Links 7/1/2019: Linux 5.0 RC1

Posted in News Roundup at 11:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • CMS

    • How Instructure Used Open Source To Grow From A Geo Metro (With No A/C) To The NYSE

      In 2010, Instructure, then operating with just 20 employees, won a contract for Canvas to be the statewide LMS at all Utah public schools and state-funded colleges and universities (over 100,000 students in all), replacing then-dominant player Blackboard as well as beating out seven other potential competitors. Instructure then formally launched Canvas nationwide in February 2011 as the only cloud-native open source LMS software in the market. In 2015, the company launched Bridge, a parallel product intended as an employee development suite for businesses and went on to trade on the NYSE the same year. Today, Instructure has more than 20 million users nationwide, who are supported by 1,200 employees housed in its headquarters in Salt Lake City and in offices around the world.

  • BSD

    • Review: FreeBSD 12.0

      Playing with FreeBSD with past week I don’t feel as though there were any big surprises or changes in this release compared to FreeBSD 11. In typical FreeBSD fashion, progress tends to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and this release feels like a polished and improved incremental step forward. I like that the installer handles both UFS and ZFS guided partitioning now and in a friendly manner. In the past I had trouble getting FreeBSD’s boot menu to work with boot environments, but that has been fixed for this release.

      I like the security options in the installer too. These are not new, but I think worth mentioning. FreeBSD, unlike most Linux distributions, offers several low-level security options (like hiding other users’ processes and randomizing PIDs) and I like having these presented at install time. It’s harder for people to attack what they cannot see, or predict, and FreeBSD optionally makes these little adjustment for us.

      Something which stands out about FreeBSD, compared to most Linux distributions I run, is that FreeBSD rarely holds the user’s hand, but also rarely surprises the user. This means there is more reading to do up front and new users may struggle to get used to editing configuration files in a text editor. But FreeBSD rarely does anything unless told to do it. Updates rarely change the system’s behaviour, working technology rarely gets swapped out for something new, the system and its applications never crashed during my trial. Everything was rock solid. The operating system may seem like a minimal, blank slate to new users, but it’s wonderfully dependable and predictable in my experience.

      I probably wouldn’t recommend FreeBSD for desktop use. It’s close relative, GhostBSD, ships with a friendly desktop and does special work to make end user applications run smoothly. But for people who want to run servers, possible for years without change or issues, FreeBSD is a great option. It’s also an attractive choice, in my opinion, for people who like to build their system from the ground up, like you would with Debian’s server install or Arch Linux. Apart from the base tools and documentation, there is nothing on a FreeBSD system apart from what we put on it.


    • GCC Eyeing -O2 Vectorization For Boosting Intel Core / AMD Zen Performance

      Longtime GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) developer Jan Hubicka of SUSE is looking at enabling vectorization as part of the -O2 optimization level for Intel Core, AMD Zen, and generic x86_64 CPU targets.

      Particularly for recent Intel Core and AMD Zen processors, when using “-ftree-vectorize -ftree-slp-vectorize” paired with the common -O2 optimization level there are 5~9% performance boosts for some benchmarks. Granted, in some tests the gains are less and a few known performance regressions at this point.

    • ARM Tacks On Ares Server CPU Support To The GNU Assembler

      Back in November is when ARM Holdings posted their GCC compiler support for “Ares”, their forthcoming new ARMv8 core design intended for HPC/server SoCs. Ares continues inching closer to launch while now the GNU Assembler has picked up support for recognizing Ares.

      The GNU Assembler (GAS) has picked up support for the ARM Ares CPU and recognizes -mcpu ares. Ares remains ARM’s codename and not necessarily the branding the CPU will carry once formally launched. Like the compiler patches, passing Ares implies ARMv8.2-A along with FP16 and dot product bits enabled.

    • MIT/GNU Scheme 10.1.4 released
  • Public Services/Government

    • NSA to open-source GHIDRA software reverse-engineering tool in March

      The tool has never officially been a secret, but the NSA did keep rather quiet about its existence until March 2017 when WikiLeaks published allegedly stolen files that revealed the agency was using the tool. Those documents show that GHIDRA was first built by the NSA in the early 2000s, and that it has been shared with several other government agencies.

      With GHIDRA, it’s also possible to analyze the binaries of all major operating systems, including mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. Thanks to its modular architecture, users can use the tool to add new features to these platforms via new packages.

      The news that the NSA is planning to open source GHIDRA came Friday via the 2019 RSA Security Conference sessions page, where it was announced that the software will be introduced in a talk by senior NSA adviser Robert Joyce scheduled for March 5.

    • NSA To Release A Free Reverse Engineering Tool ‘GHIDRA’

      Developed in the early the 2000s, GHIDRA has been used by several other US government agencies where cyber teams need to analyze malware strains or suspicious software.

      According to ZDNet, the existence of this reverse engineering tool isn’t exactly a secret and the concept isn’t new either. GHIDRA came into the spotlight in March 2017 when WikiLeaks revealed it in the Vault7 (a collection of internal documentation files supposedly stolen from CIA’s network)

      The Vault7 documents describe GHIDRA as a tool that is coded in Java and has a graphical user interface (GUI). It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

  • Programming/Development

    • Coding in anger: not-gitbook
    • Integrating Sphinx doctests with Travis
    • Resize the video with python program

      If you are following this website then you should know that recently I am exploring py.checkio.org which is supposed to be a website which allows us to create game with python program and I am on the way to get into the game creation stage after solving some basic python questions on this site, but starting from today our plan has changed a little bit, I am going to start a brand new python project while continue to discover that above site at the same time, so you can expect more daily articles from this site soon on both the previous topic as well as the new topic, I might create a few more python related topics at the same time in the future as well. The project which we are going to create together is the video editing/streaming application project written in python with the help of the ffmpeg multimedia framework. I am going to create the project in windows os but if you are the mac or Linux user then you can just slightly modify the program code to suit your need, no problem at all.

      FFmpeg is a complete, cross-platform solution tool uses to record, convert and stream audio and video. We are not going to use this tool directly on the command prompt instead we will use tkinter to create the video editing application user interface which wraps around this FFmpeg tool which can then be used to perform various video editing/streaming processes. Before we start you need to download and install FFmpeg on your computer first, you can search google for the keyword ‘FFmpeg’ and then download and install the tool on your computer through below search box.

    • Getting started with Pelican: A Python-based static site generator
    • Analyzing Satellite Image Data Using PyTroll
    • RcppStreams 0.1.2
    • Keeping C OpenCV applications building
    • Kushal Das


  • Science

    • Code-Name ‘Corona’: Earliest Spy-Satellite Images Reveal Secrets of Ancient Middle East

      When the United States launched its first secret “spy satellites,” in the 1960s, the onboard cameras captured never-before-seen views of Earth’s surface. Though once used for uncovering critical military secrets of U.S. foes, those now-declassified images recently found a new purpose: providing archaeologists with an important window into the past.

      Scientists are using the satellites’ decades-old photos of the Middle East to reconstruct archaeological sites that disappeared many years ago, erased by urbanization, agricultural expansion and industrial growth, researchers reported in December at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

      By comparing these “spy” images to more-recent satellite photos, scientists can track settlements and historically important sites that have since been obscured or destroyed, the researchers explained at AGU.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Shannon: Hospitals guard prices like the CIA guards secrets

      Even for those who haven’t been to jail, the term has unsavory associations, bringing to mind arrogant, price-gouging monopolies who look upon customers as rubes to be exploited. (Ticketmaster, come on down!)

      In reality, the chargemaster has more to do with pricing than policing. Theoretically, it’s a complete listing of all the services and procedures a hospital provides patients, followed by the cost for each item.

      What the consumer doesn’t know is the price listed after any procedure is as hyperbolic as an entree description on a Trump restaurant menu. The cost paid by Medicare or a health insurance company often bears little relation to what’s listed on the chargemaster. Just as the window sticker on a new car is only a starting place in the negotiation.

      The U.S. health care market is currently designed to guarantee high prices, encourage waste and discourage price shopping. That’s because consumers can get a binding estimate on building a house, but they can’t get any kind of estimate on removing a gall bladder. Requiring hospitals to post the chargemaster on the web is supposed to give consumers this vital information, but in truth all it will give most of them is a headache.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Ex-CIA operative Plame: ‘It’s not inconceivable’ Paul Whelan is a spy
    • Former CIA officer indicted for Chinese spying had accomplice

      Former CIA officer-turned-accused Chinese spy Jerry Chun Shing Lee had an accomplice in his alleged espionage against the U.S.,..

    • Batman Writer Tom King Responds to Fans Questioning His CIA Career

      DC Comics writer Tom King (Batman, Mister Miracle) has responded to allegations from fans that he did not actually serve in the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before making his name in the world of comics.

      The Batman scribe’s CIA history was called into question by a post on the Twist Street Tumblr blog, which cited purported correspondence with the CIA as well as previous examples of DC failing to verify its writer’s alleged service. However, King was quick to shut the speculation down.

    • Batman Writer Tom King Disproves Allegations Of Falsifying CIA Service
    • Read the US Navy’s 1975 guide to christening ships

      Manual uncovered in the CIA archives outline’s the long history of the practice, from ancient Babylon to Prohibition-era US

    • Trial Begins For 11 Suspects In Killing Of Saudi Journalist Khashoggi

      A CIA assessment concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing of Khashoggi. If convicted, the suspects may face the death penalty for carrying out official orders.

      President Trump has pledged the U.S. will remain a “steadfast partner” to Saudi Arabia and cast doubt on the CIA conclusions,” NPR’s Scott Horsley reports.

    • Veteran NBC/MSNBC Journalist Blasts Network in Resignation

      The NBC/MSNBC reporter, William Arkin, is a longtime prominent war and military reporter, perhaps best known for his groundbreaking, three-part Washington Post series in 2010, co-reported with two-time Pulitzer winner Dana Priest, on how sprawling, unaccountable, and omnipotent the national security state has become in the post-9/11 era. When that three-part investigative series, titled “Top Secret America,” was published, I hailed it as one of the most important pieces of reporting of the war on terror, because while “we chirp endlessly about the Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Democrats and Republicans, this is the Real U.S. Government: functioning in total darkness, beyond elections and parties, so secret, vast and powerful that it evades the control or knowledge of any one person or even any organization.”

    • How Trump can withdraw US military forces, and salvage US interests in Syria

      Let’s be clear, these deployments would not be about salvaging some lost neoconservative dream of overthrowing Bashar Assad. That’s not going to happen. Instead, they would focus on a realist protection of U.S. and allied interests. They would allow the U.S. to facilitate Turkey’s greater security envelope in northern Syria, while also deterring overdue Turkish aggression against Kurdish settlements. These deployments would prevent Assad, Iran, and Russia from dominating the moderate Sunni tribes of eastern Syria. They would create friction against Iranian arms convoys moving from Iraq thru Syria into southern Lebanon. And they would allow the U.S. to give Assad a choice: if you want U.S. forces gone, then make concessions to more moderate rebel groups. This is a crucial U.S. interest in that as Assad’s slaughter machine dredges death, it is planting the roots of the Islamic State’s rebirth.

    • How China’s Spies Became Key Players in the Trade War

      China’s main intelligence agency, the shadowy Ministry of State Security, has found itself thrust into the global spotlight as political and trade tensions between the U.S. and China flare. Two of its alleged assets have been publicly named in a sweeping U.S. indictment involving hacking on a global scale. After a top executive of Huawei Technologies Co. was arrested in Canada on a U.S. extradition request, it was MSS agents who abruptly detained two Canadians in China, sparking a diplomatic feud. (Huawei itself has long been suspected of building telecommunications equipment that could give Chinese intelligence a back door to spy on U.S. networks, a charge it denies.) The ministry’s reach continues to grow as President Xi Jinping strengthens security laws, while limits on its power remain vague.

    • Washington Trained Guatemala’s Mass Murderers—and the Border Patrol Played a Role

      John P. Longan was an agent with the US Border Patrol in the 1940s and ’50s, working near the Mexican border, where two Guatemalan migrant children fell mortally ill last month in the custody of the Border Patrol—7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died on December 8, and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, who died on Christmas Eve. Longan had a reputation for violence, as did many patrollers. Since its founding in the early 20th century, the Border Patrol has operated with near impunity, becoming arguably the most politicized branch of federal law enforcement—even more so than J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

      As the Cold War heated up in Latin America, following the 1959 victory of the Cuban Revolution, Longan, who started his career as a police officer in Oklahoma, moved on to work with the CIA, providing security assistance—under the cover of the State Department—to allied anti-communist nations. Put simply, Longan taught local intelligence and police agencies how to create death squads to target political activists, deploying tactics that he had earlier used to capture migrants on the border. He arrived in Guatemala in late 1965, where he put into place a paramilitary unit that, early the next year, would execute what he called Operación Limpieza, or Operation Clean-Up. Within three months, this unit had conducted over 80 raids and multiple extrajudicial assassinations, including an action that, over the course of four days, captured, tortured, and executed more than 30 prominent left-opposition leaders. The military dumped their bodies into the sea while the government denied any knowledge of their whereabouts.

      Longan’s Limpieza was a decisive step forward in the unraveling of Guatemala, empowering an intelligence system that through the course of the civil war would be responsible for tens of thousands of disappearances, 200,000 deaths, and countless tortures. (Greg Grandin describes Longan’s work in The Last Colonial Massacre.)

      The US role in that civil war wasn’t, of course, limited to the covert operations of one former Border Patrol agent. Throughout the Cold War, Washington intervened multiple times in Guatemala, funded a rampaging army, ran cover for the death squads that its own security agents, like Longan, helped create, and signaled that it would turn a blind eye to genocide. Even before Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election, two retired generals playing prominent roles in his campaign traveled to Central America and told Guatemalan officials that “Mr. Reagan recognizes that a good deal of dirty work has to be done” (for this quote, see Allan Nairn’s 1980 “Controversial Reagan Campaign Links with Guatemalan Government and Private Sector Leaders,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, October 30, 1980). In office, Reagan supplied munitions and training to the Guatemalan army to carry out that dirty work (despite a ban on military aid imposed during the Carter administration, since existing contracts were exempt from the ban). Reagan was steadfast in his moral backing for Guatemala’s génocidaires, calling de facto head of state Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, who seized power in a coup in the spring of 1982, “a man of great integrity” and “totally dedicated to democracy.”

    • German Government Refuses to Disclose Info on Cooperation with Pinochet

      The Foreign Ministry refused to disclose information on German intelligence cooperation with the CIA in Chile in the 1960s and ‘70s, citing the “good of [the] state” and an agreement of “confidentiality.”
      The German Foreign Ministry has refused to disclose details on cooperation of the BND, the German intelligence service, with Chile during the rule of Augusto Pinochet, Deutsche Welle reported Thursday.

      The request was filed by Jan Korte, a lawmaker of the Die Linke party, and contained 68 questions. The response he received was so incomplete and generally evasive that Korte filed an official complaint about the non-cooperation of the government, DW reports.

    • Pentagon plans to scale back in Somalia, latest sign Trump wants to cut troops abroad

      The U.S. military plans to scale back its role in Somalia and curtail airstrikes against al-Shabab insurgents after having taken out many of the group’s senior operatives, two senior U.S. officials told NBC News, the latest signal the Trump administration is looking to cut the number of troops deployed around the world.

      The move reflects an assessment by the administration that while the Shabab insurgency remains a threat to the Somali government and neighboring countries, it does not pose a direct danger to the U.S., current and former officials said. And it follows President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement last month that he had ordered U.S. forces out of Syria and asked for plans to be drawn up for a possible drawdown in Afghanistan.

    • CIA spy communication system faced ‘catastrophic’ compromise: 2018 spy-related report

      This has been rated as one of the top spy-related stories of 2018 by Intel News. The US intelligence agency CIA faced a “catastrophic” compromise of the system it uses to set up links with spies and it resulted in the death of “dozens of people around the world”, Intel News cited sources as saying. The same was published in a report by Yahoo News on November 2 which cited “conversations with eleven former US intelligence and government officials directly familiar with the matter”. The report spoke about the compromise of an Internet-based covert platform used by the external intelligence body to facilitate secret communication between its officers and their sources located around the world.

    • Afghanistan in 2019: Fewer US Troops, More CIA Torture and Killings

      This is the voice of American imperialism speaking through one of its more reliable hand-puppets. Foreign Policy has twice named Robert Kaplan one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” In his op-ed, Kaplan blames Afghanistan’s current problems on the illegal US war on Iraq in 2003, adding parenthetically and without further explanation: “which I mistakenly supported.” The unintended joke here is that he frames the Iraq War as a mistake largely because it diverted the US from nation-building in Afghanistan. Yes, he says exactly that. He has nothing to say about either war’s criminality or US atrocities. Those are not serious concerns for the imperial mindset – those are just the necessary inconveniences of maintaining an empire. He even appears unaware that his formulation about Afghanistan and the decline of the American empire perfectly fits the historical reality of US defeat in Vietnam.

      On New Year’s Eve, the day before Kaplan’s op-ed, the lengthy lead story in the Times was headlined: “CIA-Led Afghan Forces Leave Grim Trail of Abuse.” This report is based on months of reporting on night raids, torture, and summary executions of Afghan civilians carried out by CIA-trained death squads, euphemistically called “strike forces” in the paper. The instances described in the report are horrifying and savage. In one, the death squad puts bags over the heads of two brothers, executing them with their families in the next room. For good measure, the death squad blew up the room where the bodies lay.

    • Drones Used to Find Toylike “Butterfly” Land Mines

      A type of land mine called the “butterfly” has a particularly insidious reputation for two reasons: It is known for killing or crippling children who may pick up what looks a lot like a green plastic toy, and its mostly nonmetallic construction means it often evades traditional mine detectors. Butterfly mines’ light-touch detonators go off easily if stepped on by a fighter—or farmer—and their relatively small charge often maims people without immediately killing them.

      More than a million Russian-made PFM-1 land mines—the most common butterfly type, possibly inspired by similar U.S. weapons deployed during the Vietnam War—still litter Afghanistan after decades of conflict. During the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, military helicopters dropped swarms of these mines, whose “wings” let them flutter to the ground. This created instant minefields blocking high mountain passes, contributing to the problem of land mines and unexploded ordnance responsible for killing or injuring more than 30,000 Afghan civilians since 1978. In recent years children have made up the majority of victims killed or wounded by such weapons in Afghanistan.

    • ‘Sonic attack’ or just crickets? New analysis sheds light on US embassy in Cuba mystery

      For the past two years, the world has been waiting for answers after claims that employees at the US Embassy in Havana had fallen victim to a mysterious “sonic attack”. But according to fresh analysis, the so-called attack may have just been crickets.

      Starting in late 2016, 26 US diplomats and their families reported unexplained health problems, including headaches, hearing loss, disorientation and some loss of cognitive ability, after hearing a strange high-pitched noise in their hotel rooms and homes.

    • U.S. Strategic Command Releases Bizarre Video Teasing Nuclear Bomb Drop

      The U.S. Strategic Command released a bizarre video on Twitter Monday afternoon, linking the ball drop at Times Square with a threat of nuclear warfare. “#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball,” the group wrote in the since-deleted tweet. “If ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.” The accompanying video shows footage of a B-2 spirit set to dramatic music, and culminates with the drop of two inert B-83 nuclear bombs that demolish an unidentified region in a roar of flames. The footage clashed sharply with the last hashtag on the post, “#PeaceIsOurProfession,” and bewildered Twitter users who struggled to understand why a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense had threatened nuclear war on New Year’s Eve. The agency later apologized for the tweet, which it said had been in “poor taste.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • The More The US Pressures Ecuador To Kick Assange Out Of Its Embassy, The Less Likely It Is To Happen

      Seen from Quito, Julian Assange’s fate seems to play out in two parallel realities.

      In one, fueled by Twitter and international news reports, the 47-year-old hacker’s future is urgently being discussed behind closed doors by governments intent on making deals to silence him and extradite him to the United States, negotiated by figures who include onetime Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Vice President Mike Pence.

      In the other, according to interviews with more than a dozen Ecuadorian and US officials, the WikiLeaks founder’s indefinite presence at Ecuador’s London embassy is a “nuisance,” but far from a priority, as the South American country balances its own political realignment after a decade of anti-US rule by former president Rafael Correa.

      That contradiction means that in Ecuador, recent breathless news accounts about secret deals and US pressure for Assange’s extradition are useful mostly to score political points — but few believe them. The people who were actually in the meetings those international publications recounted say the stories ignored the political reality that, despite the new presidency of Lenín Moreno, who was elected last year, Assange’s fate is still seen largely as a stand-in for the sensitive issue of US influence in the country.

    • Talking Point: Turning our backs on a man hunted for freedom of speech

      JULIAN Assange is an Australian publisher and he is wanted by the US Department of Justice for exercising his right to freedom of speech.

    • WikiLeaks tells reporters 140 things not to say about Julian Assange

      It was not immediately clear what prompted the advice to media organizations, but WikiLeaks singled out Britain’s Guardian newspaper for publishing what it said was a false report about Assange. The Guardian did not immediately respond late on Sunday to a Reuters request for comment.

      The Australian set up WikiLeaks as a channel for publishing confidential information from anonymous sources. He is a hero to some for exposing what supporters cast as government abuse of power and for championing free speech, but to others he is a rebel who has undermined the security of the United States.

      WikiLeaks angered Washington by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables that laid bare often highly critical U.S. appraisals of world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal family.

    • We Publish Full Unedited Wikileaks Outline Of What Strive And Trevor Did In The 2008 Elections
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Tell us more on palm oil sources, say buyers

      Companies selling products which contain palm oil need to be upfront about where it comes from, so as to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices, a UK study says.

      Researchers from the University of Cambridge say companies should not rely simply on purchasers’ own awareness of the need to make environmentally responsible decisions, but should publicly disclose the identities of their palm oil suppliers.

      Palm oil production causes deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions from peatland conversion, and biodiversity loss, and the oil is found in many products, often without consumers’ knowledge. It is a common ingredient in foods, body products, detergents and biofuels.

    • Arizona Dolphin Attraction Draws Protest After Third Death

      An Arizona dolphin attraction is under fire after the death of a third dolphin in 16 months.

    • Trump’s Racist Language of Pollution Drives His Neoliberal Fascism

      The ruthless ideologies and policies of a fascist past are with us once again, and the warning signs can be seen in the emergence of the normalizing discourses of pollution and disposability. As a central element of neoliberalism, the discourse of disposability signals a society in which certain people are viewed as throwaways. Meanwhile the discourse of pollution suggests a mode of dehumanization that enables policies in which people are relegated outside the boundaries of justice and become the driving force for policies of terminal exclusion. These terms represent a merging of neoliberalism and fascist politics.

      The utopian visions that support the promise of a radical democracy and prevent the dystopian nightmare of a fascist politics are disappearing in the United States. The viciousness of the Trump administration and the cruelty imposed by neoliberalism mutually inform each other. Trump’s policies range from stripping food stamps and health care from poor children and caging immigrant children in some god-forsaken prison in Texas to allowing thousands of Puerto Ricans to live for more than a year without electricity, safe water and decent shelter. Such policies are matched by an ongoing, if not relentless, discourse of dehumanization and objectification aimed at those considered disposable.

      The deep grammar of violence now shapes all aspects of cultural production and becomes visceral in its ongoing production of domestic terrorism, mass shootings, the mass incarceration of people of color and the war on undocumented immigrants. Not only has it become more gratuitous, random and in some cases trivialized through the monotony of repetition, it also has become the official doctrine of the Trump administration in shaping its domestic and security policies. Trump’s violence has become both promiscuous in its reach and emboldening in its nod to right-wing extremist groups. The mix of white nationalism and expansion of policies that benefit the rich, big corporations and the financial elite are increasingly legitimated and normalized in a new political formation that I have called neoliberal fascism. This new historical conjuncture emerges through a fusion of discredited eugenicist discourses (e.g., Trump’s notion that you have to be born with the right genes) and a rebooted melange of mythic notions of meritocracy (objective measures of individual quality), scientific racism (pseudo-science that supports racial hierarchies), Horatio Alger fables (anyone can work hard and become rich and successful), and a sheer contempt for the “losers” who are viewed as alien to a white public sphere supported by Trump and his minions.

    • Soil and water carbon stores puzzle science

      Two new studies have highlighted yet more unexpected findings in the epic story of the Earth’s carbon stores: how the world’s waters and soils accumulate and discharge them.

      One team of researchers has found, to their surprise, that the meltwaters of Greenland are washing measurable quantities of carbon into the atmosphere in the form of the potent greenhouse gas methane.

      And another has looked more closely at the way carbon is stored in the world’s soils, and come to the conclusion that even the minerals in the bedrock play a role: with help from rainwater, they can capture and hold potentially vast quantities of carbon in the soils of planet Earth.

    • With Nationwide Tour Targeting Untapped Youth Power, Sunrise Movement Aims to ‘Make Green New Deal an Inevitability’

      The millennial-led Sunrise Movement has succeeded in convincing 45 House Democrats and several senators to support the Green New Deal, and now the grassroots group is planning to focus on young voters across the country to gather as much support as possible for the bold climate action and jobs proposal.

      According to the Huffington Post, the two-year-old group is planning a 14-stop nationwide tour in March and April, visiting cities and towns in coal-producing states like Kentucky and Pennsylvania as well as California, New York, Michigan, and others to engage directly with young adults who may not be familiar with all the details of the Green New Deal—but who are likely among the 67 percent of millennials who believe the federal government should make environmental protection a top priority.

  • Finance

    • How capitalism is killing us

      Hitchhiking through Venezuela some years ago, a friend and I availed ourselves of the novel opportunity to receive free medical care at health clinics established by late President Hugo Chavez, a much-vilified enemy of the international capitalist order.

      I had never experienced the danger of free healthcare in my own homeland – that glorious vanguard of capitalism known as the United States – which was too busy waging wars and otherwise facilitating obscene corporate profit accumulation to be bothered with basic human rights. At one Venezuelan clinic, a female doctor from Cuba appropriately remarked that, like the US military, Cuban medics also operated in global conflict zones – but to save lives.

      A December 2017 statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights notes that, while the US manages to spend “more [money] on national defence than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined”, US infant mortality rates were, as of 2013, “the highest in the developed world”.

      The Special Rapporteur provides a barrage of other details from his own visit to the US, during which he was able to observe the country’s “bid to become the most unequal society in the world” – with some 40 million people living in poverty – as well as assess “soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction”.

      Capitalism, it seems, is a deadly business indeed.


      ….rampant drug use and abuse is hardly surprising in a society in which money and profit have so superseded human life in importance that people often literally cannot afford to live.

    • National Park Service to Tap Into Entrance Fees to Keep Operating

      The National Park Service says it is taking the extraordinary step of dipping into entrance fees to pay for staffing at its highly visited parks in the wake of the partial government shutdown.

      P. Daniel Smith, deputy director of the service, said in a statement Sunday that the money would be used to bring in staff to maintain restrooms, clean up trash and patrol the parks. He acknowledged that the Trump administration’s decision to keep the parks open during the weekslong budget impasse was no longer workable and so more extreme measures were warranted.

    • House panel to ‘demand answers’ on Interior’s move to use visitor fees to keep parks open

      The House Natural Resources Committee intends to investigate the Trump administration’s decision to dip into visitor fees to keep parks open, the panel’s chairman warned Sunday.

      Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said that his committee — which oversees Interior — has plans to look into the legality of the decision, saying the shutdown has done “terrible damage” to the U.S.

      “President Trump and his advisors apparently just woke up to the fact that the shutdown they created several weeks ago has done terrible damage to our country,” Grijalva said in a statement Sunday.

    • The Spontaneous Politics of the Masses: Slavoj Žižek and the Yellow Vests

      The Yellow Vest movement dumbfounded not only the French ruling elites, but also the left intellectuals throughout Europe. This, to be fair, was always the case with every serious revolutionary movement in the last one hundred years. Not one successful revolution was ever “correct” according to the left intellectuals and politicians. The fact that the “Yellow Vests” are treated in a similar fashion could be considered the evidence of significance of the events we are witnessing, and of their potential to initiate serious change in the life of the French society and in the rest of the Europe.

      The intellectuals treated the “Yellow Vests” with empathy, but at the same time with paternalistic skepticism or even condescending ridicule. Like: the citizens, of course, have a right to protest, but their demands and views are contradictory, while their potential to win this battle is not quite apparent. Moreover, almost all analysts announced that the program, which was put together by the grass-roots movement, cannot be accomplished.

    • Happy New Year from Kim Jong-un

      American citizens and NGOs have provided humanitarian assistance to that country for decades. Whether motivated by a faith-based perspective—or out of a compassionate nature—all have been committed to saving the lives of the neediest of North Korea’s citizens, including children, the elderly and pregnant mothers. Thousands of North Koreans neglected by their own government, particularly in rural areas, know their lives have been impacted, or saved because of the intervention of the American people. It has become clear that the Trump Administration regards the provision of humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people as a legitimate target for its maximum pressure campaign.

      Despite improvements in its economy, North Korea’s public health and food circumstances remain dire. The World Food Programme reports a shortfall of over $15 million for its work in North Korea. Ten million people—40 percent of the population—are said to be undernourished, and roughly 20 percent of children suffer from chronic malnourishment. The White House, where the president periodically extols his friendship with Kim Jong-un, has said nothing about the human condition in North Korea. But even if it did, US termination of humanitarian aid to North Korea would undermine its criticisms of human rights there.

      In the United Nations, the US position makes Russia and China look good. Their representatives have called for rewarding North Korea for its diplomacy and its focus since April 2018 on economic development rather than on the byongjinline of parallel military and economic development. Moscow and Beijing have both arguedin the Security Council for North Korean exemptions from UN sanctions. A Chinese foreign ministry statementof June 12, 2018 said:

    • Biting into Apple: The Giant’s Revenues Fall

      The worm has gotten into Apple, and is feasting with some consistency. Revenue has fallen. Chief executive Tim Cook is cranky. The celebrated front of Apple’s wealth – the iPhone with its range of glittering models – has not done as well as he would have hoped. Dreams of conquering Cathay (or, in modern terms, the Chinese market) have not quite materialised.

      In a letter to Apple’s investors, Cook explained that “our revenue will be lower than our original guidance for the quarter, with other items remaining broadly in line with our guidance.” This somewhat optimistic assessment came with the heavily stressed caveat: “While it will be a number of weeks before we complete and report our final results, we wanted to get some preliminary information to you now. Our final results may differ somewhat from these preliminary estimates.”

      The reasons outlined were various, but Cook, in language designed to obfuscate with concealing woods for self-evident trees, suggested that the launches of various iPhone types would “affect our year-to-year compares.” That said, it “played out broadly in line with our expectations.” While Cook gives the impression of omniscience, he is far from convincing. Why go for the “unprecedented number of new products to ramp”, resulting in “supply constraints” which led to limiting “our sales of certain products during Q1 [the first quarter]”? Such is the nature of the credo.

      Where matters were not so smooth to predict were those “macroeconomic” matters that do tend to drive CEOs potty with concern. While there was an expectation that the company would struggle for sales in “emerging markets”, the impact was “significantly greater… than we had projected.” China, in fact, remained the hair-tearing problem, singled out as the single biggest factor in revenue fall.

    • If China Is Suffering So Much Because of Trump’s Trade War, Why Is Its Surplus Up So Much?

      Donald Trump has made his tariffs against China and other countries a big part of his agenda as president. He even went so far as to dub himself “Tariff Man” on Twitter.

      The media have been quick to assume that Tariff Man is accomplishing his goals, especially with regard to China. It is standard for news articles, like this one, to assert that China’s economy is suffering in large part because of Trump’s tariffs.

      In fact, through the first ten months of 2018 China’s trade surplus with the United States on trade in goods has been $344.5 billion. This is up 11.5 percent from its surplus in the same months last year.

    • By the Best Definition, the Poverty Rate Should Be Tripled

      The World Bank defines poverty as “pronounced deprivation in well-being,” not only of material needs but also of health and education and security and public voice and the “opportunity to better one’s life” and the “capability of the individual to function in society.” Surveys of tens of thousands of people throughout the world found that “the poor did not focus on their material need; rather, they alluded to social and psychological aspects of poverty.”

      The United Nations calls poverty the “denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity.” It’s not just a lack of money, but also the “lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society.” Other sources refer to “relative deprivation,” a lack of both material and non-material needs, an absence of the “living conditions and amenities which are customary” in their societies, and a feeling of insecurity in people’s “homes, their health, and their jobs.”

      Deprivation? The United Nations describes America as a nation that is near the bottom of the developed world in safety net support and economic mobility, with its citizens living “shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies,” with the highest infant mortality rate and obesity levels in the developed world, and the world’s highest incarceration rate.

    • Speaking Up for Oft-Ignored Workers, Rep. Ayanna Pressley Demands Back-Pay for Federal Contractors Harmed by Trump Shutdown

      “I write today with the utmost urgency to implore you to find an immediate solution to this partial government shutdown and ensure that any final funding agreement includes retroactive compensation for the thousands of low-wage government contract service workers that have had their lives put on hold as a result of President [Donald] Trump’s obsession to fund a xenophobic hate wall,” Pressley wrote.

      “Today, I stand in solidarity with the working people who have been held hostage by this partial government shutdown,” the Massachusetts congresswoman continued. “I stand in solidarity with the hard-working mothers and fathers who had to hold off on purchasing gifts over the holidays in order to pay their rent and keep the lights on.”

    • States Lead the Way on Retirement Policy

      With the federal government largely out of the game over the last decade on issues like the minimum wage, paid family leave and paid sick days, many states and cities have taken the lead to protect their own residents. Although it has gotten much less attention, this has also been the case with retirement policy.

      The basic story is that the current generation of retirees is doing OK. Most retirees have incomes that are reasonably in line with their income during their working lives. That’s not great: People who were living near the poverty line still find themselves near poverty in retirement. Also, due to the inadequacies of Medicare coverage, many middle-income people and even upper middle-income people can be permanently set back by large medical expenses.

      But, a snapshot of the over-65 population today would show a group of people that are not appreciably worse off than those under age 65. However, this situation is changing rapidly.

      The main source of non-Social Security income for middle-class retirees is traditional defined benefit pensions. These pensions pay workers a specific monthly sum for as long as they live, with spouses typically enjoying survivor benefits. Recent research from the Census shows that these pensions were considerably more important than had previously been recognized because retirees often understated their pension income on survey questions.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • A Tough Time to Be a Spy, NPR Reports – Current and former CIA officials are only sources for story on espionage getting harder

      Imagine, for a moment, that a prominent media outlet in Iran decided to produce a story about the trials of being an Iranian spy in this technological day and age—in which the all-pervasiveness of surveillance mechanisms and social media complicates slightly the process of entering other countries under false identities.

      It’s safe to assume that the United States would find this less than entertaining, and that a fair amount of ruckus would ensue, with concerned politicians and other fearmongers bleating about terror attacks and the sanctity of US borders.

      Of course, no Iranian media outlet has actually done this. NPR’s Morning Edition (1/3/19), on the other hand, has just run an upbeat segment on how violating other people’s borders is now a tad more challenging for American spies than it was in past decades: “CIA Chief Pushes For More Spies Abroad; Surveillance Makes That Harder,” reported by Greg Myre.

      The “push,” in fact, came in September, when CIA Director Gina Haspel—herself a former longtime undercover officer abroad—announced her desire for a “larger foreign footprint” for the CIA. Four months later, it’s the hook for NPR’s human interest story on frustrating impediments to spying.

    • Bold Progressive Agenda AND Serious Talk of Impeachment: Democrats ‘Must Do Both,’ Says Rep. Rashida Tlaib

      On Friday, Tlaib sparked a debate about congressional decorum when she told a room full of people that it was her mission to “impeach the motherfucker,” referring to Trump. Of course, the hand-wringing over the comments—denounced by Republicans, not a few Democrats, and even Trump himself—were described as pretty rich coming from veteran politicians that have embraced such language behind the scenes (and in public) for years, especially when Trump himself has so lowered the standard of so-called “civility” since taking office.

    • With Self-Inflicted Pay-Go Rule, Democratic Victory in 2020 Just Got Harder

      The day after I wrote this, “… Pelosi, Schumer and Hoyer are doing everything in their power to keep the progressive insurgency in check, and keep their neoliberal/corporate money machine in power,” Nancy Pelosi and the neoliberals in Congress committed political harikari and gutted the entire Democratic Party, by making “pay-go” a part of the House rules.

      What this means is that a piece of legislation must offset costs, either by cutting somewhere else or by raising revenue. On the surface, this seems nothing less than prudent. In fact, it is already the established practice in the House. But in terms of politics it is the most colossally stupid idea to appear in a very long time. It’s also morally bankrupt.

    • Congressional Staffing for Dummies: The Pay Go Dispute

      In other to understand the conflict, which seems on the surface quite simple, you have to understand a bunch of things about Congressional process and budgeting. So let’s start with PayGo itself. What it is? #PayGo stands for pay as you go budgeting, a concept that in theory mean that bills Congress pass need to be deficit neutral. That is, each proposed program or law, if it costs money, should also bring in an equal amount of money through either taxes or other budget cuts. This is what’s known among centrists in Washington, D.C., and frankly among most Americans, as ‘fiscal responsibility.’ A balanced budget by the government requires that you bring in as much as you spend.

      Well now that I’ve gotten through the basics, here’s what the fight is about. In 2010, the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress passed a law to ensure Congress would be ‘fiscally responsible. Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker in 2010 when Congress passed the statute, and she is proud of being fiscally responsible. This law says that if Congress doesn’t go through a PayGo process for its aggregate spending and taxing in the full fiscal year, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget gets to choose a bunch of programs to cut in a process known as as sequestration. Sequestration is in law. It was a law that sort of made sense at the time, because Obama was President and Democrats didn’t so much mind if a Democratically controlled OMB got to make a bunch of important decisions. But guess what? Trump is now President, which means he’s the one that gets to decide the cuts that happen if Congress doesn’t use a PayGo decision-making process.

    • Democrats Are Hunting Big Game – Did Big Money Already Bag Them?

      Democrats are now in control of the House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After two years of Republican control over both chambers of Congress and the presidency, some balance has been restored to our democracy.

      I know and have worked with many members of the 116th Congress. They are people of integrity who will strive to do what is right for America. Nancy Pelosi is tough and courageous. Were it not for her insistence, Barack Obama would not have pushed for the Affordable Care Act.

      But they are not miracle workers. Republicans still control the Senate, Trump is still the president, and there is still a conservative majority in the supreme court.

      House Democrats will make life harder for Trump, to be sure. They will investigate. They have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. The ways and means committee is specifically authorized to subpoena Trump’s tax returns.

    • Democrats, Says Ocasio-Cortez, Have Compromised Away “Too Much of Who We’re Supposed to Be”

      In addition to calling for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will explain during a 60 Minutes interview that will air in full on Sunday evening why she believes Democrats have compromised away “too much” in recent years and have lost track of the party’s purpose and mission.

      While telling journalist Anderson Cooper she is certainly willing to compromise in order to get things accomplished in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez, in a preview clip, says “It’s just about what we choose to compromise. My personal opinion, and I know that my district and my community feels this way as well, is that we as a party have compromised too much, and we’ve lost too much of who we’re supposed to be and who we are.”

    • Clinton Crony Says Bernie Supporters Must Be Silenced For 2020 Primaries

      Well, like it or not the dust has barely settled from the November midterms and the 2020 presidential race is already underway. Campaigns are being launched, names are being floated, “Gosh look what an ordinary person I am!” videos are being live streamed from politicians’ kitchens, and we are already seeing many of the same toxic patterns from 2016 resurfacing from many of the same toxic people.

      NBC News has published an op-ed by Republican political strategist-turned Clinton advisor and Dem strategist David Brock titled “Bernie Sanders’ fans can’t be allowed to poison another Democratic primary with personal attacks — Bashing Beto O’Rourke (and every other Democrat) doesn’t help liberals’ cause in 2020. It only helps Trump.” The article explicitly blames Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump on supporters of Bernie Sanders who criticized her during the primary, and makes it clear that such criticisms must be forcefully and aggressively fought against this time around.

      “I’m hardly the only political observer who blames Hillary Clinton’s general election defeat to Donald Trump in part on personal attacks on Clinton first made by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his backers,” Brock’s article begins. “Those attacks from her left laid the groundwork for copycat attacks lobbed by Donald Trump — and, in the process, helped hand the Supreme Court to the right-wing for a generation.”

    • Is Donald Trump an Asteroid?

      Sixty-six million years ago, so the scientists tell us, an asteroid slammed into this planet. Landing on what’s now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, it gouged out a crater 150 kilometers wide and put so much soot and sulfur into the atmosphere that it created what was essentially a prolonged “nuclear winter.” During that time, among so many other species, large and small, the dinosaurs went down for the count. (Don’t, however, tell that to your local chicken, the closest living relative — it’s now believed — of Tyrannosaurus Rex.)

      It took approximately 66 million years for humanity to evolve from lowly surviving mammals and, over the course of a recent century or two, teach itself how to replicate the remarkable destructive power of that long-gone asteroid in two different ways: via nuclear power and the burning of fossil fuels. And if that isn’t an accomplishment for the species that likes to bill itself as the most intelligent ever to inhabit this planet, what is?

      Talking about accomplishments: as humanity has armed itself ever more lethally, it has also transformed itself into the local equivalent of so many asteroids. Think, for instance, of that moment in the spring of 2003 when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and crew launched the invasion of Iraq with dreams of setting up a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East and beyond. By the time U.S. troops entered Baghdad, the burning and looting of the Iraqi capital had already begun, leaving the National Museum of Iraq trashed (gone were the tablets on which Hammurabi first had a code of laws inscribed) and the National Library of Baghdad, with its tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, in flames. (No such “asteroid” had hit that city since 1258, when Mongol warriors sacked it, destroying its many libraries and reputedly leaving the Tigris River running “black with ink” and red with blood.)

      In truth, since 2003 the Greater Middle East has never stopped burning, as other militaries — Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, Israeli, Russian, Saudi, Syrian, Turkish — entered the fray, insurgent groups rose, terror movements spread, and the U.S. military never left. By now, the asteroidal nature of American acts in the region should be beyond question. Consider, for example, the sainted retired general and former secretary of defense, Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, the man who classically said of an Iraqi wedding party (including musicians) that his troops took out in 2004, “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?” Or consider that, in the very same year, Mattis and the 1st Marine Division he commanded had just such an impact on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, leaving more than 75% of it in rubble.

      Or focus for a moment on the destruction caused by some combination of U.S. air power, ISIS suicide bombers, artillery, and mortars that, in seven months of fighting in 2017, uprooted more than a million people from the still largely un-reconstructed Iraqi city of Mosul (where 10 million tons of rubble are estimated to remain). Or try to bring to mind the rubblized city of Ramadi. Or consider the destruction of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the former “capital” of ISIS’s caliphate, left more than 80% “uninhabitable” after the U.S. (and allied) air forces dropped 20,000 bombs on it. All are versions of the same phenomenon.

      And yet when it comes to asteroids and the human future, one thing should be obvious. Such examples still represent relatively small-scale local impacts, given what’s to come.

    • Don’t Speak, Memory: Resistance Apes Trump in Weaponizing Amnesia

      Making the social media rounds at the moment is a transcription of Rachel Maddow’s “utterly terrifying” and “deeply chilling” take on one tidbit from Trump’s surreal and probably drug-addled rambling in front of his Cabinet this week. At one point, Trump said the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in order to fight Islamic terrorism. But Maddow assures us, in great detail, that no one, anywhere — not even among Trump’s most rabid supporters, not even the bug-eyed goobers on Fox and Friends — has ever advanced the notion that the Soviet incursion had anything to do with terrorism. In fact, the only place in the history of the world in which this notion has ever been bruited is — of course — Putin’s Kremlin, which is planning an official “reassessment” of the Afghan invasion. (Which, rest assured, is not all like the “reassessment” being done by our stalwart Resisters today of the murderously criminal regime of George W. Bush.)

      Maddow says plainly that this idea does not exist anywhere “in nature” except within the bowels of Putin’s United Russia party. (Though how Maddow herself found about the proposed resolution when no one else in nature could have ever even heard of it outside of Putin’s party circles is not explained.) This notion cannot be found anywhere “in American politics, in American media, in American academia, in American fantasy football chat rooms.” Not even “among weird, conservative fringe media figures that you might not know about, but the President might love.” No one has everwritten, spoken or heard anythingremotely like this until it was cooked up by Putin’s party hacks. And you should be absolutely, utterly, deeply terrified that Trump has somehow got hold of a mangled, drug-addled version of this idea, because he could have only gotten it from Putin’s own party members. Because, again the idea does not exist in nature anywhere else. And Maddow knowsthis, people, because she spent one whole day looking to find some trace of this non-existent in nature idea! And if you aren’t absolutely chilled to the bone, to the marrow, chilled all the way down to your quantum particles by this, then God help you. You must be a Kremlin dupe, like those Black Lives Matter rubes or those Dakota Pipeline saps. Or a paid Kremlin stooge.

    • Early Elections: Who Will Dethrone ‘The King of Israel’?

      “A historic mistake” is how Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu responded to calls for early elections last November. A few weeks later, he spoke, in exaggerated confidence of the “unanimous” agreement of his right-wing coalition that early elections must be held next April.

      So why the change of heart?

      Netanyahu may not be a good leader, but he is certainly a cunning politician. The fact that he is gearing up for a fifth term at the helm of Israel’s fractious political scene speaks volumes of his ability to survive against many odds.

      But it is not all about Netanyahu and his clever ways. Israeli politics are truly dismal. The Left, if it ever earned such a title, is marginal, if not entirely irrelevant. The Center lacks any real political identity or decipherable discourse concerning, for example, foreign policy or true vision for peace and coexistence. The Right, which now defines Israeli society as a whole, has moved further to the right, and is saturated in religious zeal, ultra-nationalism, while some of its parties are flirting with outright fascism.

      As strange as this may sound, in the company of Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, and the recently-resigned Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu is not the most extreme.

    • Preventing Brazilian Indigenous Genocide and Protecting the Amazon

      It is official. On the first of the year, Jair Bolsonaro, was inaugurated as the 38thPresident of Brazil. One of his first official acts as a newly inaugurated president was doing away with demarcation of indigenous territories in Brazil. All of us living on this planet should be fearful of this act.

      Bolsonaro transferred the responsibility of demarcation of indigenous lands to the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture and placed the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI, Fundação Nacional do Índio) under its jurisdiction. It is FUNAI’s responsibility to protect the nation’s Indians and yet the Ministry of Agriculture is traditionally known to protect the interests of big business, especially soy farmers and cattle ranchers. Both are powerful lobbying groups in Brazil and likewise partly responsible for destroying the Amazon and its people. In effect, FUNAI is no more under the Bolsonaro administration.

      We should also realize this is not only a fulfilled campaign promise of Bolsonaro but a realized fear for the legitimation of genocide against Brazilian indigenous peoples and also the imminent destruction of the Brazilian Amazon. It is also important to note that 60 percent of the Amazon is under Brazilian jurisdiction.

    • The Election Circus Begins

      It is January 2019. This signals the start of the 2020 election circus. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the first big-name Democrat on stage. But we will soon be deluged with candidates, bizarre antics and endless commentary by fatuous TV and radio pundits. The hyperventilating, the constant polling, the updates on who has the largest campaign war chest, the hypothetical matches between this hopeful and that hopeful, the mocking tweets by Donald Trump, will, as we saw in the 2016 election campaign, have as much relevance to our lives and political future as the speculation on cable sports channels about next year’s football season. This farce takes the place of genuine political life.

      It costs a lot of money to mount this spectacle. Our corporate masters, like the oligarchic rulers of ancient Rome who poured money into the arena as they stripped the empire and its citizens of their assets, are happy to oblige. The campaign sustains the fiction of a democracy and gives legitimacy to the corporate state. Maybe Hillary Clinton, who raised $1 billion in her 2016 run for president, will return for another season, although the Bill and Hillary tour is now a debacle with empty seats and slashed ticket prices. Maybe Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will make comebacks. And what about the new faces in the scramble for the presidency—Beto O’Rourke, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg?

      It is a political version of the reality television show “Survivor.” Who will be the first knocked out? Who will make it into the semifinals and the finals? Who is the most devious and cunning? Who will come out on top? We get to vote for the contestants that appeal to us most, or at least vote against those we hate the most. The cable news shows, in a prelude to the nonstop idiocy to come, have spent the last few days speculating about whom Mitt Romney will endorse in the 2020 race. Now, there’s a burning question of national importance.

    • With Mueller Report Expected Soon, Trump Team May Claim Executive Privilege to Block Public Release

      With Special Counsel Robert Mueller expected to put out a report detailing his findings from the ongoing probe into alleged Russian election interference and any collusion or obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump’s campaign or administration as early as next month, the president’s legal team may move to block parts of it from Congress and the public on the grounds of executive privilege.

      In a report published Monday by Bloomberg News, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said that in terms of asserting executive privilege, “We will look at it and see if the president thinks there is a valid claim and if there is, do we want to make it.” He added: “We reserve the right. We don’t know if we have to, but we haven’t waived it.”

      Giuliani also confirmed that the president’s legal team is willing to go to court over any parts of the report Trump believes should be withheld. Such a battle, should one occur, is expected to advance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

      “This is a real threat,” responded Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent. “It’s another reason Dems taking the House was so important,” given that they “can subpoena the findings, and they’d probably prevail in court.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • ‘Let’s Get Our Priorities Right’: Outrage as Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushes Bill to Punish Boycotts of Israel Amid Shutdown

      After The Intercept reported over the weekend that a bipartisan group of senators is pushing, as its first legislative priority, a bill that would hand states more power to punish boycotts of Israel—even as the prolonged and deeply harmful government shutdown continues into its third week—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday condemned the legislation itself and urged Democrats to block any bills that are not related to reopening the government.

      “It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “Let’s get our priorities right.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Denouncing Focus on Violence, Women March in France to Reclaim Anti-Austerity Message of ‘Yellow Vest’ Movement

      “Macron your goose is cooked, the chicks are in the street!”

      That was the chant by one large contingent of women marching in the French city of Toulouse on Sunday as female-led demonstrations took place across France in order to keep the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron while also pushing back the increasing displays of violence some within the broader “Yellow Vest” (or Gilets Jaunes) movement argue is overshadowing the underlying political message.

      “All the media ever reports is the violence, and we are forgetting the root of the problem” which is the fight against austerity, one protester named Karen, a 42-year-old nurse, told Agence France Presse on the streets of Marseilles.

      Sunday’s demonstrations followed a day of protests on Saturday during which violence broke out in Paris and other cities as those participating in “Act VIII” protests under the Yellow Vest banner clashed with French riot police, erected barricades, and started fires:

    • Unringing Bell

      The Bell scandal was the impetus for BASTA (Bell Association to Stop The Abuse), a local activism group co-founded by Saleh, Garcia, and other Bell locals that would go on to launch a recall against the council. At the helm of BASTA were Latino and Muslim American organizers, two groups who have faced the brunt of the Trump administration’s vitriol. Yet both communities worked in tandem to execute a rapid outreach plan to reclaim power for their city’s residents — a patriotic act by anybody’s definition.

    • ‘Gender parity in torture’: Twitter unimpressed as Maddow celebrates CIA’s all-female leadership

      Women now control all three directorates of the CIA – a historic milestone for gender equality in the clandestine regime change/assassination sector. Rachel Maddow seems to be celebrating, but why is Twitter full of party poopers?
      CIA Director Gina Haspel has appointed a fellow female comrade, Cynthia “Didi” Rapp, as deputy director for analysis, making her the highest-ranking analyst at the agency. Elizabeth Kimber was named the first female deputy director for operations in December, joining Dawn Meyerriecks, who has been the agency’s deputy director for science and technology for several years now. As a result, the main branches of the CIA – operations, analysis and science and technology – are now headed by women.

      NBC News toasted the agency’s all-female leadership with an article detailing the new “sisterhood of spies”. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – usually busy hallucinating about Vladimir Putin hiding under her bed – rushed to tweet the story, in an apparent endorsement of the new trifecta of unaccountable girl power.

    • Will the U.S. Have Its Own Yellow-Vest Moment?

      A truth about movements is, they move. They morph, evolve and move around a country or even around the globe. This occurs over months and often over years.

      The US Occupy encampment era occurred ten months after the Arab Spring and six months after the Spanish Indignado movement – early versions of occupy. It started in New York and then spread across the United States and to other countries. It was a global revolt against the 1% that changed politics in the United States and continues to have impacts today.

    • Rhode Island Supreme Court Allows Unfairly Shut Down Strip Club to Reopen

      Providence’s licensing board, we argue, violated the club’s rights when it was shut down based solely on allegations of solicitation of prostitution.
      Imagine a symphony orchestra barred by the state from performing again because a musician was found to have sold marijuana to a colleague backstage. Imagine a bookstore being shuttered by the government because peace activists planned acts of civil disobedience in a backroom. Imagine a movie theater permanently closed because an employee assaulted a patron.

      In Providence, Rhode Island, you don’t have to imagine it, because it happened to a strip club called the Foxy Lady. On Dec. 19, the Providence Board of Licenses voted to permanently shut down the adult entertainment venue, which has been in operation for decades, after police arrested three employees for allegedly soliciting sex from undercover police officers earlier in the month. By doing so, the board threw more than 200 people out of work less than a week before Christmas.

      Within days, the state Department of Business Regulation quickly restored the club’s liquor license, but the Foxy Lady’s owners were required by law to petition the state Supreme Court to regain its entertainment license. On Monday, the ACLU of Rhode Island submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to that court arguing that it should grant a stay of the board’s revocation of the Foxy Lady’s license on the grounds that the board violated the due process and First Amendment rights of the establishment. Yesterday, the state Supreme Court agreed to issue a stay, allowing the club to reopen for now, but the threat of future closure remains.

      To understand the incredible severity of the punishment, a few things are worth noting. The Foxy Lady has been around for 38 years, and this is the first time it was hauled before the board for any violation. The board has a long-standing policy of progressive discipline for license violations, something it completely ignored in this case. In issuing the draconian penalty of permanent license revocation to the Foxy Lady, it concluded that having three women supposedly solicit sex from men who were patronizing a strip club constituted “a danger to the health, welfare and quality of life of the public” and posed a “severe” “harm to the community.”

    • Nineteen Sixty-Nine: A Look Back at Protest

      In order to write coherently and concisely about the great year of revolt 1969, 1968 needs to be seen as a backdrop to the great days of rebellion that took place in nation after nation across the globe.


      What was being opposed? Capitalism, the morphing of communism into an intolerable totalitarianism, imperialism, racism, the lack of civil rights and civil liberties, the subservient role of women, the destruction of the natural environment, and the desire to improve the condition of life of billions of people worldwide. Does this all sound somewhat familiar? Does it sound somewhat romantic and a part of the idealism that is sometimes at the heart of the human condition?

      Nineteen sixty-nine was the most significant year in my life and the year in which the political would become intensely personal. During 1968, a group at the college I attended, Providence College Students for Peace, formed in answer to the growing horror of the Vietnam War and the echo of the war’s presence on my campus in the form of the Reserve Office Training Corps brigade. ROTC was an integral part of the experience of many of the students who attended Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. Only a few, short years earlier, ROTC participation had been mandatory at PC. PC was an intensely conservative school, run by the Dominican Friars, and the student protest group was not welcomed with open arms by either the student body, or the school’s administration. My best friend, Joe, a leader of the student group, had been called into the dean of students office several weeks before our graduation on June 3, 1969, and quizzed about the intentions of the peace group.When we took to the baseball field on campus, where an ROTC commissioning parade would take place during graduation weekend, we knew instinctively (at least that is how rumor had it) that there would be some unofficial presence in the baseball field’s stands that would monitor our actions and behavior where we stood along the foul line at third base. There were about a dozen of us protesting, which was very big news on a campus where those in ROTC often saw their belonging to this military organization as part of an unofficial compact as the children and grandchildren of immigrants in support of the government and its policies around the world. The society had rewarded many students and their families for their allegiance to its values and actions, hence, protest was seen as unpatriotic.

    • “Get Out”: Black Families Harassed in Their Own Homes

      In Athens, Tennessee, the white mother of young biracial children alleged that she’d been harassed verbally by a neighbor for a year.

      For close to two years, ProPublica has been compiling reports of hate crimes and bias incidents as part of our Documenting Hate project. The database now houses a vast compendium of ugliness in America. Killings, assaults, threats of terror — they are all there.

      One of the more common entries involves people being harassed or threatened at their place of residence, often by neighbors, the people who live next door or down the hall or around the corner. Of course, this isn’t new. The integration of neighborhoods in the U.S. has been as fraught as the integration of the country’s schools.

    • It’s Too Late for Trump’s Wall

      As we watch the congregation of desperate people at the southern U.S. border, and as the crisis generated by Trumps shut down the federal government, we have come to support the creation of a wall, an impenetrable barrier against those who should not cross it. Unfortunately, it is too late – much too late. The wall should have been created two hundred years ago. If such a wall had existed in 1846, President Polk and his expansionist supporters could not have orchestrated an aggressive war against Mexico, one which resulted in the loss of almost half of all Mexican territory.

      The existence of such a wall also would have prevented U.S. banana, sugar and tobacco companies from overrunning Nicaragua in the late 19th century, which led to people being displaced from their land and exploited for their labor. When the popular Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya promoted democratic reforms in 1909, he was overthrown at the insistence of U.S. corporations. The U.S. sent Marines to aid in the coup, and afterwards continued to occupy Nicaragua for the two decades. Even after its military withdrew, the U.S. didn’t give up control of Nicaragua, but empowered a brutal dictator — with the understanding that he would use his rule to support U.S. business interests.

      In the absence of a wall, the people of El Salvador experienced a similar fate. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Salvadoran landholding aristocracy dominated the country, while maintaining close ties with the United States. Things changed in 1931, when a member of the Salvadorian Labor Party — Arturo Araujo — was elected president. He ran on a platform of providing for the people’s basic needs and restoring land to the poor who had been largely forced off it. Araujo held the office for less than a year before being overthrown by the elite-controlled Salvadorian army, with the U.S. standing ready to provide needed military support. In the repression that followed tens of thousands of Salvadorians were murdered, disproportionately indigenous people. The U.S. formally recognized a ruthless authoritarian as the president of El Salvador shortly thereafter.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • BitTorrent To Launch A New Token To Pay For Faster Downloads

      Just after six months of being acquired by TRON, a cryptocurrency startup, BitTorrent is releasing its own cryptocurrency — known as the BitTorrent token (BTT).

      With the new BitTorrent token, users will get an option to optimize network speed and complete faster downloads through paid prioritization.

    • The Ajit Pai FCC Often Battles FOIA Requests For No Reason, Showcasing Its Hostility To Transparency

      You might recall that FCC boss Ajit Pai promised to operate the “most transparent” FCC ever. Initially, Pai lived up to that promise by changing FCC policy so that FCC orders would be released before they were voted on; a pretty obvious improvement of benefit to both consumers and ISP lobbyists alike. But in the year or two since, Pai has shown that genuine transparency is the very least of the chairman’s priorities.

      For example, Pai’s FCC has actively refused to aid law enforcement inquiries into who was behind the millions of bogus comments that polluted the net neutrality repeal public comment period. Similarly, the Pai FCC’s general response to FOIA requests has been to stall, delay, and ignore said requests whenever possible, resulting in numerous lawsuits by media outlets attempting to get to the bottom of all manner of bizarre FCC policy decisions (like that fake DDOS attack emails show they made up to try and downplay public anger over the net neutrality repeal).

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Overview of references to other industry players on first day of FTC v. Qualcomm trial

      This is the second follow-up to Day One of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in the Northern District of California. Various companies were mentioned in the parties’ opening statements and the testimony heard and evidence presented on Friday.

      Microsoft: In a pre-emptive strike against Qualcomm’s argument that prices for wireless devices and services are coming down (thus, Qualcomm says, there is no anticompetitive harm), the FTC recalled that prices (of personal computers) were also coming down at the time of the Microsoft antitrust case, yet antitrust law applied.

      Samsung: Interestingly, both opening statements announced testimony from Samsung that would support their positions. The FTC named Samsung among roughly half a dozen companies whose testimony would prove that Qualcomm received supra-FRAND royalties by exercising its “no license-no chips” leverage. But Qualcomm’s counsel said Samsung would confirm that licensing negotiations resulting in last year’s new agreement between the two companies “were fair.” I saw media reports before the trial that said the FTC had Samsung’s support, a claim based on a (really great) amicus curiae brief submitted by Samsung in 2017 in support of the FTC’s opposition to Qualcomm’s motion to dismiss the complaint. However, at the time Samsung was also an active party to the Korean antitrust investigation, from which it withdrew after the aforementioned new deal (LG just joined instead). The relationship between Samsung and Qualcomm is complex and multifaceted (see this infographic). So let’s wait and hear from them.

      Apple: One of the four types of behavior the FTC seeks to address is the exclusive deal Qualcomm used to have in place with the iPhone maker. Apple, too, is one of the companies the FTC says will testify that Qualcomm extracted supra-FRAND license fees. We learned on Friday that Apple allegedly referred to Qualcomm by the code name of “Eureka” in some internal documents and that Qualcomm was worried about Apple “whittling away” at its business model, potentially through seeking a judicial FRAND rate determination.

    • Trademarks

      • What the Fu** — Supreme Court agrees to hear Brunetti Trademark Dispute

        On appeal, the Federal Circuit sided with Brunetti — holding the statute unconstitutional as contrary to the Free Speech provision of the First Amendment. In its decision, the court followed the Supreme Court’s lead in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017). In Tam, the Supreme Court addressed disparaging marks — also prohibited under Section 2(a) — finding that the prohibition on registration to be contrary to free speech rights.

    • Copyrights

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