Benoît Battistelli Besieged

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Battistelli besieged

Summary: The tough situation that Battistelli is in right now demonstrated using a picture (with omission of lesser prominent attack vectors)

A satirical graphic illustrating the current situation at the EPO is shown above.

Due to being under attack on so many different fronts the EPO‘s President has been given the nickname of “Embattled-stelli”.

The graphic refers to the following developments:

- NL: Criticism in the Dutch Parliament and request for a full parliamentary debate

- FR: Criticism in the French Parliament

- ILOAT: Recent Judgments from the ILOAT exposing flaws in the EPO’s internal legal system for dealing with staff grievances

- EBA: Decision from the Enlarged Board of Appeal protesting against interference by the President

- DE: Criticism from legal and political circles in Germany including prominent patent lawyers and members of the Bavarian Landtag, the German Bundestag and the European Parliament

- HR: Unresolved problems on the Croatian front

Caricature: The European Patent Office Finds Quick Fix for ILO

Posted in Europe, Humour, Patents at 3:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EPO justice

Summary: The reality of justice with jurors under Team Battistelli’s furor

Software Patents Battles: Lobby to Restore US Software Patents, IBM’s and Google’s Positions on the Subject, and Microsoft/Intellectual Ventures With Their Ongoing Attacks on Linux

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Patents at 2:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lobbying for Watchtroll

Summary: An outline of one week’s news regarding software patents in the United States, with special emphasis placed on key foes and allies of GNU/Linux

The Lobby for Software Patents

THE USPTO can no longer grant software patents as routinely as it used to and some people are upset about it. These people, however, do not develop software.

“Sen Chris Coons,” according to this tweet, says that “Eroding patent protections for software and medical advances imperils American R&D, learning, health, and innovation,” but this coming from guy who never wrote a single line of code in his entire life does not mean much. Maybe he’s just funded by some large company that is pursuing software patents (like IBM and Microsoft). Moreover, with Watchtroll branding on the podium (see the photo), we assume that Chris Coons came there to serve patent maximalists, who have grown quite loud recently. Benjamin Henrion responded by saying that “software patents shifts R&D budgets to P&L.” (patents and litigation)

We are troubled to see the voices of the patent microcosm growing even louder in the wake of Trump’s election win. They want change and they want this change to harm software developers so that they can profit from (or tax) actual producers. IBM, we might add, is a growing part of the problem. Does IBM even realise to what degree it alienates the Free software development community by advocating software patents all the time? Does IBM truly realise that it aligns itself with patent extremists that insult judges and push for software patents based on self-serving lies? Does it care? Does IBM realise that by paying the former Director of the USPTO it participates in institutional corruption? And again, does it care? By lobbying to annul the Supreme Court’s decision and elevate less than a handful of Appeals Court (CAFC) decisions these people reveal their true face and selfish interests, which happen to harm every software developer around the world. It harms developers of both proprietary and Free/Open Source software.

CAFC on Software Patenting

Speaking of the Appeals Court, also published (albeit behind paywall) is this article titled “Appeals Court Casts Doubts on Smartflash’s Patent Win Over Apple” (we mentioned this before). “Two judges signaled the patents claim ineligible subject matter under Section 101 of the Patent Act,” says the summary. This article is mirrored here (also behind paywall). Section 101 certainly gets taken into account by CAFC, but patent law firms like Finnegan continue pushing the envelop on lies that software patents still have teeth in the US. It’s that usual cherry-picking of CAFC cases. Baker Botts LLP has just done the same thing. Don’t fall for it. In the vast majority of cases, including in 2016, CAFC rules against software patents and Section 101 remains very strong an argument against software patents. Watch this new docket report that says:

The court denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity on the ground that plaintiffs’ call center telecommunications patents encompassed unpatentable subject matter because the motion obscured patents’ complexity with reductionist simplicity.

The recurring theme here was covered in almost a hundred Techrights articles. It definitely seems as though software patents aren’t coming back any time soon (if ever), but the patent microcosm sure is trying to accomplish that.

IBM and Conservative Think Tanks

Adam Mossoff, who works for a Conservative think tank and has a history of rather aggressive patent views (we covered these in [1, 2, 3]), is trying to shame Congress into pushing for reinstatement of software patents, based on misinformation. “Today,” he summarised it, “Congress should save software again by expressly confirming that it is a patentable technological invention.”


If anything, software patents caused a lot of damage. But then again, judging by Mossoff’s paymaster, reliance on facts is almost a sin. Look where they stand on issues such as climate change.

“But this essential technology in our modern innovation economy is at risk,” Henrion quotes him as saying, responding with “yeah copyright replaced by patent trolls…”

Another person responded with “and look at the Patent Troll mess Software Patents has left us in…”

Exactly. Mossoff, as we pointed out here in the past, became a voice of patent trolls and the patent microcosm. He’s not a software developer and he merely ‘hijacks’ the voice of those who are with a nonsensical headline like “Congress Saved Software in 1980, and It Should Do It Again Today” (in a neo-Conservative Web site, of course).

This article seems to be one among several. The patent microcosm wants software patents back, unlike actual developers. Watchtroll is pressuring Congress on this subject also, most recently with yesterday’s headline (yes, a Sunday!) “Congress Can Save Software Patents by Repeating One of Its Successes”.

It’s just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo urging Congress to reinstate software patents and some of this mumbo-jumbo is promoted by IBM’s patent chief. Patent trolls proponents like Adam Mossoff are intentionally conflating software with software patents (one destroys the other) and then some IBM lawyers deems it cite-worthy? How stupid does IBM want to look here? It’s only going to harm the company’s relations with developers.

Google Against Software Patents, Unlike Microsoft

Contrast this with the following new article from Allen Lo, who is deputy general counsel for patents at Google. He published “Protecting Alice protects patent quality and technological innovation” and said in it:

The goal of the patent system, as set forth in the Constitution, is to promote the progress of the “useful arts,” which has always been understood to mean technological progress. Here at Google, we are proud of the many ground-breaking software inventions by our engineers that have allowed us to file a growing number of high-quality patents and establish a strong and valuable portfolio.

While Google and many other tech companies invest many billions of dollars in research and development (R&D) to make these inventions – and these patents – possible, not all software patents issued by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) are of high quality. A series of roundtables recently convened by the PTO in Alexandria, Va.; Stanford University; and other locations around the country explored one of the most important tools for improving the quality of software patents and ensuring that only worthy patents are approved.

That tool arises from the unanimous 2014 Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, which established that software patent claims that recite a financial arrangement or broadly describe a function performed “on a computer” or “on the internet” are not eligible to be patented. Before Alice, applicants were obtaining patents from the PTO that were not based on any technical contribution or innovation, often not even providing an explanation of how they expected to achieve a result beyond stating that it would be done “on a computer.” Case law and PTO practices had swung too far toward allowing these low-quality claims to remain unchallenged, and a course correction was needed.

So we’ve covered IBM, Google, and what about Microsoft? Well, Microsoft is in the same boat as IBM when it comes to software patents and its patents have just survived CAFC’s scrutiny, based on this new report that says:

Microsoft has survived an appeal against a lower court decision that it didn’t infringe patents belonging to Impulse Technology.

Yesterday, December 8, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the ruling of the US District Court for the District of Delaware, granting Microsoft’s motion for summary judgment.

In 2011, Impulse sued Microsoft, alleging infringement of 15 claims of the asserted patents: US patent numbers 6,308,565; 6,430,997; 6,765,726; 6,876,496; 7,359,121; and 7,791,808.

Inverting the Narrative

Truth be said, large companies don’t mind the patent mess because they can afford to pay the legal fees and this whole mess harms small companies the most. Here is a 15-page PDF of a paper by Professor Lemley et al in which it’s said (by Patently-O) that “patent litigation outcomes vary according to the identity of the patentee” or to quote Patently-O‘s summary: “The sales market for patent rights continues to vex analysts – especially in terms of valuation. In their Patently-O Patent Law Journal article, Professor Mark Lemley teams up with the Richardson Oliver Group to provide some amount of further guidance.”

It’s no secret that there is gross discrimination in patent systems, even in the EPO.

Part of the patent microcosm, or pushers for software patents (Bilski Blog), chose to distort the narrative of software patents (for large businesses, in bulk) and instead went with this narrative which would have us read about the “little guys”:

From the beginning my application was rejected, and continues to be rejected, under Section 101, even though we have recently overcome all of the prior art rejections. As a result, I have become something of an accidental student of patent eligibility and as such was very interested in attending the USPTO’s Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Roundtable I on November 14, 2016. Prior to the roundtable, I had assumed that my application was something of an outlier, that there was something wrong with it and that was why it had been rejected. At the roundtable I learned that “it’s not me, it’s you” applies not just to exes but to the patent system as well.


The few speakers at the roundtable who did advocate on behalf of us “little guys” often mentioned how the “direct costs” negatively impacted micro-entities, focusing on the need for examiners to avoid using “blanket statements,” to be specific in their responses, and carefully ensure the law is being properly interpreted and applied on a case by case basis. As a solo entrepreneur, I couldn’t agree more with the need to “get it right the first time,” as this would substantially reduce direct costs for us. My impression is that the examiner’s first instinct is often to reject without any substantive reason, hoping we’ll simply abandon the process altogether, or better yet, pay the ever increasing, exorbitant fees (for me) involved in requests for continued examinations and the appeals process.

This thing which the USPTO called “roundtable” was just an echo chamber. See our article about it and then see this article from Scott Graham of The Recorder (behind paywall). To quote the outline: “A discussion Monday at Stanford University was an opportunity for big tech companies, entrepreneurs, bar associations and academics to hash out the impact of ‘Alice’ and other developments in patent eligibilty.”

This was cited by IBM’s Manny Schecter (IBM is still dissatisfied because there is no software patents certainty and IBM attacks small companies using software patents). There was “no software developer around the table,” Henrion told IBM’s Manny Schecter, “how broken is that?”

Well, this whole “roundtable” was nonsense, or an exercise in fake transparency, giving the illusion of public participation in decision-making while excluding the main stakeholders (who actually produce something).

“If you write code,” I told Manny in relation to this tweet of his, “maybe you’ll understand it’s mumbo-jumbo buzzwords” (he wrote “Abstract? Technological? Concrete? Practical application? Exactly. From #patent perspective these simply cannot be defined precisely.”)

Henrion added, “Tangible?”

All those silly words are so often used by non-developers who try to convince us developers that software patents are desirable.

The Trolls’ Lobby

Witness how Watchtroll’s site wants to crush patent reform and harm actual producers of software etc. The title says “Advice for the Trump Administration and New Congress: Protect Bayh-Dole and Restore the Patent System” and it’s more like the above pattern of lobbying, which we are seeing more of these days.

Not too long ago Watchtroll called reformers “Patent infringer lobby”, leading people in the patent microcosm to saying stuff like: “Patent infringer lobby pushes Trump to aggressively pursue “patent reform” https://lnkd.in/fasm8pZ Time to call out deliberate infringers.”

Well, time to call out Watchtroll who didn’t write any code, doesn’t know how programs work, yet lobbies for software patents.

“Nice bullshit spin on the issue,” wrote a technical person (Raphaël Jacquot) about the above. Henrion wrote, “restore software patents and patent trolling.”

Good for the patent microcosm after all, and we know at whose expense…

Speaking of trolls, Blumberg who used to work for for the world’s largest patent troll, Microsoft’s patent troll that’s connected to Ray Niro (who is now dead), is quoted by IAM as saying: “In our view, Germany is the new Eastern District of Texas. That’s the venue that gives us the most concern.”

Blumberg is now working in Lenovo, which is believed to have colluded with Microsoft to block GNU/Linux (they denied this after actually admitting this).

Concerns about Germany becoming another/new Eastern District of Texas are real because of the UPC ambitions, which will thankfully never reach London. Alexander Esslinger (a.k.a. Patently German) wrote about the above quote: “Really ? At least of owners of SEP’s it is not so easy to get an injunction in Germany based on interpretation of ECJ Huawei-ZTE…”

“Is that a bad thing,” I asked him. He later responded to that, but one must remember whose side he is on. He’s not interested in a sane patent system but a system from which he profits more. Like Bastian Best, who spreads misinformation (biased by omission; fails to mention those ~80% of CAFC cases that send software patents down the sewer), he wants more patent litigation in Germany so that he can profit from that. IAM is on the same side as them and it’s eager for everyone to celebrate patent trolling that’s coming from the Far East. Here is the latest example of that: “Barely a week after KAIST sued several major tech companies in what appeared to be the first ever patent infringement action initiated by an Asian university in the United States, another Korean educational institution has launched its own assertion campaign in the Northern Districty of California.”

Remember that these are non-producing entities that are funded by public money.

Citing Microsoft and its massive patent troll (Intellectual Ventures), IAM also pretends that lowering patent quality is a good thing:

Perhaps the most striking thing was how quickly some of China’s major tech companies have become sophisticated IP players. Xiaomi’s progress in particular has been remarkable and with former IV IP executive Paul Lin on board, the company has one of the most experienced operators in the local monetisation market.

Xiaomi’s deal with Microsoft, announced in May this year, was in the spotlight on day 1 as Lin joined the software giant’s Micky Minhas to dissect one of the leading IP-driven transactions of 2016. As part of that agreement Microsoft sold the Chinese company 1,500 patents, giving Xiaomi a much-needed boost to its portfolio as it weighs up expansion into the US. For all that conditions are widely seen to have deteriorated for many patent owners in the US, the deal shows that American assets will always remain a crucial part of any company’s IP strategy be it focused on freedom to operate or monetisation.

Xiaomi’s patent settlement with Microsoft was an attack on Linux and on Free software, as we explained at the time. Given China’s approach towards software patents (the opposite of what the US is doing), we’re not too shocked to see this happening, but that does not mean we have given up, either.

Links 12/12/2016: Linux Kernel 4.9, 6 Months of Nextcloud

Posted in News Roundup at 1:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • These Were The Best Linux App & Distro Releases in 2016

      As 2016 dims into embers, it’s take to take a misty-eyed look back over the past twelve months, and at some the best Linux releases that wowed, wooed and otherwise w-worded us.

      In 2016 there were a stack of apps and distribution updates, upgrades and releases. Some well known favourites improved, some new ones appeared in the wild, while others introduced us to new or better ways of doing things we regularly do.

    • The Linux Setup – Piers Anthony, Author

      I use Linux because I didn’t like being governed by Microsoft.

    • An Ode to Linux Desktop Users Everywhere

      Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels. The package makers, the man page writers. The rounded windows in Qt mixed with the less rounded windows of GTK. The ones who literally see things differently because of missing proprietary fonts.

    • My search for a MacBook Pro alternative

      Based on more than 100 user reviews, I could create a shortlist of 8 laptops that seemed to be solid alternatives. Based on my four requirements (Linux compatibility was a decisive factor), this list got narrowed down even further. Only three laptops survived!

      These 3 Linux ready models seems to have comparable workmanship and build quality as the MacBook Pro. They come with latest gen and upgradeable hardware and most of their users swear by them.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.8.14

      Turns out I’m going to be on a very long flight early tomorrow morning,
      so I figured it would be good to get this kernel out now, instead of
      delaying it by an extra day. So, I’m announcing the release of the
      4.8.14 kernel.

      All users of the 4.8 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.8.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.8.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:


    • Linux 4.4.38
    • Linux Kernel 4.8.14 Hits the Streets with Numerous Networking Improvements, More
    • It Looks Like There’s A Possible Data Corruption Bug For Btrfs Dating Back To 2009

      A Phoronix reader pointed out to us this weekend there’s been another Btrfs file-system data corruption bug discovered that dates back to around 2009.

    • Qualcomm Falkor (Centriq) Patches For The Linux Kernel

      This week Qualcomm announced they are now sampling the first 10nm 48-core ARMv8 SoC based upon their in-house “Falkor” design. With these SoCs branded as the Centriq 2400 series soon to reach partners and potential customers, Qualcomm has published some Falkor V1 patches for the Linux kernel.

      The ARMv8-based Falkor needs just some basic patches for the Linux kernel. There is the changes for cputype info followed by two patches to address errors with the hardware.

    • Celebrating the first 25 years of Linux
    • MuQSS CPU Scheduler Released For Linux 4.9

      Con Kolivas has announced the release of the MuQSS CPU scheduler v0.15 with support for the Linux 4.9 kernel. MuQSS is his evolutionary successor to the BFS scheduler.

    • Linux Kernel 4.9 Officially Released with Support for AMD Radeon SI/GCN 1.0 GPUs

      As expected, today, December 11, 2016, Linus Torvalds unleashed the final release of the highly anticipated Linux 4.9 kernel, a major update that introduces numerous exciting new features, updated drivers, and other under-the-hood improvements.

    • Linux 4.9 Kernel Officially Released

      The Linux 4.9 kernel has been officially released.

    • Linus Torvalds releases ‘biggest ever’ Linux 4.9, then saves Christmas

      Linux overlord Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.9.

      “I’m pretty sure this is the biggest release we’ve ever had, at least in number of commits,” Torvalds writes on the Linux Kernel Mailing List.

      “If you look at the number of lines changed, we’ve had bigger releases in the past, but they have tended to be due to specific issues (v4.2 got a lot of lines from the AMD GPU register definition files, for example, and we’ve had big re-organizations that caused a lot of lines in the past: v3.2 was big due to staging, v3.7 had the automated uapi header file disintegration, etc).”

    • Linux Kernel 4.4.38 LTS Adds IPv6, IPv4 and L2TP Fixes, Updated Ethernet Drivers

      Immediately after the release of Linux kernel 4.8.14, renowned Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman was proud to announce the availability of a new maintenance update to the long-term supported Linux 4.4 kernel series.

      Just like Linux kernel 4.8.14, the Linux 4.4.38 LTS kernel release hit the streets only two days after the previous maintenance version, in this case Linux kernel 4.4.37 LTS, and it looks like it’s yet another small patch that changes a total of 35 files, with 242 insertions and 80 deletions, according to the appended shortlog and the diff since Linux 4.4.37.

    • Linux Lexicon — How Does Linux Kernel Work?

      This interface looks to programmers like any other function call but is special because it’s a system call. A system call is just a function that requests something from the kernel, this is where the kernel will carry out the request regardless of the underlying hardware. The Linux kernel implements the POSIX standard of systems calls.

    • Graphics Stack

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • How input works – creating a Device
      • Geotagging in digiKam with a Lazy Bash Script

        Sometimes, the easiest way to geotag photos in digiKam is to copy and paste geographical coordinates from an existing photo. I usually use Google Photos for that, as it conveniently displays geographical coordinates of the currently viewed photos in the information sidebar.

      • [Slackware] December packages… not Santa Claus but Plasma 5

        I wanted to have the last 16.08.x release of KDE Applications available in my repository before the new 16.12.x releases start coming. There are some big changes in Applications 16.12 for which I need to time to review, plan and build packages. Therefore you will probably not see packages for Applications 16.12.0 in 2016.
        So, my december release of the ‘ktown’ packages – KDE 5_16.12 – is sporting KDE Frameworks 5.28.0, Plasma 5.8.4 and Applications 16.08.3 for Slackware, built on top of Qt 5.7.0 which was recompiled with a patch which should improve stability. You can use the latest KDE 5 on Slackware 14.2 and -current.

      • No one “works” on Poppler

        I thought that was obvious, but today someone thought that i was “working” as “paid working” on it.

        No, I don’t get paid for the work i do on Poppler.

        It’s my computing hobby, and on top of that it’s not even my “primary” computing hobby, lots of KDE stuff take precedence over it, and i guess Gnome stuff may also take precedence for Carlos (second top commiter according to the git shortlog)

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME Music Is Being Revived

        Thanks in part to last month’s GNOME Core Apps Hackfest in Berlin, the GNOME Music application is being revived.

        GNOME Music, of course, being a music player for GNOME. The current GNOME Music was basically a prototype and not designed for scalability, thus GNOME Music is going back to being rewritten before focusing on new user features.

      • The future of GNOME Music

        GNOME Music is an app that I particularly fell in love. Not because it worked perfectly (it didn’t, at all), nor because it’s fast to the last bit (it isn’t, at all), neither because it’s written in a programming language that I love (i.e. C. And no, it isn’t).

        So why the hell did I invest my free time, energy and resources on it? If we look on how it is right now, it makes no sense. So for my dog’s sake, why?

        Simply because I want to push GNOME forward.

      • Examining User eXperience

        In most cases, usability and UX are strongly aligned. And that makes sense. If you can use the software to get your work done, you probably have a good opinion of the software (good usability, positive UX). And if you can’t use the software to do real work, then you probably won’t have a great opinion of it (bad usability, negative UX).

        But it doesn’t always need to be that way. You can have it the other way around. It just doesn’t happen that often. For example, there’s an open source software game that I like to play sometimes (I won’t name it here). It’s a fun game, the graphics are well done, the sounds are adorable. When I’m done playing the game, I think I’ve had a fun time. And days or weeks later, when I remember the game, I look forward to playing it again. But the game is really hard to play. I don’t know the controls. The game doesn’t show you what to do to move around or to fire the weapons. And for a turn-based game with a time limit, it’s important that you know how to move and shoot. Every time I play this game, I end up banging on keys to figure out what key does what action. It’s not intuitive to me. Essentially, I have to re-learn how to play the game every time I play it.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Manjaro 16.10 Xfce – Surprised me, I like

        Weird. I have never expected to be writing a conclusion to an Arch-based distro review and feel really pleased about the whole experience. But then, looking at how Manjaro behaved and how it delivered, I really don’t have much to complain. The list of bad things is not very long: Samba printing, Bluetooth, some cosmetic problems, and ultra-slow GRUB updates. Other than that, it was really good.

        You get a stable, fast distribution with a balanced kit of programs, media codecs and smartphone support out of the box, low resource utilization, very decent battery life, and even some perks, in the form of a new kernel that may resolve hardware and driver issues, if you have them. Plus, you can actually tame it if you feel like spending some time on the aesthetics front, and it won’t bite with random, unexplained errors. Most importantly, there’s a continuous trend of improvement and maturity in the distribution. Just look at my previous reviews, dating back to 2013. Everything seems to be in order, well, except this one really big thing.

        What’s next? Is this the sum of what the community can do – wants to do, or can we expect Manjaro to take a more commercial, more adult approach, and even become something that could one day appeal to non-Linux folks? That might not be the mission, and perhaps it will never happen, but I am always apprehensive around small distros, because changes can be painful and devastating, and as a user, you need to believe you have a solid, stable, long-term support behind you. This review cannot answer that, but at the very least, it gives you an indication what you can do with Manjaro 16.10 Xfce, if you feel like testing. Overall, 9.25/10 I would say, and it doesn’t take much to up the score. Quite a surprise for this bleak year of distro testing, and a most refreshing change for this no less dreary autumn season. Surpassed my expectations and bitterness. Well worth a ride. Get it, fellas, get it.

      • An Everyday Linux User Review Of Zorin 12

        This version of Zorin is a great step forward. It has a renewed sense of purpose and stands out in its own right as a decent Linux distribution.

        I think Zorin should follow Mint’s lead and stick with aligning itself to the Ubuntu LTS release. This gives the developers more time to push it along at their own pace.

        All in all a decent alternative to Linux Mint and Ubuntu.

      • Netrunner 16.09 Avalon – King Arthur wasn’t there

        Blade Runner? Say what. Nope. Netrunner. But not the Netrunner distro as you remember it. There are changes in the land of sprinters. The old system, which used to be based on Ubuntu LTS, is now a different fork and a separate entity called Maui, and it shall bear the scrutiny of my wits, senses and taste very soon.

        This means, today, we are testing Netrunner 16.09 Avalon, the latest semi-rolling edition based on Debian Stable. Now, my previous testing experience does not agree with this model. Netrunner 17 Horizon was a pretty good product, in fact good enough to be the honorable mention in the annual Plasma/KDE vote, but the rolling 2015.11 was a disaster that would not even install, and got a zero score. So, with less than high hopes, we proceed.

    • New Releases

      • Solus Project Announces Brisk Menu Applet for MATE Edition, Solbuild, and More

        Joshua Strobl from the Solus Project was extremely happy to publish today, December 11, 2016, the 40th installation of the project’s This Week In Solus (TWiS) weekly newsletter.

        We can’t say that TWiS is still a weekly thing lately, because it’s not, and that’s only because the team is hard at work planning new features for the rolling and independently-developed Linux-based operating system. As some of you might be aware, they recently announced Solbuild, the brand-new, faster package build system.

        But there are bigger news than that, especially for those who use the Solus MATE Edition, as the team is currently developing a new Applications Menu applet for the MATE desktop environment, which is entitled Brisk Menu. It aims to offer a traditional experience in the style of MAE, and you can see it in action in the attached screenshot.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 17.04 | Release Date & New Features

            Following the release of Ubuntu 16.10, Canonical is gearing up for the release of the next iteration of the world’s most popular open-source operating system, i.e., Ubuntu 17.04. This release is codenamed Zesty Zapus after a jumping mouse found in the North American region. While Zapus stands for the genus name of a mouse, Zesty is an adjective for ‘great enthusiasm and energy.’

            As the name suggests, this next short-term release will arrive in the month of April. If you’re an avid Ubuntu user, you must be knowing the significance of .04 in 17.04.

          • The 6 Biggest Ubuntu News Stories of 2016

            What a year it’s been — and I’m only talking about Linux, open source and related communities!

            2016 has been a pretty knock-out year for Linux. In this post we highlight 6 news stories from the past twelve months that relate specifically

            Ubuntu fans have had it especially cushy this year, with 2016 gifting not 1 but 2 convergent devices: a high-end Ubuntu Phone, and a mid-range Ubuntu tablet. This year was also host to a rock solid, super dependable LTS release in the form of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and a forward-looking short-term release in Ubuntu 16.10.

          • System 76 Talks With Ubuntu, WordPress Ups Game and More…

            This week we learned that Canonical has been working with another company that’s not located anywhere near Redmond for a change. Denver based System 76, the OEM that’s built it’s reputation marketing desktops and laptops preloaded with Linux, has been talking with Canonical to help developers at Ubuntu up their game on the desktop front. To be more specific, the two have been working together to increase HiDPI (High Dots Per Inch) support in Unity 7.

          • System76 Working with Canonical on Improving HiDPI Support in Ubuntu

            Last week System76 engineers participated in a call with Martin Wimpress of the Ubuntu Desktop team to discuss HiDPI support in Ubuntu, specifically Unity 7. HiDPI support exists in Unity 7, but there are areas that could use improvement, and the call focused around those. The conversation was primarily focused around bugs that still remain in the out-of-the-box HiDPI experience; specifically around enabling automatic scaling and Ubuntu recognizing when a HiDPI display is present so that it can adjust accordingly.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint lacks resources to maintain KDE Plasma version — turns to Kubuntu team for help

              There are too many dang Linux distributions and desktop environments nowadays. This is frustrating, as it spreads developer resources too thin. In other words, developers are often working on too many separate projects that further fragments the community. Linux on the desktop could be much further along if teams pooled resources and focused on a narrower field of development.

              Today, Clement Lefebvre, Linux Mint leader, concedes that his team simply doesn’t have the resources to meet its goals. You see, the team is finding it very difficult to maintain a KDE Plasma version of its operating system, so it has turned to the Kubuntu team instead. The question becomes, why bother? KDE users should simply use Kubuntu and the Linux Mint team should stay focused on Cinnamon and Mate. Am I right?

            • The Wait Is Almost Over: KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS Is Coming to Kubuntu, Linux Mint KDE

              Today, December 11, 2016, the Kubuntu and Linux Mint developers were proud to announce the availability of the KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS desktop environment in the Kubuntu Backports Landing PPA repository.

              It’s been a long time coming, but Kubuntu 16.04.1 LTS (Xenial Xerus) and Kubuntu 16.10 (Yakkety Yak) users will soon be able to update their beloved KDE Plasma 5 desktop environment to the latest, long-term supported KDE Plasma 5.8 release. The KDE Frameworks 5.28.0 and KDE Applications 16.04.3 software suite are available as well, and these KDE technologies are also available for Linux Mint 18 “Sarah” KDE users.

            • Ubuntu-Based KDE Neon User LTS Edition Distro Out Now with KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS

              The development team behind the KDE Neon GNU/Linux distribution have announced the availability of an LTS (Long Term Support) flavor of the KDE Neon User Edition operating system.

              As you might know, KDE Neon is usually distributed as User Edition and Developer Edition 64-bit Live ISO images. While the former is shipping with the latest stable KDE Plasma, Frameworks, and Applications releases, the latter is targeted at developers and bleeding-edge users who want to test drive the pre-release versions of these technologies.

            • Cinnamon 3.2.4 Desktop Environment Lands with Support for Rhythmbox, MATE Panel

              A new maintenance update of the Cinnamon 3.2 desktop environment has arrived this weekend, versioned 3.2.4, for the upcoming Linux Mint 18.1 “Serena” operating system, but also for users of Linux Mint 18 “Sarah.”

              Cinnamon 3.2.4 is now the latest stable release of the acclaimed desktop environment for GNU/Linux distributions, and lands approximately three weeks after the Cinnamon 3.2.2 update, and one day after the announcement of Cinnamon 3.2.3, which was a major version adding numerous improvements, new features, and bug fixes.

            • Making System Settings Access a Cross-Desktop Feature

              Corentin Noël has proposed a cross-desktop URL scheme specification for system settings and we’re excited to announce the first release of Switchboard (the system settings app in elementary OS) that makes use of it!

            • Ubuntu Budgie Minimal Edition Coming Soon for Those Who Love Customizing the OS

              We haven’t heard anything from the Ubuntu Budgie team since their beloved Linux-based operating system built around the Budgie desktop environment was accepted by Canonical as an official Ubuntu flavor.

              However, we’re aware of the fact that the Ubuntu Budgie team have a lot of work on their hands re-branding the entire project from the old name (budgie-remix) to the new one, and we can all agree it’s a huge effort. Also, they’re preparing for the distribution’s first release as an official Ubuntu flavor, as part of Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus).

              The first development snapshot of Ubuntu Budgie 17.04 might land later this month, on December 29, when some of the opt-in flavors will participate in the Alpha 1 release. Until then, it looks like the team is working on an ultra minimal version of Ubuntu Budgie, for those who love customizing their installations.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • PayPal Cuts Costs 10x With Open Source CI

    The bigger you are, the more small efficiencies add up. Manivannan Selvaraj’s talk from LinuxCon North America gives us a detailed inside view of how PayPal cut operating costs by a factor of ten, while greatly increasing performance and user convenience.

    Everything has to be fast now. We can’t have downtimes. No going offline for maintenance, no requesting resources with a days-long ticketing process. Once upon a time virtual machines were the new miracle technology that enabled more efficient resource use. But that was then. Selvaraj describes how PayPal’s VMs were operating at low efficiency. They started with a single giant customized Jenkins instance running over 40,000 jobs. It was a single point of failure, not scalable, and inflexible.

    The next iteration was individual VMs running Jenkins for each application, which was great for users, but still not an optimal use of hardware. Selvaraj notes that, “Only 10% were really used. The rest of the time, the resources were idle and if you think about 2,500 virtual machines, it’s millions of dollars invested in hardware. So, although it solved the problem of freedom for users and removed the single point of failure, we still had the resource management issue where we didn’t use the resource optimally.”

  • 6 months of Nextcloud

    Last Friday was the 6 month anniversary of Nextcloud, a good opportunity to look back and reflect on what we have achieved since we started. I also have some interesting news to share, including that Nextcloud GmbH is a profitable company already!

  • Web Browsers

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD


    • FSFE Newsletter – December 2016

      In mid October, the lower chamber of the Russian Federation (“Duma”) approved a bill that will boost Free Software on multiple levels within the Russian Federation’s public sector. It requires the public sector to prioritise Free Software over proprietary alternatives, gives precedence to local IT businesses that offer Free Software for public tenders, and recognises the need to encourage collaboration with the global network of Free Software organisations and communities.

      The legislators made an extra effort to ensure a proper use of language. The bill talks about “Free Software”, explicitly mentions the four freedoms and even uses “GNU/Linux” to refer to the most widespread free operating system.

      As our Policy Analyst Polina Malaja puts it: “The bill is an example of public software procurement done right.”

  • Licensing/Legal

    • [Older] Licensing resource series: License Violations and Compliance
    • [Older] The Licensing and Compliance Lab interviews Micah Lee of GPG Sync

      This is the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab’s series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their work. In this edition, we conducted an email-based interview with Micah Lee of GPG Sync.

      GPG Sync is a recently launched project for managing the sharing of GPG keys, particularly within an organization. Micah Lee made the project internally at First Look Media and has now shared it with the world.

    • Apache and the JSON license

      The JSON license is a slightly modified variant of the MIT license, but that variation has led it to be rejected as a free-software or open-source license by several organizations. The change is a simple—rather innocuous at some level—addition of one line: “The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil.”. Up until recently, code using the JSON license was acceptable for Apache projects, but that line and the ambiguity it engenders was enough for Apache to put it on the list of disallowed licenses.

      At the end of October, Ted Dunning brought up the license on the Apache legal-discuss mailing list. He suggested that classifying the JSON license as acceptable (i.e. on the list of Category A licenses) was an “erroneous decision”. That decision was made, he said, “apparently based on a determination that the no-evil clause was ‘clearly a joke’”. He pointed to a thread from 2008 where a “lazy consensus” formed that the “not evil” condition did not preclude Apache projects from using the license.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Government in France: an Empty Promise?

      As France is hosting the Open Government Partnership Global Summit, a number of Civil Society Organizations point out the inconsistencies of the French government. Some have decided not to attend.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Fuzzing OpenGL Shaders Can Lead To Some Wild Results

      Alastair Donaldson at the Imperial College London has been working on testing OpenGL shader compilers across vendors and operating systems with OpenGL shader fuzzing and has been finding some surprising — and sometimes comical — results. The results so far are interesting and show how some small code changes can cause big problems for some OpenGL shader compilers.

    • Google starts using HTML5 by default instead of Flash for some Chrome users

      Google has started disabling Flash and displaying HTML5 content instead on certain websites for a small number of people using its Chrome browser. People can still explicitly permit Flash to load on the affected sites — which are the top 10 that use Flash.

      Google has deployed the change for half of the people who are using Chrome 56 beta, which rolled out yesterday, Google technical program manager Eric Deily wrote in a blog post.

      Then, “in the next few days,” Deily wrote, the feature will be active for 1 percent of users of Chrome 55 stable.


  • ‘Clean your desk’ : My Amazon interview experience

    The whole experience was somewhat surreal. I remember in previous years, while applying for internships at Amazon, on being told that I have to take an automated test while being recorded through my camera, I’d recoiled at this intrusion of privacy. Now, I’d given a company complete access to my entire machine, just so I can apply to work there. If the video had worked, I would have proceeded with the interview, because at the time of doing the interview I was looking for a job and I 1) don’t live in the Bay Area, and 2) am not a citizen of a North American country, so good/interesting programming jobs aren’t plentiful.

  • Liberty in the Library – FAIFE Network Launches

    Libraries are increasingly places not just for reading, but also for creating and sharing. They are guardians of free access to information and free expression – two values which are inseparable from each other, and have fulfilled this role for centuries.

  • China suggests the construction of rail lines linking Afghanistan and Pakistan

    China has proposed that a railway line be built linking the Pakistani city of Quetta to the Afghani capital of Kabul, as well as from the Pakistani city of Peshawar to Kabul, according to Afghan Presidential Palace.

    The proposal was made by the Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou in a meeting with the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani.

    Xuanyou emphasised the importance of Afghanistan to China’s New Silk Road.

  • Science

    • Dinosaur tail trapped in amber offers insights into feather evolution

      A length of fluffy plumage discovered within a piece of amber has been identified as part of a dinosaur tail, offering new insights into the evolution of feathers.

      Around 3.7cm long, with chestnut-coloured feathers on the top and pale feathers underneath, the tail was found complete with fossilised bones as well as traces of muscles, ligaments and mummified-looking skin.

      While researchers say it is not possible to determine the species to which the tail belonged, they say the dinosaur lived around 99 million years ago and was most likely a juvenile, non-avian theropod – a group of dinosaurs that includes velociraptors and tyrannosaurs.

    • John Glenn, First American To Orbit The Earth, Dies At 95

      The first American to orbit the Earth has died. John Glenn was the last surviving member of the original Mercury astronauts. He would later have a long political career as a U.S. senator, but that didn’t stop his pioneering ways.

      Glenn made history a second time in 1998, when he flew aboard the shuttle Discovery to become the oldest person to fly in space.

      Glenn was 95 when he died; he had been hospitalized in an Ohio State University medical center in Columbus since last week.

    • John Glenn, the last of the Mercury Seven astronauts, has died
  • Hardware

    • Qualcomm Debuts 10nm FinFET Centriq 2400 Processor With 48 Cores

      Qualcomm and its Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies subsidiary announced today that the company has already begun sampling its first 10nm server processor. The Centriq 2400 is the second generation of Qualcomm server SOCs, but it is the first in its new family of 10nm FinFET processors. The Centriq 2400 features up to 48 custom Qualcomm ARMv8-compliant Falkor cores and comes a little over a year after Qualcomm began developing its first-generation Centriq processors.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • What Do Flint And The Dakota Access Pipeline Have In Common? Water

      With all the attention lately on the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, some folks have wondered why more attention isn’t being spent on the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. While mainstream media has devoted a multitude of stories on the Flint water crisis, the same news outlets have paid little attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.


      Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore hails from Flint, Michigan, and has a deep connection with the city. It is obvious that he cares tremendously about the city and its inhabitants. On his website, he gave a ten-point rundown of why the water crisis happened, to begin with, but it all seems to boil down to two things: greed and a gaping disregard for human life, particularly Black lives (Flint is a majority Black city).

      Several points in his essay were striking in how government officials, at both the state and federal level, seemed to disregard the lives of people who live in Flint.

  • Security

    • A ‘mystery device’ is letting thieves break into cars and drive off with them, insurance group says

      Insurance crime investigators are raising alarms over a device that not only lets thieves break into cars that use keyless entry systems but also helps start and steal them.

      Investigators from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a not-for-profit organization, said in an interview they obtained what they called the “mystery device” from a third-party security expert at an overseas company.

      So far, the threat here may be mostly theoretical. The crime bureau said it heard of the device being used in Europe and had reports that it had entered the U.S., but said there are no law enforcement reports of a car being stolen using it in the United States.

    • Turkish hacking group offers tiered points rewards program for DoS attacks

      A TURKISH HACKING GANG is taking an unusual approach to funding denial of service attacks, and is soliciting for, and offering hackers rewards for taking down chosen pages.

      This is unusual, as far as we know, and it has led to the creation of comment from the security industry. Often these things do.

    • German judges explain why Adblock Plus is legal

      Last month, Adblock Plus maker Eyeo GmbH won its sixth legal victory in German courts, with a panel of district court judges deciding that ad-blocking software is legal despite German newsmagazine Der Spiegel’s arguments to the contrary. Now, the reasoning of the Hamburg-based panel of judges has been made public.

      According to an unofficial English-translated copy (PDF) of the judgment, Spiegel Online argued it was making a “unified offer” to online consumers. Essentially, that offer is: read the news content for free and view some ads. While Internet users have the freedom “not to access this unified offer,” neither they nor Adblock Plus have the right to “dismantle” it. Eyeo’s behavior thus amounted to unfair competition, and it could even wipe the offer out, Spiegel claimed.

      “The Claimant [Spiegel] argues that the Defendant’s [Eyeo's] business model endangers the Claimant’s existence,” reads the judgment, which isn’t final because it can be appealed by Spiegel. Because users aren’t willing to pay for editorial content on the Web, “it is not economically viable for the Claimant to switch to this business model.”

      Spiegel asked for an accounting of all the blocked views on its website and a fine to be paid—or even for managers Wladimir Palant and Till Faida to be placed in “coercive detention” of up to two years.

    • Op-ed: I’m throwing in the towel on PGP, and I work in security [Ed: Onlya tool would drop PGP for Facebook-controlled Whatsapp. The company back-doors everything under gag orders.]

      In the coming weeks I’ll import all signatures I received, make all the signatures I promised, and then publish revocations to the keyservers. I’ll rotate my Keybase key. Eventually, I’ll destroy the private keys.

    • 90 per cent of NHS Trusts are still running Windows XP machines

      90 PER CENT of the NHS continues to run Windows XP machines, two and a half years after Microsoft ditched support for the ageing OS.

      It’s Citrix who is ringing the alarm bells, having learnt that 90 per cent of NHS Trusts are still running Windows XP PCs. The firm sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 63 NHS Trusts, 42 of which responded.

      The data also revealed that 24 Trusts are still not sure when they’ll migrate from Windows XP to a newer version of Microsoft’s OS. 14 per cent said they would be transitioning to a new operating system by the end of this year, while 29 per cent pledged to make the move sometime next year.

    • Ransomware blamed for attack that caused Lincolnshire NHS Trust shutdown

      RANSOMWARE is to blame for an attack which saw an NHS Trust in Lincolnshire that forced to cancel operations for four days in October.

      In a statement, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust said that a ransomware variant called Globe2 was to blame for the incident.

    • Researchers Find Fresh Fodder for IoT Attack Cannons

      New research published this week could provide plenty of fresh fodder for Mirai, a malware strain that enslaves poorly-secured Internet of Things (IoT) devices for use in powerful online attacks. Researchers in Austria have unearthed a pair of backdoor accounts in more than 80 different IP camera models made by Sony Corp. Separately, Israeli security experts have discovered trivially exploitable weaknesses in nearly a half-million white-labeled IP camera models that are not currently sought out by Mirai.

    • Your data is not safe. Here’s how to lock it down

      But some people worry that government surveillance will expand under a Donald Trump presidency, especially because he tapped Mike Pompeo, who supports mass surveillance, for CIA chief.

    • Tor at the Heart: Library Freedom Project

      Library Freedom Project is an initiative that aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries by teaching librarians and their local communities about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and privacy-enhancing technologies to help safeguard digital freedoms.

    • Five-Year-Old Bait-and-Switch Linux Security Flaw Patched

      Maintainers of the Linux Kernel project have fixed three security flaws this week, among which there was a serious bug that lingered in the kernel for the past five years and allowed attackers to bypass some OS security systems and open a root shell.

    • The Internet of Dangerous Auction Sites

      Ok, I know this is kind of old news now, but Bruce Schneier gave testimony to the House of Representatives’ Energy & Commerce Committee about computer security after the Dyn attack. I’m including this quote because I feel it sets the scene nicely for what follows here.

      Last week, I was browsing the popular online auction site eBay and I noticed that there was no TLS. For a moment, I considered that maybe my traffic was being intercepted deliberately, there’s no way that eBay as a global company would be deliberately risking users in this way. I was wrong. There is not and has never been TLS for large swathes of the eBay site. In fact, the only point at which I’ve found TLS is in their help pages and when it comes to entering card details (although it’ll give you back the last 4 digits of your card over a plaintext channel).

    • PowerShell security threats greater than ever, researchers warn

      Administrators should upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft PowerShell and enable extended logging and monitoring capabilities in the light of a surge in related security threats, warn researchers [...] Now more than 95% of PowerShell scripts analysed by Symantec researchers have been found to be malicious, with 111 threat families using PowerShell.

    • Microsoft PowerShell Becomes a More Popular Malware-Spreading Tool

      Microsoft PowerShell is a really powerful tool for IT professionals running Windows, and the Redmond-based software giant is making it the default shell in the operating system, but security experts that cybercriminals are also increasingly using it for spreading malware.

      Security firm Symantec analyzed malicious PowerShell scripts and said that the number of threats is growing at a fast pace, especially in the case of enterprises where the shell framework is more widely used.

    • The dangers of stable/LTS/supported versions

      This means that people are running stable versions and thinking they are secure, but if we trust security specialists, [almost] every crash can be exploited, and I’m almost sure neither Ubuntu nor RedHat nor Debian have backported all of the crash fixes of the more than 20 releases and 2 years of development behind those *very old* versions they are shipping.

    • GStreamer and the state of Linux desktop security

      Recently Chris Evans, an IT security expert currently working for Tesla, published a series of blog posts about security vulnerabilities in the GStreamer multimedia framework. A combination of the Chrome browser and GNOME-based desktops creates a particularly scary vulnerability. Evans also made a provocative statement: that vulnerabilities of this severity currently wouldn’t happen in Windows 10. Is the state of security on the Linux desktop really that bad — and what can be done about it?

    • The State of Kernel Self Protection Project by Kees Cook, Google
    • 5-Year-Old Linux Kernel Local Privilege Escalation Flaw Discovered
    • Private Internet Access funds OpenVPN 2.4 audit by noted cryptographer Dr. Matthew Green

      Private Internet Access is happy to announce that an OpenVPN 2.4 audit is going to be completed by noted cryptographer Dr. Matthew Green, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute. Dr. Green has a long, distinguished history in the fields of applied cryptography and cryptographic engineering and has previously lead the Truecrypt audit.

    • [Older] Risky design decisions in Google Chrome and Fedora desktop enable drive-by downloads
    • The IoT: Gateway for enterprise hackers

      The risk of notoriously insecure Internet of Things devices is not so much that those devices themselves will be compromised, but that they provide dozens – perhaps hundreds – of openings that could allow attackers to get inside an enterprise network

    • Netgear users advised to stop using affected routers after severe flaw found
    • We must return transparency to voting [Ed: a real problem]

      With the passage of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, electronic voting systems became the law of the land. This law required proprietary electronic voting systems be used in America.

      It must be noted, however, that Americans would not be permitted to use open-source software to protect their right to vote. When proprietary electronic-voting systems are used for elections, Americans literally lost their right to vote.

      In America, our governments, whether local, state or federal, rely on elections that permit anyone to scrutinize the election process, including the vote count. Whether by paper ballot or electronic voting system, it is every American’s right to examine the vote count process to satisfy their personal demand that the vote count is accurate and verifiable.

    • CloudLinux 7 Kernel Update Patches 5-Year-Old Privilege-Escalation Vulnerability
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Mad Men: Trump May Be the Perfect Vehicle for Kissinger’s Philosophy

      Henry Kissinger was in Beijing just before president-elect Donald Trump decided to upend decades of diplomatic protocol and speak on the phone with the Taiwanese president. The details of Kissinger’s conversation with Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, were undisclosed, but clearly the aging statesman was trying to resurrect his role as a go-between between China and Washington. Perhaps he even conveyed to the Chinese sentiments similar to those he expressed to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, essentially trying to present Trump as a statesman without “baggage,” beholden to no one.

      Give Trump a chance, Kissinger said. Let’s not box him in. “We must give him time to develop his philosophy.” “We hope,” Kissinger told Xi in Beijing, “to see the China-U.S. relationship moving ahead in a sustained and stable manner.” Then Trump pulled the rug, raising doubts about Washington’s decades-long One China policy and confirming China’s worst fears. On Tuesday, Kissinger trekked to Trump Tower to huddle with the president-elect.

    • Around 1,500 European jihadists return from Mideast: report

      Around a third of the estimated 5,000 European jihadists who went to Syria and Iraq have returned to Europe, and some may have orders to attack, an EU report warned Wednesday.

      Up to 2,500 fighters from Europe remained on the battlefield but their massive return in the short term seemed unlikely, according to the report seen by AFP.

      Belgium expressed concern last month that jihadists were increasingly returning to Europe as US-backed coalition forces drive the Islamic State (IS) group from territory in Syria and Iraq.

      The report said between 15 to 20 percent of the Europeans have died on the battlefield, around 30 to 35 percent have returned and 50 percent remain in the battle theatre, which amounted to between 2,000 and 2,500 Europeans.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • 5 New Tactics In Civil Disobedience, Taught By Standing Rock

      If you’ve only been half-following the story of Standing Rock, you might not know much beyond some snarky Twitter memes about the cops going “a little overboard” (for instance, they nearly blew a woman’s arm off with a concussion grenade). The allegations of police brutality have been serious enough that the United Nations has opened an investigation. But the most important story from Standing Rock isn’t the police brutality, the evidence that protester’s phones were hacked, or even that this is the largest gathering of Indigenous Americans in modern history.

    • The Standing Rock Water Protectors Aren’t Leaving

      Temperatures in Cannonball, North Dakota are now at lethal lows, dipping well below freezing, with winds reaching up to 50 miles per hour. On December 4th, thousands of US veterans began to arrive at Standing Rock to join the Water Protectors in solidarity. Veterans announced they would serve as security for the Water Protectors at the front lines, pledging to defend them in the case of police attacks.

      As veterans began arriving by the busload, the Army Corp of Engineers announced that the Dakota Access Pipeline would not be granted a permit to continue pipeline construction. It’s widely speculated that this announcement was strategically timed to persuade the veterans to leave Standing Rock and that DAPL will not in fact cease construction. As the weather worsens, many wonder what lies ahead for the Water Protectors.

    • Open Pit Mine in Montana Kills Thousands of Migrating Snow Geese

      Thousands of snow geese have been killed by the toxic waters of the Berkeley Pit, a flooded former copper mine in Butte, Montana that is one of the most poisonous and acidic bodies of water in the United States.

      Unusually warm weather led the flock—tens of thousands of geese—to migrate south from Canada to the American Southwest later than usual, and they ran into a snow storm in Montana. The only open water in the area on which they could land was that contained in the Berkeley Pit.

      The geese landed in the pit, whose water is contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, and zinc, in late November. The heavy metal contamination has resulted in water so acidic that the organisms able to survive within the pit are the objects of scientific study. Thousands of birds did not survive after touching down on the red-tinged toxic waste.

    • Donald Trump’s Interior Pick Thinks Climate Change Is ‘Creative Writing’

      Today, Donald Trump nominated his pick for Secretary of the Interior: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference, and a vocal climate change denier.

      Just days after selecting Scott Pruitt—an attorney general whose pockets have been lined by the fossil fuel industry—to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has beefed up his roster of pro-fossil fuel personalities. At this point, a larger theme is emerging. As president, Trump intends to undo the current administration’s climate legacy by unleashing Cabinet officials with experience systematically striking down climate regulations.

      According to the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental nonprofit, McMorris Rodgers boasts a lifetime voting score of 4 percent. She’s voted to strike down bills that would limit emissions from power plants, protect communities from toxic coal ash, ban the sale of ivory products in the US, and protect threatened species like the lesser prairie chicken.

    • Trump team memo on climate change alarms Energy Department staff

      President-elect Donald Trump’s Energy Department transition team sent the agency a memo this week asking for the names of people who have worked on climate change and the professional society memberships of lab workers, alarming employees and advisors.

      The memo sent to the Energy Department on Tuesday and seen by Reuters on Friday, contains 74 questions including a request for a list of all department employees and contractors who attended the annual global climate talks hosted by the United Nations within the last five years.

      It asked for a list of all department employees or contractors who have attended any meetings on the social cost of carbon, a measurement that federal agencies use to weigh the costs and benefits of new energy and environment regulations. It also asked for all publications written by employees at the department’s 17 national laboratories for the past three years.

    • Trump team memo on climate change alarms Energy Department staff [Ed: same as above, widely syndicated]
    • Trump’s EPA Pick Is a Shill For the Oil Industry

      f all the people Donald Trump was considering to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his eventual pick, Scott Pruitt, a fellow climate change denier, has the most dangerous ties to the fossil fuel industry. The news was announced today, after the Oklahoma attorney general beat out four other candidates, including climate change denier Myron Ebell.

      Like his competition, Pruitt, a lawyer, possesses the following characteristics: a staunch disbelief in man-made global warming, a disdain for the EPA’s regulatory power, and a strong yearning to undo President Obama’s environmental policy, such as the proposed Clean Power Plan.

      Pruitt, in his role as Attorney General, also has experience fighting environmental policies in court. His resume, according to the New York Times, notes him as “a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies.” Earlier this year, Pruitt spearheaded a 28-state lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against alleged constitutional overstepping by President Obama’s climate rules. The Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, and is essential to meeting Paris Agreement goals, was criticized by opponents for being an illegal power-grab by the EPA. The case is expected to move to the Supreme Court.

  • Finance

    • Uber is treating its drivers as sweated labour, says report

      Uber treats its drivers as Victorian-style “sweated labour”, with some taking home less than the minimum wage, according to a report into its working conditions based on the testimony of dozens of drivers.

      Drivers at the taxi-hailing app company reported feeling forced to work extremely long hours, sometimes more than 70 a week, just to make a basic living, said Frank Field, the Labour MP and chair of the work and pensions committee.

    • Inequality Is Killing The American Dream

      Decades of rising income inequality and slowing economic growth have eroded a pillar of the American dream: the hope that each generation will do better than the one that came before, according to new research released Thursday.

      If the findings hold up, they have profound economic, social and even political implications. The decline in what economists call “mobility” — how easy it is to move up the income ladder over a lifetime or across generations — has been especially stark in the Rust Belt states that helped propel Donald Trump to victory in last month’s presidential election.

      In 1970, according to the research, conducted by Stanford economist Raj Chetty and several co-authors, roughly nine out of every 10 American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did at the same age, after adjusting for inflation. In 2014, only half of 30-year-olds could say the same.1 The slowdown in mobility shows up in all 50 states and is true across the income spectrum. The biggest declines were among the children of middle-class families.

    • How Donald Trump’s Web of LLCs Obscures His Business Interests

      To be more precise, he has a revocable trust that owns 99% of a Delaware limited liability company that owns 99% of another Delaware LLC that owns a Scottish limited company that owns another Scottish company that owns the 26-year-old Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, emblazoned with a red “TRUMP” on the side of its fuselage.

    • We must stop the Tories from putting private profit before quality and safety of our railways

      When you arrive at the scene of a rail disaster the first thing that hits you is the loss. The loss of unfulfilled lives. The loss of parents, children, partners and other loved ones knowing they’ll never see them again.

      Then you feel pride. For the emergency workers who will work through the night to find the injured and the dead. Then you get angry. Angry that mindless privatisation and the profit motive had led to a train crash.

      As Shadow Transport Spokesman I saw at first hand the under-investment in British Rail by the Tory Government . In the 10 years before 1997, it was £1.2billion a year.

    • Wells Fargo is successfully convincing judges that forged arbitration agreements are legally binding

      When you sign up for a Wells Fargo account, you’re required to sign an arbitration “agreement” giving up your right to sue the company, and requiring you to have your case heard by an arbitrator paid for by — and dependent on — Wells Fargo instead.

      At least 2,000,000 times, Wells Fargo employees were pressured — on pain of termination and lifelong blacklisting from the finance industry — into opening fake accounts in their customers’ names. These accounts existed solely to accrue fees, which, in many cases, made their customers overdrawn (or simply generated suspicious seeming queries against their credit records), and when that happened, their credit records were dinged, which can cost you a job, a loan — even your house if you can’t refinance your mortgage.

      Now those millions of defrauded people are trying to sue Wells, and Wells is arguing that the binding arbitration agreements on accounts that you didn’t open are also binding — that by having your signature forged on a fraudulent application, you waived your right to sue.

    • Posti denies losing entire newspaper print run

      National mail carrier Posti has denied claims that it lost an entire print run of the Social Democratic Party weekly, Demokraatti. On Thursday the party organ said that it would provide free access to its digital paper because a Posti search for 10,000 copies of the weekly proved to be fruitless.

    • A mafia expert has named ‘the most corrupt country in the world’

      The UK is the most corrupt country in the world, according to journalist Roberto Saviano, who is an expert in the Italian Mafia.

    • UK firms ‘face more, not less, red tape if Britain exits customs union’

      UK businesses will have to deal with 60m more pieces of paperwork each year if Britain leaves the customs union as it departs the EU, according to research from a group campaigning to keep trade links with the bloc after Brexit.

      According to Open Britain, a hard Brexit could spark an “avalanche of paperwork” if thousands of importing and exporting businesses were forced to fill out similar forms to those required in moving goods and services beyond the union.

      The claim comes as the government faces another potential legal challenge to its Brexit plans, this time from two campaigners who are seeking a judicial review in the high court to keep Britain in the single market.

      Under the EU customs union, which deals with rules relating to trade, unified tariffs are levied on imports to the whole area, meaning no new charges or associated paperwork are needed for goods shipped between members.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • This Man’s First-Hand Account of the Michigan Recount Is Disturbing

      Over at Medium, Nick Sharp, a man who volunteered as an observer with Recount Michigan 2016, described his experience. It does not sound positive. In fact, he before the count was suspended by a federal judge, Sharp called it a “bloodbath.”

    • McCain: Tillerson relationship with Putin a ‘matter of concern’

      Sen. John McCain said Saturday that the relationship between Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate for secretary of state, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “matter of concern” to him.

      In an interview with Fox News, the former GOP nominee and chairman of the Senate armed services committee said, “I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was, but I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me. You want to give the president of the United States the benefit of the doubt because the people have spoken. But Vladimir Putin is a thug, a bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.”

    • Bernstein says Trump’s lies worse than Nixon’s

      Carl Bernstein, whose reporting broke open the Watergate scandal that led to former President Nixon’s resignation, said Sunday that Nixon’s lies were nothing compared to Donald Trump’s.

    • Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign cost a record $1.2B

      Hillary Clinton and her supporters spent a record $1.2 billion for her losing presidential campaign — twice as much as the winner, Donald Trump, according to the latest records.

      The president-elect, who confounded critics during the campaign by saying there was no need to raise or spend $1 billion or more, ended up making do with $600 million.

      Clinton’s expensive machine tore through $131.8 million in just the final weeks, finishing with about $839,000 on hand as of Nov. 28.

      Team Trump spent $94.5 million in the home stretch — from Oct. 20 to Nov. 28 — and had $7.6 million left.

      The figures include all spending by the campaigns, PACs and party committees.

      Trump contributed $66 million from his own pocket, $34 million less than he estimated he would shell out.

    • Freedom’s Just Another Word

      This is banana republic crap, people, that looks to negate the votes of some 62 million Americans. We no longer believe in our own system. When the candidate many people did not support wins, the response is to seek to negate the democratic process, via accusations that make McCarthy in the 1950s look like a sad amateur.

      What we have are anonymous voices at an intelligence agency supposedly dedicated to foreign intel saying the Russians helped elect our next president. That says the process is flawed and cannot be trusted, and that Trump will owe a debt to the Russians and can’t be trusted. It will keep alive the idea that Clinton should have won if not for this meddling and undermine for his term the legitimacy of Trump. Via the classification process, the CIA will only need to make public the snippets of info that support its contention.

      This is an attempted coup as sure as it would be if there were tanks on the White House lawn. The CIA might as well have tried to shoot Trump during his next trip to Dallas.

      To date, all of these accusations have been based on anonymous sources and leaks. The president of the United States remains silent.

    • Requiem for the Obama Administration, Trump Edition

      The problems many are now predicting under the Trump administration did not start on November 8. The near-unrestrained executive power claimed by the Obama administration will be transferred to the president-elect. Here’s what that means.

    • Worst False Equivalencies of 2016

      The general election was a tale of two scandals, often lumped side by side: the ongoing FBI investigation into Clinton’s mishandling of government emails and Donald Trump’s ever-expanding list of alleged sexual assault victims. While Clinton’s email scandal was certainly newsworthy (most FBI investigations of candidates are), its relative importance to her fitness for office was dwarfed by the torrent of allegations against the GOP nominee.

    • On International Human Rights Day, a Lesson for Trump

      Saturday is International Human Rights Day, commemorating the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The significance of the day and its history is something that President-elect Donald Trump should reckon with after running a campaign that demonstrated outright contempt for human rights, particularly his “love” of waterboarding.

      Right now, we don’t yet know what Donald Trump will try in office. But to fight against any policies embodying the islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, or misogyny that were embraced during his campaign, we know that we have decades of international human rights law on our side. And no president can undo that because ratified treaties are not just lofty aspirations — under the Constitution they’re “the supreme law of the land.”

    • Jill Stein in Detroit: Michigan’s election ‘a hot mess’

      “We are fighting for the right to vote and to make sure that every vote counts,” said Stein, 66, who triggered historic recount efforts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin after voters in those states shifted to Republican after many years of voting Democratic.

    • This is what happens when Donald Trump attacks a private citizen on Twitter

      About a year ago, 18-year-old college student Lauren Batchelder stood up at a political forum in New Hampshire and told Donald Trump that she didn’t think he was “a friend to women.”

      The next morning, Trump fired back on Twitter — calling Batchelder an “arrogant young woman” and accusing her of being a “plant” from a rival campaign. Her phone began ringing with callers leaving threatening messages that were often sexual in nature. Her Facebook and email inboxes filled with similar messages. As her addresses circulated on social media and her photo flashed on the news, she fled home to hide.

      “I didn’t really know what anyone was going to do,” said Batchelder, now 19, who has never discussed her experience with a reporter until now. “He was only going to tweet about it and that was it, but I didn’t really know what his supporters were going to do, and that to me was the scariest part.”

      This is what happens when Trump targets a private citizen who publicly challenges him.

    • Trump’s Presidency Is Shaping Up to Be an American Tragedy

      They’re already building the inaugural stand on the west side of the Capitol building. In six weeks, Donald Trump will stand on it, in front of thousands, and take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States.

    • Gary Cohn: Donald Trump expected to pick Goldman Sachs president as National Economic Council director

      Donald Trump has reportedly chosen Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn as his pick for director of the National Economic Council.

      While the President-elect has promised to “drain the swamp” of bureaucracy and lobbying powers in Washington DC, Americans may question Mr Trump’s choice of the leader of one of the largest banks in the US to lead a government agency. Mr Trump repeatedly criticised Wall Street banks during the presidential campaign, and called for Hillary Clinton to release the transcripts of her paid speeches at Goldman.

      Also on Friday, Mr Trump said he would name Andrew Liveris, chairman and chief executive of Dow Chemical Co, to head the Manufacturing Council, a private sector group that advises the US secretary of commerce.

      Mr Trump made the announcement during a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he introduced Mr Liveris, 62, a dual US-Australian citizen who said he had accepted the appointment.

    • Without these ads, there wouldn’t be money in fake news

      It’s never been easier to launch a wildly profitable online media empire. Whether you’re an aspiring mommy blogger or political pundit, $10 gets you a URL and online storage. Fill out a short form and copy-paste some code to get ads on your website.

      Lure in some readers and you’ll have no trouble making money.

      Every 1,000 visitors earns you at least a dollar or two with traditional banner ads sold through Google — boxes typically pitching products that readers have browsed online. But the same readership generates three times the income through recommended content ads. Usually displayed in a familiar grid, they couple crazy headlines with scintillating pictures — a must-click combination dubbed chum.

    • The FBI Is Investigating Me Because I Tweeted A Joke About Fake News

      This is a story about how the FBI came to investigate a joke I tweeted about fake news.

      I’m a journalist, and I’ve written lots of stories about the FBI. I don’t think the bureau is retaliating against me for critical coverage. But I’m astonished that the nation’s top domestic law enforcement agency has launched such an obviously frivolous investigation — and worried that other people are being targeted for similarly silly reasons.

      Journalists benefit from special protections because the Justice Department doesn’t want to embarrass itself by picking a fight with people who buy server space by the terabyte. Non-journalists in my position have fewer ways to fight back — and lots of reasons to worry. They don’t have easy access to millions of readers. Many companies are more likely to fire an employee for causing trouble than to provide legal counsel. Many people feel compelled to talk to the bureau even though saying the wrong thing can lead to a felony charge for lying to the FBI.

    • Fake news peddlers and muckrakers risk “sickness of coprophilia,” says Pope

      The Pope’s pop at phony folk who run fake news stories on the Web—published mostly to stir up bizarre and frenzied smears against politicians and other public figures—sits at the extreme end of clickbait and, for many commentators, it left a skid-mark over the recent US election.

      “I believe that the media should be very clear, very transparent, and not fall prey—without offence, please—to the sickness of coprophilia, which is always wanting to communicate scandal, to communicate ugly things, even though they may be true,” he told Belgian Catholic weekly newspaper Tertio. “And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm.”

      The Oxford English Dictionary describes coprophilia as an “Abnormal interest and pleasure in faeces and defecation,” while the word coprophagia refers to people who eat faecal matter.

    • Stop worrying about fake news. What comes next will be much worse

      In my exploration of “fake news”, I’ve found some troubling things. And it’s not just the rightwing news network that’s worrying. I’ve recently gone back and taken a preliminary look at the leftwing media ecosystem, trying to map the hyperlinks between these sites – so I’m not trying to establish causation or assign blame as to what kinds of content these sites circulate. There are plenty of other people willing to do that. What I’m really looking for is a way forward.

      I’m primarily interested in the larger network that has enabled fake news to become such a salient topic. What I’ve found most troubling about fake news so far isn’t the factual errors, the misinformation, or the propaganda involved. It’s not the politics either . And no, it’s not Trump.

      What’s scary about fake news is how it is becoming a catch-all phrase for anything people happen to disagree with. In this regard, fake news is sort of the stepbrother of “post-fact” and “post-truth”  –  though not directly related, they’re all part of the same dysfunctional family.

      Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been accused of being responsible for the result of the US election, the Brexit referendum outcome or events such as Pizzagate – which led Hillary Clinton this week to describe fake news as “a danger that must be addressed”. The worst part of this debate has been obscured by politics-as-usual, techno-dystopian Fahrenheit 451 tropes – and to some degree, more misinformation.

    • GOP elector: Not all of us are voting for Trump

      A Republican presidential elector from Texas says he won’t be the only Republican elector who won’t vote for President-elect Donald Trump, ABC News reported.

      “I don’t think I will be the only one voting for someone other than Donald Trump who is carrying a Republican elector ticket,” he said.

      Christopher Suprun says other electors have reached out to him about other potential picks besides Trump. He said the “faithless electors” haven’t selected an alternative yet, after Ohio Gov. John Kasich told electors earlier this week not to write his name down.

      “As electors come forward, and I have had conversations with other Republican electors in particular, I think we will start discussing names specifically and see who meets the test that we could all get behind,” Suprun said.

    • The CIA’s Absence of Conviction

      I have watched incredulous as the CIA’s blatant lie has grown and grown as a media story – blatant because the CIA has made no attempt whatsoever to substantiate it. There is no Russian involvement in the leaks of emails showing Clinton’s corruption. Yes this rubbish has been the lead today in the Washington Post in the US and the Guardian here, and was the lead item on the BBC main news. I suspect it is leading the American broadcasts also.

      A little simple logic demolishes the CIA’s claims. The CIA claim they “know the individuals” involved. Yet under Obama the USA has been absolutely ruthless in its persecution of whistleblowers, and its pursuit of foreign hackers through extradition. We are supposed to believe that in the most vital instance imaginable, an attempt by a foreign power to destabilise a US election, even though the CIA knows who the individuals are, nobody is going to be arrested or extradited, or (if in Russia) made subject to yet more banking and other restrictions against Russian individuals? Plainly it stinks. The anonymous source claims of “We know who it was, it was the Russians” are beneath contempt.

      As Julian Assange has made crystal clear, the leaks did not come from the Russians. As I have explained countless times, they are not hacks, they are insider leaks – there is a major difference between the two. And it should be said again and again, that if Hillary Clinton had not connived with the DNC to fix the primary schedule to disadvantage Bernie, if she had not received advance notice of live debate questions to use against Bernie, if she had not accepted massive donations to the Clinton foundation and family members in return for foreign policy influence, if she had not failed to distance herself from some very weird and troubling people, then none of this would have happened.

    • Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House [Ed: Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller are still mouthpieces of the CIA]
    • Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America

      The CIA officially determined that Russia intervened in our election, and President-elect Donald Trump dismissed the story as if it were a piece of fake news. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” his transition team wrote in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’.”

      It wasn’t one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history, so presumably that’s another red-herring lie to distract from Trump treating the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States like it is some rogue blogger to be cast to the trolls. A foreign government’s interference in our election is a threat to our freedom, and the President-elect’s attempt to undermine the American people’s access to that information undermines the very foundation upon which this country was built. It’s also nothing new.

      Trump won the Presidency by gas light. His rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception. Civil rights are now on trial, though before we can fight to reassert the march toward equality, we must regain control of the truth. If that seems melodramatic, I would encourage you to dump a bucket of ice over your head while listening to “Duel of the Fates.” Donald Trump is our President now; it’s time to wake up.

      “Gas lighting” is a buzzy name for a terrifying strategy currently being used to weaken and blind the American electorate. We are collectively being treated like Bella Manningham in the 1938 Victorian thriller from which the term “gas light” takes its name. In the play, Jack terrorizes his wife Bella into questioning her reality by blaming her for mischievously misplacing household items which he systematically hides. Doubting whether her perspective can be trusted, Bella clings to a single shred of evidence: the dimming of the gas lights that accompanies the late night execution of Jack’s trickery. The wavering flame is the one thing that holds her conviction in place as she wriggles free of her captor’s control.

    • Libraries become new domestic terrorism target in Trump wave of hate crimes

      Authorities say in recent weeks there has been an unprecedented wave of hate crimes targeting library buildings, books, and the people who read them. The officials told the New York Times they’d rarely seen such before. These crimes are intended to terrorize, and they follow a recent report by the F.B.I. which says hate crimes against Muslim people in America shot up over the past year.

    • Michigan Supreme Court denies Stein’s recount appeal

      The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday denied Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s appeal to restart a partially completed presidential election recount, meaning President-elect Donald Trump’s 10,704-vote victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton stands.

      In a 3-2 ruling, the state’s highest court said the Michigan Court of Appeals correctly ruled that Stein was ineligible to pursue a recount.

      Republican-nominated justices Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra and David Viviano denied the appeal. Zahra and Viviano wrote a concurring opinion that further explained why the Court of Appeals was correct to rule that Stein is not an “aggrieved” candidate who could request an appeal. She finished a distant fourth behind Trump and Clinton.

      “Thus, petitioner failed to allege that she has been harmed or that her legal rights have been infringed in any way whatsoever,” Zahra and Viviano wrote in the majority opinion.

    • Michigan Supreme Court denies Jill Stein’s appeal in recount case

      The Michigan Supreme Court has denied Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s appeal to restart the statewide presidential recount, exhausting what’s likely the last legal option for the Stein campaign.

      In a 3-2 order issued Friday evening, the court ruled a recount petition in Michigan “must allege both that fraud or mistake exists and that the alleged fraud or mistake caused the candidate to be aggrieved.”

      The majority order concurs with a State Court of Appeals ruling that ordered Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers, which certifies election results and handles other election-related issues, to reject the recount on grounds that Stein was not sufficiently “aggrieved” as required under state statute earlier this week.

    • Georgia says it’s traced an attempted voter hack to the Department of Homeland Security

      Georgia’s secretary of state says the state was hit with an attempted hack of its voter registration database from an IP address linked to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

      The allegation by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is one of the more bizarre charges to come up in the recent spate of alarms about voting-system hacks. He said in a Facebook post on Thursday that he had been made aware of the failed attempt to breach the firewall protecting Georgia’s voter registration database. The attack was traced to an Internet Protocol address associated with DHS, he said.

      “This morning I sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why,” he said in the post.

      The DHS said it had received the letter. “We are looking into the matter. DHS takes the trust of our public and private sector partners seriously, and we will respond to Secretary Kemp directly,” the department said in a statement.

    • Michael Moore: It’s possible Trump doesn’t become president

      After predicting Donald Trump would win the presidency, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore speculated as to whether Trump will make it to the Oval Office.

      “Nothing anyone has predicted has happened,” Moore said of the 2016 election on Wednesday night’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers”. “The opposite has happened.”

      Moore described the unpredictable nature of the election, telling Meyers that anything could happen between now and the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.

      “So is it possible, within the next six weeks, that something else might happen? Something crazy? Something that we’re not expecting?” Moore asked.

      Without specifying what that “something crazy” might be, Moore described the Electoral College as a “stopgap” meant to keep a “madman who wants to be king” from becoming president.

      Moore, a staunch opponent of Trump, made waves in July with a post on his website that predicted Trump would win the presidency. He also correctly predicted the Rust Belt — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — would turn red for Trump.

    • Trump defends wealthy Cabinet: ‘I want people that made a fortune’

      President-elect Donald Trump defended himself on Thursday for picking a number of wealthy people to serve in his Cabinet.

      “One newspaper criticized me, ‘Why can’t we have people of modest means?’ ” Trump said at a “thank you” rally in Des Moines, Iowa. “Because I want people that made a fortune. Because now they’re negotiating with you.”

      The president-elect also likened wealthy Cabinet members to top athletes.

      Trump, whose campaign was built on railing against elites, has received criticism for tapping a number of extremely wealthy people for positions in his Cabinet. NBC News reported on Wednesday that the nascent administration already has a combined wealth of $14.5 billion.

      “These people are giving up fortunes of income in order to make a dollar a year, and they’re so proud to do it,” Trump said.

    • Theresa May’s bunker: only the meekest courtiers are allowed in

      The Downing Street press office has given selected journalists “exclusive” interviews with our new prime minister. By one of those million-to-one coincidences that must make spin doctors believe a supernatural power watches over them, every journalist they graced with their favours interviewed Theresa May on bended knee.

      “It must be hard for someone so reserved and modest to become one of the most public figures in the world,” gulped the reporter from the Sunday Times, as her head ducked so low, onlookers must have feared whiplash injuries to the neck. “How do you steel yourself for making tough decisions?”

      The Financial Times had no doubt she could take them. “The word ‘queen’ attaches itself easily to Theresa May,” its reporter began, not least because the historical figure she identifies with is “Elizabeth I”.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • urandom.pcap: Belarus (finally) bans Tor

      We have recently heard of network anomalies in Belarus. Tor has been finally blocked in December 2016, although it had been explicitly declared that Tor should be blocked since February 2015.

    • Here’s when Swedish Youtube star PewDiePie will delete his channel

      Swedish Youtube star PewDiePie has set a time for when he will close his channel, suggesting he will follow through on a protest against the video hosting site that would mean the end of its most-watched outlet.

    • Facebook court filings hint at possible political future for Mark Zuckerberg

      Mark Zuckerberg may intend to pursue government service while retaining control of Facebook, according to recently unsealed court filings in a case pitting the CEO against minority investors.

      The class-action lawsuit was first filed in late April, after Zuckerberg proposed a corporate shake-up that would dilute the voting power of shareholders – giving him “eternal control” of the company, in the words of the shareholders’ lawyers. Text messages excerpted in the court documents reveal that Zuckerberg and two board members discussed the CEO’s possible government service, and argued about how to present it to shareholders.

      Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, one of the company’s most prominent investors, texted Zuckerberg in March to say that the “biggest issue” of the corporate proposal was “how to define the gov’t service thing without freaking out shareholders that you are losing commitment”.

    • Lawsuit: Texts between Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Andreessen say the Facebook founder may want to go into government

      Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has considered plans to go into government, according to court documents seen by Bloomberg.

      The documents were filed as part of a shareholder lawsuit accusing Facebook’s board of failing to represent the best interests of those holding Facebook’s common stock.

      The lawsuit focuses on a change to Facebook’s stock structure earlier this year. Zuckerberg holds a majority share of voting Facebook stock, giving him control of the company. But he wanted to be able to sell this off to fund his new philanthropy efforts — the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — without losing this control. (The Financial Times reports that the plaintiffs are accusing Zuckerberg of a “self-interested agglomeration of power.”)

    • New “Online Edition” of the Freedom of Thought Report launched today

      The world’s only global report focusing on discrimination and persecution faced by the non-religious has a new “Online Edition”, launched today at the European Parliament.

    • How Wartime censorship hinders reporting Blitz in 1940

      We arrive at the Second World War in our nightly lookback at some of the Big News of the day to mark the East London Advertiser’s 150th anniversary. The Blitz begins in 1940 in the East End with the Lutfwaffe bombing of the London Docks and the brave firemen in the thick of it reporting “the whole bloody world’s on fire”…

    • HBO Issues Takedown For Artwork Made By Autistic Teenager Because Bullies Gonna Bully Y’all

      It’s well-known at this point that HBO guards its intellectual property on the Game of Thrones franchise more jealously than a direwolf with a freshly harvested bone. To that end, the company often times treats some of its biggest fans with disdain, such as when it killed off viewing parties that would otherwise generate more interest in the show, or the times it abused the DMCA process as a way to keep spoilers from the show from permeating. These actions are indeed annoying, but they lack a certain something in the pure evil department.

      Unlike, say, HBO issuing a takedown on some art produced by a thirteen-year-old autistic child just because that art included a trademarked catchphrase from the show.

    • Facebook Suppresses Truth

      o far 564 people believe they have shared on Facebook my article conclusively refuting the CIA’s invention of lies about Russia hacking the DNC, using the share button on this site. Another 78 have tried to share it from my Facebook page. Between them those 650 people will have. according to the Facebook average, about 200,000 friends. The total amount of incoming traffic from these 200,000 friends? 22 people. Almost nobody can currently reach this site through Facebook, as the “came from” interface on my statcounter below shows. Nothing from Facebook. Facebook are actively colluding in preventing social media from contradicting the mainstream media lies about Russian involvement in the US election campaign.

    • ISPs: Blocking The Pirate Bay is Dangerous Censorship

      Two major Swedish ISPs are warning that a possible court-ordered Pirate Bay blockade will introduce a dangerous and unwarranted form of censorship. Instead, they encourage copyright holders to collaborate with them to find better solutions to the piracy problem.

    • Promising no censorship, social network Gab draws ‘alt-right’

      Squeezed out of Twitter and other social media websites cracking down on hate speech, far-right activists are finding a home on a new platform that promises never to censor content.

      Launched in August, Gab has become known as a safe haven for the “alt-right” movement dominated by the white supremacists who are helping fuel America’s deepening polarization.

      The social network currently has 100,000 members and another 200,000 on its waiting list, according to the company.

    • Ghost Banning on Social Media – the start of systematic censorship

      We are told it is called “ghost banning” – meaning you are present, though invisible in plain sight, and the user is completely unaware. The goal is frighteningly obvious: deny an “offending” website traffic to the point that it disappears from public view. We suspect The Duran is among the many sites targeted in this new form of censorship.

      This is the new business model of the old art of controlling what is considered acceptable speech by the power-that-be. As a result, legacy news outlets that comprise of the world of corporate mainstream media are propped, crowding out alternative views and dissent. Freedom of speech faces an existential threat.

    • EFF To Canadian Court: Order Allowing Worldwide Censorship of Google Search Results Violates Users’ Free Speech Rights

      The court is hearing arguments in Google v. Equustek, a trade secret case in which a British Columbia court issued an order forcing Google to block certain websites from its search results around the world, setting a dangerous precedent for online free expression. Equustek Solutions sued a group of defendants for allegedly misappropriating designs for its routers and selling counterfeit routers online. While Google isn’t a party to the case and had done nothing wrong, Equustek obtained a court order telling the search engine company it must delete search results that directed users to the defendants’ websites, not just in Canada but from all other local domains such Google.com and Google.go.uk. EFF filed a brief in the case siding with Google.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Eavesdropping at 10,000 Feet: NSA Airplane Tapping Shows Need for Data Security

      Revelations that British and American intelligence agencies spied on passengers aboard civil aircraft demonstrate the importance of data security in the face of technological improvements in surveillance, cyberstrategy expert Yannick Harrel told Sputnik France.

    • Librarians, Act Now to Protect Your Users (Before It’s Too Late)

      Books checked out from a library and terms searched on library computers can reveal a teenager’s questions about sexual orientation, a neighbor’s religious leanings, or a student’s political interests. Libraries across the country, particularly public libraries, make it part of their mission to serve the most vulnerable and underserved user groups, including users who are homeless, unemployed, or recent migrants or refugees. And when government agents come looking, these library users need librarians to have their back.

      Libraries and librarians have long been stalwart guardians of the rights of free expression and inquiry. As part of their profession, librarians protect their users’ ability to access even the most controversial information and ideas free from government scrutiny. Since the passage of the Patriot Act in particular, librarians have purged user records when necessary to fight against unconstitutional government demands and pushed back against (unconstitutional) National Security Letters (NSLs). Librarians also stood with EFF and the ACLU when we worked to pass the California Reader Privacy Act in 2011.

    • Former NSA head: Employees leaving agency for private sector

      The former head of the National Security Agency said the agency’s employees “are increasingly leaving in large numbers” for better opportunities in the private sector.

      At a Dec. 6 forum hosted by the University of Maryland, former NSA Director Keith Alexander told a gathering of journalism students, reporters and military officials that the agency headquartered at Fort George G. Meade faces a significant challenge in competing with the allure of higher salaries outside of government.

      “Of course they’re going to make a ton more money on the outside,” Alexander said. “I am surprised that people with cyber experience at some of these large companies make up to seven figures. That’s five times what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs (of Staff) makes.”

    • Ex-NSA Director: Agency Can’t Compete for Talent With Private Sector
    • ePrivacy: unraveling the lobbies’ falsehoods

      The review of the European ePrivacy directive on the confidentiality of electronic communications may not have reached the limelight yet, but this doesn’t mean that the influence work and the fight over interests haven’t started. On the contrary, as the draft text is tabled by the European Commission to be published in January 2017, interest groups are at the doors of the European executive power to get their two cents in the upcoming text.

      To get an idea of the content of the discussion happening in high places, we just need to read the open letters, the position papers and others common declarations of ETNO, GSMA, DIGITALEUROPE and other lobbies of the digital and telecom industries: all call for the plain and simple repealing of the directive.

      Much as during the negotiations for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), expounding our arguments is not enough in the face of the industry’s means and striking capacity, we need to review and examine all their misleading arguments, one by one.

    • Release Notes 2.13.1: Bug fixes and more browser support

      Today’s release again contains a couple of bug fixes as well as the possibility to login from not officially supported browsers.

    • Microsoft Said to Use German Site to Appease EU Over LinkedIn

      Microsoft Corp. agreed to add Xing AG, Germany’s biggest professional-networking site, to its Windows software to eliminate opposition in the European Union antitrust review of its $26.2 billion bid to buy LinkedIn Corp, according to two people familiar with the matter.

      Xing’s app will appear on the Windows 10 start menu and add-ins for e-mail software Outlook in German-language versions of Microsoft software sold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the next five years, according to one of the people who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    • The Future of Privacy

      I’ve never been able to fit the concepts of privacy, history and encryption together in a satisfying way, though it continues to seem that I should. Each concept has to do with information; each can be considered to concern the public and the private; and each involves aspects of society, and perhaps particularly digital society. But experience has taught me that all I can hope to do with these three concepts is demonstrate the problems that considering them together causes.

      Privacy confuses me, beyond my simplest understanding, which is that individuals prefer, to different degrees, that information about them not be freely available to others. I desire privacy myself, and I understand why other individuals want it. But when the entity desiring privacy is a state, a corporation or some other human institution, my understanding of privacy becomes confused.

    • Microsoft wants to enable cellular PCs, but will carriers bite?

      Microsoft is aiming to help with that by supporting the installation of non-removable programmable SIM cards and data radios in PCs and Windows tablets. In the company’s vision, users will then be able to purchase cellular data for those cards through the Windows Store. The announcement was made Thursday at the company’s WinHEC conference for device manufacturers in Shenzhen, China.

    • The political fight behind Facebook and Google’s new terrorist content database

      This week, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter announced a new database for images and videos that promote terrorism. The database, which is hosted by Facebook, is designed as a defense against propaganda videos and imagery by terrorist groups — a tactic ISIS has aggressively embraced. Flag a single image on a single service, and any of the participating companies will be able to find and remove copies, potentially erasing it from the most popular places on the web in a single stroke. But the implementation of the database is far more fraught, the result of a complex and ongoing negotiation between tech companies and European governments looking to rein them in.

    • Snowden leaks reveal NSA snooped on in-flight mobile calls

      GCHQ and the NSA have spied on air passengers using in-flight GSM mobile services for years, newly-published documents originally obtained by Edward Snowden reveal.

      Technology from UK company AeroMobile and SitaOnAir is used by dozens of airlines to provide in-flight connectivity, including by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and many Arab and Asian companies. Passengers connect to on-board GSM servers, which then communicate with satellites operated by British firm Inmarsat.

      “The use of GSM in-flight analysis can help identify the travel of a target—not to mention the other mobile devices (and potentially individuals) onboard the same plane with them,” says a 2010 NSA newsletter.

    • Microsoft’s vision for LinkedIn is about tying its business data into Office and other services

      Now that Microsoft’s massive $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn has officially closed, it’s time for the next step: figuring out how its massive store of business information can best be used by Microsoft and its customers.

    • Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust plans beacon network to provide location-aware patient services

      Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust has upgraded its network infrastructure with a view to providing location-aware services to outpatients via wireless beacon technology.

      Navigating labyrinthine hospital corridors is often a challenge for patients and can lead to delayed or missed appointments. The Plymouth trust’s large Derriford hospital building is no exception, with 200 wards spread over 12 floors.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Actor Judge Reinhold arrested on disorderly conduct charge at Dallas Love Field

      Actor Judge Reinhold was arrested Thursday afternoon on a charge of disorderly conduct at Dallas Love Field.

      Reinhold, 59, was selected by Transportation Security Administration agents for a random pat-down around 2 p.m., according to an official at the city-owned airport, and he was not happy about it.

      He was told he could be taken to a private screening room, but refused — and then became belligerent, officials said. At that point, Dallas police were called.

      Officers again tried to calm him, but he was again antagonistic toward officers, authorities said. They decided enough was enough and arrested him.

    • Women’s March on Washington Won’t Be Happening at the Lincoln Memorial

      The Lincoln Memorial has been the site for many of the United States’ most historic rallies, from the civil rights and anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s to the Million Man March in 1995. However, for the thousands of women planning to march on Washington following Donald Trump’s inauguration, the landmark won’t be available for rallying.

      The National Park Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, months ago reserved access to the landmark by filing a “massive omnibus blocking permit.” Permits for inaugural events have traditionally reserved most of the National Mall, Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument, and of course, the Lincoln Memorial, for days and weeks before, during, and after the inauguration, which will take place on Jan. 20, 2017.

    • Where European democracy goes to die

      The EU is pushing more of its lawmaking out of public view.

      Its stated motivation is to prove to an increasingly Euroskeptical public that it can move quickly when it needs to. Critics say it’s dumping oil on the Euroskeptic pyre.

      Next week, the heads of the Commission, Parliament and the sitting president of the Council are expected to embrace “priority treatment” for about 40 draft laws, including the end to mobile roaming fees in Europe and eurozone budget reform.

      In effect, that means legislators, under pressure from EU leaders, will be forced to agree on the most sensitive issues in closed-door “trilogues,” confirming a recent trend that has seen less public scrutiny of far-reaching legislation in parliamentary committees and the plenary.

    • What happens when you opt out of the “voluntary” pornoscanners at Berlin’s Schönefeld airport

      Yesterday morning, Matthias Kirschner opted out of the “voluntary” full-body scanners at Berlin’s Schönefeld, and discovered that “voluntary” means that “if you don’t do it, they will barrack you endlessly about your choice, punitively repeatedly perform the same searches over and over, and attempt to delay you so you almost miss your flight.”

      This is also the case at Heathrow in London: the times I’ve opted out there, I’ve been told to sit and wait for a supervisor (fair enough), but then the screeners took it upon themselves, singly and in bunches, to loom over me and tell me how foolish I was being, how the machines were safe and had good information security, etc — insisting at first that this was their duty (“to find out why I was opting out”), and then admitting (after I flashed my National Union of Journalists press-card and started writing down their names) that this was the job of their supervisor and it was merely recreational abuse on their part.

    • 74% of ‘underage’ asylum seekers in Denmark are adults, teeth & bone tests show

      The Danish Immigration Service has questioned the age of some 800 asylum seekers who said they are younger than 18. In almost three out of four cases, ‘unaccompanied minors’ proved to be adults, according to a report.

      Experts at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Forensic Medicine have been investigating the age of unaccompanied asylum seekers who arrived in Denmark this year and said they are under 18, Jyllands-Posten daily reported.

    • German court rules Muslim girls must take part in swimming lessons

      Germany’s highest court has ruled that ultra-conservative Muslim girls must take part in mixed swimming classes at school, finding against an 11-year-old pupil who had argued that even wearing a burkini, or full-body swimsuit, breached Islamic dress codes.

      The constitutional court in Karlsruhe on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the girl’s parents that she should be excused from the classes because a burkini did not conform with Islam’s ethic of decency, German media reported.

    • Humanists Call For Scotland’s Blasphemy Law To Be Scrapped

      It’s 170 years since it was last invoked, but Scotland’s law against blasphemy still exists – and it’s high time it was scrapped, according to a leading Scottish humanist group.

      The Humanist Society Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to repeal the antiquated law, which was last put into practice in 1843, when an Edinburgh bookseller was jailed for 15 months for selling blasphemous literature.

      Gordon MacRae, the chief executive of Humanist Society Scotland, said that having a blasphemy law “should be a badge of shame for any progressive nation.”

      After consultation with the Church Of England, England and Wales threw out blasphemy laws back in 2008 when the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common-law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

    • TSA: Little People With Power

      The TSA is sold to us as security, but it is anything but.

      It’s a way to make us docile in the face of having our constitutional rights violated.

      It’s a way for crony capitalists to lobby expensive machinery into the Federal budget.

      It’s a jobs program for people who’d otherwise be working in a fast food window or a mall food court. (People of this caliber provide “security” like I could provide defense for an NFL team.)

      Because these are people who’d never interact with — and certainly never have power over — so many of the people who go through their line, they so often use some minor mistake (if even that) as reason to punish someone with an invasive search.

    • Building a Prison-to-School Pipeline

      The first day of his first semester at the University of California, Berkeley, Danny Murillo walked into the Cesar Chavez building and saw a white man with tattoos on his arms. Something about the man felt familiar. He could tell from the tattoos that the man was, like him, from Los Angeles, and he was around his own age, mid-thirties, but it was something else that he recognized. He went up to the man and said, “Damn, I feel old around all these youngsters.” The man said, “Yeah, me, too.” Murillo said, “I haven’t been in school for a long time.” The man said, “Yeah, me, too.” Murillo said, “I was on vacation.” The man said, “Yeah, me, too.” Murillo said, “I was in the Pelican Bay SHU.” The man said, “Yeah, me, too.”

    • How Sari Roti became the most hated bread brand amongst Muslims in Indonesia

      Recently, you may have seen calls to boycott bread producers Sari Roti, which is one of the most popular bread brands in Indonesian supermarkets and whose jingle you probably hear at least once a day in your neighborhood, being blasted by their ubiquitous mobile hawkers.


      Well, this all began with the December 2 mass protest against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for his alleged blasphemy against Islam. On that day, Sari Roti won praise from many Muslims in Indonesia after its street hawkers gave out free bread to the protesters.

    • Erdoğan’s fifth column in Europe

      The plain, simple and bitter truth is that Turkey’s Islamist rulers have supported and maintained parallel networks in Europe; thrown political, diplomatic and financial support to front NGOs whose role is to promote hatred; and run a campaign of intimidation and curtailed free speech in European nations that are home to large Turkish and Muslim expatriate communities.

    • TechCongress Announces Second Class of Congressional Innovation Fellows

      TechCongress, a nonpartisan initiative dedicated to building 21st century government and developing cross-sector technology leaders, is pleased to announce its 2017 class of Congressional Innovation Fellows. This year’s class of fellows bring experience from public interest organizations, private sector companies, government, journalism, and tech startups. Fellows have deep technical expertise, and will find a placement with a Member of Congress or Congressional Committee to gain firsthand knowledge about the legislative process and bring in-depth technical experience to policy challenges. The inaugural class of fellows worked with the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and the House Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee.

    • Learning how policy is made in the legislative branch

      During my seven years in Washington D.C., I’ve worked for the nation’s premier privacy regulator—the Federal Trade Commission—and for one of the top civil liberties organizations in the United States—the American Civil Liberties Union. These have both been great experiences, but I now want to learn first-hand how policy is made in the legislative branch.

      After more than four years at the ACLU, I’ll be leaving the organization on January 6, 2017 to join the new class of TechCongress Congressional Innovation Fellows.

    • If We Were ‘Staggered’ by Police Brutality, Wouldn’t Walter Scott Mistrial Have Knocked Us Over?

      Corporate media reported the mistrial in the case of South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, whom video showed shooting unarmed African-American Walter Scott eight times in the back in April 2015, handcuffing him on the ground, and then dropping a taser alongside his body—this after Slager stopped Scott for a broken tail light.

      Mostly there were dry headlines like “Mistrial Declared in Black Motorist’s Shooting by Officer.” An AP piece got the headline that many were “at a loss” at the outcome; other headlines had them “stunned.” The story itself included comments that started to get at the depth of folks’ despair: “There’s a jury full of people and they cannot decide if it’s illegal to shoot someone who is running away from you?” asks one source. “What do you say about a country that feels this way about black people?” “Do we really have anything that can seriously be called the administration of criminal justice?” asks another.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC Trump troll promises to take “weed-whacker” to net neutrality

      DWARF-HANDED (allegedly) President Elect Donald Trump has yet to appoint his new head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) but it is widely expected to be existing commissioner and staunch Republican Ajit Pai.

      Mr Pai made barbed comments yesterday about the future of net neutrality and they weren’t pretty. As you may recall, net neutrality was protected under legislation under the Obama administration, but it is widely expected that it could be reversed under Trump.

      Recently, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston made a plea to Donald Trump to do the right thing.

      But in a speech, Mr Pai told the Free State Foundation that he will take a “weed-whacker” to regulations, saying

      “In the months to come, we also need to remove outdated and unnecessary regulations. As anyone who has attempted to take a quick spin through Part 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations could tell you, the regulatory underbrush at the FCC is thick. We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation. Free State and others have already identified many that should go. And one way the FCC can do this is through the biennial review, which we kicked off in early November. Under section 11, Congress specifically directed the FCC to repeal unnecessary regulations. We should follow that command.”

  • DRM

    • The World Wide Web Consortium at a Crossroads: Arms-Dealers or Standards-Setters?

      The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a hard decision to make: a coalition including the world’s top research institutions; organizations supporting blind users on three continents; security firms; blockchain startups; browser vendors and user rights groups have asked it not to hand control over web video to some of the biggest companies in the world. For their part, those multinational companies have asked the W3C to hand them a legal weapon they can use to shut down any use of online video they don’t like, even lawful fair use.

      Is the W3C in the business of protecting the open web and its users, or is it an arms-dealer supplying multinational companies with the materiel they need to rule the web? We’re about to find out.

      The W3C makes the open standards that allow anyone to make a browser that can read all the documents on the web, and anyone to make a document that can be read by any of those browsers. But in 2013, the W3C started work on a project to give entertainment companies control over who could make a browser that could show streaming videos, creating a standard for “encrypted media extensions” (EME) that Hollywood would control. Even if you make an EME-capable browser that doesn’t violate any copyright laws, it will only show you videos if it also gets the blessing of some of the biggest media companies in the world.

      Like all businesses, media companies have a mix of commercial preferences and legal rights. For example, companies have the legal right to prevent people from making and distributing copies of their videos, with important exceptions. The same copyright law that gives them that right also gives you—the viewer—legal rights, like the right to record a video to watch later, or to convert the video to a format that can be enjoyed by blind people. Maybe they’d prefer that you not record videos for later (for example, so they can charge extra for a “home recording” feature), but that’s just a preference, not a right.

      For decades, media companies have tried to convert their commercial preferences to legal rights, by invoking a 1998 law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it illegal to bypass software that locks up copyrighted works, even when you’re doing something totally legitimate, like converting a video you’re allowed to watch so it will play on an unsupported device. Companies design their products so that locking software (called “Digital Rights Management” or DRM) enforces their preferences, then argue that breaking the DRM is illegal, anything that displeases them is therefore a crime.

    • DOOM Removes Denuvo DRM

      Well this is an interesting news post for a couple of reasons. Personally, I dislike DRM. A lot. It’s software that reduces end-user rights, as both consumers and potentially even as members of society after copyright expires (depending on how judges, and the Librarian of Congress, interpret whether fair use or expiration will override the DMCA’s felony clauses). It’s especially annoying when you see DRM on content that was pirated prior to the official launch, because ticking off your customers and screwing with archivists will really help you if you can’t even secure your own supply chain.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Unknowingly Linking to Infringing Content is Still Infringement, Court Rules

        A court in Germany has held the operator of a commercial website liable after it unknowingly linked to infringing content hosted elsewhere. The Hamburg Regional Court found that the link to a Creative Commons image, posted to another site without the correct attribution, amounted to a copyright infringement.

      • Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Leaves Prison for Hospital

        Facing severe health issues, alleged KickassTorrents owner Artem Vaulin has been transferred from Polish prison to a local hospital. While he is now able to receive proper care, his conditions are far from ideal. Vaulin is permanently guarded by four officers and is handcuffed to his bed at night, which may cause nerve damage according to doctors.

      • BREIN Settles With Private Torrent Tracker Uploaders

        BREIN has signed settlements with eight people who were uploaders at a local private torrent tracker. The pirate group agreed to pay 60,000 euros in total. The private tracker and an unlicensed radio station, where two uploaders were DJ’ing, were closed as well.

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