08.14.21

Gemini version available ♊︎

Links 14/8/2021: Wine 6.15 and Ardour 6.9 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 1:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • Leftovers

    • Brownlow’s Griffith: Cynicism in the Service of Spectacle

      Starting with Birth of a Nation, Brownlow peels the curtain on the overwhelming cynicism that led showman Griffith to pursue such a sensitive and inflammatory subject for his first big budget epic. Friends and colleagues peg Griffith as a sort of uncommitted bigot, content with all the biases of his Confederate upbringing but still retaining some black friends. The attraction of Thomas Dixon’s absurdly racist novel The Clansmen was not so much Griffith’s overwhelming bigotry (though it was that too) as it was his desire to create as large and intense a media spectacle as possible. The most powerful passages in Brownlow’s documentary come from his interview with a black man who saw Birth of a Nation in theaters in 1915. The interviewee decades later is still able to conjure his anger on that screening, the feeling of overwhelming dehumanization, the fantasy of entering the world of the film and making himself invisible so he could kill as many Klan members as possible. He fights back tears as he tells Brownlow of his urge, upon walking out of the theater, to kill as many white people as he could find.

      Not that Griffith gave a shit. When told that the opening of his film in Atlanta would cause race riots, he reportedly said, “Oh I hope it does!” While blacks protested and the Klan swelled its ranks on the back of Griffith’s propaganda film, Griffith counted the money and changed the face of the film industry forever. The combination of grand spectacle and unabashed racism propelled cinema into the hearts and minds of the American middle class, who had thus far dismissed moving pictures as crude entertainments better suited to the lower classes. On the corporate end, consolidation and expansion became the order of the day, with large studios being built and smaller more experimental work jettisoned in favor of Griffith-style long-form bombast (more on that in a minute).

    • The Demise of The X Factor

      Nina Simone inherited these musical traditions and fused them with later ones. The ever increasing level of black converts to Christianity led to a greater degree of emphasis on hymns and melody which later became gospel music. Simone’s mother was a strict Methodist minister and the young child would often play piano and sing at the local, beaten-down church. The greatness of her music was bound up entirely with her cultural history and her talent developed organically from that context.

      A whole generation of black artists came from the same context: from the newly urbanised black populations in the North who were developing Rhythm and Blues, to their contemporaries in the South who were mixing certain European influences to create what would become Jazz.   All of this was emergent against a background of renewed social struggle which would eventually grow into the civil rights movement.

    • A Meditation on Life and…
    • An Olympian Decision

      The best story coming out of the Olympics was a decision by two athletes to share a gold medal. Mutaz-Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy both cleared 2.37 meters in the Olympic high jump. Their previous results in the competition were identical. Both then attempted to jump 2.39 meters and failed. Normally, they would have continued jumping in a tiebreaker until one was eliminated. The winner would have won the gold medal; the loser the silver.

      According to the rules, however, they could have shared the gold instead of continuing jumping. A video from the competition shows an official trying to explain the rule when Barshim spontaneously asks the official. “Can we have two golds?”

    • Education

      • Back to School Blues: Covid and the Crisis of the American University

        Like other major sectors of American society, higher education experienced a shock in March 2020 that no one could have anticipated. At this university last year, spring break began on Saturday, March 7, and most of the students left campus planning to return by Monday, March 16 when classes resumed. Or possibly a few days later, if my students are typical. On Tuesday, March 10 the provost announced the university’s response to the rapidly spreading Covid virus. All students who had left for the break were not to return to the campus, and students who had remained on campus for the break were to leave. To stay would require an exemption. All courses would be online for the remainder of the semester. A day or two later instructions and guidelines for moving courses online followed. The university advised instructors to download Zoom and to attend training sessions. As far as classes with lectures, they could either be done by Zoom, or instructors could videotape them and upload them. Or—and this was best—they could do both. Office hours would also be done by Zoom.

        My students reacted to all of these things as college students did everywhere. Many if not most wanted a refund, not simply for the housing they would not be living in, but also for a portion of their tuition, prorated for the rest of spring semester when they would not be attending classes on campus. What would come to be called “Zoom University” was not what they paid for. As we know, large numbers of students banded together to sue their universities for all or some portion of their tuition. Some of my students were among them.

      • US campuses’ autumn teaching plans gradually move online

        Similar to last autumn, many universities aren’t being fully clear on their plans, partly respecting ongoing shifts in the course of the pandemic and partly reflecting a fear of alienating students eager for in-person formats before they can arrive.

        Among those that have offered estimates, the expected percentages of online courses vary widely, with larger institutions appearing more likely to be committed to in-person teaching.

    • Health/Nutrition

      • Louisiana and Mississippi Health Systems on Brink of Collapse as Low-Vaccinated Regions Suffer

        Though coronavirus outbreaks largely driven by the ultra-contagious Delta variant are now even occurring in U.S. counties where over half the population is vaccinated against Covid-19, as of Friday afternoon the hospitals in two states with among the nation’s lowest vaccination rates—Louisiana and Mississippi—were dangerously overwhelmed.

        “How bad it gets, how long it stays bad, how many people ultimately die—on us.”—Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards

      • Why won’t the US medical establishment “believe women”? Covid-19 vaccines do not warn about menstrual disruption
      • “Not Going Quietly”: Paralyzed with ALS, Ady Barkan Continues Fighting for Medicare for All

        We speak with healthcare activist Ady Barkan, the 37-year-old lawyer and father who, since his ALS diagnosis in 2016, has devoted his life to campaigning for universal healthcare. He has continued to speak out even after losing his voice and now uses a computerized system that converts his eye movements to speech. Barkan is the subject of “Not Going Quietly,” a new documentary following his cross-country activism. “Only a truly radical departure from our exploitative, for-profit model to one that guarantees healthcare as a right for all will ensure that we no longer live in a nation where people go bankrupt on account of their medical bills,” Barkan tells Democracy Now! “We need Medicare for All now.” We also speak with the film’s director, Nicholas Bruckman, who says he immediately saw a “spark” in Barkan after meeting him in 2018.

      • Canada Announces Sweeping Vaccine Requirements for Government Workers and Travelers

        As policymakers at various levels and businesses around the world implement Covid-19 vaccination rules for employees and clients, the Canadian government on Friday announced a new wave of vaccine requirements for certain workers and travelers.

        “Driving vaccine uptake in Canada to as high a level as possible is one of the most effective, and least disruptive, means at our disposal to… ensure that we continue on our path to economic recovery, and a healthier and more equitable future.”—Jean-Yves Duclos, Treasury Board

      • Governors Should be Held Criminally Responsible for Ignoring Covid-19

        Covid-19 kills and can cause serious bodily harm.  We are entering another wave of the pandemic and in states such as Florida there are record new infections, hospitalizations, and possibly deaths. Vaccines, mask wearing, social distancing, and other preventive measures can mitigate harm and exposure.  Science and medicine tell us that.  The Center for Disease Control tells us that.  So do public health officials who advise policy makers including governors.  To be an elected official and not know the facts about the pandemic is negligent. One should know or would be negligent not to know how to mitigate the pandemic.  Yet what do we do when elected officials choose to ignore science and either by commission or omission act in ways that facilitate the spread of the coronavirus, and it sickens or kills individuals?

        Currently we do nothing. We treat decisions such as what DeSantis in Florida and other governors across the country are doing, such as banning mask wearing, as a policy choice.  We give them a legal free pass in terms of personal responsibility.  This is wrong.  It should be treated as a criminal act, enhanced especially if their motive for doing it is re-election or personal self-gain.

      • India Is on the Precipice of Third COVID Wave Amid Devastating Vaccine Shortage
      • The Murder of the ‘Menacing’ Water Technician: On the Shadow Wars in the West Bank

        On July 26 and 27, two separate but intrinsically linked events took place in the Ein al-Hilweh area in the occupied Jordan Valley, and near the town of Beita, south of Nablus.

        In the first incident, Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Maskiyot began construction in the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, which has been a source of freshwater for villages and hundreds of Palestinian families in that area. The seizure of the spring has been developing for months, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation army.

      • A bogus statistic about medical errors rears its ugly head in STAT

        There are certain claims, certain statistics, that I like to refer to as “slasher statistics” or “slasher stats” (although sometimes I also call them “zombie statistics”). The reason is simple. Like the slashers in horror films, iconic characters like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger (for example), these slasher stats never truly die. No matter how many times they appear to have been killed with science, reason, and data at the end of one installment, they always show up in the next installment to wreak havoc, death, and destruction again. One such slasher stat is the oft-repeated claim that “medical errors” are the third leading cause of death in the United States. I first wrote about this particular abuse of statistics in 2016, when a surgical oncologist named Dr. Marty Makary co-authored an “Analysis” published in The BMJ entitled—you guessed it!—Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US, in which he and Michael Daniel estimated that medical errors accounted for a quarter of a million deaths per year, making it, yes, the “third leading cause of death” in the US. It’s a bogus factoid that never ceases to cause my blood pressure to rise and me to be seriously tempted to start refuting it whenever I see it pop up.

      • The Fight Against Industrial Agribusiness: Remembering Ernesto Galarza

        Yet, some of us may be surprised to learn that scholars also have a long history of taking on industrial agribusiness, especially in California. In our new book, In the Struggle: Scholars and the Fight Against Industrial Agribusiness in California, we profile eight scholars who were both researchers and activists and who saw the two as inseparable.”

        Their work focused on California’s Central Valley, the site where some of the fiercest battles against corporate encroachment onto the land took place. One of them, Ernesto Galarza, was born on August 15, 1905, and he sets the model for activist scholarship as we continue the fight against land monopolies and economic concentration that threaten all rural communities and our broader democracy.

      • A Major Lesson of the Pandemic From the East

        Are there lessons to be learned from the previous waves of Covid-19 that might help us now?

        There are, and they were evident long ago, but in the West, they have been largely ignored.  Up to now, for example, the US has suffered over 617,000 deaths; China in contrast has suffered fewer than 5,000 deaths in a population four times as large as the US.  Could there not be some lessons that might serve us in the West now and in the future?

      • The Only Way to End the Pandemic

        Last week Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene drew cheers at a Republican fundraiser when she praised Alabama for having the lowest vaccination rate in the US.

        The more the Covid-19 virus spreads, the more it will mutate, producing variant strains. Inevitably, some of those variants will totally elude the existing vaccines. No wall, no travel bans, no isolationist policies will keep them out of the US —even if all our Marjories decide to get vaccinated.

      • ‘Heaven to hell’: Greek beekeepers lament tradition lost to fire

        “I have been in the culture of honey since I was 10. We will never have time to revive it, we will be dead before it grows back. It will take 50 years, if it ever comes back.”

        Until now, northern Evia has been one of the most popular areas in Greece for beekeepers.

        Its micro-climate, biodiversity and pine forests caressed by the etesian summer breeze offered ideal conditions for the production of exceptional honey.

        “Forty percent of the country’s honey production takes place here,” said Stathis Albanis, president of the local beekeepers’ cooperative.

      • Tracking covid-19 excess deaths across countries

        Countries in northern Europe have generally experienced much lower mortality rates throughout the pandemic. Some Nordic nations have experienced almost no excess deaths at all. The exception is Sweden, which imposed some of the continent’s least restrictive social-distancing measures during the first wave.

      • African Faith Leaders Call on The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Drop African Green Revolution

        The letter to the Gates Foundation detailed the negative impacts that industrialized agriculture has had on the land and in the communities of faith leaders from around the continent. At the press conference, presenters emphasized the need for the Gates Foundation and other donors to break with the current agriculture agenda and instead invest in more regenerative, agroecological approaches.

        “Farmers have become wary of programs that promote monoculture and chemical-intensive farming. They have lost control of their seeds. Now, they say they are being held hostage on their own farms,” says Celestine Otieno, a permaculture farmer from Kenya. “Is this food security or food slavery?”

      • New AGRA Reports Offer Little Evidence to Justify Continued Donor Support

        The lack of accountability to its goals is particularly troubling for two reasons. First, the original endpoint for achieving them was 2020, which was then extended to 2021. This leaves African governments and farmers as well as AGRA’s donors — most notably the Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Agency for International Development (UKAID) and the German development agency BMZ — with no compelling evidence of AGRA’s impacts.

        Second, AGRA is now formulating its new strategic plan; it has been drafted and approved by the Board of Directors and is awaiting an implementation plan. That plan will require new funding commitments, and anonymous sources indicate that AGRA will seek another $1 billion in funding through 2030. AGRA’s failure to provide evidence of progress means donors will be asked to continue their support without any assurance that such aid has been effective. As I wrote earlier this month, they will be asked to “throw good money after bad.”

      • Press Release: African Faith Communities Tell Gates Foundation, “Big Farming is No Solution for Africa”

        “What African farmers need, is support to find communal solutions that increase climate resilience, rather than the top-down profit-driven industrial-scale farming systems proposed. When it comes to the climate, African faith communities are urging the world to think twice before pushing a technical and corporate farming approach,” she says.

        Two months after sending the letter, and despite extensive coverage of the pre-summit, which saw more than 100 countries discussing ways to transform national food systems to meet sustainable development goals by 2030, faith leaders in Africa have yet to receive a reply or acknowledgement from the Gates Foundation.

        According to de Gasparis, what is currently promoting in sub-Saharan Africa is based on a fossil fuel and extractive business model and reduces farmers to nothing more than “food factories”, rather than meaningful stakeholders and contributors of the global food system.

    • Integrity/Availability

      • Proprietary

        • grommunio, formerly grammm: New release of the free Exchange alternative [Ed: Automated translation]

          The new version should be available from August 17th and expands the supported Linux distributions and available repositories: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 as well as derivatives are now on board. A few weeks after the release, Debian 11 and Ubuntu 20.04 will also follow.

          In the future, grommunio will also run on ARM64, PowerPC (ppc64le) and IBM’s zSeries systems (s390x). Installation images for VMware (OVA), Docker and the Raspberry Pi 4+ are also added. Migration tools from Exchange (PST), Kopano (DB / Attachments) and generic mail systems (IMAP / CalDAV / CardDAV) are available for those switching.

        • Pseudo-Open Source

          • Privatisation/Privateering

            • Linux Foundation

              • The multifaceted eBPF Linux program gets its own foundation

                Back in 1992, the Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF) was introduced in Unix circles as a new, much faster network packet filter. That was nice, but far from revolutionary. Years later, in 2014, it was modified and brought into the Linux kernel as extended BPF (eBPF). There it would add radical new features to Linux and it’s being used for numerous, useful Linux-based projects and eBPF is moving on from Linux into Windows as well.

        • Security

          • IoT devices have serious security deficiencies due to bad random number generation [Ed: One way to craft bug doors is to lower the entropy and make room for doubt as to whether it was intentional or not]

            The confidentiality and integrity assurances of modern communication protocols rely on algorithms that generate secret tokens that attackers cannot guess. These are used for authentication, encryption, access control and many other aspects of modern security and they all require cryptographically secure random numbers — sequences of numbers or symbols that are chosen in a way that’s unpredictable by an attacker.

          • SolarWinds urges US judge to toss out crap infosec sueball: We got pwned by actual Russia, give us a break

            SolarWinds is urging a US federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought against it by aggrieved shareholders who say they were misled about its security posture in advance of the infamous Russian attack on the business.

            Insisting that it was “the victim of the most sophisticated cyberattack in history” in a court filing, SolarWinds described a lawsuit from some of its smaller shareholders as an attempt to “convert this sophisticated cyber-crime” into an unrelated securities fraud court case.

          • Privacy/Surveillance

            • Apple’s New Scanning Tools Raising More Concerns, Even Inside Apple

              Last week, we wrote about our concerns about Apple’s newly announced scanning efforts that the company claimed were to protect children. Lots of security experts raised concerns about how this was being rolled out — and none of the complaints were meant to take away from the very real and legitimate concerns about child sexual abuse. Security guru Alex Stamos wrote one of the most thoughtful threads about the whole thing, noting (as with so many of these issues) that there are no easy answers here. I highly recommend you read the entire thread, but here’s a little snippet:

            • Police removed 218,000 photos from facial recognition database last year

              A police spokesperson could not tell NU.nl how many unique people were removed from the database. The spokesperson did say that all the deleted photos came from a system that was mainly used until 2010. In 2010 it became mandatory for the police to also take photos of suspects in pre-trial detention.

              The police use its facial recognition system, called CATCH, to help identify suspects. Images from security cameras, for example, are compared with the 2.65 million photos in the database. A match can help the police identify a suspect.

              The database consists of photos of suspects and convicts. The police have to remove a photo once a person is no longer suspected of any crime. Earlier this year, NU.nl reported that this did not always happen.

    • Defence/Aggression

      • Sheldon Whitehouse Asks Jan. 6 Commission to Probe Links Between Dark Money Groups and Capitol Attack

        Linking the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol with a protracted effort by secretive right-wing groups and wealthy GOP contributors, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Friday called for investigating dark money organizations and influential donors who allegedly organized and funded the deadly attack in a failed bid to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

        “This campaign was organized and funded by dark money organizations and powerful donors, and aided and abetted by members of Congress and the Trump administration.”—Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

      • Opinion | Protestors Resist Militarized Gentrification of Public Beaches in Puerto Rico

        As private interests eviscerate the public sector and vulture funds pillage Puerto Rico amid the debt crisis, there are few remaining bastions of public good on the island.

      • The Myth of the Atomic Genie

        For those of us growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, nuclear power was presented as a solution to all of our ills.  Hunger, poverty, cheap electricity—all of these would be resolved if only nuclear energy was established in the manner the industry and its sycophants described.  Propaganda extolling the benefits of the so-called peaceful atom included comic books given to schoolchildren and field trips to nuclear power plants.  The dangers of radioactive waste and the possibility of meltdowns were dismissed or went unmentioned.  It took a number of years of organizing and education by anti-nuclear activists to make those things part of the conversation.  Also not mentioned was the war industry’s role in promoting nuclear energy—a role ignored today by so-called green campaigners who along with industry spokespeople are once again trying to convince the world’s public that nuclear power is safe and the best way to combat global climate change.

        In recent years, the warming of the planet has caused tremendous changes to weather patterns, many of them harmful to human, animal and plant life.  While some search for ways to diminish their impact on this climate change, the truth of the matter is that the very nature of the worldwide capitalist economy makes their attempts virtually meaningless.  Scientists from various disciplines search for means to slow down the warming while charlatans deny it exists and capitalists continue to put their profits ahead of everything.  This places some of them in the denial camp while others finagle ways to make some coin while ostensibly helping the planet survive.  Solar, geothermal and wind energy are increasing in output while the champions of nuclear energy make the same arguments in support of that form of power they have always made.  It has once again become necessary to point out its shortcomings to the general public.

      • In Somalia, the US is bombing the very ‘terrorists’ it created
      • Manipulating Dollar-Riyal Exchange Rate, Saudis and US Double Cost of Yemen’s Staple Goods

        “The prices are skyrocketing. We can’t feed our children. They are starving,” Saher Abdu Salem, a government employee and a mother of five, said as she participated in a protest in Aden against Saudi Arabia and the government of ousted Yemeni President Abdul-Mansour al-Hadi. The protests took place at the Aden port this week in the wake of a recent decision by the Saudi-backed government in Aden to raise the U.S. dollar exchange rate for major life-saving goods. Now Saher and her husband are struggling to feed their family in the coastal city where the price of the staple ‘rooti’ loaf of bread has soared 250% in a month, its portion halved in size. “When the U.S. State Department expresses its concern over us, this means that it will deal a new blow to our hungry stomachs,” she said.

      • ‘A Lugansk chainsaw massacre’ Pro-Kremlin channel to premiere Prigozhin-backed film about Donbas war

        According to Meduza’s sources, Russian oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin has bankrolled another made-for-TV movie about mercenaries from the Wagner group. The film is scheduled to premiere on August 18, on the pro-Kremlin channel NTV — the same television network that released a Prigozhin-backed action movie about Russian fighters in the Central African Republic earlier this year. Titled “Solntsepyok” (“Blazing Sun”), this new flick is set in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and allegedly “based on real events.” Publications linked to Prigozhin were the first to announce the film’s release. One source who worked on another movie sponsored by Prigozhin described this latest project as an attempt to put forward a “romanticized propaganda version” of the mercenary group and thereby launder Wagner’s image.

      • ‘Co-author of the coup’: RT interviews detained Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich

        Belarusian state broadcasters have aired multiple interviews with opposition journalist Roman Protasevich since he was arrested in Minsk in May. But until earlier this week, he had yet to speak to any foreign media outlets. The Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT published an interview with Protasevich on Wednesday, August 11. In conversation with special correspondent Konstantin Pridybailo, who reported on last year’s mass protests in Belarus for RT, Protasevich repeated many of the same talking points he covered on Belarusian state television. That said, he did reveal previously unknown plans to launch his own “neutral” media outlet.

      • Why Does Israel Have a Stockpile of Nuclear Weapons?

        While many of us may be confident that the US and Russia will not make use of nuclear weapons against each other, even in the event of major confrontation, that sanguinity cannot extend to other situations, and it is notable that there are four nations that refuse to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which the UN describes as “a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.”

        The nuclear-armed nations that refuse to adhere to the NPT are North Korea (which signed but then withdrew), India, Israel and Pakistan.  Of these, only Israel denies having nuclear weapons and it is notable that neither the US State Department nor the CIA makes mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, programme or capabilities in any of their public material.

      • 5 Ways Paid Hacks of the Cuban-American Exile Lobby Try to Mislead Us About Cuba

        Throughout this time corporate media accounts have been loyally parroting Washington’s line that the protesters were primarily motivated by the “authoritarianism” of the Cuban “regime.” As was the case in the run up the Iraq War, the purpose of these reports is to manufacture consent for Washington’s coercive foreign policy and obscure its self-serving and hypocritical agenda. As would be expected, these reports also ignore growing evidence suggesting that the protests were in part orchestrated by Washington as part of its ongoing plan destabilize the country and, in turn, bring about regime change. In a competitive field, one essay in particular stands out for its shamelessly tendentious propagandizing. Published at the online journal The Conversation, the article is condescendingly titled 5 ways Americans often misunderstand Cuba, from Fidel Castro’s rise to the Cuban American vote.

        In a bizarre inversion of reality, the article’s author, one Caroline McCulloch, claims that the US public has been fed not an overwhelmingly pro-Washington narrative for the last six decades, but rather a steady diet of pro-revolutionary, anti-imperialist talking points. Fortunately, McCulloch has been sent from the heavens to correct these delusions that supposedly possess the minds of the zombified, Che Guevara T-shirt-wearing masses of North America. McCulloch’s article purports to address “five common areas of confusion about Cuba, Cuban Americans and the U.S.-Cuba relationship.”

      • The Exaggerated Death of Mexico’s Drug War

        Ebrard’s statement came just days before a popular referendum that put a single question to voters: “Do you agree or not that pertinent actions should be taken, within the legal and constitutional framework, to begin a process of investigation into political decisions made in years past by political actors, with the aim of guaranteeing justice and the rights of possible victims?”  The convoluted question failed as a political tactic (only a little over 7% of the eligible population voted), but it put the emphasis rightfully on the victims and raised the question of how much Mexico’s security strategy and official actions have to do with the huge rise in violence.

        The Post interview is at least the fifth time that someone in the AMLO government has declared the death of the Merida Initiative, which is the name of the U.S. government’s strategy for political and economic support of the drug war in Mexico. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has publicly proclaimed that the bilateral agreement has ended several times since taking over and it was a prominent promise of his campaign.

      • Biden Must Call Off the B-52s Bombing Afghan Cities

        It is horrific to watch the death, destruction and mass displacement of thousands of terrified Afghans and the triumph of the misogynist Taliban that ruled the nation 20 years ago. But the fall of the centralized, corrupt government propped up by the Western powers was inevitable, whether this year, next year or ten years from now.

        President Biden has reacted to America’s snowballing humiliation in the graveyard of empires by once again dispatching U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to Doha to urge the government and the Taliban to seek a political solution, while at the same time dispatching  B-52 bombers to attack at least two of these provincial capitals.

      • Afghan Journalist: Only a Political Compromise Can Stop Taliban’s Military Takeover of Afghanistan

        The Taliban claim to have seized 17 provincial capitals across Afghanistan, including Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second- and third-largest cities, as the group continues its sweep through the country. The Taliban now have almost full control of the south, west and north of Afghanistan and are advancing on the capital Kabul, where the United States is preparing to evacuate its embassy in case of a Taliban defeat of the Afghan government. The sudden and dramatic Taliban gains come as the U.S. withdraws its ground troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war, with aid groups warning of a humanitarian crisis unfolding. Since January, nearly 400,000 have been displaced. Over 1,000 civilians have been killed or injured in fighting over the past month. “The Taliban is making very bold moves in their attempt for a military takeover,” says Afghan journalist Lotfullah Najafizada, director of TOLOnews. He warns that a Taliban victory would threaten the tenuous gains for civil society and press freedoms over the past 20 years, saying there needs to be international pressure for a political solution to the fighting. “The cloud of uncertainty is over Afghanistan,” says Najafizada.

      • Flawed From the Start, Critics Say Afghan War’s Bitter End for US Was ‘Inevitable’

        As the Taliban on Friday made further gains in control over territory—uprooting thousands of Afghan civilians—longtime critics of the Afghanistan war say the current situation is an “inevitable” outcome of the United States’ doomed and deadly two-decade military pursuit that’s cost over 2 trillion dollars and untold human death and suffering.

        “The U.S. designed the Afghan state to meet Washington’s counterterrorism interests, not the interests of Afghans, and what we see today is the result,” tweeted Anand Gopal, journalist and author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes, on Thursday.

      • Opinion | US Empire’s Afghan Ponzi Scheme Comes to Ignoble End

        The United States lost the Afghanistan War a long time ago, as is quickly becoming apparent as the Taliban take city after city.

      • We Need a Political Solution — Not More Troops — in Afghanistan, Journalist Says
      • Stop Listening to the Pro-War Idiots Who Got Afghanistan Wrong

        Don’t listen to anyone who was ever in favor of occupying Afghanistan. They were wrong for thinking that the United States could have won. They were stupid to think that invading Afghanistan would prevent another 9/11, a horror for which the Taliban had zero responsibility. Afghan War supporters were immoral for supporting the bombing of civilians that were so routine that blowing up wedding parties became a joke, for backing the invasion of a sovereign state that never posed a threat to us, and for justifying the violent imposition of a corrupt puppet regime. Anyone who ever believed that going into Afghanistan was a good idea is too stupid to deserve a job in journalism, academia or military command.

        Don’t listen to anyone who criticizes President Joe Biden for sticking to his promise to withdraw U.S. forces. We were always going to lose. The Taliban were always going to win. Biden and his team recognized reality. Accepting reality is a rare trait among our foolish leadership caste, one that should be praised.

      • Hey Joe, The Coup Rolls On

        The Rolling Coup Attempt of 2020-21

        That’s kind of where the APOT is now, with their focus on the states – the reactionary federalist Achilles Heel of America’s bourgeois democracy (not to be remotely confused with real democracy). January 6th was a premature fascist fiasco. The next right-wing coup is being much more carefully constructed and executed from within the existing institutional framework. Force and bloodshed will be part of the equation, to be sure, but they will come into play in a legal, political, and institutional context more favorable to the right than in 2020 and 2021, after years of “democratic,” legislative, administrative, and procedural conniving.

      • A Viable—and Perhaps the Only—Path to Lasting Peace in Afghanistan

        It’s unlikely that the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani will outlast the Taliban’s lightning strikes. The U.S. bombing will slow the advance, but it will not be able to reverse the tide. That is why regional powers in Asia have deepened contacts with the Taliban’s leadership, whose governance of the entire country seems inevitable.

        ‘Moderate’ Taliban

      • Roaming Charges: Ain’t That America, Something to See, Baby

        + Over the last 20 years, we’ve heard dozens of rationales, justifications and excuses for the US occupation of Afghanistan, all of them now exposed as hollow (or worse). There’s been no “nation-building,” the status of women has not been elevated or protected, the army and security forces have not been “trained” and “modernized,” opium poppy production has not been eradicated, militant groups have not been eliminated, sectarian strife has not lessened, the influence of Pakistan’s ISI has not been blunted. But American contractors and weapons makers have made tens of billions, year after year, for two decades, on long-term, no-bid contracts, many of the companies run by retired officials from the Pentagon and CIA, with little to no oversight or accountability. The Afghan war and occupation was one of history’s longest gravy trains, feeding govt. guaranteed profits to some of the most unsavory operators in the country, as 1000s of Afghans perished, and every time someone tried to stop it, they were shouted down with one word: “terrorism.”

        + Justly, there’s been much (belated) media attention about the number of bodies of indigenous children exhumed from residential schools in the US & Canada. I’m equally interested in how many corpses will be discovered at CIA black sites like Bagram, after the Taliban take control.

      • Bomber Biden Sends B-52s in Tantrum over Taliban Advance

        The bloody attack by unchallengeable air power in a country that Biden has already withdrawn troops from will not stop the collapse of the US puppet regime in Kabul, and the complete takeover of battered Afghanistan by the Islamic group that the US ousted from power in 2001 and that it has been battling now for two decades. Victory by the tenacious Taliban fighters who have driven the US military out is a foregone conclusion.

        All this outrageous and pathetic US tantrum does is slaughter fighters who are struggling to recover their country from a US military that had no business occupying the war-torn country in the first place, while inevitably killing large numbers of innocent civilian men, women and children who are in harm’s way of this broad, untargeted assault.

      • Azerbaijan Blocks Water To Stepanakert, Other Nagorno-Karabakh Regions

        In late 2020, Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, launched a military initiative against Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Since Azerbaijan’s victory occupying forces have repeatedly worked to demolish and deface the remnants of Armenian’s Christian heritage in the area.

      • In pictures: The human cost of the Taliban’s gains

        The government has now effectively lost most of the country following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul’s American backers.

        The first wave of the offensive was launched in early May after the United States and its allies all but withdrew their forces from Afghanistan, with President Joe Biden determined to end two decades of war by September 11.

        Hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the fighting that has enveloped the country. In recent days, Kabul has been swamped by the displaced, who have begun camping out in parks and other public spaces, sparking a fresh humanitarian crisis in the already overtaxed capital.

      • The Next Gerrymandering Nightmare Has Begun

        Ten years ago, Republican governors and legislators used the redistricting process that extended from the 2010 Census to gain dramatic political advantages. Now, with the release of fresh Census data, they are poised to do so again. No one should doubt what is at stake. If the supporters of voter suppression succeed, they could deny Americans representation based on the racial and ethnic diversity that the new data reveals.

        “States have long been preparing for this moment, and they now have the green light to start gerrymandering. If left unchecked, this year’s redistricting cycle represents a severe threat to our democracy,” explains Josh Silver, who heads the nonpartisan reform group RepresentUs. “Gerrymandering is one of the worst forms of political corruption, and leads to extremism and partisan gridlock. The maps drawn this year will shape American politics and policy for the next decade.”

      • New census data should be a boost to Democrats — but GOP is likely to win anyway

        It will take several weeks for states to sort through the data, which they will later use to draw new district maps. That process has frequently been described as politicians picking their own voters, rather than the other way around.

      • 84-year-old fined €250,000 for keeping Nazi war machines – including tank – in basement

        An 84-year-old German man has been fined €250,000 (£212,796.10) for keeping stockpiles of Second World War-era weaponry in his basement – including a 45-ton tank.

        The conviction under Germany’s War Weapons Control Act was handed down in Kiel, a city in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, and regards an investigation from 2015.

        As we reported at the time, a search for stolen Nazi art at the elderly man’s home actually turned up multiple items of military hardware in his underground garage.

      • Tanks but no tanks! German fined for WWII weapons arsenal

        A German court on Tuesday convicted an 84-year-old man of illegal weapons possession for having a personal arsenal that included a tank, a flak cannon and multiple other items of World War II-era military equipment.

        The state district in the northern city of Kiel handed the man a suspended prison sentence of 14 months and ordered him to pay a fine of 250,000 euros ($300,000), the German news agency dpa reported.

        [...]

        During the raid of the defendant’s property, authorities also seized machine guns, automatic pistols and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

    • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

      • Snopes suspends co-founder after plagiarism discovered

        Two members of Snopes’s senior management said in a statement posted to Twitter and its website on Friday that co-founder David Mikkelson was suspended pending the results of an internal review.

        The statement from Snopes’s managing editor Doreen Marchionni and chief operating officer Vinny Green said the internal investigation was launched after BuzzFeed News inquired about “more than two dozen examples” of content that appeared to be plagiarized from various news outlets.

    • Environment

      • Hippos die as DR Congo river contaminated with ‘toxic’ waste

        Toxic substances emitted in Angola have turned a river red in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the environment minister said on Friday, warning of an “ecological catastrophe” as the pollution kills wildlife including hippos.

        This “discolouration would be caused by a toxic substance spill by an Angolan factory specialising in industrial diamond mining,” DR Congo Enviroment Minister Eve Bazaiba said in a statement.

        Polluted tributaries are feeding into the Kasai river in the west of the vast central African country.

      • It’s time to freak out about methane emissions

        In the public conversation about climate change, methane has gotten too little attention for too long. Many people may be unaware that humans have been spewing a greenhouse gas that’s even more potent than carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate not seen in at least 800,000 years. It harms air quality and comes from sources as varied as oil and gas pipelines to landfills and cows. But methane and other greenhouse gases, including hydroflurocarbons, ozone, nitrogen dioxides, and sulfur oxides, are finally getting the attention they deserve — thanks largely to advances in the science.

      • North Africa Fires Spread to Libya and Tunisia

        Libya analyst Aya Burweila, visiting lecturer at the Hellenic National Defense College, tells VOA that “the recent wave of fires in North Africa, from Algeria to Tunisia to Libya, appears to have been caused by a combination of high temperatures, asymmetric threats carried out by arsonists, as well as deforestation and poor law enforcement in areas where burning and cutting down trees is prohibited.”

      • Fire crews make headway as Algeria holds second day of mourning

        A total of 76 of the more than 100 fires that had broken out since Monday were now under control.

      • We Reported on Pollution From Sugar Cane Burning. Now Federal Lawmakers Want the EPA to Take Action.

        For years, residents living amid Florida’s sugar fields have complained about pre-harvest crop burning, which sends smoke and ash into their communities. And for years, state health and environmental officials, as well as sugar companies, have said the air is healthy to breathe.

        But now, leading lawmakers in Congress are calling for a federal investigation into how the state has tracked air quality while also pressing to tighten the nation’s pollution standards, in response to an investigation by The Palm Beach Post and ProPublica that found a series of shortcomings in how authorities monitor the air in Florida’s heartland.

      • Extreme Heat Is Making Farmworkers’ Dangerous Jobs Even Harder

        San Joaquin Valley, Calif.—In November of 2020, Roberto arrived in California’s San Joaquin Valley to pick oranges, tangerines, and lemons for Porterville Citrus, a large grower. He’d been hired in Veracruz, Mexico, by a recruiter for Fresh Harvest, a labor contractor who brings workers to the United States every year under the H-2A temporary visa program.

      • Amid Praise of Infrastructure Bill, Indigenous Climate Activists Sound Alarm
      • Climate heating just makes things hotter still

        The past has an uncomfortable lesson for a warming world: climate heating begets even more of the same.

      • Climate Activists Target Banks’ Greenwashing in Nationwide #DefundLine3 Protests

        In the wake of this week’s publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report underscoring the imperative to quickly transition to a post-fossil fuel economy, activists in dozens of cities across the U.S. on Friday rallied outside the offices of major banks to denounce their funding of polluting projects including Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

        “You can’t build pipelines and be sustainable.”—Stop the Money Pipeline

      • Fearing Government Whitewash, Scientists Leak Draft IPCC Report Urging Bold Emission Cuts

        Concerned that aspects of its conclusions will be diluted by policymakers, a group of scientists has leaked a draft of a forthcoming IPCC report, which argues that to avert further climate chaos, global carbon emissions must peak by 2025 and all fossil fuel plants worldwide must be shuttered by the end of the decade.

        “There is no point for us to just observe what a disaster is unfolding if nobody is doing anything about it.”—Sonia Seneviratne, ETH Zurich

      • Opinion | Greed and Consumption: Why the World Is Burning

        Rome is scorching hot. This beautiful city is becoming unbearable for other reasons, too. Though every corner of the beaming metropolis is a monument to historical grandeur, from the Colosseum in Rione Monti to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in San Giovanni, it is now struggling under the weight of its own contradictions.

      • “It’s a Sea of Oil”: Outrage in Trinidad Over Latest Spill Destroying Ecosystem, Fishery

        Fishers and environmentalists expressed outrage this week over what they called the inadequate response by Trinidad and Tobago’s government and one of the country’s leading fossil fuel companies to the latest of hundreds of reported oil spills there in recent years.

        “What is going to happen to the fisherfolk? What will be the environmental impacts, and what will this do to fishing in the Gulf?”—Imitiaz Khan, Carli Bay Fishing Association

      • Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning

        Rome is scorching hot. This beautiful city is becoming unbearable for other reasons, too. Though every corner of the beaming metropolis is a monument to historical grandeur, from the Colosseum in Rione Monti to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in San Giovanni, it is now struggling under the weight of its own contradictions.

      • ‘All of the Sirens Are Going Off’: NOAA Says July Was Hottest Month Ever Recorded

        The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, a finding that comes just days after a United Nations scientific panel warned that humanity is running out of time to prevent the worst consequences of the climate emergency.

        “This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe.”—Rick Spinrad, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

      • Energy

        • Bankers Eager to Continue Funding Oil and Gas

          “I kind of remind people, I personally think oil is a renewable, it just takes a little bit longer,” said Mari Salazar, senior vice president and manager of Energy Financial Services for BOK Financial, an Oklahoma-based bank that caters to the oil and gas industry. 

          Salazar made this analogy at the Hart Energy 2021 Energy Capital Conference this summer on a panel discussion about banking loans for the oil and gas industry. The main focus of the conference was the current hesitancy to provide funding to the struggling industry. 

          Stay up to date with DeSmog news and alerts

        • LNG Projects Make Claims of ‘Net-Zero’ to Ease Way for Expansion

          Under growing pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, developers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are turning to questionable claims about “carbon neutrality,” “net-zero,” or “green LNG,” in order to pass muster with governments, investors, and society, who are becoming increasingly anxious about the climate crisis. 

          However, while on the surface it may appear to be a positive shift towards lowering the greenhouse gas impact of their projects, the rhetoric about carbon-neutral LNG is mostly hollow, in another attempt to greenwash new fossil fuel projects into existence. 

          Stay up to date with DeSmog news and alerts

      • Wildlife/Nature

        • Species Spotlight: The Bobcat — Hunted for Its Beauty
        • We must burn the West to save it

          “While they didn’t draw on a lot of Indigenous knowledge or consult with tribes in terms of figuring out how to do their land management, I call it a process of convergent evolution of their forestry practices because they ended up in the same place as historically what forest conditions were under an Indigenous fire regimen,” Aldern said.

          But land managers don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to strategically deploying fire; by partnering with and following the lead of American Indian fire practitioners, they can build on an existing foundation of knowledge.

      • Overpopulation

        • First water cuts in US West supply to hammer Arizona farmers

          Climate change, drought and high demand are expected to force the first-ever mandatory cuts to a water supply that 40 million people across the American West depend on — the Colorado River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s projection next week will spare cities and tribes but hit Arizona farmers hard.

          They knew this was coming. They have left fields unplanted, laser leveled the land, lined canals, installed drip irrigation, experimented with drought-resistant crops and found other ways to use water more efficiently.

          Still, the cutbacks in Colorado River supply next year will be a blow for agriculture in Pinal County, Arizona’s top producer of cotton, barley and livestock. Dairies largely rely on local farms for feed and will have to search farther out for supply, and the local economy will take a hit.

    • Finance

      • Opinion | Let’s Honor Social Security’s Anniversary by Boosting Seniors’ Benefits

        One of our nation’s most popular federal programs marks another year of success on August 14th.  Social Security—the income security program for workers, retirees, people with disabilities, and their families - was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 86 years ago. But it’s been almost four decades since the program was last reformed. In 1983, Congress took action to shore up Social Security’s finances under the acute threat of insolvency. Fast-forward to the present.  We are confronted with a looming shortfall in the program’s finances amid a growing demand to boost benefits.  But bi-partisan action to strengthen Social Security has been elusive—despite the best efforts of some lawmakers to put forward solid proposals.

      • Opinion | What the GOP’s Turn Away from Free Market Economics Actually Is About

        Politico, the gossip sheet of the chattering class, has detected a new policy debate percolating within the Washington Beltway. It’s an argument within the Republican Party, and, the article’s headline tells us, the dispute is not (for once) all about Donald Trump—although it turns out it mostly is.

      • Here Are the 9 Right-Wing Democrats Threatening to Tank Their Party’s $3.5 Trillion Agenda

        A group of nine conservative House Democrats on Friday threatened to torpedo a $3.5 trillion budget resolution—the cornerstone of their party’s social spending and climate agenda—unless Speaker Nancy Pelosi first allows a vote on a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that has been criticized as inadequate and potentially harmful to the environment.

        “In what world is it ‘moderate’ to kill a $3.5 trillion agenda against the majority of your own party? It’s far-right austerity.”—Zack Burley, The Climate Mobilization

      • U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Paying People $2,000 To Pretend Binding Arbitration Is Good

        For years, AT&T worked tirelessly to erode its customers’ legal rights, using mouse print in its terms of service preventing consumers from participating in lawsuits against the company. Instead, customers were forced into binding arbitration, where arbitrators, chosen and paid by the companies under fire, unsurprisingly rule in favor of companies more often than not. Initially, the lower courts derided this anti-consumer behavior for what it was, noting that however brutally flawed the class action is, binding arbitration, at least the way we let companies design it, in many ways made things worse.

      • Wealth Tax and IRS Funding Could Pay for Entire $3.5T Bill, Warren Writes
      • Philosophers of Capitalism: How Hume Civilized Money

        George Caffentzis writes that his project of the philosophy of money began in August 1971 when President Nixon severed the link between the dollar and gold.  He further developed the project through SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and URPE (Union of Radical Political Economics).  It began to take form in his writing with Zerowork (when our paths crossed).  Did the end of gold mean the end of work and did the end of work mean the end of capitalism?  It achieved a major breakthrough with the Wages for Housework campaign. Owing to the crisis of the oil market and then the dangers of nuclear energy he formulated an approach to the philosophy of money in which class analysis was combined with philosophical epistemology and the specifics of historical conjuncture.  The first volume of what was to become a trilogy was completed in Calabar, Nigeria, at the time of structural adjustment under the IMF (International Monetary Fund).[1]   Political presentism and autobiographical reflection enliven the philosophic pages.  He has venerable examples of such combination from Clarendon’s The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (1702-1704) to Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789).

      • Renters Are Calling for Direct Cash Assistance as Evictions Loom
      • A Last-Minute Reprieve for the Homeless…for Now

        Then at the eleventh hour – no, actually later, after the moratorium lapsed – Biden blinked. Then he backtracked. On August 3, he directed the CDC to reinstate the moratorium until October 3, thus sparing 90 percent of the affected tenants. (The 10 percent who will get booted out, well, we don’t talk about them.) Rent forgiveness would be superior to a moratorium, but at least this extension staves off a lot of misery. And boy is there a lot of misery in the U.S.

        Renters aren’t the only ones risking a crash landing on the pavement. Over 2 million homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments. Add that to the 2 million who would have lost their protection from the moratorium and you have a lot of people sleeping under overpasses. That is now postponed, thanks to the CDC, which cannot be blessed enough for its wonderfully helpful and creative move, issuing the moratorium in September for health reasons related to the pandemic. But, as USA Today announced on July 30 – a view widely and wrongly accepted – the supreme court supposedly made it clear the moratorium “wouldn’t be extended beyond the end of July without congressional action.” This was Biden’s excuse for inaction. It was false. In fact, this SCOTUS ukase came in Brett Kavanaugh’s nonbinding concurrence, so convenient for politicos, who claimed it tied their hands. It didn’t. Why not? Well, according to the People’s Policy Project, “we have 5 [SCOTUS] judges who have ruled that the CDC can do eviction moratoriums…” Kavanaugh’s comments are nonbinding dicta.

      • ‘Unconscionable’: WHO Chief Slams Rich Nations Over Boosters as Poor Are Denied Vaccines

        The head of the World Health Organization on Thursday slammed rich nations for rolling out booster shots for certain segments of their populations as billions of people across the globe—particularly in poor countries—have yet to receive a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine amid the Delta surge.

        “It’s unconscionable that some vaccine-producing companies are reporting record profits, and some countries are offering boosters, while so many people remain unprotected,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote in an op-ed for TIME. “To ensure all health workers… in countries like Uganda, and those at most risk of severe Covid-19 disease, are protected, a temporary moratorium on boosters is a necessary and sorely-needed statement of solidarity that would help save the most lives and help end the acute stage of this pandemic everywhere.”

      • Global Billionaire Pandemic Wealth Surges to $5.5 Trillion
      • The NYT’s Big Deficit Numbers

        Few reporters have ever tried to tell me that their audience actually did know the meaning of the very large sums of money that are often discussed in budget stories, when no context is provided. This was explicitly acknowledged some years back in a column by Margaret Sullivan, who was the NYT’s Public Editor at the time. The column includes comments by David Leonhardt, then the NYT’s Washington Bureau Chief, who completely accepted the point.

        The piece indicated a commitment to putting numbers in a context that would make them understandable to readers. There’s not much evidence of any follow-up on that one. It is still standard to see budget articles that report the millions, billions, or trillions, with no context whatsoever. It is a safe bet that for most readers, this is the same thing, as David Leonhardt put it, as if they just wrote “really big number.”

      • More than a Decade After the Volcker Rule Purported to Outlaw It, JPMorgan Chase Still Owns a Hedge Fund

        But here we are, 11 years later, with every one of those corrupt practices in full display at the Wall Street mega banks today. Losses from wild derivative bets check. Trading for the house(proprietary trading), check. Secret bailouts from the Fed, check. Credit Default swaps, check. The continuance of the private justice system on Wall Street, check. Banks paying rating agencies for ratings, check. Banks giving insanely leveraged loans to hedge funds, check.

        And if we wanted to find the poster child for every failed financial reform promise, we need look no further than JPMorgan Chase, the largest federally-insured bank in the United States as well as, officially, the riskiest. The bank has also racked up five felony counts from the U.S. Department of Justice since Dodd-Frank was signed into law.

    • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

      • Generations of Struggle: Lessons on Defending Democracy

        He grew up poor in Milwaukee, the son of an undocumented Greek immigrant who ran a diner out of the first floor of his home. He returned to his hometown in 1969 as a professor of American history at Marquette University. There, he would take part in political campaigns and local democratic efforts and, of course, raise my siblings and me. After he retired as a professor — committed as he was to opening up space for new scholars and researchers — he remained involved with the Wisconsin ACLU and its campaigns to protect democracy and civil liberties. He became the chair of the board and (how appropriate given this moment of voter-suppression laws) worked to oppose the 2011 Wisconsin voter ID law, while aiding the recall campaign against then-Governor Scott Walker.

        Although it seems long ago, in many ways that battle over democracy in America’s Dairyland set the scene for the Trump years and the national crisis unfolding around us now. In 2010, Wisconsin Republicans, fueled in part by a rising Tea Party Movement and having gained control of the state legislature and governorship, immediately passed a host of anti-democratic laws, while instituting regressive economic policies. This in a state that had once been a beacon of American democratic experimentation.

      • Opinion | Donald J. Antichrist and the End Times

        It’s Friday the 13th, 2021. Do you know where your Antichrist is?

      • The Path to Citizenship is the Path to a More Democratic America

        This increase in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will accrue from wage increases following legalization and citizenship, as well as from enhanced educational attainment and training made possible by the changes in status.

        These benefits to the economy have received a fair measure of attention in the media, but what hasn’t received as much attention is how an opened path to citizenship will also strengthen American democracy. It will do so by making our system of government more representative.

      • Creative Associates International (CAI): It’s Not Exactly the CIA, But Close Enough

        You have likely not heard of them, but Creative Associates International (CAI) is one of the largest and most powerful non-governmental organizations operating anywhere in the world. A pillar of soft U.S. power, the group has been an architect in privatizing the Iraqi education system, designed messenger apps meant to overthrow the government of Cuba, served as a front group for the infamous Blackwater mercenary force (now rebranded as Academi), and liaised with Contra death squads in Nicaragua. As such, it has functioned as “both as an instrument of foreign policy and as a manifestation of a broader imperial project,” in the words of Professor Kenneth Saltman of the University of Illinois, Chicago.

      • California’s Recall Election Could Be a National Disaster
      • September’s likely winners Meet the doctors, cosmonauts, and pro-Kremlin youth stars expected to grab seats in Russia’s next Parliament

        In roughly a month, on September 17, three-day parliamentary elections will begin in Russia. Using party lists, opinion polls, and turnout estimates in each region across the country, it’s relatively easy to predict the results. As ever, the biggest changes are taking place inside United Russia, the nation’s ruling political party. What’s the logic behind such changes, and whom should we expect to see in the new legislature? Political scientist Alexander Kynev explains.

      • Centrist Dems Seek to Delay the Reconciliation Bill While Passing Infrastructure
      • Democrats Considering Inclusion of Union Member Tax Break in Reconciliation Bill
      • DeSantis and Abbott Count on Reelection Despite Letting Tens of Thousands Die
      • Census Shows Unprecedented Diversity — But GOP Is Gearing Up for Gerrymandering
      • Talking Radical Media With Noam Chomsky

        For anyone critical of the media and politics at the turn of the century, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent was essential reading. The book’s “propaganda model” provided a useful framework for understanding how typical news coverage filters out some types of evidence while emphasizing others, ultimately privileging dominant narratives. One key lesson from this analysis was clear: To change the world, we must first change our media.

      • SITA rules out open source, seeks bespoke solution for DMRE

        As such, DMRE requires a standardised technological platform which will provide ‘seamless automated’ services to its clients, partners and employees as per the value chain and enterprise architecture.

        Notably, the agency states: “No open-source solutions will be considered, and the end product (intellectual [sic] property [sic]) must the owned by the department.”

      • Google files to dismiss Ohio lawsuit to declare search engine a public utility

        Google is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Ohio attorney general seeking to declare the search giant a public utility, according to a motion filed Friday.

        Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) filed the lawsuit in June, arguing the Silicon Valley giant has used its dominance to prioritize its own products in a way that “intentionally disadvantages competitors.”

        Google’s lawyers argue in the motion that the search giant does not meet the state’s requirements to be considered a common carrier.

    • Censorship/Free Speech

      • Texas Legislature Has Another Ridiculous And Unconstitutional Content Moderation Bill; Say Goodbye To Email Filters

        You may recall last month we wrote about how the Texas legislature — even after seeing a similar Florida bill go down in the flames of Constitutional fire — decided to launch a special legislative session solely to focus on passing culture war legislation that plays well with ignorant voters. The bill we saw last month was in the Senate and was SB5. Now there’s another bill in the House called HB20, and it’s really, really dumb.

      • India’s Rahul Gandhi says blocked by Twitter for political reasons

        While Gandhi’s account is still up and all his tweets visible until Aug 6, the platform hid his post about the girl and has blocked him from tweeting further, pending his deletion of the tweet.

        The accounts of several other Congress leaders were also locked for tweeting the picture.

      • Tallinn Airport: Belarus opposition exhibition removed for security reasons

        Tallinn Airport has responded to criticism from an MEP over its removal of a photo gallery of women who oppose the Alexander Lukashenko regime, citing security concerns. The exhibition, from the Fotografiska gallery in Tallinn, had been in place for a month-and-a-half until its removal, and was scheduled to stay to year-end. Fotografiska has now canceled a deal with Tallinn Airport which had seen it exhibit other displays at the venue.

      • Philippine court dismisses libel case against journalist Maria Ressa

        A Philippine court has dismissed a libel case against Maria Ressa, a lawyer said on Thursday, one of several lawsuits filed against the journalist who says she has been targeted because of her news site’s critical reports on President Rodrigo Duterte.

        The plight of Ressa, who was named Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for fighting media intimidation, has raised international concern about the harassment of journalists in the Philippines, a country once seen as a standard bearer for press freedom in Asia.

        The cyber-libel case was filed by a college professor against Ressa and a reporter at her site, Rappler, in October over a story which alleged that the professor gave students better grades in exchange for money, an accusation he denied.

    • Freedom of Information/Freedom of the Press

      • Press Freedom Under Attack in Mexico as TV Anchor Gets Death Threat from Cartel over Reporting

        Prominent Mexican news anchor Azucena Uresti took to the airwaves this week to stand up to one of the country’s most powerful drug cartels, the Jalisco New Generation, after the group posted a video online directly threatening her life. Uresti regularly reports on cartel violence and organized crime. The Committee to Protect Journalists considers Mexico the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere, where about 120 journalists have been killed since 2000, with four murders this year alone. Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico correspondent for the Committee to Protect Journalists, says the cartels are engaged in “informational warfare” and see the press as a threat to their operations. “They’re trying to strike terror in the hearts of Mexican reporters,” says Hootsen.

      • Targeting the Medical Evidence: the US Challenge on Assange’s Health

        The prosecution effort was intended to add more strings to their bow.  The US had already been given leave to appeal in July on the basis that the judge erred in law by deciding that Assange’s extradition would be oppressive.  This particular fatuous argument assumes that Baraitser was being too presumptuous about the appalling conditions that would face the publisher.  Why, they lament, did she not seek the relevant assurances from the US authorities?  If she had, they would have promised that Special Administrative Measures would not be imposed on Assange in pre-trial detention or in prison.  Nor would he find himself degrading in the appalling conditions of a Supermax facility.

        This dubious undertaking was made alongside others, including the assurance that Assange would receive appropriate clinical and psychological treatment as recommended by the relevant clinician, and that he would qualify under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.  Doing so would enable him to be transferred to Australia with the approval of the US Department of Justice.   The obvious question to ask here, and one put by the defence at the time, was why the prosecution had avoided giving these assurances at the extradition trial itself.

      • Belarus blacklists blocked media outlet Tut.by and new publication Zerkalo.io as extremist

        The Belarusian authorities have designated the prominent independent news outlet Tut.by, as well as its new media venture Zerkalo.io, as “extremist.”

      • A Day in the Death of British Justice

        The barrister, Clair Dobbin, is in the pay of the regime in Washington, first Trump’s then Biden’s. She is America’s hired gun, or “silk”, as she would prefer. Her target is Julian Assange, who has committed no crime and has performed an historic public service by exposing the criminal actions and secrets on which governments, especially those claiming to be democracies, base their authority.

        For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.

      • Press Freedom Groups Renewed their Call Urging Biden Administration to Drop the Charges against Julian Assange

        Amnesty International reiterated their call to end the politically motivated charges against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange ahead of Wednesday’s preliminary appeal hearing.

      • Jeff Cohen on FAIR’s Beginnings
      • Police Visit Pirate IPTV Suppliers’ Homes to Serve Cease-and-Desist Notices

        Police officers across the UK have visited the homes of people reportedly involved in the supply of pirate IPTV services. The operation, which involved the organized crime-focused Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, was carried out in conjunction with the Federation Against Copyright Theft. Those targeted were served with cease-and-desist notices.

      • Court Orders RomUniverse to Destroy Pirated Nintendo Games and Stay Offline

        A California federal court has ordered the operator of the now-defunct pirate site RomUniverse to destroy all copyright-infringing games within two weeks. The court initially denied the request for a permanent injunction but changed its position after Nintendo warned about a potential comeback of the site. The $2.1 million summary judgment still stands.

    • Civil Rights/Policing

      • New Hampshire PD’s Recruitment Pitch Lists Qualified Immunity As A Job Perk

        Every so often law enforcement forgets to keep the mask on. The public front is all about safety and providing a line of defense against criminal chaos. Behind the front, it’s a bunch of people with the same flaws as regular humans, only with access to an incredible amount of power and an almost nonexistent amount of accountability.

      • Opinion | A Path to Citizenship Could Soon Be Within Grasp for Millions of Undocumented Workers

        Immigration agents arrested over 600 undocumented workers at a poultry plant in Jackson, Mississippi two years ago in what remains the largest workplace raid in U.S. history.

      • How to Defeat the New Era of Extractavism

        Local residents began to study possible consequences of a large gold mining effort in their community. Residents of the region concluded that gold mining would be a threat to their water supply due to its use of toxic cyanide, its diversion of water needed for farming, and the potential release of arsenic at the mining site.

        Pac Rim initially offered bribes to the growing group of anti-mining activists and their neighbors — everything from money to prostitutes. When that failed, the assassinations began. A key organizer was tortured to death and three other activists were shot to death. But the anti-mining organizing continued unabated.

      • Ditched
      • Pressure Mounts on Facebook to Remove AIPAC’s Islamophobic Attacks Against Ilhan Omar

        In response to AIPAC’s latest ads falsely accusing U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of sympathizing with terrorist organizations, CodePink on Friday launched a petition urging Facebook to remove the Islamophobic attacks, which have been condemned for endangering the life of the Minnesota Democrat as well as other progressive lawmakers targeted by the pro-Israel lobbying group.

        “AIPAC’s Islamophobic incitement against a Muslim woman of color in Congress in order to further their pro-Israel agenda is disgraceful and dangerous,” Ariel Gold, national co-director of CodePink, a women-led peace group, said in a statement. “Rep. Omar is an incredible leader for justice and equality both at home and in the U.S.’s foreign policy.”

      • Canadian Relief Agency Refused Emergency Medical Support Donation for Palestine
      • The Radical Capitalist Behind the Critical Race Theory Furor

        Once again, the forces of capitalism are harnessing racism to do their dirty work.

      • August 13, 1961 The Berlin Wall began as a stretch of barbed wire and became a twentieth century symbol of a divided world. Here’s the story of its beginnings, in photos.

        The Berlin Crisis was already underway in the summer of 1961. This escalation of the Cold War began with the Soviet Union demanding the withdrawal of British, French, and U.S. forces from Berlin. These Western troops, as well as their Soviet counterparts, had been in Germany as occupying forces since 1945. But Berlin’s status wasn’t settled: both soldiers and civilians had the right to move between the city’s western and eastern (Soviet) sectors. The Western allies rejected Moscow’s ultimatum. In response, the East German authorities closed the border between the city’s eastern and western sectors and began building the Berlin Wall — at first, it was primarily barbed wire entanglements and fences. After August 13, 1961, the city was divided in two for nearly 30 years. The wall became a barrier preventing Eastern Berliners from trying to flee to the West. And its fall in 1989 became the main symbol of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communist regimes in Europe.

      • Russian Attorney General’s Office seeks tougher restrictions on movement for Lyubov Sobol

        The Russian Attorney General’s Office is appealing the sentence handed down to opposition politician Lyubov Sobol in the so-called “Sanitary Case.”

      • Top Navalny aide says prison guards threw away his jailed father’s pain medication

        Top Navalny aide Ivan Zhdanov says Russian prison guards confiscated his jailed father’s pain medication and threw it away. 

      • New Anti Anti-Money Laundering Services for Crooks

        A new dark web service is marketing to cybercriminals who are curious to see how their various cryptocurrency holdings and transactions may be linked to known criminal activity. Dubbed “Antinalysis,” the service purports to offer a glimpse into how one’s payment activity might be flagged by law enforcement agencies and private companies that try to link suspicious cryptocurrency transactions to real people.

      • Afghan Women Forced from Banking Jobs as Taliban Take Control

        In early July, as Taliban insurgents were seizing territory from government forces across Afghanistan, fighters from the group walked into the offices of Azizi Bank in the southern city of Kandahar and ordered nine women working there to leave.

        The gunmen escorted them to their homes and told them not to return to their jobs. Instead, they explained that male relatives could take their place, according to three of the women involved and the bank’s manager.

      • Taliban Islamic Conquest

        After its defeat in 2001, a large number of Taliban regrouped in Peshawar and the northwest frontier areas of Pakistan. With inadequate security forces and U.S. attention shifted to Iraq, by 2008, the Taliban insurgents had regained control over much of the Southern region of Afghanistan, especially Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the largest area of poppy cultivation in the world.

        U.S. allies worry about the consequences of the withdrawal, including the rise of terrorism, a blow to democracy and women’s rights and the erosion of Western influence around the world.

        Does this seem as if the self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is interested in peace? This is not to demonize the Biden administration, for it the pretentious peace efforts with the Taliban started under President Donald Trump, but until the West acknowledges that jihadists like the Taliban are complying with their sacred texts, then there will be no hope for peace.

      • Star Wars Filmmaker Makes Documentary Slamming ‘Islamophobia,’ Ends Up Showing Why There Is ‘Islamophobia’

        The problem starts with the term itself. “Islamophobia” is a fraught word, because while it is thrown around all the time these days, few of those who use it to defame and smear others bother to explain what they mean by it. It is most commonly used for two quite distinct phenomena: vigilante crimes against innocent Muslims, which are never justified, and honest analysis of the motivating ideology of jihad terror, which is always necessary. Islamic advocacy groups and their leftist allies have been insisting for years that such analysis, too, constituted “Islamophobia,” and continue to try to drive such analysis outside the bounds of acceptable discourse by conflating it with those attacks on innocent Muslims.

      • Christian couple say daughter kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam

        The couple shared with media persons Nadra’s registration certificate of children below 18 years, proving that the Christian girl was born on January 10, 2007 and she was still minor and not medically and legally fit for marriage under the Pakistani laws.

      • Taliban Forcing Afghan Women To Marry Terrorists: Report

        Afghans pouring into Kabul and those still in Taliban-held areas say they have witnessed unprovoked attacks on civilians and executions of captured soldiers. In addition, they say, Taliban have demanded that communities turn over unmarried women to become “wives” for their terrorists — a form of sexual violence, human-rights groups say, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

    • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

      • Now It’s Harvard Business Review Getting Section 230 Very, Very Wrong

        It would be nice if we could have just a single week where some major “respected” publication could do the slightest bit of fact checking on their wacky articles on Section 230. It turns out that’s not happening this week. Harvard Business Review has now posted an article saying It’s Time to Update Section 230 written by two professors — Michael Smith of Carnegie Mellon and Marshall Van Alstyne at Boston University. For what it’s worth, I’ve actually been impressed with the work and research of both of these professors in the past — even though Smith runs a program funded by the MPAA, that publishes studies about the internet and piracy, his work has usually been careful and thorough. Van Alstyne, on the other hand, has published some great work on problems with intellectual property, and kindly came and spoke at an event we helped to run.

    • Digital Restrictions (DRM)

      • Netflix isn’t the savior Nollywood needs

        Netflix’s global active subscriber base of 208 million members is a dream for filmmakers in search of a ready-made audience. The streaming giant has been licensing Nollywood content since 2015, but this relationship deepened significantly with the service’s focus on expansion in global markets. The Netflix Nigeria launch was marked by a high-profile event in Lagos with chief content officer Ted Sarandos fêting local talent just before COVID-19 hit.

    • Monopolies

      • Could a GPL-style contribute-back clause be a reasonable compromise between Apple’s walled garden and the Open App Markets Act?

        It is interesting to watch how legislative initiatives, antitrust investigations, and litigation reinforce each other. Yesterday’s announcement of the Open App Markets Act proposal by a bipartisan group of United States Senators marks a tipping point. It now seems rather unlikely that Apple can maintain its App Store monopoly on iOS. App store diversity is coming.

        Apple may still be in a state of denial, and it can hire every lobbyist in DC and Brussels and elsewhere who isn’t already working for its adversaries, but the time may have come to think about whether a reasonable compromise is possible.

        I’m as independent as an Apple critic and complainant can be, and have recently remigrated to Android, which is the “lesser evil” in terms of the platform maker’s control. I wrote my own antitrust complaints and my replies to Apple’s (and Google’s) responsive filings–every single word. When it comes to patent disputes, I’ve been sympathetic to Apple’s desire for differentiation and to a certain attitude that could be described as exceptionalism. I do, however, draw the line where Apple denies app developers like me certain liberties that I believe are essential and very much in the interest of consumers.

      • Patents

        • Patent case: Judgment No. 35/2021 of Barcelona Commercial Court No. 5, dated 6 April 2021, Spain

          In an Iberian validity dispute pitching a Spanish generics manufacturer against Portugal’s national pharmaceutical champion Bial Portela, the busy and influential Barcelona Commercial Court No. 5 rules on the “problem-solution approach”. In line with other recent decisions, the Court confirms i) that it may depart from the claimant’s choice of closest prior art and ii) that an erroneous definition of the objective technical problem will automatically lead to a dismissal of the revocation action. Furthermore, the Court also makes some reflections on the role of the prosecution history for the purposes of ascertaining the technical problem.

        • VLSI inches closer to $2.2B final judgment as Judge Albright denies Intel’s motion for new trial

          Things are moving forward again in VLSI v. Intel. Judge Alan Albright of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas has denied the first of several post-trial motions with which Intel is challenging the record $2.175B verdict.

        • Software Patents

          • A judge has ruled that Google infringed on Sonos’ patents

            Google has infringed upon Sonos’ patents, according to an initial ruling from a US International Trade Commission judge. Sonos has been locked in a legal battle with Google after it sued the search giant, claiming that it had infringed on five of its patents relating to smart speakers. In a statement to The Verge, Sonos says that the ruling “is only a first step in a lengthy battle” but calls it an “important milestone in the ongoing effort to defend Sonos’ technology against Google.”

          • Google Infringed on Patents Owned by Sonos, a Trade Judge Says

            Google infringed on speaker-technology patents held by Sonos and should not be allowed to import products that violate Sonos’s intellectual property, a judge said in a preliminary finding by the United States International Trade Commission that was released on Friday.

            In January 2020, Sonos sued Google in federal court and in front of the United States International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body that decides trade cases and can block the import of goods that violate patents. Google later filed a countersuit against Sonos, claiming that Sonos was infringing on its patents.

          • AlterWAN patent held unpatentable

            On August 12, 2021, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a final written decision in Unified Patents, LLC v. AlterWAN, Inc. holding all challenged claims of U.S. Patent 9,667,534 unpatentable. The ‘534 patent, directed to routing packets via VPN, has been asserted in district court litigation against Amazon Web Services.

          • $2,000 for Bluestone Ventures prior art

            On July 21, 2021, Unified Patents added a new PATROLL contest, with a $2,000 cash prize, seeking prior art on at least claim 1 of U.S. Patent 9,921,077. The patent is owned by Bluestone Ventures Inc., an NPE. The ’077 patent generally relates to a method and system for enabling mobile devices to send location updates to a receiving device for use in vehicle dispatch applications. It is currently being asserted against Uber in the Western District of Texas.

      • Copyrights

        • Why Companies Keep Folding to Copyright Pressure, Even If They Shouldn’t

          The giant record labels, their association, and their lobbyists have succeeded in gettin g a number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pressure Twitter to pay money it does not owe, to labels who have no claim to it, against the interests of its users. This is a playbook we’ve seen before, and it seems to work almost every time. For once, let us hope a company sees this extortion attempt for what it is and stands up to it.

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DecorWhat Else is New


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  2. Links 8/12/2021: Linux 5.15.7 Out, Linux Mint 20.3 is Near

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  3. Links 8/12/2021: Zorin OS 16 Milestone and Calculate Linux 22 Released; Kubernetes 1.23

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  4. A Call for Sources and Whistleblowers From Microsoft's GitHub

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  11. Links 7/12/2021: Firefox 96 Beta and Fedora 37 Abandons ARMv7

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