged theft takes three forms. The first is what passes for actual theft. It is when a Chinese company, possibly with help from the Chinese government, literally takes technology from a US company. This can happen, for example, if they infiltrate its internal computer system.

      While this is undeniably a bad practice, it is not unique to Chinese companies. In fact, many US companies also engage in such practices. Uber famously agreed to pay Waymo $245 million for stealing some of its software for self-driving cars. It would be hard to know if China’s companies are more guilty in this area than anyone else, but we can agree it is a bad practice that should be stopped.

    • Trademarks

      • Whole visible surface or predominant colour? Cadbury’s plays spot the series mark

        Frustratingly for Cadbury’s the issue arises because Cadbury’s followed guidance from the registrar in 1997 and amended their 1995 mark from a description which read “the mark consists of the colour purple” to the above longer form and more confusing wording. This change was made at the express suggestion of the registrar (Cadbury’s application had been to amend the description to “the mark consists of the colour purple as shown applied to the packaging or labelling of goods covered by the registration”.

        The reason for this application to change the mark was the impact of the decision in Société des Produits Nestlé SA v Cadbury UK Limited [2013] EWCA Civ 1174 (“Cadbury 1″) – see the IPKat post here. This case considered whether the description together with the mark defined a sign within the meaning of section 1(1) TMA (it did not). As a result of the Court of Appeal decision, Cadbury’s had to revisit its earlier 1995 mark which had the same description and consequently was vulnerable to an invalidity attack. A small ray of hope was glimpsed in the Court of Appeal’s analysis and it concluded that it might be possible to remove the “predominant colour” wording from the description, and leave only the “whole surface” wording. If this had been possible, it might have been possible to overcome the Cadbury 1 objection.

    • Copyrights

      • Bizarre Blocking Order Targets ‘Pirate’ Domains Before They’re Registered

        Last week an Indian court issued one of the broadest site-blocking injunctions to date. To prevent the film “2.0″ from being pirated by the masses, the Madras High Court ordered local ISPs to preemptively block 12,564 domain names. TorrentFreak can now reveal that this order only targets 16 websites and that most of the listed domains are not even registered.

      • Huge Torrent Tracker Calls it Quits After 12 Years, Citing Article 13

        Leechers Paradise, one of the world’s longest-standing and most important BitTorrent trackers, has shut down for good. Launched 12 years ago, the site was recently coordinating the transfers of 132 million peers but now, with the EU’s Article 13 legislation looming, its operator says its time to close before the platform is rendered illegal.

      • Take-Two Sues GTA Online Cheat Maker, Demands $150,000 Compensation

        Rockstar Games and its parent company Take-Two Interactive have been targeting GTA Online cheat makers for a while now. After an intense legal battle with the creator of the OpenIV modding tool last year, the GTA V developers have set their sights on the person behind the GTA Online cheat tool called “Elusive”. As reported by TorrentFreak, Take-Two has sued the alleged creator of Elusive on the basis of copyright infringement, and requests $150,000 in damages.

        The past two years have seen a surge in the amount of copyright infringement lawsuits from large companies, like Nintendo and Take-Two. Jhonny Perez, the creator of the ‘Elusive’, was sued earlier this year in August for developing and distributing the GTA Online cheating software.

      • GTA V’s Take-Two Wants $150,000 in Damages From Cheat Maker

        Rockstar Games’ parent company Take-Two Interactive has filed a motion for default judgment against the alleged creator of the “Elusive” GTA V cheat. The company estimates that the cheat has caused severe harm, and requests $150,000 compensation, the maximum statutory damages for copyright infringement.

US Courts Make the United States’ Patent System Sane Again

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 3:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“The only patent that is valid is one which this Court has not been able to get its hands on.”

Supreme Court Justice Jackson

Summary: 35 U.S.C. § 101 (Section 101), the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and other factors are making the patent system in the US a lot more sane

THE U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the courts aren’t the best of friends these days. The courts often disagree with the decisions of the Office. The higher courts also increasingly resist/anatagonise Office-friendly and trolls-friendly litigation venues. Consider TC Heartland and its application by lower courts.

“Seven Networks LLC on Friday urged the Federal Circuit not to reconsider a ruling that allowed a patent lawsuit it brought against Google LLC to remain” (in Texas), Matthew Bultman (Law360) wrote. Also from Bultman and colleagues we have this: “Verizon subsidiary Oath Holdings Inc. can defend a patent suit over advertisement technology in Delaware, a New York federal judge has ruled, following the Federal Circuit’s decision that the judge failed…”

“The higher courts also increasingly resist/anatagonise Office-friendly and trolls-friendly litigation venues.”Lawyers are trying to find creative new ways to pick courts/judges in patent cases. It’s not working for them. Well done, US courts and judges. When it comes to tackling the Cult of Patents at least. When I say “Cult of Patents” I don’t mean to suggest all patents are inherently evil. The same goes for religion. It’s when people take it to the extreme that the whole broth spoils and the system looks like rubbish. Here is more on this from Watchtroll and from Law360: “A Texas federal court has jurisdiction to hear whether several banks infringe a licensing company’s patents covering electronic banking procedures because the company sent demand letters to the institutions…”

There’s nothing such parasites won’t do to drag victims to patent courts that advertise their bias.

“It’s when people take it to the extreme that the whole broth spoils and the system looks like rubbish.”It has meanwhile been pointed out, e.g. in a couple tweets [1, 2] spotted by Florian Müller, that Makan Delrahim (former lobbyist, consistent with a pattern of corrupt officials) may be having yet more problems [1, 2].

“William Barr,” one said, “who may become the next attorney general, had a serious dispute with Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s top antitrust lawyer, implicitly accusing him and his deputy of lying about a meeting on the AT&T-Time Warner Merger https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/07/trumps-likely-pick-attorney-general-said-justice-departments-antitrust-chief-gave-inaccurate-account-meeting-with-time-warner/?utm_term=.964435282f54 …”

“Makan Delrahim just backed the Antitrust Division out of the 2013 agreement with the PTO on FRAND remedies,” said the other tweet, “apparently it now takes the position that you can get an injunction even if you’ve committed not to.”

The CCIA’s Josh Landau has meanwhile written a blog post about it. To quote:

This alone threatens to reduce U.S. competitiveness in standardized technologies. But Delrahim goes further, claiming that competitors will be subjected to new antitrust scrutiny for making reasonable commercial decisions about which standard-setting organizations (SSOs) to participate in.

For example, Delrahim threatens to sue companies that choose to avoid SSOs that are too favorable to patent holders. Participation in a standard-setting organization is voluntary.1 Stating that “competitors would come under scrutiny if they orchestrated a group boycott of an SSO with a patent policy that is unfavorable to their commercial interests,” Delrahim appears to suggest that DoJ will use its authority to investigate companies who don’t want to participate in standards that have unfavorable commercial terms and organize competing standards with better terms.

Separately, Landau wrote: “My sympathy for journalists grows in direct proportion to the number of Friday night emails I receive calling me “enemy of the people” for having the gall to post a summary of a paper showing evidence that NPEs don’t promote innovation.”

“There’s nothing such parasites won’t do to drag victims to patent courts that advertise their bias.”I received death wishes for criticising patent trolls. These people bully companies for a living, so why not bully their critics as well?

Landau (in his capacity as CCIA staff) cites the recent work of Colleen Chien and Jiun-Ying Wu on 35 U.S.C. § 101 and says “Increase In § 101 Rejections Due Almost Entirely To Rejected Business Methods” (there are other aspects we covered here, such as fewer people even bothering to sue with weak patents). To quote Landau:

Prof. Colleen Chien, along with her student Jiun-Ying Wu, recently published an analysis of the impact of § 101 on patent prosecution. While their analysis clarifies which art units are impacted by § 101 decisions like Alice and Mayo, the published article doesn’t clearly answer the question of how each art unit contributes to the overall impact on prosecution from § 101. Fortunately, thanks to Prof. Chien and Wu’s decision to publish the code used to derive their data from the Google Patents public dataset for BigQuery, it’s easy to answer that question.

And the answer isn’t surprising. Essentially the entire increase in rejections from § 101 is driven by increased rejections of business method patents.

Another group that combats patent maximalism is Unified Patents, whose CEO was recently interviewed. Watchtroll really, really does not like Unified Patents. This should mean that patent trolls hate Unified Patents. This means Unified Patents is technology’s friend. Here is what Watchtroll wrote 6 days ago: “On Tuesday, November 27th, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a redacted version of a decision to institute an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding petitioned by Unified Patents to challenge the validity of patent claims that have been asserted in district court against at least one of Unified’s subscribing members. The PTAB panel of administrative patent judges (APJs) decided to institute the IPR despite the patent owners’ assertion that the petition should be denied because Unified didn’t identify all real parties in interest (RPIs) including members of Unified’s Content Zone.”

“Unified Patents does a valuable service, whose net effect is removal of bogus patents, using Sections 101-103 typically.”Yes, there’s no reason why Unified Patents, which lowers the costs of IPRs by sort of crowdfunding them, can be seen as ineligible a petitioner. PTAB agrees. Unified Patents does a valuable service, whose net effect is removal of bogus patents, using Sections 101-103 typically. Prior art, for example, has just been found for U.S. Patent 7,050,043. Bad news for this patent troll as the panel will tackle Proximity Sensors with an inter partes review (IPR):

Unified is pleased to announce the PATROLL crowdsourcing contest winner, Hanhwe Kim, who received a cash prize of $1000 for his prior art submission for U.S. Patent 7,050,043, owned by Proximity Sensors of Texas, LLC, a well-known NPE. The ’043 patent, directed toward a proximity sensor, has been asserted against several companies in district court litigation. To help the industry fight bad patents, we have published the winning prior art below.

We would also like to thank the dozens of other high-quality submissions that were made on this patent. The ongoing contests are open to anyone, and include tens of thousands of dollars in rewards available for helping the industry to challenge NPE patents of questionable validity by finding and submitting prior art in the contests. Visit PATROLL today to learn more about how to participate.

And another patent troll, this time E-Credit Express, was mentioned by Unified Patents on the same day. Prior art found again:

Unified is pleased to announce the PATROLL crowdsourcing contest winner, Hanhwe Kim, who received a cash prize of $1,500 for his prior art submission for U.S. Patent 8,909,551, owned by E-Credit Express, LLC, an NPE. The ’551 patent, directed toward an electronic credit and loan processing method, has been asserted against several companies in district court litigation. To help the industry fight bad patents, we have published the winning prior art below.

We would also like to thank the dozens of other high-quality submissions that were made on this patent. The ongoing contests are open to anyone, and include tens of thousands of dollars in rewards available for helping the industry to challenge NPE patents of questionable validity by finding and submitting prior art in the contests. Visit PATROLL today to learn more about how to participate.

People can now win $1000 by helping an interception of the patent weaponised by Kojicast, another patent troll. As Unified Patents put it the following day:

On December 7, 2018, Unified added a $1,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for US Patent No. 9749380 owned and asserted by Kojicast, LLC (an NPE). The ’380 patent, generally related to a media streaming method and system, has been asserted against Dailymotion S.A. in the Texas Eastern District Court.

A lot of these are software patents, which could probably also be tackled by Section 101. The legal angle depends on the petitioner’s attorney.

“People can now win $1000 by helping an interception of the patent weaponised by Kojicast, another patent troll.”And speaking of software patents, TechDirt now compares them to pot patents with plenty of prior art.

“This is actually quite reminiscent of the mess that came with software patents,” Benjamin Henrion wrote, citing “What Do Pot And Software Have In Common? Stupid Patent Thickets Based On A Lack Of Patented Prior Art” (originally published in TechDirt and soon thereafter reposted by Above The Law). It’s about the time the Federal Circuit (CAFC) opened the door to software patents (before today’s 35 U.S.C. § 101):

Basically, there hasn’t been that much official prior art because pot was considered illegal for so many years, and no one was rushing to patent anything. And, of course, patent examiners are somewhat limited in what they’re set up to research regarding prior art, and they often rely on earlier patents and scientific articles as the basis for prior art searches. And, with pot, there aren’t so many of those.

Of course, this is actually quite reminiscent of the mess that came with software patents. For a long time, most people didn’t consider most software to be patentable (this is not entirely accurate, as there are software patents going back many decades, but many people considered it limited to a few special cases of software). However, in 1998, we got the State St. Bank case, in which the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit basically threw open the doors on patenting almost any software. And those doors remained completely wide open until the Alice v. CLS Bank decision in 2014 (which hasn’t totally cleaned up the mess of the State Street ruling, but has certainly helped dial back the insanity).

But, for nearly two decades after the State Street ruling, the US Patent Office was patenting software willy nilly — often despite much of it having tons of prior art or being completely obvious. A big part of the problem was that examiners, again, focused on mainly looking at earlier patents and scientific journals for evidence of prior art. But because so many people didn’t think that most software was patentable, there were very few patents to look at, and it’s pretty rare for anyone to write up the details of software in scientific journals (they just make the damn software).

Days ago there was this report titled “Higher Law: Bay State Marijuana Shops Open | Tracking Pot Patent Cases | Plus: Who Got the Work” (litigation work).

“The patent system may be out of control, but there’s still hope that PTAB and the courts above it will correct things.”Welcome the parasites of pot. Who will benefit from people getting high? Yes, the lawyers (they wanted patents everything, making themselves ‘necessary’).

The patent system may be out of control, but there’s still hope that PTAB and the courts above it will correct things. What about European courts?

Yesterday we said there should be no patents on plants (like pot) and people now point out that “On 7 December 2018, the EPO posted a report on its website relating to the decision” (to allow patents on plants at the EPO, even in defiance of the EPC). The next comment speaks of the UPC (which is likely dead): “You seem to forget that the EPC has 38 member states and the EU presently 28 and soon only 27. You might thus have a long time to wait until the EU takes control of the EPO on the pretext of harmony. If the EU could have taken over the EPO, we would not have to do with the UPC, but EPLA would probably be in place now. However, Opinion C 1/09 came in between. I do not think that even the children of my grandchildren will see the EU take the control of the EPO!”

Given the direction the EPO has taken, it might not even survive much longer. Patent maximalism can doom offices (presumption of validity gone).

Today’s USPTO Grants a Lot of Fake Patents, Software Patents That Courts Would Invalidate

Posted in America, Patents at 1:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Trump and Iancu

Summary: The 35 U.S.C. § 101 effect is very much real; patents on abstract/nonphysical ideas get invalidated en masse (in courts/PTAB) and Director Andrei Iancu refuses to pay attention as if he’s above the law and court rulings don’t apply to him

THE current state of 35 U.S.C. § 101 is encouraging and as we noted a couple of hours ago, 35 U.S.C. § 101 isn’t going to be revisited by SCOTUS.

On Sunday we wrote about the European Patent Office‘s obsession with “AI”. We have since then seen similar examples about patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, e.g. “AI-driven” here and “AI-driven network security” here (“BluVector Awarded Additional Patent for Machine Learning in Cybersecurity”). Those tricks are fast becoming rather common, even worryingly so. Those are very obviously bunk, bogus, fake, abstract software patents. Why is the Office still granting these, knowing courts would trash them? Here’s an example of a new patent on video processing and another of an Irish firm that went to the US to patent software on a very trivial ‘idea’ [1, 2]. Based on all these press releases and articles, quality control is lacking. Everything there sounds like bogus software patents that are going to be invalidated based on 35 U.S.C. § 101 in any court (if they reach that far) and should never have been granted in the first place. Here’s an example from exactly one week ago. “The virtual reel of modern machines goes back to a 1984 patent obtained by Norwegian mathematician Inge Telnaes, which brought the industry into the modern age and helped turn it into a “gold mine,” CDC says.

“Based on all these press releases and articles, quality control is lacking.”One thing we alluded to a few hours ago, albeit we prefer not to dwell on it, is the fact that Watchtroll himself (Quinn) is stepping down/out as chief editor at the end of this month (2 decades of patent maximalism must have led to frustration, seeing how things are going). His latest article it titled “Why do you want a Patent?” but it might as well say “Why do you STILL want a Patent?”

Looking at other sites of patent maximalists, they’re doing new ads for the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), a fairly radical organisation that lobbies aggressively for software patents. This same site also advertises USPTO events (example from yesterday) like this “USPTO Patent Quality Chat Webinar Series” (another example from yesterday). The Office does not understand quality, however, it just strives for revenue. To be fair, the EPO under António Campinos also abandoned quality; it’s granting software patents in Europe even if/when courts reject these. They just use or misuse buzzwords.

“Fintech is one of those fast-paced industries,” says this new article. “Currently, there are over 1200 FinTech businesses in Singapore, according to IPOS.”

“What will happen to the Office under Iancu if so many US patents continue to be rejected by courts? People will lose confidence in US patents, the presumption of validity will be lost.”And this is how they justify “IPOS grant[ing] first ever accelerated financial technology patent” (this is the headline); it’s about using the “Fintech” buzzword to get software patents in Singapore. “The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has granted the first accelerated patent under its financial technology fast-track initiative,” it says. They not only grant abstract patents; they even fast-track these.

We have meanwhile noticed Kate Gaudry and Samuel Hayim writing about 35 U.S.C. § 101/Alice rejections at the USPTO. “A concise set of statutes dictate the characteristics that a patent application must have to be allowed to grant as a patent,” they argue. But a grant is not enough; what would actual courts say? We worry that the arrival of Iancu signaled to many examiners that it’s OK to wave away 35 U.S.C. § 101 and pretty much ignore Alice. Just watch these latest roundups of newly-granted patents in the press [1, 2, 3]. I’ve looked through these very quickly and some of these new patents are absolutely absurd. Some are obviously bogus (legally speaking. e.g. Section 101 would bin them). What will happen to the Office under Iancu if so many US patents continue to be rejected by courts? People will lose confidence in US patents, the presumption of validity will be lost.

“A CEO of a company left after they had sued a rival using software patents.”We couldn’t help but notice this report from exactly one week ago. A CEO of a company left after they had sued a rival using software patents. To quote: “The announcement of Pittman as the company’s new CEO comes less than two months after Matterport confirmed to Inman it’s suing GeoCV, a rival 3D tour company, for patent infringement.”

This is neat software, no doubt, but all the patents on it should be voided as they’re bogus software patents on computer vision and visualisation (algorithms/maths). Suing with such patents in 2018 would almost assure loss of the patents, assuming the accused can afford the court battle. What misguided or dishonest law firm prodded for this?

A Month After Microsoft Claimed Patent ‘Truce’ Its Patent Trolls Keep Attacking Microsoft’s Rivals

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 12:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A bird

Summary: Microsoft’s legal department relies on its vultures (to whom it passes money and patents) to sue its rivals; but other than that, Microsoft is a wonderful company!

THE company that spent decades committing crimes and is currently under investigation in the US for “bribery and corruption” nowadays “loves Linux,” according to itself. But does it really love GNU/Linux? Or is it just bribing people (and organisations and publishers) to say so or at least passively accept those who claim so?

About a month ago the Open Invention Network helped spread the "Microsoft loves Linux" lie; days ago it also added another member (“Printing Industry Leader Heidelberg Joins the OIN Community in Support of its Digital Future”) to its pact that is absolutely worthless in the face of patent trolls and other satellite entities. It can do absolutely nothing about those. It even admits so.

We have meanwhile also noticed that the Franklin Pierce Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law brought in a person from Microsoft. He is still at Microsoft too; he’s Microsoft’s vice president and chief patent counsel, so he’s like an influencer through academia too (Microsoft does a lot of that). To quote these tidbits:

The Franklin Pierce Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law has announced that Micky Minhas, vice president and chief patent counsel for Microsoft Incorporated, will join the faculty as the Franklin Pierce Distinguished Professor of Intellectual Property Practice. In addition to teaching in both the fall and spring semesters, Minhas will provide strategic guidance on cutting-edge IP curriculum at UNH Law. Minhas will retain his position with Microsoft. For more than six years, he has managed the Microsoft patent group that is primarily responsible for outbound and inbound intellectual property licensing, patent strategy, patent acquisitions and divestitures, and managing patent preparation and prosecution of patents. He is a frequent speaker on patent and patent licensing topics worldwide.

The term “patent licensing” is a euphemism for extortion. Failing that, litigation or other forms of retaliation. This is what Microsoft champions, having done that for over a decade.

Looking at Microsoft-centric news sites (with connections to Microsoft), GeekWire is still grooming Microsoft’s patent troll Nathan Myhrvold, whom Microsoft bankrolled for well over a decade. Intellectual Ventures is being painted as some sort of chef (“Hungry for new art in Seattle? Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine Gallery is a photographic feast”). Rovi, a patent aggressor that is connected to Intellectual Ventures [1, 2, 3], meanwhile brags about taxing Samsung using video software patents. So these trolls are definitely very active. There’s also this report about ongoing lawsuits of Intellectual Ventures. “Attorneys for Intellectual Ventures LLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co. debated a claim of IV’s cybersecurity software patent before a Federal Circuit panel Thursday,” Matt Bernardini wrote.

This “cybersecurity software patent” is just a software patent and it therefore invalid, as per 35 U.S.C. § 101. Just because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted it doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.

And speaking of cybersecurity software patents, Microsoft’s patent troll Finjan (subsidised by Microsoft, partnered with Microsoft) is at it again. This truly malicious troll is filing its next lawsuit (among many) against Microsoft’s rivals in security. The latest target? Qualys. The press release is now everywhere (e.g. [1, 2, 3]. Finjan brags about it aplenty because its sole ‘product’ is lawsuits.

Microsoft claimed patent “truce” a month ago, but its patent trolls keep striking hard at Microsoft’s rivals. They’re being traded like a real company (latest financial reports disappoint despite higher trading) and the word “Sales” gets used as well as the word “Earnings”. They make a troll sound like it actually makes something. There are also new investors in nothing but these lawsuits; the troll is being propped up by BlackRock and by Seizert Capital Partners LLC. We don’t know if Microsoft is connected to these, but it’s widely known that Microsoft invested in this troll and it has already sued or blackmailed more than a dozen Microsoft rivals in this domain. Coincidence?

How about MOSAID (now known as Conversant), which Microsoft funneled tons of Nokia patents to? As expected, it then went after Microsoft’s rivals with patent lawsuits (as usual). Watchtroll wrote about the latest twist as recently as 5 days ago:

On Tuesday, November 20th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a nonprecedential decision in Google LLC v. Conversant Wireless Licensing, which vacated a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) to uphold the validity of patent claims owned by Conversant after conducting an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding petitioned by Google and LG Electronics. The Federal Circuit panel of Circuit Judges Kathleen O’Malley, Raymond Chen and Kara Stoll found that the PTAB erred in its final written decision by failing to consider the primary argument raised in the original IPR petition.

This is about the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The Microsoft-armed troll attacked Google.

CAFC is nowadays more aggressive against these trolls than PTAB; CAFC epically stops Intellectual Ventures (in cases where Intellectual Ventures also sues Microsoft’s rivals in the security space, notably Symantec).

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »

Further Recent Posts

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts