Member States Are Turning Against “Tyrannical” Chief of European Patent Office (Benoît Battistelli)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

De Morgen

Summary: Another new article translation from this week’s Dutch newspapers

Having just published a translation of this article about Dutch EPO protests, we also got another translation from Petra Kramer. It’s this Dutch article (just republished in the Belgian media).

Here is the full text:

Member states are turning against “tyrannical” chief of European Patent Office

The days of the controversial president of the European Patent Office, Benoît Battistelli, appear to be numbered. Employees have been complaining for some time that Battistelli behaves like a tyrant and a Sun King. But now for the first the Member States are against the Frenchman.

The European Patent Office (EPO) gives patents to all kinds of conceivable inventions, ranging from thermos bottle to computer chip. Rijswijk is one of the five offices, where 2,700 people work. The 38 participating countries act as principals and supervisors of the EPO.

Thus far they still supported the rule of President Battistelli who took office in 2010. He is very controversial among the staff because he deteriorated all kinds of working conditions and he took harsh reprisals against trade union representatives who express criticism. Meanwhile two union directors have been laid off at its headquarters in Munich. Two union representatives at the Rijswijk office are on sick leave after they were subjected to what they call intimidating integrity investigations. Colleagues set up a ‘bread’ fund last month to provide one of them of income, because management has suspended his salary.

According to the top of the EPO, it’s pure coincidence that the punished staff are all trade unionists. Member States up until now have let Battistelli plot his course. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, according to a letter from Jesper Kongstad, the Danish president of the Administrative Council, a sort of supervisory board in which the 38 countries participating in EPO are represented.

Kongstad asks Battistelli to examine all disciplinary measures taken against members of the union by an independent external committee. The layoffs and other sanctions should be suspended until the results of this examination are made public.

“Unfortunately we can not hold any significant conversation with the president,” Kongstad writes in his letter. Battistelli has immediately rejected the proposal and questioned the legal basis of it. “There is no legal obstacle for the council to make requests to the EPO president,” Kongstad writes however. “It is up to the president to respond positively to such requests.”

Kongstad’s flip-flopping is remarkable, because he was regarded as one of the ‘friends’ of Battistelli. Their personal connection, according to trade union Suepo, caused the festering of the conflicts within the organization.

Healthy organization

At the next meeting of the Administrative Council on March 16, delegates from the 38 participating countries will officially cast their votes on the proposal of Kongstad. Battistelli now lobbies with Member States to move them to shoot down the independent investigation. According to a letter from Battistelli, his organization “healthier than ever”.

It is not very likely that the supervisory countries will vote against the proposals of their own president Kongstad. That will leave Battistelli with two options: resign or accept to have his controversial actions examined by an independent commission. “It’s not so much the question whether Battistelli will have to resign, but how many millions he will receive as a severage package, claims lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld representing the trade union Suepo.

She booked last year’s success at the Hague Court of Appeal, which concluded that the EPO violates human rights because it hinders the work of the union. A remarkable verdict, because the EPO as an international organization enjoys legal immunity. The court ruled that human rights in this case outweigh those legal immunity. EPO nevertheless rejected the verdict and got support from the Dutch government in doing so. At present, the case is in the Supreme Court.

Endless gratitude goes out to Petra Kramer for her work on this translation.

Next Week Looks Likely to Bring Another Battistelli Crisis at the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 7:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Information from “meeting of DG1direct” (if true) serves to reinforce hopes that even Battistelli’s high-level ‘inferiors’ won’t support him under pressure

THE EPO “meltdown” matters aren’t being properly covered by the media (this will be the subject of another future post), so we try hard to keep our readers abreast of what is known/speculated/happening.

Based on this new comment (only a day old), there’s more of a mutiny — if it can be called that — against Battistelli, in spite (or because) of the pressure put on managers to pretend to support him. As this anonymous reader, who has no track record in this site, put it:

Information provided by someone who was present at yesterday’s meeting of DG1direct, i.e. the association of the examiners’ directors:

It was collectively decided at the meeting that with regard to the support letter, DG1 directors should act according to their conscience, i.e. they should not give in to pressure from higher EPO management. In practice it will mean that DG1 directors will not sign the letter (which their principal directors had instructed them to do by Monday).

If true, next week promises to be interesting. Later on it looks as though there will be a rather major strike, but if Battistelli et al step down and the dismissals of staff representatives get suspended (pending external investigation, and perhaps several more that are sorely needed), then maybe it can be prevented.

Article Translation (de Volkskrant): EPO Employees Are Tired of Tyranny and Take to the Streets

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

de Volkskrant article

Summary: A somewhat belated translation of Dutch media coverage of the EPO staff protest in Rijswijk last month

THE EPO is alienating many people in Holland. All that these people have to do is switch on the television, pick up a newspaper, or read some blogs/news sites online. Petra Kramer has thankfully offered help with translation of Dutch articles about the EPO. One of these articles is a month old, but we never got a translation of it before, so here it goes:

EPO Employees are tired of tyranny and take to the streets

Report: Employees European Patent Office to the streets

Five suicides in three years, colleagues collapse: employees of the European Patent Organisation, tired of the tyrannical leadership – “They have no compassion – take to the streets.

“Elisabeth, Ion, Malika, Laurent, Jésus.” A British employee of the European Patent Office in Rijswijk has written the names of five suspended or be it sacked colleagues on his T-shirt. With several hundred colleagues, he demonstrates in front of the Hague Peace Palace on a Thursday afternoon. “My name does not matter, it’s too dangerous to mention.”

For some time a high rising conflict has been festering between the staff and the top of the European Patent Office, the international organization with seven thousand employees which assesses the patent requests for 38 European countries. Their boss, the Frenchman Benoît Battistelli, imposed the deterioration of working conditions from his office in Munich so claims the accusation.

The specific reason for the demonstration was the dismissal of two colleagues and the demotion of a third party in Munich. One of those affected is the department chair of the Suepo union in Munich, the Dutch Elizabeth Hardon. Last week, all 1,300 employees in Munich took to the streets yesterday 900 of the 2,700 workers from Rijswijk demonstrated in the Hague embassy district.

“I want my rights back,” it says on a banner. On a T-shirt that says “I support my suspended colleague” ‘suspended’ is crossed out with pencil and replaced by” fired !!! “.

“It’s a vendetta between top management and the unions,” a protester analyses during the protest march of the French to the German embassy and back. “There are dismissed colleagues and some of their pension will be retained.” Those who are critical of or working for the federal expect reprisals. Last year we found that executives of the union are monitored by investigators of the controversial British research firm Control Risks.

The otherwise quiet embassy district is overwhelmed by whistle-blowing protestors. Many protesters wear earplugs. A German ambassador is there to receive the petition. A German worker: “Because of the the international status we do not know where to file our complaint. Should we do it at the House of Representatives? At minister Ascher? At the European Parliament? There is an external procedure for labour disputes but it takes eight years.”

The last three years there were five suicides among staff, two of them in Rijswijk. An employee took his own life on the last day of his summer vacation. Before that another employee jumped of the seventh floor. Labour inspection was not allowed to investigate.

“As an international organization we are outside the legal framework,” the British patent expert explains. “We may indeed refuse access to any inspection because we have immunity, but that does nnot mean we have to do it course.”

Among the staff in Rijswijk turmoil has grown after a critical colleague succumbed to the pressure on Friday. “He collapsed in the cafeteria and had to be transported by ambulance. But the next week he had to immediately explain himself, “says an Italian. “They have no compassion.”

Appointing volunteers

Next week, CEO Battistelli will visit the Netherlands. He wants to talk with a delegation of the staff, so say several protesters, but no one dares. “Now his department is appointing volunteers,” sneers a Spaniard. “Call it anything but voluntary.”

The German worker, who works in Rijswijk for years, pointing to him: ‘Surely three-quarters of these people have a doctorate, but we are afraid to go on the street. That’s ridiculous. It’s like North Korea. ”

After a half an hour the buses return to the office in Rijswijk. Hundreds of colleagues who did not dare to demonstrate are waiting for them. “There is a lot of fatalism. Many colleagues say that we have already lost the battle, “says a Frenchman. “They are afraid to put their head on the chopping block.”

Petra Kramer‘s note on the above, due to the stubborn paywall, was this: “Human corrected machine translation of http://www.volkskrant.nl/binnenland/medewerkers-europese-octrooi-organisatie-zijn-tirannie-beu-en-gaan-de-straat-op~a4234211/ Paywalled, but if you don’t have any cookies from that site it should be accessible for free.”

Censorship in Land of So-called ‘Social Dialogue’: EPO is Still Blocking Techrights Web Site, But There Are Exceptions/Loopholes

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO’s management is trying to eliminate ideas, but it arguably legitimises them instead

Chile, 1973. Burning Marxist literature.

Summary: The latest news regarding acts of censorship against Techrights, which the EPO’s high-level managers view as more dangerous than any other site on the Web (even pornography/nudity)

THE EPO is apparently so afraid of my typing on a keyboard that it not only blocked my site but also sent me several threatening letters. Is this site so Not Safe For Work (NSFW)? Knowing how many people the EPO threatens (even people outside the EPO, including spouses and human rights lawyers), it oughtn’t be so shocking anymore.

“Random Dutch people in Twitter — people who are fed up with the EPO (even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with the EPO) — have decided to help our cause.”“Just saw your tweet about EPO traffic to techrights.org,” wrote to us one reader. “Last time I was at the EPO in The Hague,” this reader added, “techrights.org was accessible from the PCs in the patent attorney offices, so if there is a block, it doesn’t apply to the whole EPO network.”

This reader should remember that he or she may still be spied on, even as a guest at the EPO. 2 months ago I complained to the EPO’s network administrators (several of them) that some IP addresses of theirs were flooding techrights.org. Well, they never replied, but these floods apparently stopped. Did they switch off or just reconfigure their censorship equipment? We now know which appliance they use for filtering and one day we may publicly share some truly explosive details about it. Maybe after Battistelli and his clique are out…

Earlier today SUEPO linked a couple of times to techrights.org (apparently not so afraid of Battistelli with threats intended to sanitise SUEPO's homepage anymore) and said: “Regarding the matter of this article, Mr Battistelli has apparently started a misinformation campaign. We will react as soon as possible but for now we can confirm the judgment of Techrights (not accessible within the EPO), Repurposed Misinformation Campaign: The EPO’s PR Team is Lying to The Register in Order to Help Battistelli Save Face”, 25 February 2016). [...] A first translation in English is available on techrights.org (i.e. not accessible within the EPO).”

We have many more translations coming. Random Dutch people in Twitter — people who are fed up with the EPO (even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with the EPO) — have decided to help our cause. Because of Battistelli — far more so than anyone before him — the EPO became not just a source of great shame to Europe but also the subject of much hate.

Even Battistelli-Funded Media Admits That Battistelli is in Deep Trouble Right Now

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: It looks highly probable and increasingly like a certainty that Battistelli will soon leave the Office, leaving the EPO some leeway to recuperate after his historic (in a bad sense) term

TECHRIGHTS is optimistic about the EPO, which is probably about to change for the better because the President (Battistelli) lives on borrowed time. Next week we’ll start debating succession.

Earlier today we found rather interesting a bunch of tweets from EPO-funded media, which rather than repeat the latest lie from the EPO’s PR bunnies actually acknowledges that Battistelli is deep — very deep — in trouble. When even an EPO-funded Web site admits there’s a serious problem (the PR department is still denying it as it’s paid to do this) one has to acknowledge that the situation is looking very grim. To quote IAM: “If Benoit Battistelli really is in conflict with the EPO Administrative Council, as now rumoured, that is not a sustainable situation.”

“When even an EPO-funded Web site admits there’s a serious problem (the PR department is still denying it as it’s paid to do this) one has to acknowledge that the situation is looking very grim.”There is no point denying it anymore (the conflict). The authenticity of the documents and accuracy of the information have already been verified.

“It is hard to see Battistelli agreeing to back down,” IAM added, “he is much more likely to walk away.” He reportedly threatened to do it last year, but new reports suggest it’s down to money right now. We urgently require a translation of this new article (in Dutch) titled “Franse despoot wil 18 miljoen bij vertrek”. FTI Consulting has clearly failed Team Battistelli. It didn’t manage to salvage the EPO’s reputation, meaning that Battistelli already flushed close to $1,000,000 (dark budget/PR money) down the toilet. Does he want over 20 million dollars now? After all the damage he has done? We now know Battistelli’s salary and may reveal it at a later date (it’s not so urgent a topic). Battistelli — reportedly — basically wants 30-40 years of presidential salary. Not so bad a ‘welfare’ plan for a man who is already approaching age 70…

IAM then brought up some Battistelli talking point, stating that “Battistelli will believe – with some justification – he has done what the Admin Council wanted him to do: increase production & revenue.”

“Battistelli — reportedly — basically wants 30-40 years of presidential salary. Not so bad a ‘welfare’ plan for a man who is already approaching age 70…”Over in the US, based on this new chart of “Patent Grants 2016″ (nice work from Patently-O by the way), patent numbers (and thus revenue, which is proportional) nearly doubled because of declining quality, which is indicative of a problem; it’s not a yardstick of success (does not take externalities into account).

Bragging about growth in the number of granted patents — as Battistelli often does (remember the “Meet the President” charade earlier this month) — is misleading at best and a lot of it is based on a lie, too. They’re cooking the books. They are extremely craftful with statistics and they hope to successfully mislead the media, as they so often do already, exploiting gullibility of non-technical journalists with a university degree in a language.

“To clarify again, we do support the EPO in principle (there is no intention to destroy the EPO), but the EPO needs to go back to the EPC.”Earlier today I joked that Battistelli should soon apply for a job at SIPO (China), where there is almost zero quality control and almost zero human rights (it’s probably negative, i.e. lower than zero, at the EPO right now).

To clarify again, we do support the EPO in principle (there is no intention to destroy the EPO), but the EPO needs to go back to the EPC. Watch how the EPO is trying to ‘massage’ the “Guidelines for Examination” in various events, some of which were announced or re-announced even hours ago. The EPO asks: “What’s the impact of the amendments in the new Guidelines for Examination? Discuss with experts in Oslo on 7 April…”

What are the changes/amendments based on? Definitely not the EPC, which definitely and unambiguously forbade software patents (be these “as such” or not).

Asked for a comment on the EPO’s latest teaser ahead of upcoming propaganda (bogus patent numbers to be shared next week), a reader told us: “OK, it’s only that stupid applicant hit parade PR exercise again. They’ve been doing this for a few years, I can’t say when it began (before or after Battistelli), but Battistelli already ran a similar show when he was at the French patent office. I thought it could be something else, I should really learn not to overestimate them.”

Going back to IAM, in its Twitter account it said: “It is clear, though, that recent headlines over union official dismissals and the Enlarged Board of Appeal have spooked some on the AC.”

“What it all means,” IAM added, “is that something has now got to give at the EPO. When that happens, it will not be pretty.”

“Battistelli cannot tolerate transparency (he can only write/author blog posts titled “transparency”) because transparency would reveal gross abuses like keyloggers, hidden cameras (targeting guests who come to the EPO), and worse — all sorts of serious criminal charges in Croatia.”IAM then said that the “EPO is in crisis this evening. Its governance structure is clearly not fit for purpose. It is time for full transparency.” As I explained to IAM, not (lack of) “transparency” is the problem. It’s what the secrecy has served to hide… so far. Battistelli cannot tolerate transparency (he can only write/author blog posts titled “transparency”) because transparency would reveal gross abuses like keyloggers, hidden cameras (targeting guests who come to the EPO), and worse — all sorts of serious criminal charges in Croatia.

The bottom line is this: when even people whom Battistelli pays recognise that he might be leaving it really means something.

A final (second) reminder: We urgently need a translation of the article “Franse despoot wil 18 miljoen bij vertrek” (link above) as it seemingly serves to further confirm that Battistelli will be out soon (and that it’s just matter of money now). When choosing to prepare a translation please state the intent to us so that we can ensure there’s no duplication of effort (two or more people working on a translation at the same time). Someone is already working on a translation of “Problemas de gobernanza en organizaciones internacionales: la EPO” and today we received 3 translations of 3 articles in Dutch, so stay tuned for more…

New Evidence Emerges, Showing That Unitary Patent (UPC) is Indeed an SME Killer That Negatively Affects Europe for Patent Lawyers’ Sake

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Trojan horse

Summary: A newly-released PDF sheds light on the grave injustice planned for the Unitary Patent Court, Europe’s secretive and highly damaging new system, whose architects are mostly patent lawyers and other patent profiteers that serve large international corporations

More evidence, ironically from the UPC’s biggest boosters, starts to surface, unveiling the truth or the ugly face of the EPO’s ‘baby’, the UPC (the EPO spends a lot of money promoting this). There is a very dark side to the UPC in Germany, where patent lawyers even interfere with the legal system in an effort to wheel in the UPC Trojan horse [1, 2]. This is a coup d’état which European citizens are unaware of.

According to this new comment on a new IP Kat article, the Battistelli-led EPO is so eager to ‘improve’ numbers that it grants bogus patents, not just extending/expanding the scope/boundaries of patents (UPC would probably usher in software patents, as high-profile people repeatedly warn). As the commenter put it, “I see the corresponding EP patent has just been granted after the examiner raised an objection relating to the priority claim and cited a PhD thesis. The priority filing looks questionable as to whether it discloses the “same invention” as per EPO-speak. The inevitable opposition should be interesting.”

“11K for a declaration of non-infringement seems a bit prohibitive. Hardly encouraging/enabling a ‘clear-the-way’ attitude.”
Commenting on this new article from UPC booster Annsley Merelle Ward (also IP Kat, not just pro-UPC propaganda sites), one person says “11K for a declaration of non-infringement seems a bit prohibitive. Hardly encouraging/enabling a ‘clear-the-way’ attitude. Good for patentees when infringers are small fry.”

The UPC, as it stands at the moment, has one major barrier. It’s not countries that won’t sign it (Spain, UK in case of Brexit etc.) but an actual democratic debate (the UPC is antidemocratic). Right now this whole process is taking place behind closed doors. It’s like some kind of secret trade deal. Courts are being set up in London before there is even a British referendum, in order to make the exit barrier (exiting UPC) incredibly high.

“UPC action to revoke a patent will cost 20.000 EUR. Infringement actions at least 11.000 EUR. Lawyers not included!”
      –Kristof Neefs
The UPC is — by most indications (in spite of the international secrecy) — indeed what we warned about all along. It would be an SME killer if it ever became a reality. As another person (Kristof Neefs, who says he is an IP, media and technology lawyer) put it: “UPC action to revoke a patent will cost 20.000 EUR. Infringement actions at least 11.000 EUR. Lawyers not included!”

Why would you need to revoke a patent? See the second paragraph above. The Battistelli-led EPO is a joke when it comes to examination (often if not increasingly rushed) and Battistelli is totally clueless about it, or maybe just in denial, i.e. willfully ignorant.

Managing Intellectual Property (MIP), a proponent of the UPC (like most patent lawyers out there), pretends that the UPC is already here (but it’s not inevitable).

What needs to be done right now is dissemination of information about the UPC, which the European public (more than 95% of it) knows nothing about. Currently, the UPC is being promoted by the very same people who would benefit from it, whilst everybody else has no voice. It would be good news for patent parasites and patent lawyers (look who’s excited about it) and we know at whose expense. Everybody would be harmed. Recall our recent article titled "UPC: To Understand Who Would Benefit From It Just Look at Who’s Promoting It (Like TPP)".

“This is like Koch Industries celebrating passage of ISDS.”CIPA too is promoting the UPC right now. Remember what CIPA stands for. It’s just a big bunch of patent lawyers lobbying for their interests at the very heart of Europe, trying to tax everyone while nobody (whom they tax) is paying attention. As CIPA put it: “The #UPC Preparatory Committee confirms there will be no opt-out fee. Big vote of confidence in the new system!” The UPC boosters (like Jane Lambert in this case) only care about EU membership because of patents!

This is like Koch Industries celebrating passage of ISDS. Anything like ISDS would give such a malicious corporation the power to pollute without government interference (because interference might harm Koch Industries’ shareholders). We need to stop these people before it’s too late. The UPC is a huge danger to Europe, which is an SME-based economy.

In Apple/Samsung Patent Lawsuits Over Android/Linux, Only Patent Lawyers Are Winning (Again)

Posted in Apple, Samsung at 4:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Never-ending legal battles with billions of dollars at stake and perhaps hundreds of millions in legal bills (soon)

Cash register
It doesn’t matter who wins when one sells time and charges a lot by the hour

Summary: In Apple/Samsung patent wars (started by an increasingly jealous and nervous Apple), money flows mostly in a single direction (to neither Apple nor Samsung, only their patent lawyers) as possibility of appeal at SCOTUS is still being considered

BEFORE we continue EPO coverage we wish to get emerging news out of the way. As some people already know, Apple has just lost to Samsung. Here are some of the very earliest reports on this [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]. There will probably be hundreds more by Monday (look around here), but this in itself is enough to help people understand what’s going on. Some lawyers’ sites cover this as well, whereas a lot of people link to the original PDF published by the Court.

We don’t wish to bore readers with the technical details (these exist in the articles above), but let’s just say that it won’t be long before patent lawyers’ sites bemoan this decision as it damages faith in patents. Also expect many so-called ‘news’ sites from all over the world to just license ‘reports’ from AP and Reuters, probably quoting all sorts of patent lawyers rather than people like myself who actually develop stuff (such as software). Everybody loses (especially the so-called ‘consumers’) when engineers and programmers waste time figuring out how to ‘work around’ patents.

“The smartphone patent war: 1) obtain 10,000s garbage patents + 2) 100s of lawsuits == $ for lawyers & little else…”
      –Professor James Bessen
Professor Mark Lemley wrote that “The only patent valid and infringed is one of Samsung’s” (yes, how ironic!).

“Live by the patent sword, die by the patent sword,” Simon Phipps (OSI, Sun, Wipro etc.) wrote.

Professor James Bessen says it like it is with this tweet: “The smartphone patent war: 1) obtain 10,000s garbage patents + 2) 100s of lawsuits == $ for lawyers & little else”

“The only patent valid and infringed is one of Samsung’s…”
      –Professor Mark Lemley
Professor Mark Lemley and Professor James Bessen are reasonably noteworthy voices of reason in today’s patents lawyers-saturated corporate media. Don’t expect the mass media to cover this too well. The journalists care a lot about this case because, just as with all that FBI publicity stunt (pretending Apple fights for privacy and security), it’s about Apple. Many people are obsessed with everything ‘i’ (iPhone and so on).

Once upon a time Florian Müller supported Apple in its fight against Android, but not anymore. “Apple lost 100%,” he wrote. He also said “I guess they’ll petition for rehearing.” These comments are noteworthy because he essentially defected or switched sides not too long ago. “Apple v. Samsung (2nd Calif. case) turned out just the way I predicted in January,” he later claimed, adding: “After affirmance of Judge Posner’s Apple v. Moto claim construction, the ’647 patent should have been dropped. I said it then.”

“It adds insult to injury for Apple that the Fed. Cir. has affirmed Samsung’s symbolic win (prevailed on a counterclaim),” he noted.

“It adds insult to injury for Apple that the Fed. Cir. has affirmed Samsung’s symbolic win (prevailed on a counterclaim)…”
      –Florian Müller
Alluding to this news about Koh (some sites speak about Koh’s nomination, noting her rise to fame in the Samsung/Apple patent cases), Müller said: “The appellate track record of Apple v. Samsung gives Republicans plenty of reasons to oppose Judge Koh’s nomination to the 9th Circuit.”

Finally, said Müller: “I didn’t just interpret the appellate hearing right. Back in 2014 I made my disbelief in Apple’s 2nd case against Samsung very clear.”

A lot has changed since then, including the Alice case at SCOTUS (where the bigger Apple lawsuit might go soon). If Apple appeals, then it’s guaranteed that only patent lawyers will rejoice. Hey, somebody should tell Battistelli about this as he obvious isn't keeping track.

Links 26/2/2016: Open-O Partnership, GPL Violations in ZFS/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 4:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • Does Linux Still Need Windows Support?

      As an alternative operating system, Linux has always found ways to co-exist with Windows. However, I realized recently that I had gone four years without any installation of Windows in the house. I had to wonder: is Windows support even necessary in 2016?

    • Hands-On: Using Bluetooth on Linux

      I haven’t written about using my Bluetooth devices on Linux in quite some time. That is good, because it means that they are all just working so there is not a lot to write about. But there have been some interesting and useful developments in Bluetooth support for various Linux distributions recently, so I think it will be useful to run through a survey of Bluetooth devices and Linux distributions.

    • Review: System 76 Wild Dog Pro

      I got an order confirmation almost immediately with an estimate of 2 to 6 days to ship. Soon after that I got a note stating that the Wild Dog was running toward the latter end of that range. I figured I could just use my laptop until the new machine arrived if necessary, and I waited.

      While I was waiting, I still continued to use my old desktop. I noticed the rebooting issue happened toward the end of the day. It finally dawned on me (I’m a little thick) that it might be heat related. I crawled under the desk to find that the power supply fan wasn’t working. I ordered a new one of those to see if it would help.

  • Server

    • New platform offers endpoint protection for Linux servers

      Most of the internet is powered by Linux servers, so it’s not surprising that they’re increasingly a target for attack. In particular recent attacks have focussed on using compromised systems to distribute malware to other systems.

      Many Linux systems rely on traditional signature-based threat detection which leaves them vulnerable to zero-day attacks. Endpoint security company SentinelOne is announcing a new solution aimed at protecting enterprise data centers and cloud providers from emerging threats that target Linux servers.

    • Docker Datacenter: A New Enterprise Product for Open Source Containers

      If there was ever a question about how Docker, the open source container virtualization company, planned to generate revenue from the enterprise market, it was answered this week. The company has rolled out a new platform, Docker Datacenter, as a commercial product for on-premise or private cloud container deployment.

  • Kernel Space

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GTK+ 3.18.8 & 3.19.10 Out with RandR 1.5 Fixes, Wayland Startup Notifications

        The GTK+ development team has been quite busy this week, and they have recently published two new releases of the cross-platform and open-source GUI (Graphical User Interface) toolkit.

      • Nautilus 3.20 to Have a New Small Zoom Level

        Nautilus developers have pushed a final major update for the 3.20 branch of the application, and they are preparing for the launch of the stable version.

      • Nautilus 3.20 Beta 1 Removes the Bookmark Manager, Adds a More Robust Search

        The popular Nautilus file manager has just received its first Beta build towards the major 3.20 milestone that will be unveiled this Spring as part of the GNOME 3.20 desktop environment.

      • GNOME 3.19.91 beta tarballs due (and more)

        Hello all,

        We would like to inform you about the following:
        * GNOME 3.19.91 beta tarballs due
        * String Freeze

        Tarballs are due on 2016-02-29 before 23:59 UTC for the GNOME 3.19.91
        beta release, which will be delivered on Wednesday. Modules which were
        proposed for inclusion should try to follow the unstable schedule so
        everyone can test them. Please make sure that your tarballs will be
        uploaded before Monday 23:59 UTC: tarballs uploaded later than that
        will probably be too late to get in 3.19.91. If you are not able to
        make a tarball before this deadline or if you think you’ll be late,
        please send a mail to the release team and we’ll find someone to roll
        the tarball for you!

  • Distributions

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Miniscule i.MX7 module is also offered in SBC format

      Phytec has spun a Linux-supported, 50 x 41mm PhyCore-i.MX7 COM with -40 to 85°C support, also available as part of a sandwich-style PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta SBC.

      NXP’s low-power, Cortex-A7 based i.MX7 system-on-chip, which includes a Cortex-M4 MCU for real-time processing and motor control, appears to be heading for the same popularity as the i.MX6. Size matters with an IoT-focused chip like the i.MX, and Phytec has announced the smallest i.MX7 computer-on-module yet.

    • ARM Linux IoT gateway offers cloud services support

      Eurotech’s rugged “ReliaGate 10-11” IoT gateway runs Linux on a TI AM3352, offers numerous options, and is supported with an updated ESF 3.3 framework.

      Eurotech, which is known here mostly for its Intel Atom-based Catalyst computer-on modules, has announced a new version of its ReliaGate Internet of Things gateway. The ReliaGate 10-11 runs on a Linux stack based on Yocto Project 1.6 and Linux Kernel 3.14, and is supported by a newly updated, Java-based Everyware Software Framework (ESF) 3.3 for remote IoT device management.

    • OpenWRT router SBC mixes Cortex-A5 and FPGA

      DAB-Embedded’s wireless enabled “DAB-OWRT-SAMA5” router SBC runs OpenWrt Linux on an Atmel SAMA5D36 SoC linked to an Altera MAX 10 FPGA.

    • Phones

      • Tizen

        • Samsung’s three most innovative Tizen products gets some artistic recognition

          With an established R&D, there is no stopping from innovations from happening at firms like Samsung. The fact that three of these recent innovations from Samsung had been built on the slowly growing Tizen platform however, gives it a special amount of attention in the Tech community. The three products from Samsung we are talking about here are the Gear S2 smartwatch, SUHD TVs and the unconventional new Family Hub Smart Refrigerator. Samsung have decided to rejoice this moment by working closely with an Artist, Kim Seung-Bae in showing the world what the company means by its innovations and Samsung’s design language in its most recent Tizen based innovations.

      • Android

        • Acecard: One Of The Most Advanced Android Trojans Of Our Time
        • Turing Robotics Drops Android And Sets Up Shop In Finland Amid Global Security Concerns

          Accompanying the announcement, TRI is switching its OS from Android to Jolla’s Sailfish.

          “We can now confirm that TRI has chosen to drop Android and use Jolla’s Sailfish OS. Sailfish is now running perfectly on the Turing Phone and we have started the final OS software testing phase,” the company announced on its Facebook page.

          Surveillance and privacy concerns have become central themes among mobile users around the world, highlighted by the ongoing spat between Apple and FBI.

          Indeed, TRI’s decision to both use Jolla OS and manufacture in Finland is about the primacy of privacy. Considering Android’s intimate relationship with Google growing security concerns around mobile security, the move speaks volumes.

        • Moto 360 Sport review: The best Android Wear fitness solution so far [Video]

          Still, I would say that — from what we’ve seen so far — the Moto 360 Sport is the best fitness option so far to run Google’s watch operating system. And that brings us to the price. Amazon is currently offering the device at around $280, which is $20 less than its retail $300. That’s too much, in my opinion, for any Android Wear watch. But it’s not terrible. It’s the same price as the 2nd generation Moto 360, and right around the same price as the Huawei Watch and other 2015 offerings. At this price I would probably just hold off for a while, but even if you don’t the Moto 360 Sport is a solid watch. At the very least, it’s not worse than the regular Moto 360.

Free Software/Open Source

  • NASA Takes Open Source to Mars

    NASA software engineer Parker Abercrombie is using open source to create a virtual workspace. The benefit of this open source project is that scientists and engineers can visit Mars in a virtual reality environment. While NASA hasn’t yet sent a manned mission to Mars, the virtual environment Abercrombie has made possible using open source is the next best thing.

    The project, called OnSight, enables scientists and engineers to work on Mars using what is known as “mixed reality.” Special headsets equipped with the OnSight software download the latest 3D maps of Mars’ terrain, giving the user a first-person view of the planet, much as if they had landed in a spaceship and were exploring on the ground.

    Read more

  • Top 5 sources for open source fonts

    When selecting a font, the decision process involves more than choosing between serif and sans serif: understanding how the font is licensed matters too. Though typographers need to be concerned with their rights to modify and extend a given font, even you as an end user should be asking yourself some questions. Do you have permission to use a font in commercial work, or in a public work at all? Can you even share that font with another person?

    If you’re creating a work you wish to share, then licensing matters to you, and you should understand how open source applies to the world of fonts.

  • How to add open source experience to your resume

    In this article, I’ll share my technique for leveraging open source contributions to stand out as a great candidate for a job in the technology field.

    No goal can be accomplished without first being set. Before jumping into a new commitment or spending the evening overhauling your resume, it pays to clearly define the traits of the job you’re seeking. Your resume is a piece of persuasive writing, so you have to know your audience for it to reach its full potential. Your resume’s audience is anyone with the need for your skills and the budget to hire you. When editing, read your resume while imagining what it’s like to be in their position. Do you look like a candidate that you would hire?

  • 50 Open Source Tools Tech Companies Love

    Over the last decade or so, many technology companies have begun embracing open source. Many use open source tools to run their own IT infrastructure and websites, some offers products and services related to or built on open source tools, and some are contributing to or supporting open source projects.

  • The U.S. Copyright Office requiring proprietary software in DMCA anti-circumvention study

    In Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anti-circumvention study, the U.S. Copyright Office extends comment period and asserts that proprietary software is required for comment submission.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Introduces Surveillance Principles for a Secure, Trusted Internet

        Security is paramount to a trusted Internet. Encryption is a critical part of how that trust is made real. The recent events around Apple and the FBI set a dangerous precedent. Our position on these issues is simple: the FBI should not be able to require a technology company to create code that “undoes” years of security enhancements by creating additional vulnerabilities.

  • SaaS/Big Data

    • Hadoop, Spark, Deep Learning Mesh on Single GPU Cluster

      When it comes to leveraging existing Hadoop infrastructure to extend what is possible with large volumes of data and various applications, Yahoo is in a unique position–it has the data and just as important, it has the long history with Hadoop, MapReduce and other key tools in the open source big data stack close at hand and manned with seasoned experts.

    • Yahoo brings deep learning framework to Spark

      Yahoo has released CaffeOnSpark, which brings the fruits of two University of California, Berkeley projects together: vision-focused deep learning framework Caffe, and Big Data processing engine Apache Spark.

  • Databases

  • Pseudo-/Semi-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Facebook Pushes Open Source Wireless with Telecom Infra Project

      A new initiative by Facebook aims to speed the development of wireless networks by promoting more open source network components. The social network announced the launch of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) at Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona this week. Several hardware companies such as Nokia and Intel, as well as wireless providers like Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom have signed on to the project.

  • BSD

    • Speaking on BSD: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

      After answering various calls for presentations to a few upcoming shows, it stands to reason that Tom Petty is right: The waiting is the hardest part.

      Because I now use PC-BSD on a daily basis, the idea going forward is to pitch talks about the conversion from one side of the Free/Open Source Software street to the other; the uplifting situations and occasional hurdle such a conversion brings, and to outline the similiarities (lots) and differences (few, but relatively significant) between Linux distros and BSD variants.


  • Licensing

    • GPL Violations Related to Combining ZFS and Linux

      This post discusses an atypical GPL violation. Unlike most GPL violations Conservancy faces, in this case, a third-party entity holds a magic wand that can instantly resolve the situation. Oracle is the primary copyright holder of ZFS, and, despite nearly eight years (going back to the days of Sun’s control of the code) of the anti-license-proliferation community’s urging, Oracle continues to license their code under their own, GPL-incompatible license. While this violation has many facets, and Oracle did not themselves violate GPL in this specific case, they hold the keys to this particular kingdom and they forbid the Linux community to enter. While there are complexities that we must address, in this context, Oracle could make everyone’s life easier by waving their magic relicensing wand. Nevertheless, until they do, since GPL-incompatible licenses are the root of all GPL violations, combinations of GPL’d code with Oracle’s GPL-incompatible code yield GPL violations, such as the ongoing violation by Canonical, Ltd.

    • Canonical accused of violating GPL with ZFS-in-Ubuntu 16.04 plan

      The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) thinks Canonical, the curator of Ubuntu, has breached the Gnu Public Licence (GPL).

      As the Conservancy explains, Canonical recently announced that Ubuntu 16.04 will “make OpenZFS available on every Ubuntu system. Canonical reckons that adding OpenZFS represents “one of the most exciting new features Linux has seen in a very long time.”

    • Software Freedom Conservancy Says ZFS Ubuntu Implementation Is Not Legal

      Software Freedom Conservancy group has issued a statement saying that the recent implementation of ZFS in Ubuntu is actually a GPS violation. The truth seems to be a matter of perspective.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Access/Content

      • Why Sci-Hub is the true solution for Open Access: reply to criticism

        This article is to reply to some points made by publishers as well as some librarians who don’t like what Sci-Hub is doing to their job now.

        I will start with an article published last wekk by Ernesto Priego Signal, Not Solution: Notes on Why Sci-Hub Is Not Opening Access

        The title is misleading by itself, if not funny. Sci-Hub is not a signal: for many researchers out there in the world, Sci-Hub is the only solution available to access articles. I can support my words by providing letters I received as well as some statistics, but I will do this in future posts. The problem are paywalls, and Sci-Hub is a tool that solves this problem. A signal is when someone talks about the problem of paywalls, like many OA advocates do. What differentiates Sci-Hub from this talk, is that Sci-Hub not talking, but actually solving this problem, providing access to those researchers who need it, including myself.

    • Open Hardware

      • Matt Adereth’s open source 3D printed ergonomic Dactyl Keyboard is truly amazing

        Without being noticed, keyboards have actually become one of the most important tools in our society and economy. There’s at least one in very home, office, store and school: a keyboard is truly universal. That reliance on this clever tool has already led to the development of various forms of ergonomic keyboards: keyboards that decrease the likelihood of developing wrist or hand related injuries, such as RSI. You’ve probably seen them or even worked on one: they tend to have a curve in the middle to more naturally accommodate the wrists. However, Matt Adereth has been working on a far more original model with the help of 3D printing: the Dactyl keyboard, that actually consists of two completely separate, curved keyboard segments.

      • A Slew of Open-Source Synthesizers

        To install on an Arduino UNO, fetch the zip file from this GitHub repository, and move each subfolder to your Arduino sketch directory. You’re ready to play along.


  • Windows 10 lock screen ads begin with Rise of the Tomb Raider push

    With more than 200 million systems running Windows 10—many of them having upgraded from an earlier version for free—Microsoft has decided it’s time to monetize the lock screen.

    Over the past few days, Windows 10 users have reported having their lock screens taken over by advertisements for Rise of the Tomb Raider. Microsoft started selling the game through the Windows Store last month, in what might be the start of a much bigger push into PC gaming.

    Microsoft hasn’t hid its intentions to use the Windows 10 lock screen as a commercial billboard, having first discussed its plans during last year’s Build developers conference. Now, Microsoft appears to be making good on those promises, with How-To Geek’s Chris Stobing and at least one Reddit user having seen the Rise of the Tomb Raider ads themselves.

  • It’s Official: ‘Idiocracy’ Writer Says His Satire of a Brain-Dead America Has Become Reality

    Idiocracy has been a long-cherished sci-fi satire in cult circles, telling the tale of two people who wake up from a cryogenic sleep to find that the country has become a wasteland of anti-intellectualism.

    Now, ten years later, the co-writer of the cult comedy classic, Etan Cohen, thinks that the movie is satire no longer, marveling that his movie has gone from fiction to non-fiction. On Twitter today, Cohen used his movie to perfectly sum up our current political climate.

  • The demise of FIFA’s empire

    The FIFA empire has been slowly crumbling since last May following a string of allegations, investigations and scandals.

    The governing body’s former president Sepp Baltter was handed an eight year ban- reduced to six this week – from all football activities in December, just over a year after Michael Garcia’s initial investigation.

  • Science

    • Online Tool Serves Up Ocean Science Studies

      Updates to BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program Information System (ESPIS) tool, hosted by NOAA Digital Coast, now enable users to search, filter, map, discover, and download more than 40 years of studies and related data that can provide critical information for ocean plans and decisions.

  • Hardware

    • EU Projects Unite on Heterogeneous ARM-based Exascale Prototype

      A trio of partner projects based in Europe – Exanest, Exanode and Ecoscale – are working in close collaboration to develop the building blocks for an exascale architecture prototype that will, as they describe, put the power of ten million computers into a single supercomputer. The effort is unique in seeking to advance the ARM64 + FPGA architecture as a foundational “general-purpose” exascale platform.

    • ARM, Open Source Feed Buzz Around HPC File System

      There is but a small cadre of scalable parallel file systems and while the list might be small, weighing the relative benefits of each option against the available resources can be a challenge, as Sven Breuner and his HPC admin colleagues at the Fraunhofer Institute realized in 2004.

      They were certainly not the first or last organization to labor over the inevitable question of which of these scalable parallel file systems to choose, but they did take an interesting route. Notably, the limited choices have not changed over those years, either—nor have the list complaints about each.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • GUEST POST: The #FlintWaterCrisis didn’t just happen

      The Flint water crisis didn’t just happen. It’s been a story decades in the making.

      Cities in America have been on the downswing for many years — deliberate policy on the federal and state level has favored suburbs, and also the preferences of the Boomer generation was to go in that direction too. So, people and money has slowly (or quickly in some cases) filtered out of the cities into suburbia. Also the shift of manufacturing out of America has hit the Midwest very hard (aka the “Rust Belt”). When your city is built for a certain amount of people and then you lose big chunks of your population, it’s hard to make the math work to maintain that infrastructure.

      Anyway, that’s the story on the national level. In Michigan, too, cities and schools have been starved by a “Tea Party” mentality — before the Tea Party even existed. The state has balanced its budget every year, for decades, based on mathematical trickery and from taking funds away from local governments and schools. Proposal A shifted funding from a local level to a pool managed by the state, and that was just too much temptation not to raid. Proposal A also capped the amount of property taxes charged, which puts established cities at an advantage, and helps locations that are not yet built out — because the cap cuts deeper the longer that a house or condo stays within the same ownership.

      So, federal policies and state policies have made it harder and harder for cities to function in Michigan. Flint, especially, after having lost much of its manufacturing base and then many of its people, was struggling.

      Enter the Emergency Manager idea. These problems are systemic and have been building up for many years, and raising taxes is anathema to Republicans, so what do they do? It’s so much easier to fault local government, and come up with an end-around solution to put somebody else in charge who can “make the hard decisions”. Also you want an easy answer and term limits limit who will even be around to see the effects.

    • Google’s DeepMind AI group working with NHS to develop patient care software

      DeepMind, a London-based “neuroscience-inspired AI company” bought by Google in January 2014, has launched DeepMind Health. Its first project is a collaboration with the NHS. The company says: “We want to see the NHS thrive, and to ensure that its talented clinicians get the tools and support they need to continue providing world-class care.”

      Working with leading kidney experts at the Royal Free Hospital in London, DeepMind Health has produced a mobile phone app called “Streams.” It is designed to present “timely information that helps nurses and doctors detect cases of acute kidney injury” (AKI). DeepMind says that “AKI is a contributing factor in up to 20% of emergency hospital admissions as well as 40,000 deaths in the UK every year. Yet NHS England estimate that around 25% of cases are preventable.”

  • Security

    • The Downside of Linux Popularity

      Popularity is becoming a two-edged sword for Linux.

      The open source operating system has become a key component of the Internet’s infrastructure, and it’s also the foundation for the world’s largest mobile OS, Google’s Android.

      Widespread use of the OS, though, has attracted the attention of hackers looking to transfer the dirty tricks previously aimed at Windows to Linux.

      Last year, for example, ransomware purveyors targeted Linux. Granted, it wasn’t a very virulent strain of ransomware, but more potent versions likely will be on the way.

    • Baidu is badforu – web browser and thousands of apps transmit personal data home

      Researchers have found that the Chinese Baidu browser and apps based on its SDK transmit user’s search terms, GPS coordinates, the addresses of websites visited and device’s MAC or IMEI address to Baidu’s servers without using SSL/TLS encryption or gaining the users permission.

    • Baidu Browser Acts like a Mildly Tempered Infostealer Virus

      The Baidu Web browser for Windows and Android exhibits behavior that could easily allow a security researcher to categorize it as an infostealer virus because it collects information on its users and then sends it to Baidu’s home servers.

    • Malware déjà vu – why we’re still falling for the same old threats

      In second place was Conficker – first discovered in 2008 – which again allows remote control and malware downloads. Together, these two families were responsible for nearly 40% of all malware attacks detected in 2015.

    • Conficker, AndroRAT Continue Malware Reigns of Terror

      Conficker meanwhile continued in its position as King of the Worms, remaining the most prevalent malware type and accounting for 25% of all known attacks during the period. Conficker is popular with criminals thanks to its focus on disabling security services to create more vulnerabilities in the network, enabling them to be compromised further and used for launching DDoS and spam attacks.

    • Child-Monitoring Company Responds To Notification Of Security Breach By Publicly Disparaging Researcher Who Reported It

      “Thanks for letting us know about this! We’ll get it fixed immediately!” said almost no company ever.

      There’s a long, but definitely not proud, tradition of companies shooting the messenger when informed of security flaws or possible breaches. The tradition continues.

      uKnowKids is monitoring software parents can install on their children’s cell phones that allows them to track their child’s location, as well as social media activity, text messages and created media. As such, it collects quite a bit of info.

    • Nissan Forgets Security Exists, Opens Leaf Owners To Remote Attack

      You can add Nissan to the laundry list of companies that aren’t making security a priority in the Internet of Things era. A hacker this week revealed that vulnerabilities in the Nissan Leaf companion app allows an attacker to not only track a driver’s driving behavior, but to physically control the Leaf’s heating and cooling systems. Not quite as severe some other car vulnerabilities that open vehicles to total control, the vulnerability still allows a hacker to cause some notable trouble by running down the Leaf’s batteries, potentially leaving an owner stranded.

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • The U.S. Extends Its Drone War Deeper Into Africa With Secretive Base

      GAROUA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, proclaimed the sign on the concrete and glass terminal building. The designation was something of a misnomer, because only three or four planes land each week in this sleepy outpost in northern Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, all of them domestic flights. The schedule of the flights tends to be unpredictable. The aging jet that had just flown me to Garoua from Douala, for example, had made an unscheduled stop in N’Djamena, the capital of neighboring Chad, so that a government minister could attend a funeral nearby. As a result, the plane had touched down in Garoua five hours late.

    • Badass Attorney Shoots Down the Case for Drones

      Last Sunday, General Michael V. Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times called “To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare.” After an opening scene of a drone operator double-checking for nearby civilians before taking out two enemy targets, General Hayden makes the case that America’s program of remote targeted killings, while not perfect, is achieving results. It has disrupted terrorist plots and weakened Al Qaida, he wrote. Furthermore, according to intelligence that Hayden himself claims to have seen, public concerns of massive civilian casualties are overblown.

    • Michael Hayden’s Pro-Drone Propaganda

      I have long been disturbed by the New York Times’ coverage of the drone campaigns. I was particularly appalled by the ghastly President-as-Godfather feature published on May 29, 2012. Many conservative pundits have complained that the so-called “liberal” newspaper serves as a mouthpiece for the current administration, which is shameful in and of itself. But how and why did the New York Times become an organ of state-funded propaganda? Whatever happened to fact-based, interest-free, objective journalism?

    • The Absurd Timing of Michael Hayden’s Drone Campaign

      MICHAEL HAYDEN, the former director of the CIA and the NSA, has been making the media rounds over the last few days, discussing and defending some of the most emblematic policies of the post-9/11 era in an effort to promote his new book.

      According to its Amazon description, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror delivers “an unprecedented high-level master narrative of America’s intelligence wars.” The title is a reference to Hayden’s philosophy of pushing national security policies to their limits — what he envisions as the edge.

    • People Die (from Drone Strikes) While Hayden Lies

      In a New York Times op-ed published on February 21, former CIA director, Air Force general, and “Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror” author Michael Hayden advocated for the continuing use of drone warfare. He urges the public and implicitly, the next U.S. president, to “embrace” this policy for the desired result of “keeping America safe.” After over a decade of the CIA’s and USAF’s unilateral use of this sinister weapons system, a well-documented record of their unintended consequences confronts us, if we have the courage to face it.

    • Do US Drones Really Make Us Safer?
    • European Parliament calls for Saudi arms embargo

      The European Parliament called on the European Union to impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying Britain, France and other EU governments should no longer sell weapons to a country accused of targeting civilians in Yemen.

      EU lawmakers voted 359 in favour, 212 against and with 31 abstentions for the formal call for an EU arms embargo.

      Although the vote is not legally binding, lawmakers hope it will pressure the European Union to act.

    • The rape of East Timor: “Sounds like fun”

      Secret documents found in the Australian National Archives provide a glimpse of how one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was executed and covered up. They also help us understand how and for whom the world is run.

      The documents refer to East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, and were written by diplomats in the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The date was November 1976, less than a year after the Indonesian dictator General Suharto seized the then Portuguese colony on the island of Timor.

    • A New Low for the International Criminal Court

      The ICC really has plumbed new depths in the current trial of ex-Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. I do urge you to read the analysis I wrote at the time of his overthrow. Gbagbo certainly was guilty of crimes, but much more killing and violence was done by current Ivory Coast President, and former Deputy MD of the IMF, Alassane Ouattara. My article was written at the time to counter an extremely misleading one written by Thalia Griffiths, editor of African Energy, and published in the Guardian. I have since discovered more about the role of Trafigura in funding Ouattara’s forces, and the picture becomes ever clearer.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

  • Finance

    • Canada may “scrub” CETA rule allowing corporations to sue governments but we’ll keep it in the TPP?

      The Government of Canada appears to be tiptoeing away from a controversial provision in a new trade deal with the European Union at the same time as they’re plowing ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes a similarly controversial provision.

    • Tesla Says GM Pushing Indiana Bill To Kill Direct-To-Consumer Tesla Sales

      As we’ve documented extensively, the auto industry has worked tirelessly to erect barriers to Tesla’s market entry. Legacy automakers have been engaged in sustained hysterics specifically regarding Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model, which lets customers buy vehicles directly from Tesla online, with limited showrooms to view, touch and test drive the Tesla vehicles. Annoyed by this pesky Californian upstart, the auto industry has frequently tied draft legislation to campaign contributions to ban Tesla’s successful model. Why compete when you can cheat?

    • The Kafkaesque Battle of Soulseek and PayPal, and Why Free Speech Defenders Should be Worried About Payment Networks

      Does your business follow copyright law to the best of its ability? Not good enough. At least that was the case for one long-standing peer-to-peer network, which had its payment processing shut down after more than 14 years of being a loyal PayPal customer.

      Soulseek, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, faced a Kafkaesque battle with PayPal. When its donors were cut off from making payments to Soulseek, the network struggled to figure out what it had done wrong—or even get a response from PayPal to its questions. Thankfully, Soulseek reached out to EFF. We got in touch with Paypal and helped convince them to reinstate the network.

      PayPal did the right thing by restoring Soulseek’s account, and we commend them for that. But we’re also concerned: it’s not scalable for EFF to intervene whenever a law-abiding website is shut off from a payment provider (as we have done with an online bookseller and a short story archive). In addition, we think of Soulseek’s situation as indicative of a larger trend of Web censorship, as websites that haven’t violated any laws are choked of funds—a situation that was disastrous for WikiLeaks and is currently tightening a noose around the electronic neck of Backpage.com.

    • Western Peoples Are Being Re-Enserfed

      There is an alternative. Achieving it requires understanding the dynamics at work and distinguishing between earned and unearned income, between productive and unproductive means of gaining wealth. That is the antidote to the neo-rentier power grab.

    • New Zealand Says Laws To Implement TPP Will Be Passed Now, Despite US Uncertainties, And Won’t Be Rolled Back Even If TPP Fails

      As Techdirt has noted, there is evidence from multiple sources that TPP will produce negligible economic benefits for most of the nations involved. Some governments are clearly well aware of this, because they are desperate to avoid an objective cost-benefit evaluation that would show that claims about TPP’s value don’t stack up. Even given that pig-headed determination to push the deal through, basic prudence would surely dictate that before making all the complex legislative changes required by TPP, countries should at least wait to see whether it’s going to happen.

    • Small businesses paying more tax than Uber

      When Uber revealed this week it paid just over $403,000 in tax in Australia over a three-year period many small businesses were left scratching their heads.

      The Silicon Valley technology giant with a market valuation of over US$60 billion responded to questions taken on notice at the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance to disclose the amount of corporate tax it paid in Australia has only slightly increased from $19,387 in 2013, to $134,387 in 2014, and then $249,280 in 2015.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Anthony Hilton: Stay or go – the lack of solid facts means it’s all a leap of faith

      I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. “That’s easy,” he replied. “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

    • With Donald Trump Looming, Should Dems Take a Huge Electability Gamble by Nominating Hillary Clinton?

      Many Democrats will tell you that there has rarely, if ever, been a more menacing or evil presidential candidate than Donald Trump. “Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory,” pronounced Vox’s Ezra Klein two weeks ago. With a consensus now emerging that the real estate mogul is the likely GOP nominee, it would stand to reason that the most important factor for many Democrats in choosing their own nominee is electability: meaning, who has the best chance of defeating the GOP Satan in the general election? In light of that, can Democrats really afford to take such a risky gamble by nominating Hillary Clinton?

    • Bernie Sanders Has Led Hillary Clinton in This Major National Poll Nearly All Month

      Bernie Sanders finds himself in a familiar place once again. Far away from home on the campaign trail in South Carolina and Missouri on Wednesday, Sanders is once again fighting off a rush of pundits and political talkers looking to write off his presidential campaign after an upset in Nevada last weekend — but according to one new national poll, Sanders has only been growing more popular all month.

    • The Party of ‘No Way!’

      Perhaps the most important thing Washington will do this year is decide whether to approve President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. But Republicans have already announced their decision: “No way!”

      It’s rich for Republicans to declare pre-emptively that they will not even hold hearings on an Obama nominee, considering that they used to denounce (while their party held the White House) the notion that judges’ nominations shouldn’t proceed in an election year.

      “That’s just plain bunk,” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in 2008. “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” His sense of reality has since changed.

    • Annotating The Letter Disney’s CEO Sent To Disney Employees Asking Them To Fund Disney’s Sketchy Lobbying Activities

      Here’s quite a scoop from Joe Mullin over at Ars Technica. Apparently, Disney is getting a bit desperate on the whole TPP thing. The company, which has been having a rough go of things because of the next generation not giving a shit about ESPN, decided to take things up a notch. CEO Bob Iger apparently emailed Disney employees asking them to contribute to DisneyPAC, specifically to help Disney pay for lobbyists to push the TPP across the finish line.

  • Censorship

  • Privacy

    • Tor users are actively discriminated against by website operators

      Computer scientists have documented how a large and growing number of websites discriminate against people who browse them using Tor.

      Tor is an anonymity service that is maintained with assistance from the US State Department and designed in part to allows victims of censorship in countries like China and Iran to surf the web. New research show how corporations are discriminating against Tor users, in some cases partly because it’s harder to classify anonymous users for the purpose of pushing ads at them.

    • Rather Than Ending NSA’s Key Surveillance Tool, White House To Now Let Other Agencies Use It

      Late last night, the NY Times broke a very troubling story. Rather than finally putting an end to Executive Order 12333, it appears that President Obama is going to expand the power of it in dangerous ways. We’ve written about EO 12333 a bunch of times, but for those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s an executive order signed by President Reagan that basically gave the NSA pretty free rein to collect signals intelligence outside of the US. Because it’s not (technically) about domestic surveillance, what the NSA does under EO 12333 is not subject to Congressional oversight. That is, Congress is mostly as much in the dark as everyone else is on what the NSA is doing overseas. And, as former State Department official John Napier Tye revealed a couple of years ago, for all the talk of domestic surveillance programs revealed by Ed Snowden, the NSA’s real power comes almost entirely from 12333.

      And it has no limitations. Napier noted that the other programs — things like Section 215 (now morphed into whatever the USA FREEDOM Act allows) and Section 702 — were merely used to “fill in the gaps” not covered by 12333.

    • White House moves to expand ‘sharing intelligence between NSA, FBI and CIA’

      The Obama administration is reportedly moving to broaden the current scope of information sharing between the National Security Agency (NSA) and other US intelligence agencies by stripping away existing restrictions on who exactly has access to communications data scooped up by surveillance programmes.

      The change would impact the sharing of both phone calls and email content collected alongside data from satellite transmissions and messages acquired from overseas intelligence agencies, according to The New York Times.

    • NSA poised to share more intel; Comey not interested in Apple precedent; encryption bill on its way

      MORE INTEL SHARING: The Obama administration is poised to expand NSA intelligence sharing “without first applying any privacy protections” for it, the New York Times reports. “The change would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email the security agency vacuums up around the world, including bulk collection of satellite transmissions, communications between foreigners as they cross network switches in the United States, and messages acquired overseas or provided by allies,” the Times reports.

    • JOHN MCAFEE: The US may be violating the 13th amendment if it forces Apple to create a back door
    • JOHN MCAFEE: The NSA’s back door has given every US secret to our enemies [Ed: same as below]
    • JOHN MCAFEE: The NSA’s back door has given every US secret to our enemies

      Deng Xiaoping, in 1979 – his second year as supreme leader of China – perceived a fundamental truth that has yet to be fully grasped by most Western leaders: Software, if properly weaponized, could be far more destructive than any nuclear arsenal.

      Under Deng’s leadership, China began one of the most ambitious and sophisticated meta- software development programs ever undertaken.

      And what is meta-software? It’s the one science that the entire Western World has entirely overlooked. It is a high level set of principles for developing software that are imperative if a nation is to survive in a cyberwar.

    • Appeals Court Urged to Allow Wikimedia to Fight NSA Surveillance

      In the amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF urges the Fourth Circuit to recognize standing for allegations of harm based on actual past and ongoing surveillance, like those alleged in both Wikimedia and Jewel.

    • EFF pushes forward with new amicus brief in case against NSA spying

      The foundation has had an ongoing case which has been termed Jewell v NSA, as well as Wikimedia v NSA. There are many irons in the fire in this battle and now the EFF has filed a new amicus brief in the Wikimedia case.

      On Wednesday the organization filed the brief, which urges the court to allow the various parties to continue their pursuit of the NSA for what the EFF terms “illegal surveillance”. This has been filed with the Fourth Circuit Court, which could prove favorable as it allowed Jewell v NSA to go forward after quite a bit of stalling by the government.

    • Apple Asks: Why Hasn’t The FBI Asked NSA To Break iPhone Encryption?

      The question Apple is asking the FBI: If you want to hack into our iPhone so bad, why don’t you just have the U.S. National Security Agency do it? That’s what a strongly worded legal brief filed Thursday amounts to. The brief asks a federal magistrate to throw out an order requiring Apple to build special software that would enable investigators to break into the iPhone 5c used by one the San Bernardino shooters.

    • Apple: The FBI Should Ask the NSA to Hack Shooter’s iPhone

      In a strongly-worded argument filed in court today, Apple pushed the US government on a question that many observers have been asking: If the FBI wants to hack an iPhone, why doesn’t it just ask the NSA?

      Last week, the company challenged a court order to build malicious software that would allow the FBI to crack the passcode of an iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the deceased shooters responsible for the workplace rampage in San Bernardino last December. Apple is being compelled under the All Writs Act, a centuries-old law that allows courts to order anyone to do pretty much anything, as long as it’s meant to help execute a court order and isn’t “unreasonably burdensome.”

    • Judge Wants To Know More About FBI’s Secret Recordings Of Conversations Near Courthouse Steps

      Last November, lawyers defending five real estate investors against auction price-rigging allegations discovered the FBI had planted bugs to capture conversations during real estate auctions on the San Mateo (CA) Courthouse steps.

      The lawyers questioned whether these surreptitious recordings violated wiretap laws, despite them taking place in a public area. As they noted, investors often huddled away from the steps to discuss bidding strategies in “hushed tones” in order to prevent competitors from overhearing them. According to these lawyers, the “hushed tones” were not unlike the closing of a phone booth door — a key element in the Supreme Court’s 1967 Katz decision, which found an expectation of privacy could be found in public areas, provided the person being targeted by recording devices performed certain actions.

    • We Read Apple’s 65 Page Filing Calling Bullshit On The Justice Department, So You Don’t Have To
    • The Government Is Already Forcing Companies to Give It Access to Our Data
    • 7 Reasons a Government Backdoor to the iPhone Would Be Catastrophic

      You’ve likely caught wind of the fact that the government and Apple are in the midst of an intense legal showdown in what Edward Snowden has called “the most important tech case in a decade.” The battle is over the legality of a court order compelling Apple to write new software — which the company cleverly referred to as GovOS in a court filing today — that disables several security features that the FBI claims are preventing it from accessing the contents of the work phone of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack. Apple is resisting the order, and the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, has committed to going all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

      Lest there be any doubt, the ACLU is with Apple on this one, as it was in a similar case several months back. The government’s request is not just about this one iPhone — it has far-reaching consequences for every device, for global cybersecurity, and for basic freedoms at home and around the world. Communications security is critical for the functioning of democracy, and the precedent the government is seeking could do terrible and lasting damage.

    • FBI Waited 50 Days before Asking for Syed Rezwan Farook’s iCloud Data

      Apple’s motion to vacate the All Writs Act order requiring it to help FBI brute force Syed Rezwan Farook’s iPhone is a stupendous document worthy of the legal superstars who wrote it. To my mind, however, the most damning piece comes not from the lawyers who wrote the brief, but in a declaration from another lawyer: Lisa Olle, Apple’s Manager of Global Privacy and Law, the last 3 pages of the filing.

      Olle provides an interesting timeline of FBI’s requests from Apple, some of which I’ll return to. The most damning details, however, are these.

    • Labor, Coalition vote against strong encryption in Senate

      Both of Australia’s major political parties have explicitly rejected a Senate motion calling on the Government to support public use of strong encryption technologies, in a move that comes in the wake of the US Government’s demand that Apple provide it with a backdoor for open access to its iPhone handset.

      Yesterday in the Senate, Greens Senator and Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam (pictured) moved a motion dealing with encryption technology.

      The motion called upon the Senate to note that strong digital encryption protects the personal and financial information of millions of people; that encryption is an important tool to prevent identity theft and other crime; that encryption ensures that public interest whistleblowers, journalists and other civil society actors can conduct their activities more securely; and that the Government, through services such as Medicare and Centrelink, and digital platforms such as myGov, depends on encryption to keep client information safe.

    • MWC 2016: Mastercard rolls out selfie ID checks [iophk: biometrics]

      Credit card firm Mastercard has confirmed it will accept selfie photos and fingerprints as an alternative to passwords when verifying IDs for online payments.

    • The FBI’s Not-So-Compelling Pitch For Sacrificing Security For Safety

      The FBI’s attempt to use an All Writs order to force Apple to help it break into a locked iPhone is seemingly built on a compelling case: a large-scale shooting involving people with ties to terrorist groups. This is exactly the sort of case Comey hoped would help push his anti-encryption agenda forward. Or so it seems.

      But is the case really that “compelling,” especially in the legal sense of the word, which requires the court to weigh the imposition on Apple against the public’s interest in seeing wrongdoers punished/future terrorist attacks prevented?

    • The Way You Ask The Questions Matters: Reuters Poll Says People Support Apple Against FBI, But It’s All In The Questions

      And then, just days later, Reuters/Ipsos released a poll of its own, saying… basically the exact opposite, and it’s being spun to claim that there is “Solid support for Apple in iPhone encryption fight.”


      And, once again, the poll is basically meaningless when it comes to the actual issues in this case. You can read the details of the questions in the linked document, which shows that, before asking the key question, the pollsters asked a bunch of questions about whether or not people were willing to “give up privacy” to help the US government on a variety of things. And lots of people said no. These questions more or less framed the issue as one about protecting your own privacy — as compared to the Pew poll that framed it more as being about investigating the San Bernardino attacks. Then after all those questions, the poll asks about the specifics of the Apple case, where they frame the question much more broadly than Pew’s.

    • Alternate Titles: Apple Now Looking To Close The Backdoor The FBI Discovered

      Yesterday the NY Times put out a story claiming that Apple Is Said to Be Working on an iPhone Even It Can’t Hack, with the underlying thrust being that this is a response to the big DOJ case against it, in which the court has ordered Apple to undermine key security features, which would then enable the FBI to brute force the (almost certainly weak) passcode used by Syed Farook on his work iPhone. But, here’s the thing: prior to that order and its details coming to light, many people were under the impression that the existing iPhones were ones that it “couldn’t hack.” After all, it was offering full disk encryption tied to the device where it didn’t hold the key.

    • Charlie Rose Talks to Michael Hayden
    • CIA Director: It’s the Media’s Fault That Terrorists Are So Good at Encryption
    • CIA Director Blames The Media For Terrorists’ Encryption Skills
    • It’s Dangerous and Foolish for CIA and NSA to Blame Press for Terrorist Encryption
    • Obama Administration Set to Expand Sharing of Data That N.S.A. Intercepts

      That also means more officials will be looking at private messages — not only foreigners’ phone calls and emails that have not yet had irrelevant personal information screened out, but also communications to, from, or about Americans that the N.S.A…

    • Apple: The FBI Should Ask the NSA to Hack Shooter’s iPhone

      In a strongly-worded argument filed in court today, Apple pushed the US government on a question that many observers have been asking: If the FBI wants to hack an iPhone, why doesn’t it just ask the NSA?

    • ‘Rethink U.S. presence in Italy’

      “I’m a friend of everyone, all it takes is that others respect our work”, he said. Daily La Repubblica and sister weekly l’Espresso carried the Wikileaks reports that the NSA listened in on three-time premier Berlusconi as Italy was on the brink of a Greece-style crisis, an economic emergency that eventually forced him from office. Berlusconi has often said he was the victim of an international plot.

    • Rome ‘Won’t Protest’ Against NSA Tapping as Italy is ‘Loyal US Servant’

      Even after finding out that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was wiretapping former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the government in Rome, being Washington’s loyal servant, won’t protest against it, Italian journalist Mario Sommossa said.

    • Italian Media: Rome won’t protest NSA Spying…loyal servants

      Even after finding out that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was wiretapping former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the government in Rome, being Washington’s loyal servant, won’t protest against it, Italian journalist Mario Sommossa said.

      On Tuesday, WikiLeaks released a batch of classified documents revealing how the NSA was tapping different world leaders, including former Italian leader Berlusconi. Later that day, the Italian Foreign Ministry called US Ambassador John Philips to clarify the uncomfortable findings.

    • Spy Court Called Insufficient to Rein in NSA

      Brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA program Upstream intercepts traffic from what has been called the “Internet’s backbone,” a phrase that refers to the major foreign and domestic Internet cables and switches.

    • Think the NSA is scary now? Wait till Donald Trump controls it.

      Donald Trump is pretty obviously an incipient tinpot dictator. He’s got the demagogue’s knack for both playing off and encouraging the worst instincts of his supporters, including violent reprisals against scapegoats. He’s got wide support among authoritarians. He’s even got the taste for garish prestige construction projects.

    • Will the NSA Finally Build Its Superconducting Spy Computer?

      Today, silicon microchips underlie every aspect of digital computing. But their dominance was never a foregone conclusion. Throughout the 1950s, electrical engineers and other researchers explored many alternatives to making digital computers.

    • The NSA spied on top-secret climate negotiations between world leaders

      Climate negotiations between the world’s powerhouses usually take place behind closed doors — unless, that is, the U.S. government is secretly listening in.

      A batch of documents released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday reveal that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on communications regarding international climate change agreements, including negotiations in 2008 between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom the NSA had reportedly been spying on for decades. The NSA listened in on a private meeting between the two leaders ahead of a 2009 conference in Copenhagen, and gleaned information about their hopes that the European Union play a major role in climate change mitigation, adding Merkel thought the “tough issue” would involve carbon trading.

    • Federal Judge Approves Gathering of Evidence on NSA Warrantless Surveillance Program

      For the first time, mass surveillance opponents can dig into evidence on the National Security Agency’s phone and Internet spying programs, a federal judge ruled Friday.

      Heeding the words of a December 2015 Ninth Circuit ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeffery White lifted a 12-month stay in two related class actions that accuse the government of illegally spying on citizens.

      An attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, said this is the first time the court has allowed a party to gather evidence on the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program.

    • Opera star Katherine Jenkins performs at GCHQ [Ed: which violates human rights and laws]
    • WATCH: Singing star Katherine Jenkins comes to GCHQ and sings to staff as thanks for their work
    • WATCH: Singing star Katherine Jenkins comes to GCHQ and sings to staff as thanks for their work
    • Katherine Jenkins gives spies singing treat

      The classical music star hailed workers at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham as “heroes”, before singing songs from her repertoire including Habanera from the opera Carmen.

    • Singer Katherine Jenkins performs at GCHQ
    • Spy agencies say Clinton emails closely matched top secret documents: sources

      U.S. spy agencies have told Congress that Hillary Clinton’s home computer server contained some emails that should have been treated as “top secret” because their wording matched sections of some of the government’s most highly classified documents, four sources familiar with the agency reports said.

      The two reports are the first formal declarations by U.S. spy agencies detailing how they believe Clinton violated government rules when highly classified information in at least 22 email messages passed through her unsecured home server.

    • Arizona Legislators Trying (Again) To Ban Traffic Cameras

      Well, sort of. The bill is still undergoing massive invasive surgery from entities unwilling to see this revenue stream dry up. Another proposal to scale back the state’s reliance on traffic cam income moved forward after being limited solely to state highways — basically killing off cameras in only two towns along those roads. This more expansive proposal is experiencing whatever the opposite of growing pains are. The exceptions to the proposed rule are turning the bill into a hollow shell of an idea, despite the ban having widespread support from the public.

    • Some websites turning law-abiding Tor users into second-class citizens

      About 1.3 million IP addresses—including those used by Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, and Yelp—are turning users of the Tor anonymity network into second-class Web citizens by blocking them outright or degrading the services offered to them, according to a recently published research paper.

      Titled “Do You See What I See? Differential Treatment of Anonymous Users,” the paper said 3.67 percent of websites in the Alexa 1,000 discriminated against computers visiting with known Tor exit-node IP addresses. In some cases, the visitors are completely locked out, while in others users are required to complete burdensome CAPTCHAs or are limited in what they can do. The authors said the singling out was an attempt by the sites to limit fraud and other online crime, which is carried out by a disproportionately high percentage of Tor users. In the process, law-abiding Tor users are being treated as second-class Web citizens.

      “While many websites block Tor to reduce abuse, doing so inadvertently impacts users from censored countries who do not have other ways to access censored Internet content,” the authors wrote.

    • Thoughts on Tor router hardware

      I recently came across a small travel-router that claimed to provide transparent access to the Tor-network. Just make a wifi connection to its Tor access point and all the TCP and DNS traffic is routed through the Tor-network. For a price of only $25 I could not resist and bought one. Over the last month I have been playing with the device and… it worked flawlessly, it was fun!

      So, running the Tor software on cheap router hardware works, but is it a good idea? I believe it is. In this article I will argue that having Tor on the router benefits both security and usability. It opens up new possibilities for expanding the Tor-network and can provide a much needed source of income for the Tor-project.

    • Judge confirms what many suspected: Feds hired CMU to break Tor

      A federal judge in Washington has now confirmed what has been strongly suspected: that Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers at its Software Engineering Institute were hired by the federal government to do research into breaking Tor in 2014. The judge also made a notable statement in his court order that “Tor users clearly lack a reasonable expectation of privacy in their IP addresses while using the Tor network.”

    • US authorities used students to hack into Tor

      THE US COURTS have confirmed that the Department of Defence is not immune to employing students, and used a gaggle of them from Carnegie Mellon to find a way to crack into privacy alternative Tor.

      We would expect students to be against this kind of thing, but who knows these days? People like a challenge and there are plenty who would support efforts to crack Tor. The Russians are rather keen, for example.

    • Silk Road 2.0 Court Docs Show US Government Paid Carnegie Mellon Researchers To Unmask Tor Users

      Rumors that the US government used a university’s research institute to uncloak Tor users began floating around nearly two years ago. In July of 2014, the first hint that something weird was going on at Carnegie Mellon took the form of a hastily-cancelled Black Hat Conference talk on the subject of de-anonymizing Tor users. Carnegie Mellon’s lawyers stepped in and called the whole thing off at the last minute. The thought process at the time was that CMU’s legal team may have been concerned the researchers’ actions had broken wiretap laws.

    • Confirmed: Carnegie Mellon University Attacked Tor, Was Subpoenaed By Feds

      In November, Motherboard reported that a “university-based research institute” provided information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that led to the identification of criminal suspects on the so-called dark web. Circumstantial evidence pointed to that body being the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). After a media-storm, CMU published a very carefully worded press release, implying that it had been subpoenaed for the IP addresses it obtained during its research.

    • How Existing Wiretapping Laws Could Save Apple From FBI’s Broad Demands

      There are all sorts of interesting (and frustrating and challenging) legal questions raised by the FBI’s use of the All Writs Act to try to force Apple to build a system to allow the FBI to hack Apple’s customers. But there’s one interesting one raised by Albert Gidari that may cut through a lot of the “bigger” questions (especially the Constitutional ones that everyone leaps to) and just makes a pretty simple point: the DOJ is simply wrong that the All Writs Act applies here, rather than the existing wiretapping statute, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or 47 USC 1002, better known by basically everyone as CALEA. CALEA is the law that some (including the DOJ) have wanted “updated” in ways that might force internet companies and mobile phone companies to make their devices more wiretap-ready. But that hasn’t happened.

    • Facebook Is Making a Map of Everyone in the World

      Americans inhabit an intricately mapped world. Type “Burger King” into an online box, and Google will cough up a dozen nearby options, each keyed to a precise latitude and longitude.

      But throughout much of the world, local knowledge stays local. While countries might conduct censuses, the data doesn’t go much deeper than the county or province level.

      Take population data, for instance: More than 7.4 billion humans sprawl across this planet of ours. They live in dense urban centers, in small towns linked by farms, and alone on the outskirts of jungles. But no one’s sure where, exactly, many of them live.

  • Civil Rights

    • Refugee crisis: Concern over ‘unprecedented’ arrivals in Greece and Italy after 2016 total passes 100,000

      More than 100,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe so far this year – more than eight times the rate seen during the same period in 2015.

      Humanitarian organisations have already raised concern about the “huge” numbers and their implications as border controls continue to tighten on the long route to western Europe and the political will to welcome asylum seekers wanes.

    • Plaintiffs had no First Amendment right to take cellphone video of police, federal judge rules

      A federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled that citizens don’t have a First Amendment right to take cellphone videos of police unless they are challenging or criticizing the police conduct.

      U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney ruled (PDF) on Feb. 19 in consolidated cases involving Richard Fields and Amanda Geraci, the Legal Intelligencer (sub. req.) reports. Fields, a Temple University student, took a cellphone photo of about 20 police officers standing outside a house party because he thought it would be an interesting picture. Geraci, a trained legal observer, tried to move closer to see and possibly record an arrest during a protest of hydraulic fracturing.

      An officer handcuffed Fields, searched his cellphone before returning it, and cited him for obstructing the highway and public passages, Fields says. Geraci says an officer physically restrained her to prevent her from recording the arrest. Both sued for alleged First and Fourth Amendment violations.

    • Victorian Government to begin talks with First Nations on Australia’s first Indigenous treaty

      The Victorian Government will begin talks to work out Australia’s first treaty with Indigenous people within weeks.

    • The Obama Guantánamo Plan — What You May Have Missed

      There were both good and bad developments buried in Obama’s speech and plan to close Guantanamo.

      I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines or read the news on President Obama’s speech this week about the plan he sent to Congress to close the Guantánamo prison. But what’s really going on? And what new developments — good or bad — were buried in the speech and the plan? Here’s our take.

    • America’s Killer Prisons

      If the people running prisons know there’s a problem and do nothing about it, is that not manslaughter? Is that not depraved indifference? A person who should be alive is not — all because of the incompetence or apathy of prison administrators. This isn’t an issue of who did what or who broke what law. Every American deserves decent health care. That includes our prisoners.

    • Albert Woodfox, the Last of the Angola Three, Is Finally Free

      Albert Woodfox turned 69 years old Friday. He also was released from prison that day after serving 43 years in solitary confinement, more time than anyone in U.S. history. “Quite a birthday gift,” Woodfox told us on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, in his first televised interview after gaining his freedom. Woodfox is a living testament to the resilience of the human spirit when subjected to the cruel and unusual punishment of solitary. His case also serves as a stark reminder of the injustice that pervades the American criminal-justice system.

    • Court Says Cops Can’t Testify In Case After Destroying Footage Of DUI Arrest

      They like automatic cameras that record license plate and location data. They like surveillance cameras aimed at citizens around the clock. They even like dashcams and body cams, provided the released footage is limited to exonerating officers of wrongdoing.

      What they don’t like are cameras that don’t show their side of the story. A camera is inherently trustworthy — much like a confidential informant — until it isn’t, at which point any footage captured is claimed to be devoid of “context” or unable to show “the whole picture.” In some cases, the cameras don’t show anything at all.

      Sure, the footage may have been available at some point. But it’s suddenly missing when the defense needs it.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Whistleblowers Detail Accountability Problems At The Top Of WIPO; US Congressional Members Prepare Actions

      A set of senior former employees of the World Intellectual Property Organization and their representatives yesterday gave detailed sworn testimony to US lawmakers on what they termed extremely serious misconduct and retaliation at the United Nations agency. A congressional subcommittee chairman told Intellectual Property Watch afterward that based on all they have heard, they believe WIPO Director General Francis Gurry has “gone rogue” and that action against him will begin immediately. The US State Department will be pressed to demand a copy of a newly completed UN investigation of Gurry that apparently has been shared with the Colombian Ambassador in Geneva, Gabriel Duque, who is chair of the WIPO General Assembly this year.

    • Trademarks

      • Google Threatens 9to5Google Over Trademark, Rescinds Threat, Leaves Everyone Frightened

        If you correct for company size, Google is generally pretty decent on intellectual property matters. But, hey, I guess no corporation is perfect. The company whose motto is “don’t be evil” is, of course, very big. And they certainly have a very big legal team. I think it might be time for that legal team to get a quick primer on the wider culture at Google and do a quick review on the company motto, because those lawyers apparently suddenly decided that a news site, called 9to5Google, was suddenly violating Google’s trademark after a scant five full years in operation.

        The threat device Google decided to employ in this case was the news site’s use of Google’s Doubleclick/Ad Exchange network, which the site claims is a decent profit center for 9to5Google. There had apparently been occasional blips of the network not working in the past, all of which had been quickly resolved. Not the case this time, however.

    • Copyrights

      • HTTPS Renders UK Pirate Site Blocklist Useless

        By now most UK Internet users have gotten used to pirate sites being blocked by their ISPs. However, thanks to HTTPS many subscribers have been enjoying a glimpse of an open and unrestricted web, as several popular torrent sites including The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents are no longer being blocked by all providers.

      • UK’s Pirate Site Blocklist Even More Pointless Than Previously Thought: HTTPS Defeats It

        Apparently this has been known in certain circles for quite a while. Some pirate sites have even gone so far as to force users to connect using HTTPS to enable them to enjoy this further advantage of encryption. There’s an interesting discussion in the comments on the TorrentFreak post as to when and why HTTPS connections can get around the court-mandated blocks, and what ISPs might try to do to close this gaping loophole. Even if they do, the other circumvention methods will remain.

      • RIAA Wins $22 Million Piracy Lawsuit Against MP3Skull

        A group of prominent RIAA labels have won a default judgment against piracy site MP3Skull. A Florida court awarded the music companies more than $22 million in damages and issued a permanent injunction which allows the RIAA to take over the site’s domain names.

      • Japan Police Arrest 44 in Nationwide Internet Piracy Crackdown

        Police in Japan have arrested 44 people suspected of being involved in illegal Internet file-sharing. Raids in over 90 locations across the country targeted individuals suspected of downloading and distributing a wide range of content including movies, music, anime, manga and software. If convicted they face fines and up to ten years in jail.

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