Links 16/12/2016: New Linux Mint Releases

Posted in News Roundup at 8:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • Q4OS – Part 4 – Life Without Windows

      The point of this series is to work out whether I can truly ditch Windows and use Q4OS as my sole operating system.

      All of the office features I need are available in LibreOffice so for the most part I don’t need Microsoft Office at all.

      The only thing I need Microsoft Office, or should I say Microsoft Word for is to make sure the formatting of my CV is correct and I can use the online version of Microsoft Word for that.

      The mission of living life without Windows is still very much on the go. Q4OS is extremely stable. As well as working out the Office stuff I have also used it to watch Breaking Bad on Netflix and for researching and writing the articles at Lifewire.com.

      There is only one more snag. I am a software developer and I develop Windows software. I will show you how I am overcoming that snag next week.

    • Technology needs to get out of its own way

      For all of its perceived complexity, when it comes to “set-it-and-forget-it” operating system distributions, OSs like Ubuntu Mate 16.04.1 LTS should receive greater consideration for long-term application.

  • Server

    • [Older] Containers Are The Future But The Future Isn’t Finished

      Containers are a big deal, and they’re only going to get bigger. That’s my view after attending the latest KubeCon (and CloudNativeCon) in Seattle last week.

      A year ago, I was confused about what containers mean for IT, because the name ‘container’ had me thinking it was about the little box that code was stored in: the container image. I’m here to tell you that the container image format itself (Docker, rkt, whatever you like) is not the point.

  • Kernel Space

    • Cloud Foundry Launches Open Service Broker API Project

      The Cloud Foundry Foundation is spearheading an effort to create APIs for connecting applications to cloud-platform services. This involves getting collaborators to work on a piece of not-so-special software that each of them would otherwise have to develop.

      The aptly named Open Service Broker API project launched Tuesday with members including Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Pivotal, Red Hat, and SAP.

    • Eleven Collabora Developers Have Contributed 37 Patches to Linux Kernel 4.9

      Linux kernel developer Gustavo Padovan working for Collabora reports on the latest contributions he and ten other developers have contributed to the recently released Linux 4.9 kernel, which appears to be the biggest kernel release ever.

      Collabora’s developers are known to contribute a lot of great work to various open-source projects, including Linux kernel, Mesa 3D Graphics Library, GStreamer, or Collabora Online, and for the Linux 4.9 kernel they pushed no less than 37 patches contributed by a total of eleven devs, which is another important milestone for them and their project.

    • Linux 4.10 Gets Early Support For NVIDIA Tegra Parker, Other New ARM Support

      The big batch of ARM changes for the Linux 4.10 kernel have been submitted, including some new ARM platform support and early code for NVIDIA’s next-generation Tegra SoC.

    • x86 Platform Updates For The Linux 4.10 Kernel

      The latest pull request to talk about for the Linux 4.10 kernel merge window are the x86 platform driver updates.

    • Linux Kernels 4.8.15 and 4.4.39 LTS Are Out with PowerPC and SPARC Improvements

      Renowned Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman announced today, December 15, 2016, the availability of the Linux kernel 4.8.15 and Linux kernel 4.4.39 LTS maintenance releases.

      Arriving only five days after the previous point releases, namely Linux kernel 4.4.38 LTS and 4.8.14, the new maintenance updates bring various improvements and bug fixes across most of the components. However, they appear to be quite small, as Linux kernel 4.8.15 changes a total of 37 files, with 240 insertions and 139 deletions, and only 20 files have been changed in Linux kernel 4.4.39 LTS, with 129 insertions and 59 deletions.

    • SCST 3.2 – Alternative SCSI Subsystem For Linux – Released

      A new release of SCST, the out-of-tree, alternative SCSI subsystem for the Linux kernel, is now out with its version 3.2 update.

    • Btrfs File-System Changes Submitted For Linux 4.10
    • The New Linux 4.10 Kernel Features So Far: AMD Zen, TBM3, More ARM
    • HDMI CEC Promoted Out Of Staging For Linux 4.10
    • Linux Developers Look At Upping The GCC Requirements For Building The Kernel

      Kernel developer Arnd Bergmann has started a discussion over upping the minimum GCC version that’s supported for building the Linux kernel. He’s been testing every GCC compiler release from 4.0 through GCC 7 to see the results when building the Linux kernel.

    • Midlayers, Once More With Feelings!

      Discussing midlayers seems to be one of the recuring topics in the linux kernel. There’s the original midlayer-mistake article from Neil Brown that seems to have started it all. But LWN gained more articles in the years since, covering the iscsi driver as a study in avoiding OS abstraction layers, or a similar case in wireless with the Broadcom driver. The dismissal of midlayers and hailing of helper libraries has become so prevalent that calling your shiny new subsystem libfoo (viz. libnvdimm) seems to be a powerful trick to speed up its acceptance.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Float64 Support For Intel’s Vulkan Driver Is Almost Here

        While it took a long time for Intel’s Mesa driver to begin supporting the ARB_gpu_shader_fp64 extension for double-precision floating-point data types in shaders, fortunately it looks like Intel should soon land the Float64 support in their Vulkan driver soon.

        The latest patches from Igalia this morning are their revised set of 25 patches for supporting the Float64 capability in the Intel Vulkan driver. The shaderFloat64 capability signifies 64-bit floats (doubles) support within the shader code.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Budgie 10.2.9 Desktop Released with HiDPI Improvements, Panel and Raven Fixes

      We’ve just been informed this morning by Joshua Strobl from the Solus Project about the general availability of the Budgie 10.2.9 desktop environment for Solus and other supported GNU/Linux distributions.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Kdenlive 16.12 Video Editor Adds Advanced Trimming Tools, Rotoscoping Effect

        The Kdenlive development team announced a new stability version of the open-source video editor designed for KDE Plasma desktop environments, Kdenlive 16.12, released as part of the KDE Applications 16.12 software suite.

        We’ve already told you all about the goodies and updated KDE apps that have been included in the final release of the KDE Applications 16.12 software suite for KDE Plasma 5 desktops, but it looks like the Kdenlive video editor got its own announcement, and the changes included in this version are quite very interesting.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.24 Desktop Environment Getting Improvements for the Notification Applet

        Long-time GNOME developer Allan Day reports on some of the upcoming improvements that are coming to the built-in Notification applet of the GNOME 3 desktop environment.

        The Notification applet you see on your GNOME desktop right now has been introduced in the 3.16 release of the popular project, which is used by default in numerous GNU/Linux distributions. But as nothing in this world is perfect, it looks like its user interface needs some improvements here and there.

      • New GNOME API Key for Google Services

        Recently, a few bugs in evolution-data-server were causing various GNOME components to hit Google’s daily limit for their CalDAV and Tasks APIs. At least evolution, gnome-calendar and gnome-todo were affected. The bugs have since been fixed, but until every single user out there installs the fix, everybody will be susceptible even if they have a fixed copy of evolution-data-server. This is because Google identifies the clients by the OAuth 2.0 API key used to access their services, and not the version of the code running on them.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • CentOS-Based Rockstor 3.8-16 Btrfs-Powered Open Source NAS Solution Is Out Now

        Suman Chakravartula informs us today about the general availability of a new maintenance update to his open-source and free Linux-based NAS (Network-Attached Storage) operating system, Rockstor 3.8-16.

        The new version arrives a little over a month since the previous point release, namely Rockstor 3.8-15, and it appears to be yet another exciting release in the development cycle of the Btrfs-based NAS solution as a total of six contributors have managed to address no less than 35 issues reported by users since November 10, 2016.

      • Introducing GoboLinux 016

        GoboLinux was created out of a desire to try new approaches in the Linux distribution design space: the innovative filesystem organization allows us to use a radically different approach in package management — effectively doing away with the package manager.

        GoboLinux 016 continues this journey, with a focus on the exploration of novel ideas aiming to make the system simpler yet functional.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • openSUSE Tumbleweed – Review of the Week 2016/50

        Even though the year is not yet completely over, this will be the last review for this year: starting from today on, I will be on annual leave until January 9th 2017, when I will resume all activities. Tumbleweed of course will not stop rolling at this time: it is YOU that makes it rolling after all. Nevertheless, you should not be surprised if the pace goes a bit down as many people will be busy with other things during this period.

      • openSUSE Tumbleweed Gets GStreamer 1.10.2 and FFmpeg 3.2.2, Prepares for GTK+ 4

        On December 15, 2016, openSUSE Project’s Douglas DeMaio had the great pleasure to report on the latest goodies brought by a total of seven snapshots to users of the openSUSE Tumbleweed distribution.

        Since our last report, it looks like another busy week hit the development team behind openSUSE Tumbleweed, a Linux-based operating system that follows a rolling release model, which means that users are always getting the latest software versions without the need to download a new ISO image and reinstall/upgrade their systems.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • DebEX LXQt Linux OS Now Based on Debian 9 and LXQt 0.11.0, Powered by Kernel 4.9

          GNU/Linux developer Arne Exton informs Softpedia about the availability of a new build of his Debian-based DebEX LXQt Linux distribution, which has been rebased on the some of the latest technologies and Open Source software projects.

          DebEX LXQt (also known as DebEX Barebone) Build 161209 is now the most advanced version of the Linux-based computer OS. It’s rebased on the Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system, which is still in development and should hit the streets in early 2017, and the recently released Linux 4.9 kernel.

          The newest LXQt 0.11.0 desktop environment is included as well, and DebEX LXQt now ships with the Nvidia 375.20 proprietary graphics driver for an out-of-the-box Nvidia GPU experience. As expected, all the pre-installed packages have been updated to their latest versions as of December 9, 2016.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • RASA NLU gives developers an open source solution for natural language processing

    For better or worse, 2016 was another year of bots. I probably got more pitches for bot startups than anything else. And yet, bots are far from hitting their stride. If we hope to break beyond the rigid functionality of today’s tools, a prerequisite is going to be giving bot developers a bit more open source love.

    RASA NLU, a new open source API from LASTMILE, supports developer’s bot efforts by reducing the barriers to implementing natural language processing. 25 companies have been using RASA NLU in closed beta, but now everyone will be able to access the libraries on Github.

  • An Open Source SDK is About Democratising Viewability: Q&A with Jason Cooper, Integral Ad Science
  • Open source diversity efforts gain momentum in 2016

    If software is pervasive, shouldn’t the people building it be from everywhere and represent different voices? The broadly accepted answer is yes, that we need a diverse set of developers and technologists to build the new digital world. Further, when you look at communities that thrive, they are those that evolve and grow and bring in new voices and perspectives. Because much of the software innovation happening today involves open source software, the open source community can be an entry point for new people in technology roles. This means that the open source community must evolve to stay relevant. There has never been a better time for the open source community to welcome new community members from underrepresented groups than now, and the community is rising to the challenge. Efforts to increase diversity in open source are showing results, so let’s look at a few examples:


    The Linux Foundation and OpenStack Foundation provide scholarships, travel assistance, training, mentorships, childcare, affinity groups, and more as part of their events and services. (I’m involved in the Linux Foundation-sponsored Women in Open Source events and the Women of OpenStack [WOO] group.) Since the WOO group started in 2014, more women have been attending and speaking at OpenStack-related events and contributing to OpenStack projects. More than 11% of attendees at both LinuxCon North America and OpenStack Summit in Austin in 2016 were women.

  • Docker Delivers Containerd to Open Source Community
  • Docker containerd ups the open source container management ante
  • Julien Nioche on StormCrawler, Open-Source Crawler Pipelines Backed by Apache Storm

    Julien Nioche, director of DigitalPebble, PMC member and committer of the Apache Nutch web crawler project, talks about StormCrawler, a collection of reusable components to build distributed web crawlers based on the streaming framework Apache Storm.

  • Telecom

  • Cloud Foundry Foundation

  • SaaS/Back End

    • OpenStack Education Set to Flourish in 2017

      You’ve no doubt heard about the shortages in people with deployment and management expertise on the cloud computing and Big Data scenes. There just are not enough skilled workers to go around. The OpenStack Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and other organizations are now taking some important steps to address the situation.

  • Databases

    • CrateDB 1.0 Delivers New Stable Open-Source Database Option

      The open-source CrateDB database hit a major milestone on December 14 with the debut of its 1.0 release. CrateDB defines itself as a SQL database that enables real-time analytics for machine data applications.

      What is also particularly interesting about CrateDB is that it aims to bring NoSQL type capabilities, including improved performance, to the SQL database model. The structural nature of SQL was originally seen as a hindrance to some, which led to the rise of NoSQL. With CrateDB, there is a distributed SQL query engine as well as columnar field caches that help to provide improved speed.

  • CMS

    • German firms unveil DeGov eGovernment platform

      German ICT service providers are pooling their work on public administration portals, leveraging open source software. The companies unveiled DeGov, a portal solution built on Drupal 8, at the ‘Drupal in der öffentlichen Verwaltung’ (Drupal in public administration) conference in Düsseldorf on 17 November.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • OPNsense 17.1 beta: Images available now !

      With the best wishes for the holiday season attached we hereby humbly present our 17.1-BETA images and thank everyone for their early input, valid questions and generally keeping us on our toes throughout the past months. The next major release features FreeBSD 11.0, the SSH remote installer, new languages Italian and Czech, state-of-the-art HardenedBSD security features, PHP 7.0, native PAM authentication against e.g. 2FA (TOTP), as well a rewritten Nano-style card images that adapt to the media size to name only a few.

  • Public Services/Government

    • EC looking for help with open source office automation

      The European Commission is looking to hire ICT staff that can help implement open source-based office automation. The open source expertise is a small part of a larger call for new hires that was published by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) on 1 December.

    • Aragon parliament asks for open source in schools

      Members of parliament in Aragon, one of Spain’s autonomous communities, are urging the government to increase the use of open source software in education. On 2 December, parliamentarians asked the minister of education to strengthen support for the VitaLinux Education project, which is developing an Ubuntu-based distribution of open source software made especially for schools in the community.

    • GDS joins international effort on open source

      The Government signed the Paris Declaration last week at the Open Government Partnership summit, which highlighted the potential for open source to support efforts to reduce corruption by increasing transparency and strengthening governance.

      The agreement involves promoting the transparency and accountability of the relevant code and algorithms “wherever possible and appropriate”.

      The first deliverable of the group is an open source contribution policy template, which is already available in an alpha version on github and will be further developed over the next few months. It has been written by a number of governments and organisations to help those wanting to set up a free/open source software contribution policy, and provides some guidance on best practice and central governance.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Dutch political party deploys “remotely controlled Members of Parliament”

      Last week, the Dutch society-driven political movement GeenPeil started its own political party, promising its members direct democracy through what it calls “remotely controlled Members of Parliament”. Every week, the party’s members will be asked for their opinions in “mini-referenda” on the votes that take place in the Dutch Parliament. Their (anonymous) votes will determine the voting behaviour of the party’s Members of Parliament, thereby emulating direct democracy in a representative parliamentary system.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Arduino MKRZero shrinks Zero to MKR1000 dimensions

        Arduino LLC’s $22 “MKRZero” shrinks the guts of the Arduino Zero board to the 65 x 25mm size of a MKR1000, but without the MKR1000’s WiFi.

        Earlier this year when Arduino LLC debuted its $35, IoT focused MKR1000 board, we suggested it was like combining an Arduino Zero with its WiFi Shield. With its new MKRZero, Arduino LLC offers the same tiny 65 x 25mm footprint as the MKR1000, but with the 68 x 30mm Zero’s original Atmel (now Microchip) ATSAMD21 MCU rather than the WiFi-enabled ATSAMW25. It also lacks the MKR1000’s crypto chip, but does add a handy SD slot.

      • Maker Movement and FOSS: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

        When you think about it, “making” is just a more down-to-earth and less abstract version of coding, with results you touch and feel instead of experience on a screen.

      • Making your own retro keyboard

        We’re about a week before Christmas, and I’m going to explain how I created a retro keyboard as a gift to my father, who introduced me to computers when he brought back a Thomson TO7 home, all the way back in 1985.

        The original idea was to use a Thomson computer to fit in a smaller computer, such as a CHIP or Raspberry Pi, but the software update support would have been difficult, the use limited to the builtin programs, and it would have required a separate screen. So I restricted myself to only making a keyboard. It was a big enough task, as we’ll see.

  • Programming/Development


  • Health/Nutrition

    • Marijuana can be covered in pesticides, fungi, and mold — even if it’s legal

      There is no known lethal dose of marijuana, which means it can’t kill you. But the stuff that gets sprayed or grows organically on pot buds can.

      Studies show that marijuana sampled across the US carries unsafe levels of pesticides, mold, fungi, and bacteria. Earlier this year, Colorado recalled hundreds of batches that tested positive for banned pesticides.

      It’s unclear how much cannabis, whether purchased legally in a dispensary or bought from a college roommate’s cousin’s friend, is at risk. But as the industry goes mainstream, experts suggest it’s time legal weed gets quality assurance.

    • UN General Assembly Resolution: TRIPS Flexibilities, High-Level Panel On Medicines Access

      The United Nations General Assembly this month is considering a resolution committing to elevate health issues to the highest levels of foreign policy. The resolution includes references and commitments related to dozens of existing instruments and tools aimed at improving health, including a full range of those on access to medicines, such as patent flexibilities under trade rules, and the recent report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on access to medicines and innovation.

    • UNITAID Board Adopts Resolution On IP Flexibilities Under Trade Rules

      The Executive Board of UNITAID yesterday adopted a resolution on the use of the intellectual property flexibilities enshrined in the global trading system allowing developing countries to facilitate access to affordable medicines.

  • Security

    • Security advisories for Thursday
    • Why My Heart Bleeds for Open Source [Ed: Name-dropping bugs with brands, logos, and Web sites to make FOSS look bad]
    • Reliably compromising Ubuntu desktops by attacking the crash reporter

      In this post I’ll describe how I found a remote code execution bug in Ubuntu Desktop which affects all default installations >= 12.10 (Quantal). The bug allows for reliable code injection when a user simply opens a malicious file. The following video demonstrates the exploit opening the Gnome calculator. The executed payload also replaces the exploit file with a decoy zip file to cover its tracks.

    • Dear hackers, Ubuntu’s app crash reporter will happily execute your evil code on a victim’s box

      Users and administrators of Ubuntu Linux desktops are being advised to patch their systems following the disclosure of serious security flaws.

      Researcher Donncha O’Cearbhaill, who discovered and privately reported the vulnerabilities to Ubuntu, said that a successful exploit of the bugs could allow an attacker to remotely execute code by way of a maliciously booby-trapped file.

    • LibreSSL documentation status report
    • Reproducible Builds: week 85 in Stretch cycle
    • Should we be pushing OpenPGP?

      Bjarni Rúnar, the author of Mailpile released a blog about recent blogs disparaging OpenPGP. It’s a good read.

      There’s one reason to support OpenPGP missing from the blog: OpenPGP protects you if your mail server is hacked. I’m sure that Debbie Wasserman Schultz wishes she had been using OpenPGP.

    • Security experts: ‘No one should have faith in Yahoo at this point’

      Experts have attacked Yahoo’s weak security after the revelation it suffered a hack in 2013, which exposed the personal data of 1 billion users, just months after revealing a 500-million-user data breach from 2014.

      The hack saw the potential theft of login details, personal details and any confidential or sensitive information contained within email correspondences. Yahoo provided the email services for BT and Sky customers, as well as other services.

    • Yahoo admits it’s been hacked again, and 1 billion accounts were exposed

      On December 14, Yahoo announced that after an investigation into data provided by law enforcement officials in November, the company and outside forensics experts have determined that there was in fact a previously undetected breach of data from more than 1 billion user accounts. The breach took place in August 2013 and is apparently distinct from the previous mega-breach revealed this fall—one Yahoo claims was conducted by a “state-sponsored actor.”

      The information accessed from potentially exposed accounts “may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (using MD5) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers,” Yahoo’s chief information security officer, Bob Lord, reported in the statement issued by the company. “The investigation indicates that the stolen information did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data, or bank account information. Payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system the company believes was affected.”

    • Hacked Yahoo Data Is for Sale on Dark Web

      Some time around August 2013, hackers penetrated the email system of Yahoo, one of the world’s largest and oldest providers of free email services. The attackers quietly scooped up the records of more than 1 billion users, including names, birth dates, phone numbers and passwords that were encrypted with an easily broken form of security.

      The intruders also obtained the security questions and backup email addresses used to reset lost passwords — valuable information for someone trying to break into other accounts owned by the same user, and particularly useful to a hacker seeking to break into government computers around the world: Several million of the backup addresses belonged to military and civilian government employees from dozens of nations, including more than 150,000 Americans.

    • 0-days hitting Fedora and Ubuntu open desktops to a world of hurt [Ed: even more FUD in Dan Goodin’s UK edition headline]

      If you run a mainstream distribution of Linux on a desktop computer, there’s a good chance security researcher Chris Evans can hijack it when you do nothing more than open or even browse a specially crafted music file. And in the event you’re running Chrome on the just-released Fedora 25, his code-execution attack works as a classic drive-by.

    • Game Music Emulator Security Vulnerability Patched in Debian and Ubuntu Linux [Ed: The same news without the FUD of Dan Goodin]

      Security researcher Chris Evans has reported recently on yet another vulnerability in the Game Music Emulator (game-music-emu) package that’s installed or found in the repositories of various popular GNU/Linux distributions.

      For those not aware, Game Music Emulator is a collection of video game music file emulators designed to playback a large number of formats and systems, including SPC (Super Nintendo/Super Famicom), where the problem was discovered by Chris Evans, which could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code via a maliciously crafted file.

    • 0-day alert: Your favorite Linux distro may not be as secure as you think [Ed: Sensationalism from Dan Goodin is infectious. Beta News now parrots his dramatic ‘journalism’]
    • Parrot OS A Linux Distro For Pentesters, Security Analysts And Hackers

      Parrot OS is a live and installable operating system based on Debian for Penetration Testing, Computer Forensic, Reverse Engineering, Hacking, Cloud Pentesting, privacy/anonymity and cryptography. It has more than 300 penetration testing tools in its repositories. It is developed by Frozenbox’s Team.

    • Ubuntu App Crash Reporter Bug Allows Remote Code Execution

      A security researcher has discovered a vulnerability in Ubuntu’s crash reporter that would allow remote code execution, making it possible for an attacker to compromise a system using just a malicious file.

    • Most Ubuntu Linux Installations Are Affected By A Dangerous Remote Code Execution Bug

      All recent Ubuntu Linux releases ship with Apport crash handling software. A security researcher has discovered a flaw in this utility that allows an attacker to remotely execute code using a malicious booby-trapped file. Ubuntu has released the fix for the same, which can be grabbed via simple Ubuntu update.

    • Remote Code Execution Bug Found in Ubuntu Quantal

      A remote code execution bug has been patched in the default installation of Ubuntu Desktop affecting all default installations of Quantal version 12.10 and later.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Why the United Nations Must Move Forward With a Killer Robots Ban

      As part of a U.N. disarmament conference, participating countries are deciding on Friday whether or not to start formal discussions on a ban of lethal autonomous weapons following on from three years of informal discussions.

      Last July, thousands of researchers working in AI and robotics came together and issued an open letter calling for a pre-emptive ban on such weapons.

      I was one of the organizers of the letter, and today I spoke at the U.N. for a third time calling once again for a ban.

    • South Sudan faces ‘Rwanda-like’ genocide, UN human rights commission warns

      South Sudan is “on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war,” the head of a UN human rights commission has warned.

      Yasmin Sooka told the UN Human Rights Council the international community could prevent a “Rwanda-like” genocide by immediately deploying 4,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians.

      She also called for the country to set up a court to prosecute atrocities in the world’s newest country.

      Tens of thousands have been killed in fighting in South Sudan and more than a million people have fled.

    • Pentagon demands China return US underwater drone

      The Pentagon is demanding that China return an “unlawfully seized” underwater drone after a Chinese warship took the device from waters near a US oceanographic vessel.
      “We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement, using the abbreviation for “unmanned underwater vehicle.”

      In the latest encounter in international waters in the South China Sea region, the USNS Bowditch was sailing about 100 miles off the port at Subic Bay when the incident occurred, according to the official.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Wikileaks founder Assange on hacked Podesta, DNC emails: ‘Our source is not the Russian government’

      Wikileaks founder Julian Assange denied Thursday that hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta were stolen and passed to his organization by Russian state actors.

      “Our source is not the Russian government,” Assange told “The Sean Hannity Show.”

      “So in other words, let me be clear,” Hannity asked, “Russia did not give you the Podesta documents or anything from the DNC?”

      “That’s correct,” Assange responded.

      Assange’s assertion contradicts the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which concluded in October that “the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails [sic] from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”

    • Russia hacking allegations in interests of ‘military intelligence’ – NSA whistleblower Bill Binney

      Claims that Russia hacked the DNC may lead to a new “Cold War” that would be profitable to those interested in military intelligence budgets, says former National Security Agency technical director and NSA whistleblower William Binney.

      “[The CIA] haven’t come out with the evidence to show the tracing of the data from the DNC server to, for example the Russians, or anybody else, or going from them to WikiLeaks, which is a high priority target for NSA, in terms of network monitoring,” Binney told RT.

      He’s one of the group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who signed a letter arguing that if the data was a hack, the NSA would have a trace of the hack. The letter was published by Consortium News on Monday.

    • Claims on Russia Hacking Profitable for US Military Intelligence

      The parties linked to US military intelligence budgets have own interest in accusing Russia of alleged hacking activities against certain targets in the US, including against the Democratic National Committee (DNC), US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney said in an interview published Friday.

    • DNC docs were leaked, not hacked, intelligence veterans say

      Anonymous allegations that Russian government hackers interfered with the US elections are “evidence-free,” several retired intelligence professionals argued in an open letter. Any hack would have been noticed by the NSA, which has stayed silent, they say.

    • Judge Andrew Napolitano: Did the Russians hack Hillary?

      The American intelligence community rarely speaks with one voice. The members of its 17 publicly known intelligence agencies — God only knows the number of secret agencies — have the same biases, prejudices, jealousies, intellectual shortcomings and ideological underpinnings as the public at large.

      The raw data these agencies examine is the same. Today America’s spies rarely do their own spying; rather, they rely on the work done by the National Security Agency. We know that from the Edward Snowden revelations. We also know from Snowden that the NSA can monitor and identify all digital communications within the United States, coming into the United States and leaving the United States. Hence, it would be foolhardy and wasteful to duplicate that work. There is quite simply no fiber-optic cable anywhere in the country transmitting digital data to which the NSA does not have full-time and unfettered access.

      I have often argued that this is profoundly unconstitutional because the Fourth Amendment requires a judicially issued search warrant specifically describing the place to be searched or the thing to be seized before the government may lawfully invade privacy, and these warrants must be based on probable cause of criminal behavior on the part of the person whose privacy the government seeks to invade.

    • Top US Intelligence Vets Reject Russian Hacking Claim, John Podesta Admits To “Making An Example”

      While the Democratic Party is intent on making the world believe that the recent 2016 U.S. presidential election was lost due to Russian interference through hacked emails of Hillary Clinton and the DNC, top U.S. intelligence vets from the NSA and the CIA have said that this is far from the case and that there is no legitimate basis for these claims.

      Furthermore, it has been revealed that John Podesta is not beyond taking liberties with the truth and making spurious claims. Emails published by WikiLeaks attest to the fact that as far back as 2015, he was already suggesting the Democratic Party should make an example of leakers.

    • NBC: Unnamed U.S. Officials Say Putin Personally Involved in Hack of U.S. Election

      According to NBC, unnamed U.S. intelligence officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Donald Trump win. The CIA has accused Russia of intervening, and President Obama has ordered a review of Russia’s role. President-elect Donald Trump has called the claims “ridiculous.” This comes as a New York Times investigation has revealed the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware a DNC computer had been hacked as early as September 2015, allegedly by a team known as “The Dukes,” which the FBI says is linked to the Russian government. The Times investigation goes on to report an FBI agent called the DNC repeatedly to inform them of the security breach, but that the party’s tech-support contractor did almost nothing with the information, believing it might simply be a prank call. The Times also reports the hackers used a relatively low-tech means of infiltrating the emails of top targets, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairperson, John Podesta, whose emails were successfully hacked and then leaked over the summer, generating a slew of negative coverage of the Clinton campaign. The tactic is known as phishing—sending an email to a user asking them to change their password or click on a link in order to gain access to their entire account. John Podesta in fact did change his password after receiving one of these phishing emails, after being advised to do so by one of his aides.

    • Hillary Camp is Looking for Russians Under Every Bed. They Might Want to Start with John Podesta’s

      It’s a truism that American politicians have short memories. It is equally true the same can be said of the U.S. news media.

      Hillary Clinton and her associates have pivoted from a botched Russian “reset” (bearing the fingerprints of campaign chairman John Podesta) to relentless accusations that the Russkies snatched presidential victory away from their clutching fingers.

      There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence leading investigators to surmise the Russians played a role in hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Foundation.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Take the Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Banks That Are Funding It

      It’s been over a week since the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built underneath the Missouri River and required an environmental impact statement before the project could move forward. The move came after water protectors and their allies stood strong for months against a militarized police force that employed water cannons, dogs, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The water protectors remained committed to peaceful resistance and they won.


      One thing we can do to support the water protectors is to target the 17 banks currently invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Nation has joined with the Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, Oil Change International, the Native Organizers Alliance, and 18 other organizations to call on these banks to support the sovereignty and rights of indigenous peoples and end their support for the pipeline. Click here to sign our petition.

  • Finance

    • Cuba offers rum to pay off $276m Czech debt

      Cuba has come up with an unusual way to repay its multimillion dollar debt to the Czech Republic – bottles of its famous rum, officials in Prague say.

      The Czech finance ministry said Havana had raised this possibility during recent negotiations on the issue.

      Cuba owes the Czech authorities $276m (£222m), and if the offer is accepted the Czechs would have enough Cuban rum for more than a century.

    • Change at the top for Microsoft Australia with Steven Worrall appointed MD

      Microsoft has appointed Steven Worrall as managing director for Australia to replace 21-year company veteran Pip Marlow who is leaving to take up a senior executive position with Queensland financial services and insurance group, Suncorp.

      Worrall joins Microsoft after 22 years with IBM, most recently leading IBM’s Software business for the Asia Pacific region, providing a major source of IBM’s growth in the region. He held a number of marketing, sales and general management roles during his career in the services, software and financing segments of IBM’s business.

    • Microsoft to Offer Software for Local Governments to Regulate and Tax Legal Cannabis [Ed: Tax evader Microsoft to help “tax” pot?]
  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Jill Stein Pulls Back the Curtain on America’s Voting Chaos

      Let’s acknowledge that Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s now-halted bid to recount the vote in three Rust Belt states served principally to earn her a lot of free media and fatten her political fundraising email list. Stein failed to furnish any evidence of the “hacking” and “security breaches” that her many press releases and public comments alleged, but she did scoop up $7.3 million from more than 160,000 donors in less than three weeks.

      Nevertheless, Stein’s arguably self-serving drive to recount votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin performed an important public service. As Stein noted this week in a press call to mark the end of her recount effort, she did spotlight some troubling weaknesses in the nation’s election system. Voting in America continues to be plagued by malfunctioning machines, byzantine rules, and insufficient cross-checks and audits to ensure that ballots are properly tallied.

      Stein’s recount bid captured the paradox of this year’s super-charged debate over voting. The most sensational claims and counter-claims about this year’s election—that the system was “rigged” and riddled with fraud, as Donald Trump alleged, or that voting machines may have been tampered with, as Stein herself declared—lacked any empirical evidence to back them up.

    • Trump’s 17 Cabinet-level Picks Have More Money Than a Third of American Households Combined

      The 17 people who US president-elect Donald Trump has selected for his cabinet or for posts with cabinet rank have well over $9.5 billion in combined wealth, with several positions still unfilled. This collection of wealth is greater than that of the 43 million least wealthy American households combined—over one third of the 126 million households total in the US.

      Affluence of this magnitude in a US presidential cabinet is unprecedented.

    • Trump Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin has a ‘widow foreclosure’ problem

      Reverse mortgages are advertised as a way for elderly homeowners to get the cash they need and stay in their homes for the rest of their lives.

      They don’t have to make payments as long as they live in the home, so few ever worry about foreclosure.

      But a bank formerly run by Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, has a record of aggressively foreclosing on these homeowners, according to some borrowers and fair housing advocates.

      The practice is known as a “widow foreclosure,” and it was far more common at Mnuchin’s bank than at other lenders, according to housing rights advocates.

    • Betsy DeVos and the Plan to Break Public Schools

      Among the points that can be made in favor of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s billionaire nominee for the position of Secretary of Education, are the following: She has no known ties to President Vladimir Putin, unlike Trump’s nominee to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, who was decorated with Russia’s Order of Friendship medal a few years ago. She hasn’t demonstrated any outward propensity for propagating dark, radical-right-leaning conspiracy theories, unlike Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s designated national-security adviser. She has not actively called for the dismantling of the department she is slated to head, as have Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for Energy Secretary, and Scott Pruitt, the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

      That the absence of such characteristics should bear noting only underlines the dystopian scope of Trump’s quest to complete his cabinet of cronies. On the other hand, DeVos has never taught in a public school, nor administered one, nor sent her children to one. She is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, a private school in her home town of Holland, Michigan, which characterizes its mission thus: “to equip minds and nurture hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ.”

      How might DeVos seek to transform the educational landscape of the United States in her position at the head of a department that has a role in overseeing the schooling of more than fifty million American children? As it happens, she does have a long track record in the field. Since the early nineteen-nineties, she and her husband, Dick DeVos, have been very active in supporting the charter-school movement. They worked to pass Michigan’s first charter-school bill, in 1993, which opened the door in their state for public money to be funnelled to quasi-independent educational institutions, sometimes targeted toward specific demographic groups, which operate outside of the strictures that govern more traditional public schools. (Dick DeVos, a keen pilot, founded one of his own: the West Michigan Aviation Academy, located at Gerald Ford International Airport, which serves an overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male population of students.)

    • Trump meets with tech titans as Bezos lauds ‘productive’ session

      A confab of tech titans had a “productive” meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CNBC, as Trump moved to mend fences with Silicon Valley before taking office in January.

      Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Tesla were among the C-suite executives in attendance, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expected to get private briefings, according to transition staff.

      During the campaign, Trump issued a number of barbs directed at Bezos and his businesses, but at the meeting both men appeared nothing but complimentary.

    • Donald Trump doesn’t read: Financial Times names him “person of the year,” but he thinks it’s a compliment

      Here’s another theory: Donald Trump does read, but he’s banking on other people not reading. He’s banking on people reading his tweet, or even just the reporting on his tweet, without getting into the subtext of the article. Who goes past the headlines anyway?

      Trump’s not exactly riding a wave of populism into the White House. And as much as he and his team want to say there was a “massive landslide,” the numbers don’t bear that out. He won by a Jill Stein in the states that he really needed, squeaking by in key areas while losing the popular vote by millions.

      According to a CBS poll released Thursday, only 34 percent of Americans think that he’ll be a good or very good president. Nearly a quarter — 23 percent — think that he’ll be average. More than a third — 36 percent — think he’ll be a poor one. That’s not just Democrats bringing down the average; independents are basically holding true to the average.

    • This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson.

      In late March, Donald Trump opened a rally in Wisconsin by mocking the state’s governor, Scott Walker, who had just endorsed his Republican opponent, Ted Cruz. “He came in on his Harley,” Trump said of Walker, “but he doesn’t look like a motorcycle guy.”

      “The motorcycle guys,” he added, “like Trump.”

      It has been 50 years since Hunter S. Thompson published the definitive book on motorcycle guys: Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. It grew out of a piece first published in The Nation one year earlier. My grandfather, Carey McWilliams, editor of the magazine from 1955 to 1975, commissioned the piece from Thompson—it was the gonzo journalist’s first big break, and the beginning of a friendship between the two men that would last until my grandfather died in 1980. Because of that family connection, I had long known that Hell’s Angels was a political book. Even so, I was surprised, when I finally picked it up a few years ago, by how prophetic Thompson is and how eerily he anticipates 21st-century American politics. This year, when people asked me what I thought of the election, I kept telling them to read Hell’s Angels.

    • The Electoral College Has the Starkly Anti-Democratic Power to Make a Loser a ‘Winner’

      The Electoral College has never benefited the republic. And it is unlikely that it ever will.

      That, unfortunately, is the answer to the question of whether this elite mob might find a way to reject the discredited candidacy of Donald Trump—as amateur historians and sincere activists are so fond of suggesting should be the case.

      The Electoral College does not exist as a quality-control mechanism. It exists as a check and balance against popular democracy, and the great likelihood is that it will again perform that function on December 19.

    • Jill Stein has done the nation a tremendous public service

      As lead counsel in Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s quest to have votes recounted in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, we have been in court for the past two weeks trying to verify the integrity of the election and make sure that no one hacked our democracy. Some have cast Stein as a spoiler, or alleged that the recounts were futile, because they didn’t change who won the election.

      But the recount would only be futile if we, as Americans, ignored the lessons of the past weeks and preserved the status quo that is our broken voting system.

    • Green Party endorses Occupy Inauguration; Greens will participate in protests on Jan. 20 and 21

      The Green Party of the United States has endorsed Occupy Inauguration, as Greens prepare to participate in events planned for Jan. 20 and Jan. 21.

      Occupy Inauguration will feature a mass rally and protest in Washington, D.C. to coincide with President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

    • Assange: Election Showed ‘Liberal Press’ Is ‘Not Very Important,’ And They Can’t Handle It [AUDIO]

      Julian Assange said during the Thursday broadcast of Sean Hannity’s radio show that the 2016 election showed the traditional press is growing “increasingly not very important.”

    • Recount Fiascos Reveal the Profoundly Pathetic State of Voting in America

      Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recounts in the three states that gave Donald Trump his Electoral College majority have come to a close, not changing the official results and leaving the public even more wary about the integrity of American elections.

      After several weeks, $7.3 million in donations from 161,000 donors, obstruction by top Republicans and Democrats, election officials who rejected the most accurate recount procedures, slights against communities of color where voting machines broke on Election Day but recounts were blocked afterward, new hacking pathways discovered, and unyielding responses by state and federal judges who didn’t think much of recounting votes or using best practices, Stein announced Tuesday that her presidential recount was mostly over—and now America needed to heed its lessons.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • German spies ‘can’t be trusted’: Relations between the UK and Berlin intelligence chiefs hit after comments by London
    • 14 eyebrow-raising personal details Google knows about you

      Google may know more about me than I know about myself.

      I’m not just saying that, either: I recently started poking around in Google’s personal data repositories and realized that, between my wide-reaching use of the company’s services and my own brain’s inability to remember anything for more than seven seconds, Google may actually have the upper hand when it comes to knowledge about my life.

      From face-tagged photos of my past adventures (what year did I go to Nashville, again—and who went with me to that Eddie Vedder show?) to the minute-by-minute play-by-play of my not-so-adventuresome days (wait, you mean I really only left the house once last Wednesday—and just to get a freakin’ sandwich?!), Google’s got all sorts of goods on me. Heck, even my hopes and dreams (which may or may not involve sandwiches) are probably catalogued somewhere in its systems.

    • Digital Economy Bill – Second Reading

      The digital landscape changes rapidly and profoundly. It is vital that our legislation is kept up to date. This is a big and wide-ranging Bill. Its aim is bold: to bring major change to the UK’s digital economy in infrastructure, consumer rights and opportunities, regulation, skills, safety, innovation, and intellectual property. The prize is great, and this country can be not merely a world leader in digital, but the world leader. I beg to move.

    • Wynn Las Vegas putting Amazon Echo in every room [Ed: always-on microphone in every room]

      Amazon and Google are going head-to-head over smart hubs that can control all the smart devices we keep in our homes, but Amazon currently has a leg up on Google thanks to Alexa’s fully fleshed out system that works with more than Google Home at this point in time. That’s why it’s no surprise that Wynn Las Vegas has announced it will be equipping all of its rooms with Amazon Echo so guests can control everything with their voice.

      Wynn says Alexa will be fully operational in all of its guest rooms by summer 2017, offering guests the ability to control the room lights, temperature, draperies and the television through the power of their voice. Wynn also notes that it plans on incorporating a personal assistant feature just as soon as Amazon introduces those features to the devices.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • NYPD: Muslim teenager who reported harassment by Trump supporters made the story up

      A Muslim teenager who reported being harassed on the New York City subway by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump fabricated the story, a New York City Police Department spokesperson told Business Insider.

      Yasmin Seweid, 18, a Baruch College student, was in police custody as of Wednesday afternoon and has been charged with filing a false report, as well as obstructing governmental administration, according to the NYPD.

    • Muslim student filed bias crime report to avoid curfew punishment

      A Muslim student who said she was harassed on the subway by drunken, hate-spewing white men shouting “Donald Trump!” lied to police because she broke her curfew, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

      Yasmin Seweid, 18, joined a growing list of local and national alleged hate-crime victims when she told cops she was taunted Dec. 1 on the No. 6 train by three men who called her a terrorist and tried to snatch her hijab off her head while straphangers did nothing.


      Also published this week is devastating new evidence submitted by One Law for All to the Home Affairs Select Committee. It reveals how Sharia councils violate human rights, how discrimination and violence lie at the heart of the courts, how they are linked to the transnational Islamist movement, and why they are a parallel legal system, which must be dismantled. The submission also objects to Naz Shah’s line of questioning of Spokesperson Maryam Namazie and accusations of “Islamophobia” and “anti-faith” to discredit secular voices.

    • Woman who defied clerics is now mayor of Kolhapur

      When Hasina Faras wanted to contest the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls last year, she was warned by a local body of 40-50 clerics that it was un-Islamic to do so. In fact, the clerics of the Majlis-e-Shoora-Ulama-e-Shahar had then issued a fatwa to all Muslim women not to stand for polls.

      However, 19 Muslim women defied the fatwa and contested. Five of them, including Faras, were elected as corporators. A year down the line, 61-year-old Faras has become the first Muslim woman to bag the post of mayor in Kolhapur.

      Political twists and turns and challenges are not new to Faras, whose family has been associated with the NCP. The religious challenge had posed a new hurdle, but she said support from her family and members of the community helped her face it.

    • Take action for Turkey’s imprisoned writers

      It has been a particular year of crisis for freedom of expression in Turkey, where the government has targeted the independent media since the failed coup in July, detaining, arresting and prosecuting journalists, writers and academics.

      Five months on from the attempted coup in Turkey there are now almost 150 writers and journalists in prison, victims of a continuing campaign to silence peaceful and legitimate opposition. These include the leading linguist Necmiye Alpay, who recently spent her 70th birthday in detention, and her co-defendant, renowned novelist and PEN member Aslı Erdoğan. Detained a month after the coup, in August 2016, Alpay and Erdoğan are now due to stand trial on 29 December on charges of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’.

    • Hong Kong ‘Snowden refugees’ dream of better life

      Like many four year olds, Sethumdi says she dreams of meeting Father Christmas.

      But her future is uncertain as her refugee parents fight for a new life abroad after they sheltered fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.

      The story of how impoverished refugees helped Snowden evade authorities in 2013 only emerged in September, propelling them into the media spotlight.

    • NSA Watchdog Fired After Retaliating Against Whistleblower

      A top National Security Administration watchdog, who notoriously declared that whistleblower Edward Snowden should have gone directly to him with his concerns, has been fired for retaliating against another whistleblower.

      Former NSA inspector general George Ellard was found by a high-level Intelligence Community panel to have retaliated in May against a whistleblower.

    • NSA Inspector Who Criticized Snowden for Not Using ‘Official’ Channels Found Guilty of Retaliating Against Whistleblower Who Did Just That

      National Security Agency (NSA) inspector general George Ellard, an outspoken critic of whistleblower Edward Snowden, personally retaliated against another NSA whistleblower, Adam Zagorin reported at the Project on Government Overreach (POGO) on Thursday.

      An intelligence community panel earlier this year found that Ellard had retaliated against a whistleblower, Zagorin writes, in a judgment that has still not been made public.

      The finding is remarkable because Ellard first made headlines two years ago when he publicly condemned Snowden for leaking information about the NSA’s mass surveillance of private citizens, wherein Ellard claimed that Snowden should have raised concerns through internal channels. The agency would have protected him from any retaliation, Ellard said at the time.

    • NSA Inspector General, Who Once Said Snowden Is Manic Thief, May Be Fired For Whistleblower Retaliation

      The inspector general for the National Security Agency, George Ellard, received a termination notice for retaliating against a whistleblower. The outcome was the result of a process enabled by an executive order containing whistleblower protections issued in 2012 by President Barack Obama, according to a report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

      “The Ellard case is groundbreaking not only because it represents the most extensive use of PPD-19 procedures to date, but also because of Ellard’s high-ranking position in a national security environment where few, if any top officials are known to have been held accountable. A variety of reprisal accusations have been made against senior officials over the years. Rightly or wrongly, very few have ever been substantiated,” POGO journalist Adam Zagorin wrote. (PPD-19 is the “presidential policy directive” or executive order that Obama signed.)

    • Attorneys for officer claim Castile was high on marijuana, not responsive to commands
  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Tom Wheeler Resigns From the FCC—So Long, Net Neutrality

      The man who saved net neutrality is stepping aside.

      Federal Communication Commission chairman Tom Wheeler will resign on January 20, the agency announced today. Wheeler’s decision to step down means Donald Trump will have two FCC seats to fill, one Republican and one Democratic. His resignation will also give Republicans a 2-to-1 majority on the commission even before those seats are filled after the departure of fellow Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel at the end of the year.

      (FCC commissioners are nominated by the president, but the agency’s rules dictate that only three members of the five-member board can belong to the same party. It’s customary for the chairperson to resign when a new president is elected.)

      Consumer advocacy groups praised Wheeler, a former telecommunications lobbyist, for standing up to the industry he once represented. Wheeler backed net neutrality, new broadband privacy rules, and subsidies for low-income families to buy broadband, among other initiatives. He also pushed back against Comcast’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Crunch time for Kit Kat’s 3D shape as EU judges show teeth in trademark row

        The European Union’s Intellectual Property Office has been told that it must re-examine whether the three-dimensional shape corresponding to the product “Kit Kat 4 fingers” may be maintained as an EU trademark.

        The General Court of the European Union—one of the bloc’s highest, if least-known courts—made the ruling on Thursday.

        In 2002, Nestlé applied to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for the three-dimensional shape of the company’s four-finger Kit Kat product to be registered as an EU trademark. As the General Court explained, in 2006, the EUIPO agreed to register the mark in respect of the following goods: “sweets, bakery products, pastries, biscuits, cakes, waffles.”

        The next year, rival confectionery giant Cadbury Schweppes—now part of the US giant Mondelez (pronounced “mon-deh-leez”)—applied to the EUIPO for a declaration of invalidity to cancel the trademark.

        In 2012, the EUIPO dismissed that application, because it said that Nestlé’s mark had acquired a “distinctive character” through the use that had been made of it within the EU. So Mondelez then asked the EU’s General Court to annul the EUIPO’s decision, which it has now agreed to do.

    • Copyrights

      • US Finds Existing Copyright Law Suited For Software Embedded In Everyday Products

        The United States Copyright Office has released a study that finds that existing copyright laws are sufficient to cover issues arising over software embedded in everyday consumer products. But it does call for some flexibility for consumers to tinker with their devices.

      • No Deal: German Universities Prepare For Cut-Off From Elsevier Journals

        After licensing negotiations between German university libraries and Elsevier failed at the beginning of the month, over 60 university libraries in Germany are preparing to be cut off from hundreds of journals of the British publisher, after a standoff over pricing and access.

        The university libraries organised in the DEAL initiative rejected an offer made by Elsevier earlier this month for a first nationwide licence, because of an aggressive pricing and flaws in the access models.

      • MPAA Takes Credit for The Shutdown of KickassTorrents

        Earlier this year KickassTorrents was taken down following a criminal investigation into the site’s alleged operators. While the U.S. Department of Justice handles the case, based on an FBI investigation, they were not the only ones involved. According to comments made by MPAA boss Chris Dodd, Hollywood played a crucial role as well.

      • The Pirate Bay and Other Pirate Sites Will Be Blocked in Australia

        Following a case brought by several prominent rightsholders, the Australian Federal Court has ordered dozens of local Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, plus many proxy and mirror services. The event marks the start of mass-blocking Down Under.

      • Torrent site-blocking more about PR, says IA chief

        The peak body representing Internet users in Australia has described the Federal Court decision on blocking sites deemed to be disseminating copyrighted material without permission as being “more about PR than anything real in the fight against unlawful downloading”.

        Internet Australia chief executive Laurie Patton said: “Even the rights holders are talking about it being part of an ‘education process’.

        “Meanwhile, the costs of implementing this pointless scheme will no doubt flow on to honest content consumers in the form of increased Internet access fees.”

        The court on Thursday decided in favour of rights holders led by Foxtel and Village Roadshow against four telecommunications companies which were the respondents in the case: Telstra, Optus, M2 (now owned by Vocus Communications) and TPG.

      • Blocking Pirate Bay will not stop VPN-savvy Australians

        Despite a Federal Court decision this week obliging internet service providers to block certain piracy-enabling websites, Australians will continue to easily access such sites via virtual private networks (VPNs) and other technologies they already use.

        The decision was the first use of new powers granted in 2015, which allow rights holders to request that access be blocked to foreign-hosted websites that facilitate copyright infringement. In this case, ISPs including Telstra, Optus and others were told to take all reasonable action to block access to popular torrenting websites including The Pirate Bay, TorrentHound and IsoHunt.

Will the Patent Microcosm of London Please Stop Misleading the Public About UPC?

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Remember where UPC money and support come from (Battistelli and his PR agency)

IAM events

Summary: Response to some British blogs that want us to believe that the UPC is about to come true, even in the face of very obvious barriers and facts that are not convenient to Team Battistelli and Team UPC

THE EPO is not alone in lying about the UPC. Team UPC helps with that and all of them do so for personal gain, not because the UPC would be desirable to Europe.

Joff Wild’s wild and loaded latest headline (“As the UK moves closer to UPC ratification, there could be a litigation spurt at the new regime’s birth”) wants us to forget that the UK simply cannot ratify the UPC. We have already explained this in the following series of recent posts:

Wild, being an habitual Battistelli mouthpiece and UPC pusher (the EPO even supported Wild's pro-UPC events), now repeats Bristows’ talking points, first in Twitter and then in a “blog” that says:

The UK’s ratification of the Unified Patent Court agreement moved one step closer yesterday with the confirmation that it had signed the UPC’s Protocol on Privileges and Immunities. This provides EU privileges and immunities to the court’s judges in those countries hosting divisions of the court and signing it was a necessary step on the path to the UK’s full membership of the system.

What a misleading pile of rubbish. This does not change anything when it comes to tackling the main barrier, which is Brexit. And without London there is no UPC, either.

Responding to the latest from Team UPC ("Bristows UPC" to be precise), we have some new public comments that remind Team UPC to get off its high horse. Bristows’ site is pretty much dead (maybe a few visitors per week, not even much activity), so like a parasite it's now preying on a host, IP Kat. A lot of the pro-UPC talking points get posted there by Bristows staff and the responses are more or less the same. IP Kat readers are not gullible enough. As the first comment put it:

This is so unreal! How can they ratify an agreement that depends on EU membership??? Would the EY really go ahead with spending money on this stillborn part of the UPC? What do they think they are doing???

UPC is dead here and Bristows refuses to accept it, having invested much time and money on UPC propaganda, marketing (not the same thing, includes a rebrand), etc. Here is the next comment:

My guess is that no one actually read the UPC article in detail and that therefore no decision maker is really aware of Art. 20 and Art. 21 of the UPC agreement. We should not forget that politicians often are no lawyers and get a lot of knowledge via Powerpoint from their staffers who might be general lawyers but no IP experts.

At least this is my explanation for what is going on.

My second theory is that Italy was heavily lobbying that the seat of the court is going to Milan rather than London and the UK government felt that it is necessary to stop this at least for the time being by indicating that they will ratify.

One person says in this comment that Lucy did what she did “so as not to block the UPC for other EU member states. Since the UK will be out of the EU, it does not really care what the other EU states get up to and if they want their UPC system, let them have it.”

Another person explained it like this:

To me, it would appear to be a tactical exercise in frustration, something that successive UK governments have been very good at ever since the UK became a member of the EU – pre-23/06/2016 : we want in, but we don’t really want to play in the same schoolyard as everyone else – post-23/06 : now we want out, and we’ll be damned if anyone else is going to grab the main venue court (glares at Italy and Germany alike) and take it away from London until we’ve hammered out “the best deal possible” for the rest of the exit proceedings. It thus gives the UK government another iron to put in the fire and keep warm while both the EU and UK (ir)responsible ministers bluster about principled positions. Sometimes cynicism really is the mother of all diplomacy. It really all makes perfect sense.

In reality, what Lucy did is likely to further delay things and put the whole system in a deadlock which is contingent upon Brexit. This, in part, is why the UPC won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Another comment on the topic said:

Well, it looks like there was some truth in the well-informed rumours that I heard:

What you make of this will, I guess, depend upon which side of the UPC fence that you sit.

With the UK legal profession being the principal beneficiary of the move to ratify, I guess that the government decided that it may as well benefit from the extra tax revenue that will come its way from the bumper profits that will be generated by UK lawyers. Set against that, the (very obvious) disadvantages for “industry” probably looked a bit less concrete.

It’s just a shame that the system has now been set up so that no one in their right mind (or at least no one who wants patent protection in the UK) will seek to obtain unitary patents… which, coupled with all of the opt-outs that will be filed, could make the workload of the UPC very light indeed!

Team UPC is not sober. It’s drunk on Kool-Aid. If it’s not deliberately lying (the self-fulfilling prophecy method), then we should worry about the mental state of people who wish to inherit and dominate Europe’s legal/juridical system for handling of patents.

Small Nations With Almost Not a Single European Patent Sign the Death Knell of EPO Patent Quality

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Even some large nations with not so many patents (and no consent to the UPC) recently got greased up by Benoît Battistelli

Patricia García-Escudero and Benoît Battistelli

Summary: The Administrative Council of the EPO reaffirms its characterisation as a bunch of docile chinchillas by doing the unthinkable and trashing the appeal boards, which will be headed by a UPC-centric person (who “belongs to the patent establishment,” as the President of FFII puts it)

THE EPO is in crisis and the EPC in its current form is insufficient and inadequate for saving it. Battistelli allegedly uses EPO money to buy votes, exploiting the lunacy which is giving every tiny nation the same democratic weight as large nations. As we put it last night, the Administrative Council of the EPO is now compromised and complicit. It’s just an extension of Team Battistelli (at least parts of it, especially small nations).

As one new comment put it, “within the EPO [...] Mr. Battistelli has the final word on any result.” Here is the comment in full (LP is Prunier, IB is Brumme, and EH is Hardon, all of whom represent EPO staff):

As far as I interpret the results and feedback given, at least LP is well funded for now by his colleagues.
Yes, a more formal and possibly obligatory scheme would be preferred, but those schemes have the drawback of attracting the eyes of the financial authorities, and the need to pay taxes (income taxes/gift taxes) when certain amounts of support are exceeded.
I do not know how well the system works for IB.
Nor have I heard anything about EH’s financial situation.

I also agree with your latest sentence, but having it “within the EPO” will always mean, that Mr. Battistelli has the final word on any result.

The vote on Haar was a disaster and we believe we were the first to cover it. “It’s decided,” one later comment said. “Oh no.”

“They have only themselves to blame for being such a bunch of “poesjes”,” one person said. “Not a whimper of protest … like lambs to the slaughter …”

So Battistelli’s war or retaliation against the Boards (for challenging his authority) carries on…

How many more auditory functions, as originally envisioned by the EPC, will Battistelli attack while maintaining the perception that he obeys the EPC? Battistelli has already crushed at least 4 such functions by our count (unions, Audit Committee, BoA, AC).

Today, confirming what we got yesterday afternoon (published later), the following showed up in the comments:

Result of the AC voting on moving the BoA to Haar:

Abstain 7 CZ EE IT PL SI DE HU

It´s good to have so many countries who hardly ever see a patent deciding the fate of the EPO.

That last remark is similar to last night’s remark. We hope to get our hands on the rationale behind each country’s “Yes” vote. Leaks may be needed.

Here is someone having a go at Mr. Ernst, whom some sources believed would replace Battistelli (he can still be his successor):

Also nice to see the host state Germany taking a principled position …

Thank you Mr. Ernst.

The following makes an observation that we thought about last night:

According to Techrights knows the votes: 21 Yes, 7 No, 7 Abstain.
Spain being the biggest country to vote yes, NL, GB, FR vote against, DE abstain.
What happened to the old “no vote without the support of the big three and the host countries”? Here we have the opposite….

Regarding Spain, we suggest our readers revisit the following recent series:

We have not yet seen a single article about the above news. Nothing!

Novagraaf is currently distracted by nonsense “news” from EPO, or attempts to distract from erosion of patent quality at EPO. The same goes for LSIPR, which once again gives the EPO a platform.

No wonder people at the EPO are upset. Has the media been silenced by FTI Consulting or something? Except when it comes to puff pieces that serve the EPO’s management?

Why EPO Staff is Up in Arms

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pitchforks come from management of the EPO, which keeps threatening if not also attacking the staff


Summary: A 12-point explanation of why EPO staff is right to be mad and anger is justified not just for ethical reasons but legal reasons too

THE COMMENTS in The Register are rarely posted by EPO insiders, so there’s usually not much (new) information in them. An exception, however, could be found yesterday because someone expressed lack of understanding regarding the motivation for protests and strikes. Someone who is likely an EPO insider posted a detailed, enumerated response, which we have decided to reproduce below:

Where to begin…

1. Staff elected representatives. The EPO decided a new system was better and organis ed it’s own vote half way through the year, with different rules. The same people were elected basically but now they are under the direct control of the head of HR.

2. Three elected members have since been dismissed. Another has been demoted. We don’t know why. It is a disciplinary offence to reveal why or even that you are subject to disciplinary proceedings. Others are rumoured to be also threatened.

3. The EPO recognises a union with about 50 members (out of ca. 6900 staff). The union of ca. 3000 members is not.

4. The staff must ask the EPO if it (the EPO) will agree to organise a strike ballot. The EPO has said no on occasions but the ballot is organised according to the EPO’s rules – no communication to staff is allowed. The staff still voted overwhelmingly for a strike.

5. The Dutch High Court declared that the staff did not have the rights according to the UNHRC. The EPO declared immunity and ignored it (but also appealed – to a court it will ignore…).

6. The ILO-AT has just decided that the current appeals system at the EPO is not legal (since 2014). All decisions should be re- done as the EPO chose the staff representatives themselves. The EPO had demoted the two previous representatives for their attempt to have a fair syste.

… will I go on….


OK. And:

7. Staff are concerned that a suicide on-site could not be investigated by Dutch authorities (immunity!).

8. A member of the Boards of Appeal (a judge so to speak) has been suspended for 2 years (s/he is not allowed to say why but the top management have made particular negative statements to the press concerning the person which are not part of the case, it seems). Internal bodies have not supported the President’s actions but the member is still suspended on reduced pay.

9. The Administrative Council have urged and “stressed” that the President should involve them or independent judges in disciplinary cases involving elected staff representatives. He has still dismissed one since that, without informing the AC in advance.

10. Public computers at the EPO were discovered to be being monitored by software, seemingly contrary to Bavarian law.

11. Staff’s contracts of employment (and future pensions) have been unilaterally altered with no consultation.

12. In all disciplinary matters the committee recommends but the President decides irrespective. Under the committee formed by the EPO, judged deficient by the ILO, the proportion of successful appeals by staff has hit rock bottom.

If someone out there can think of anything to add to the above list (there’s plenty more), consider adding comments below.

EPO management has repeatedly attempted to invert the narrative, painting unions as aggressors and management as the victim. Battistelli even paid some newspapers to construct and reinforce this bogus narrative. With over a million Euros per year spent on peripheral PR agencies, well… some people might actually fall for it. The rebellious element at the EPO is the management with its so-called ‘reforms’ that are totally irrational; Extremely upset, indignant staff is trying to actually protect the Office from this clueless management. We too wish to save the Office.

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