Bonum Certa Men Certa

Links 1/1/2016: WebGL2 in Firefox Nightly, Gentoo on PS4

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • MuseScore 2.0.2 Brings A Bunch Of New Features
    As you may know, MuseScore is an open-source music composition and notation software, allowing the users tp create, edit and print music in an WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) environment.

  • How software developers helped end the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone
    A team of open source software developers solved the problem that most urgently needed solving: distributing wages to healthcare workers

  • 2015 at a glance: Open Source Yearbook
    For our first Open Source Yearbook, we reached out to dozens of open source organizations and community members and asked them to contribute articles that help provide a feel for 2015. What were a few of the LibreOffice extensions that stood out in 2015? Which Drupal modules were notable? Which books would publishers highlight if they could only pick a handful from the past year? What did open source wearables and 3D printing look like in 2015? And how in the world could we pick one best couple for our yearbook without offending all the other fabulous open source couples in the world? The 2015 Open Source Yearbook answers all these questions, and many more.

  • Open source means choice
    In the late 90s I was ensconced in the Microsoft ecosystem. With the introduction of Windows, personal computer users were being pushed away from the command line. But I stubbornly kept an MS-DOS terminal close by. For reasons now lost to the receding tide of memory, one day I found myself installing Cygwin, a suite of commonly used software and command-line tools that ran within a terminal or X-Window. My introduction to a unix-like environment impressed me. The day I typed "startx" and my screen exploded with tiny x's sealed the deal. At that time (around 1998), anyone familiar with unix had become aware of the upstart unix-like operating system, Linux, developed around Linus Torvalds' college software project. When Red Hat Linux 5.2 became available I rushed to my local computer store, intrigued by the new operating system that cost half the price of Windows.

  • Events

    • Closing the Book on Linux and FOSS for 2015
      Sarah Sharp Joins SCALE Keynote Roster: While the SCALE Team is still busy with preparations for SCALE 14X, the first-of-the-year FOSS event worldwide in Pasadena in three weeks, one specific development is that Sarah Sharp joins the list of keynoters. Sharp will speak on “Improving Diversity with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” on Sunday morning, Feb. 24. She joins Cory Doctorow, who is the Friday keynoter at SCALE 14X, with the Saturday keynote yet to be determined. Watch this space.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • WebGL2 enabled in Firefox Nightly

      • Firefox Turns On Its WebGL 2 Support
        For users of Firefox Nightly builds, WebGL 2 support is now enabled.

        Jeff Muizelaar mentioned that WebGL 2 is now enabled within Firefox nightly builds. The WebGL 2 implementation isn't yet fully complete, but is at least to a point that it's working well enough for most modern content written against the provisional specification. Jeff mentioned it in this blog post.

  • Education

  • Pseudo-/Semi-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • BSD: A Brief Look Back at 2015

      This is the time of year when we look back and go, “Wow. How did this all ever happen?” Or something to that effect. And after about a month of PC-BSD daily use, the verdict so far (subject to appeal) is overwhelmingly positive with a couple of bumps (e.g., someday I will turn off tap-to-click on my touchpad).

      Of course when I look back on the year, I can only look back as far as the time I have been using BSD. It wouldn’t be fair to go all the way back — one time back in the aughts, by some miracle, I got NetBSD to run on a PowerBook G3 until I updated the system and then poof — so this retrospective goes as far back as the month I’ve been using PC-BSD.


    • November/December 2015 - Gent and Mexico
      RMS gave his speech "Copyright vs Community" at the Quetelet auditorium, Sint Pietersplein, in Gent, Belgium, on November 17th, to a diverse student audience.

    • Happy GNU Year! Last chance to give in 2015
      Thanks to the free software community's giving, we have already raised more than $250,000 toward our goal of $450,000 by January 31st, 2016. As we look to the new year, we at the Free Software Foundation are feeling optimistic about our plans for 2016.d

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Glass Half – Brilliant and Hilarious short from the Blender Institute.
      Directed by Beorn Leonard and produced by Ton Roosendaal, Blender’s original founder and chairman of the Blender Foundation, the film is reminiscent in tone of Pixar’s shorts, with the key difference that all assets, including tutorials for some of the techniques used in the film, are free and can be downloaded from Blender’s Cloud storage service.

    • France’s first Digital Law co-created with citizens
      The French draft law Loi Numérique will be presented to the French Parliament on 19 January, after being co-created with citizens through an online public consultation. This is the first law in France resulting from a co-design process.

    • Open Data

      • Northern Ireland launches its open data portal
        Northern Ireland has officially launched its open data portal, OpenDataNI, the goal of which is to provide a global platform where public services and all governmental agencies can publish data.

        This CKan-based portal is now accessible through NIDirect, the official governmental portal for Northern Ireland citizens, which states that it provides ‘a single point of access to public sector information and services’.

    • Open Hardware

  • Programming


  • Cloudy With a Chance of Lock-In

    Software as a service to many people is the way to convert what used to be licensed software into a repeat revenue stream and in principle there is nothing wrong with that if done properly (Adobe almost gets it right). But if the internet connection is down and your software no longer works, if the data you painstakingly built up over years goes missing because a service dies or because your account gets terminated for no apparent reason and without any recourse you might come to the same conclusion that I came to: if it requires an online service and is not actually an online product I can do just fine without it.

  • Hysteria on social media as BBC websites go offline
    The BBC experienced a major technical issue on Thursday morning, with all of its websites and several of its digital services offline.

    "We're aware of a technical issue affecting the BBC website and are working to fix this now. We'll update you as soon as we can," the BBC press office said on Twitter.

    The internet did not cope well with this news.

  • A knighthood for Lynton Crosby: government under fire for political honours
    The government has been accused of turning the honours system into an “old boy’s club” after Lynton Crosby, the political strategist who ran the Conservatives’ 2015 election campaign, was awarded a knighthood.

  • Creationism Evangelist: God Put Contradictions in the Bible to ‘Weed Out’ the Atheists
    Young Earth creationism evangelist Kent Hovind asserted this week that God had purposefully put contradictions in the Bible to “weed out” non-believers.

  • Science

    • Heartfelt rationality
      The various branches of the alternative industry make a lot of claims, and a lot of money off these claims. We looked into homeopathy, healing, detox, acupuncture and strange panacea machines supposedly utilizing bio-resonance or quantum mechanics. (Astrologists, psychics and mediums got a showing too, but let’s leave them alone to lick their wounds for now.)

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Dad Arrested, His 2-yo Daughter Taken, for Successfully Treating Her Cancer with Cannabis Oil
      As cannabis is taken more seriously as a medicine and a treatment, more people are taking a chance and using it as a treatment for terminal illnesses. This treatment has had overwhelmingly positive results for countless people who had no other hope of recovery. Every day more stories and scientific studies are appearing from all over the world where people of all ages, even young children, are cured of life-threatening illnesses with cannabis oil.

    • Australia's big win in Philip Morris plain packaging arbitration
      Plain packaging has been a hot topic on the Kat this year, most recently with Guest Kat Niko's post on the topic here. But if you thought that would be the last on the matter in 2015, think again. From the AmeriKat's colleague, Jin Ooi (Allen & Overy), comes news of the latest development concerning Australia’s tobacco plain packaging legislation. The latest news saw a "win" for the Australian government against Philip Morris Asia Limited (“PM Asia”) in which the arbitral tribunal seated in Singapore issued a unanimous decision that it has no jurisdiction to hear Philip Morris’ claim.

  • Security

    • Don't believe the hype: That GRUB backspace bug wasn't a big deal
      You can hack any Linux system just by pressing the backspace key 28 times! That's what some sites would have you believe after an unfortunate GRUB bug was recently made public. But this won't actually allow you to easily own any Linux system.

    • Researcher criticises 'weak' crypto in Internet of Things alarm system
      Security shortcomings in an internet-connected burglar alarm system from UK firm Texecom leave it open to hack attacks, an engineer turned security researcher warns.

      Luca Lo Castro said he had come across shortcomings in the encryption of communication after buying Texecom’s Premier Elite Control Panel and ComIP module and assembling it.

      To be able to remote control the alarm system remotely, you open a firewall port in the router and do a port forwarding to the internet. But this allows the mobile app to directly connect to the ComIP module over an unencrypted connection, Lo Castro discovered.

      Using WireShark, he said he had discovered that data traffic between the mobile app and the control panel is done in clear text or encoded to BASE64. That means potentially confidential information like the alarm control panel (UDL) password, device name and location are exposed, as a blog post by Lo Castro explains.

    • New Year's Eve security updates

    • The current state of boot security
      I gave a presentation at 32C3 this week. One of the things I said was "If any of you are doing seriously confidential work on Apple laptops, stop. For the love of god, please stop." I didn't really have time to go into the details of that at the time, but right now I'm sitting on a plane with a ridiculous sinus headache and the pseudoephedrine hasn't kicked in yet so here we go.

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Sorry Bro, Maybe Next Week: Keep Calm and Troll ISIS
      Reminding us the Revolution may well be tweeted if not televised, ISIS again used its much-vaunted social media savvy this weekend to broadcast the first new online rallying cry since May. In the 24-minute address delivered through ISIS-aligned media accounts, leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told his audience, "Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well. We urgently call upon every Muslim to join the fight, especially those in the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia)." The message was re-tweeted in English by Iyad El-Baghdadi, a prominent human rights activist and ISIS foe initially confused by many online with al-Baghdadi himself. Soon after posting the ISIS message, he started getting mock replies from folks who preferred to join a growing, deft flurry of online anti-ISIS activity aimed at proving that "making fun of the enemy is the best way of defeating them."

    • Erdogan’s Family Caught in New Scandal
      The clan relations principle has been a prime factor in business affairs for centuries in numerous Islamic and Middle Eastern countries. Unfortunately, in recent months we’ve often witnessed evidence that in Turkey the family of Tayyip Erdogan has been transformed in some sort of carnivorous octopus that has not simply entangled the Turkish economy and politics, but has also extended its tentacles far beyond the state.

      It is hardly necessary to remind anyone of all the scandals in which the members of this family have been engaged. Here are just some examples of its connections with the Islamic State (ISIL) and other terrorist groups:

      Erdogan’s daughter – Sümeyye Erdogan – has been running a covert military hospital, which is treating Islamic State militants.

    • Syria Rebel Leader’s Assassination a Major Blow to US Agenda
      News of the death of prominent anti-Assad commander (or ‘terrorist,’ ‘rebel,’ ‘opposition commander,’ etc.) Zahran Alloush has the potential to radically alter the nature of the war in Syria.

    • Prior to San Bernardino Attack, Many Were Trained to Spot Terrorists; None Did
      These behavioral indicators have become central to the U.S. counterterrorism prevention strategy, yet critics say they don’t work. “Quite simply, they rely on generalized correlations found in selectively chosen terrorists without using control groups to see how often the correlated behaviors identified occur in the non-terrorist population,” Michael German, a former FBI agent who is currently a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, told The Intercept.

      The trainings are based on flawed theories that just don’t stand up to empirical scrutiny, according to German. “The FBI, [National Counter-Terrorism Center], and [Department of Homeland Security] promote these theories despite the fact they have been refuted in numerous academic studies over the past 20 years,” he said.

    • Fire engulfs Dubai hotel ahead of New Year celebrations
      A huge fire has engulfed a 63-storey hotel in central Dubai ahead of a New Year's Eve firework display.

      Despite the blaze at the Address hotel, the display at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, started as planned at midnight.

    • New Year's Eve Pyrotechnics Go On Despite Raging Hotel Fire in Dubai
      A massive fire was blazing at a 63-story hotel in downtown Dubai on Thursday night, near where tens of thousands of people had gathered for the world's largest New Year's Eve fireworks display.

      According to the Associated Press, "It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which ran up at least 20 stories of the building, which would likely have been packed with people because of its clear view of the 828-meter (905-yard) tall Burj Khalifa."

    • Iraq’s ‘Liberated’ Ramadi: 80% Destroyed, 30% Still ISIS-Held
      The vital capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, once a city of half a million people, Ramadi has in the past seven months fell to ISIS, was surrounded and bombarded, and now (mostly) recovered by Iraq. As Iraqi officials tout their victory, however, it seems what they really won is a big repair bill.

    • Over 51,000 Killed in Iraq during 2015 has found that at least 51,738 people were killed across Iraq during 2015, while at least 19,651 were wounded. The number of fatalities reported was slightly higher than in 2014, but the number of wounded was substantially lower. These figures should be taken as very rough estimates and probably low estimates at that.

  • Transparency Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Ten Weather Extremes That Defined Hottest Year Ever Recorded
      From droughts to floods to mega-storms, extreme weather over the past 365 days raises disturbing questions about future of climate chaos

    • Erin Brockovich: California Methane Gas Leak Is Worst U.S. Environmental Disaster Since BP Oil Spill
      Runaway natural gas leak above Los Angeles has emitted more than 150 million pounds of methane since late October.

    • Sick of El Niño? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, Warns NASA

      The El Niño currently wreaking havoc around the world is forecast to only worsen in 2016 — and NASA experts fear it could get as bad as the most destructive El Niño ever.

      A new satellite image of the weather system "bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997" — the worst El Niño on record — which was blamed for extreme weather, including record rainfall in California and Peru, heat waves across Australia, and fires in Indonesia. The severe conditions resulted in an estimated 23,000 deaths in 1997 and 1998.

    • BP partially evacuates North Sea Valhall oil field
      BP is partially evacuating an oilfield in the North Sea because a barge has broken loose and is drifting out of control in rough weather.

      BP says it employs 235 people in the Valhall oilfield but it cannot confirm the number of people who were being evacuated Thursday.

    • One dead and two injured after huge wave hits North Sea oil platform
      One worker has died and two others have been injured after huge waves hit a North sea platform. Statoil today confirmed the news after initially reporting three workers had been injured.

    • North Sea workers airlifted as barge drifts near Valhall field
      The barge was 110m in length and 30m wide and there were fears that it could ram one of the rigs.

    • BP Evacuates Employees From Oilfield in North Sea as Barge Detaches
      Oil and gas giant British Petroleum (BP) is partially evacuating its Valhall oilfield in the North Sea as one of its barges is drifting in the sea uncontrolled, local media reported Thursday.

    • Forests of southwest US face mass die-off by 2100
      California’s drought has already imperilled many of its trees, and within 80 years climate change could destroy the evergreen forests of the entire US southwest.

    • Freak storm pushes North Pole 50 degrees above normal to melting point
      This story has been updated to include buoy measurements that confirm the North Pole temperature climbed above 32 degrees on Wednesday.

    • The 5 Worst Fracking Moments of 2015
      Once again, in 2015 the oil and gas industry showed us the ludicrous lengths they will go to in order to frack more communities. In the process, they created ample fodder for Comedy Central, and the likes of John Oliver, John Stewart, Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore. Here are a few of the worst head-shaking stunts that made the news in 2015:

    • El Niño and war drive aid agencies to the brink
      Governments must act immediately to end conflicts and counter the impact of climate disruption so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe affecting millions.

    • The Paris Climate Agreement: Hope or Hype?
      Perhaps the most realistic assessment was posted by Guardian columnist George Monbiot on the day of the final deal. “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle,” he wrote. “By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.” It is clear that those who are praising the agreement and those who emphasize its shortcomings live in almost entirely different worlds.


      Still, the means for limiting average warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees are largely aspirational, and this is reflected in the agreement’s language throughout. Words like “clarity,” “transparency,” “integrity,” “consistency,” and “ambition” appear throughout the text, but there’s very little to assure that these aspirations can be realized. UN staff are to create all manner of global forums, working groups and expert panels to move the discussions forward but, as was clear prior to Paris, the main focus is to instill a kind of moral obligation to drive diplomats and their governments to take further steps. Article 15 of the agreement proposes a “mechanism to facilitate implementation and promote compliance,” but this takes the form of an internationally representative “expert-based” committee that is to be “transparent, non-adversarial and non-punitive.” This compliance “mechanism” is described in three short sentences in the main Agreement and another couple of paragraphs in the Adoption document; as predicted, there’s nothing to legally pressure intransigent countries or corporations to do much of anything.

    • 5 New Year's Resolutions For Reporting On Climate Change
      Whether they were covering extreme weather events or presidential campaign events, media outlets often came up short in their reporting on climate change this year. But 2016 will be a fresh opportunity for improved climate coverage. With that in mind, here are five resolutions for reporters looking to provide better coverage of climate change in the new year.

  • Finance

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Donald Trump Thanks Conspiracy Site For ‘Amazing Honor’ Of Being Its Man Of The Year
      WorldNetDaily’s founder and editor Joseph Farah is one of the nation’s leading purveyors of “birther” conspiracy theories — the repeatedly debunked notion that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya — publishing more than 600 posts on the topic. Even after Obama released his long-form birth certificate indicating his birth in Hawaii, Farah claimed that this proved nothing. Trump has frequently repeated these claims and Politico reported in 2011 that Farah frequently advised the billionaire investor and former reality show host.

    • Putin’s Magnificent Messaging Machine
      This is the new reality that I helped research while working with Columbia Journalism School’s “ RT Watch” project. For the better part of 2015, the project compiled RT’s output, attempting to examine how, or whether, RT deserves its reputation as a bulwark for Kremlin-friendly programming. Alongside a group of other Columbia graduate students, we watched, read, and consumed RT for hours a day, months on end. We piled our findings—the deceits, the distractions, the direction RT takes—over at the RT Watch blog, along with assorted social media accounts. As one observer said, we watched RT so you didn’t have to. After subsuming ourselves in the entire RT gestalt, I’d like to share some of the things I found.

  • Censorship

    • No, ISIS Isn’t Worth Sacrificing the First Amendment Over
      But America’s principles should be why we hold the nation to such a high standard, not give it a pass for good intentions and high-minded ideals. We say we’re for free speech, so we should mean it. Unfortunately, as we bomb and invade, so we sometimes violate free speech. For most of our history, we’ve managed to at least be better than the rest of the world when it comes to allowing free expression.

    • Twitter tightens rules on trolling and terror talk
      TWITTER IS CLOSING OFF 2015 with updated guidance on what it will and will not stand for on its microchatting pages.

      The Twitter rules have been updated and blogged about. The message is that change is necessary if the firm is to manage free speech and keep people happy.

      "We believe that protection from abuse and harassment is a vital part of empowering people to freely express themselves on Twitter," said Megan Cristina, who is dubbed a Twitter director for Trust + Safety.

    • Twitter clarifies rules on banned content, abusive behavior
      Twitter Inc has clarified its definition of abusive behavior that will prompt it to delete accounts, banning "hateful conduct" that promotes violence against specific groups.

    • Google Asked to Remove 558 Million “Pirate” Links in 2015
      Copyright holders asked Google to remove more than 560,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine in 2015. The staggering number is an increase of 60% compared to the year before. According to Google the continued surge is a testament that the DMCA takedown process is working, but some copyright holders disagree.

    • Ursula Gauthier: foreign media must fight China censorship, says expelled journalist
      French magazine journalist – ousted by Beijing after writing about repression of the Uighur minority – says reporters must find a way around barriers

    • Expelled French journalist 'surreal' ahead of China departure
      A French reporter forced to leave China by authorities after she criticised government policy in violence-wracked, mainly Muslim Xinjiang, said she had been left with a feeling of "surreality" Thursday ahead of her departure.

    • Expelled French journalist prepares to leave China
      A French reporter forced to leave China after she was accused of supporting terrorism for criticising government policy in violence-wracked, mainly Muslim Xinjiang, was preparing to leave on Thursday.

    • French journalist expelled from China for ‘supporting terrorism’ prepares to leave
      A French reporter forced to leave China after she was accused of supporting terrorism for criticising government policy in violence-wracked Xinjiang was preparing to leave on Thursday.

      Ursula Gauthier wrote an article in the magazine L’Obs questioning official comparisons between global terrorism and the unrest in Xinjiang.

    • China passes controversial counter-terrorism law
      China's parliament passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law on Sunday that requires technology firms to hand over sensitive information such as encryption keys to the government and allows the military to venture overseas on counter-terror operations.

      Chinese officials say their country faces a growing threat from militants and separatists, especially in its unruly Western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds have died in violence in the past few years.

  • Privacy

    • BREAKING: The United States Spies on Israel
      So that's that. The NSA spied on Netanyahu. That's a nothingburger. Of course they spied on Netanyahu. And the NSA says that they properly minimized the congressional end of any conversations between Netanyahu and a member of Congress. Since conservatives insist that we should take their word for this in general, why shouldn't we take their word for it now? Wake me up if it turns out there's anything more to this story.

    • EXCLUSIVE: Rubio Defends NSA Spying on Netanyahu In Private, Condemns It In Public
      Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) privately defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even as he publicly condemned the practice.

    • Ben Carson: NSA Spying on Israel ‘Is Truly Disgraceful’

    • Lawrence Lessig: Technology Will Create New Models for Privacy Regulation
      The latest chapter of Lawrence Lessig’s career ended in November, when the Harvard Law School professor concluded his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. That effort centered on his campaign to reform Congressional politics. Prior to that, Prof. Lessig’s scholarship, teaching and activism focused on technology policy and the Internet. He has argued for greater sharing of creative content, the easing of restrictions in areas such as copyright, and the concept of Net Neutrality. Prof. Lessig, who founded the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, is the author of numerous books on technology, including “Code: and Other Laws of Cyberspace,” and “The Future of Ideas: the Fate of the Commons in a Connected World.”

    • Tor project opens up bug bounty program
      DARK WEB GATEKEEPER AND PRIVACY ENABLER the Tor Project is taking a leaf out of the rest of the industry and is offering security researchers prizes for bringing its weaknesses to its attention.

      All eyes are on Tor already. The privacy-aware browser is already a hot topic at the National Security Agency (NSA), and has a price on its head in Russia. With such attention, it makes sense that the outfit behind it would seek to get ahead of the game.

    • How 2016’s war on encryption will change your way of life
      But encryption is now in the spotlight. Should the maths that underpins it be banned in the name of foiling terrorist plans, or should we accept that there is some information our governments will never know?

    • Dems brush off latest spying report
      Top Democrats in Congress are brushing off a report that U.S. intelligence intercepted communications between Israeli government officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

      Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it is no secret that the U.S. and Israel spy on each other, even though they are allies.

      “I’m not surprised,” he told The Hill. “I kind of think the report is much to do about nothing.”

      Engel, a staunch supporter of Israel, said he met twice behind closed doors with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer during the heated debate over the nuclear agreement with Iran. He said Dermer presented the Israeli government’s case against the deal.

    • U.S. House panel seeks information on NSA spying report
      A U.S. House of Representatives committee asked the National Security Agency on Wednesday for information about a media report that the agency, while spying on Israeli officials, also intercepted communications between the Israelis and members of Congress.

      In a letter to NSA Director Michael Rogers, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and subcommittee Chairman Ron DeSantis said the story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal raised "questions concerning the processes NSA employees follow in determining whether intercepted communications involved Members of Congress."

    • Rubio Outraged by Spying on Israel’s Government, OK with Mass Surveillance of Americans
      This news sparked a denunciation by Florida Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. “Obviously people read this report, they have a right to be concerned this morning about it,” said Rubio on Fox News Wednesday morning. “They have a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East – Israel – is. I actually think it might be worse than what some people might think, but this is an issue that we’ll keep a close eye on, and the role that I have in the intelligence committee.”
    • Encryption in the Balance: 2015 in Review
      If you’ve spent any time reading about encryption this year, you know we’re in the midst of a “debate.” You may have also noted that it’s a strange debate, one that largely replays the same arguments made nearly 20 years ago, when the government abandoned its attempts to mandate weakened encryption and backdoors. Now some parts of the government have been trying to revisit that decision in the name of achieving “balance” between user security and public safety. The FBI, for example, acknowledges that widespread adoption of encryption has benefits for users, but it also claims its investigations of terrorists, criminals, and other wrongdoers will “go dark” unless it has a legal authority and the technical capability to read encrypted data. But because the principles of what makes encryption secure haven’t changed, the only “balance” that can satisfy the government’s goals is no balance at all—it would require dramatically rolling back the spread of strong encryption.

    • Americans Evaluate the Balance between Security and Civil Liberties
      In the latest Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, 54 percent of Americans say it can be necessary for the government to sacrifice freedoms to fight terrorism; 45 percent disagree. About half of Americans think it is acceptable to allow warrantless government analysis of internet activities and communications—even of American citizens—in order to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. About 3 in 10 are against this type of government investigation.
    • NSA Critics Gleefully Accuse Surveillance Hawks of Hypocrisy
      Privacy advocates are accusing politicians generally deferential to the government's mass surveillance programs of hypocrisy after leading hawks expressed concern about the possible collection of their own communications.

      Collection on members of Congress, revealed this week by The Wall Street Journal, was performed by the National Security Agency with a wink-and-nod from the White House, which was intent on countering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bid to derail the Iran nuclear deal.

    • The Dark Web — interview on TRT World
    • Victories in California and Virginia Alongside a Setback in Florida: 2015 in Review
      Congress took action in 2015 to address privacy and transparency, but state legislatures emerged as the nation’s leaders for policy innovation. From Virginia to California, states adopted new policies to reclaim digital privacy, advance government transparency, and protect free expression. These new laws both protect residents of these states, and also provide models for other jurisdictions to emulate.

    • Chaffetz, Stewart want answers about NSA spying on Congress, world leaders
    • Republicans fast to object to NSA spying when it involves Israel
      A recent report has revealed that the National Security Agency intercepted communications involving Israeli officials and members of Congress. Republicans are now requesting that the NSA provide them with the details.

    • Congress to Investigate Report That US Spied on Lawmakers
      The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has opened an investigation into U.S. surveillance practices following a report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that the National Security Agency (NSA), an intelligence agency in the executive branch, may have intentionally swept up communications between U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials.
    • U.S. Rep. Peter King calls for NSA to brief Congress
      U.S. Rep. Peter King said reports that the National Security Agency dropped in on private conversations of congressmen while spying on Israel raise questions about whether the lawmakers were the real target — and the legality of the whole operation.

    • NSA spying on US and Israeli politicians stirs Congress from Christmas slumbers
      After two years of doing little about the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, the US Congress has sprung into action in less than two days – with investigations into the NSA spying on some the legislature's members.
    • U.S. lawmakers communiques snared in NSA surveillance of Netanyahu

  • Civil Rights

    • 2015: The Year in Gun Politics
      The politics of guns in 2015 was largely shaped by a series of newsmaking horrible multiple-casualty murders in public places. Each one inspired Democratic Party politicians, including President Obama and frontrunning 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to call for a similar set of what they now call “common sense gun safety” laws (“gun control” has lost its luster since Al Gore’s 2000 presidential loss).

    • New Study Confirms Insidious GOP Racism in 2008 Presidential Race
      A new study clears up any lingering doubt that the Republican Party engaged in the tactic of dogwhistle politics in the 2008 presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. The study, which was published online this month in Public Opinion Quarterly, shows that the McCain campaign's negative ads about Obama overwhelmingly featured him with a darker skin tone in a subtle attempt to appeal to voters' racial prejudices.

    • Powerful New York Daily News Cover Actually Understates The Case Against Bill Cosby
      But the cover actually understates the weight of the evidence against Cosby. It’s not just the detailed allegations of more than 50 women that implicates Cosby. He is also implicated by his own description of his conduct.

      Kevin Steele, the Pennsylvania prosecutor who charged Cosby today, relied on Cosby’s own statements to support a charge of Aggravated Indecent Assault. The criminal complain filed by Steele revealed that Cosby told police investigators that he gave Amanda Comstand “one whole pill and one half pill” of “over-the-counter Benadryl” even though he knew the pills would “make him go to sleep right away.” He then acknowledged having sexual contact with her when he knew she would not be fully conscious.

    • This Was the Year Tech Became the Bad Guy
      In the first season of Veep, the brilliant political comedy from HBO, Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gets, um, wind that in the coming year, a hurricane will share her name. “Shit!” she says. “What if it hits and we get headlines saying, ‘Selina causing large-scale devastation?'” Needless to say, her staff eventually gets the name of the storm changed.

      It’s hilarious, and it’s consistent with the show’s portrayal of much of Washington as an endless cycle of image control and crisis management. How much should we trust it?

    • South Korea’s Betrayal of the “Comfort Women”
      On December 28th, 2015, the foreign ministers of Japan and Korea, suddenly and hastily announced a “resolution” to the “comfort women” issue, women trafficked and exploited as sexual slaves by the Japanese Army during WWII. This involved an apology by the Japanese prime minister, and the creation of fund for reparations.

      “The issue of ‘comfort women’ was a matter which, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, severely injured the honor and dignity of many women,” said the Japanese Foreign Minister. 1 billion yen ($8.3M) was also promised to the fund to assist the 46 surviving comfort women.

    • Give a Drunk (or Anyone) a Free Ride Home on New Year's Eve, Accept a Tip, Face $500 Fine
      It's always amusing, if only bitterly, when government shows its true colors of obdurate opposition to human safety and happiness in the name of its bogus authority.

    • A History Defined by the Trade in Human Beings
      The history of the US is soaked in blood.


      As Ned and Constance Sublette make clear in their comprehensive and exhaustive history, The American Slave Coast, that profit was not only determined by the labor of the enslaved but also in the slaves’ bodies themselves, including the potential production of more slaves. The authors call this latter status the “capitalized womb.” In a manner similar to the projection of an animal’s potential reproduction capabilities through several generations, the potential offspring of enslaved girls and women was considered when they were sold and when their owners applied for credit. As an example, supposedly when one kills a hen with their vehicle in some countries, the driver of the vehicle pays the farmer who owned the hen for the hen, but also for all the chickens the hen might have produced and another generation that those chickens would have produced. There is a certain formula used by the legal system in these situations to determine the sum total owed by the offending driver. Slaveowners and traders also agreed upon such a formula in the antebellum United States.

    • Corbyn’s Enemies Within: Working Class Heroes or Right Wing Populists?
      Although extreme, Danczuk, unfortunately, is far from anomalous within the Labour Party at present, both in parliament and in local councils. Following the expulsion of socialists in the 1980s and 1990s and, later, the creation of Tony Blair’s nefarious “New Labour”, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has been dominated by neoliberal apologists and class collaborationists. What differentiates Danczuk from this clique, however, is his constant and calculated appeals to a speciously defined working class culture in order to justify his divisive views.
    • A Most Unhappy New Year at Guantanamo
      Reuters reporters Charles Levinson and David Rohde (the former New York Times reporter who was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for seven months, until he escaped) cite Ba Odah’s case in their latest article, writing, “Pentagon officials have been throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president’s plan to close Guantanamo.”

    • Horrifying Video Shows Cops Sic K-9 on Infant Daughter of a Man they Mistook for a Suspect
      Before Arenas-Alvarez could communicate to the officers that his infant daughter was in the car, the “two minutes” had passed and Sgt. Mitchell arrived with his Belgian Malinois. Almost as soon as he exited the vehicle, Mithcell released the K-9 into the SUV of an entirely innocent man and his daughter. Photo Credit: c/o The Free Thought Project

      Henderson, NV — On January 30, 2015, a health food store in Henderson called the police after a disgruntled customer, attempting to return some protein powder, allegedly threatened to rob them. The store described the suspect to police as a black male wearing a black and tan t-shirt who left in an SUV. Shop â–¾

      As police responded to the call, they quickly stopped the first person they saw, who happened to be Arturo Arenas-Alvarez. Arenas-Alvarez had just pulled up in the shopping center to do some shopping when police drew their weapons and demanded he put his hands in the air and step toward them.

      Arenas-Alvarez did not appear to understand why multiple armed men were pointing their guns at him, so one officer asked him in Spanish to approach the vehicle.

      Before Arenas-Alvarez makes it all the way to the vehicle, officers realized they had the wrong guy.


      Below is the horrifying video of the incident which illustrates the sheer violent and unaccountable nature of police in the US.
    • 2015: The Year in Fear
      Criminals, terrorists, and madmen with guns—how fears of violence reshaped American politics

    • The GOP Has Become the Party From George Orwell’s Nightmares
      When an entire field of candidates tend to thrive on bullshit (especially the current front-runners), it is not at all surprising that they have certain reliable terms that vilify critics of their bullshit and shut down debate. The truth is, Republicans have long utilized a manipulative phraseology, full of euphemisms and doublespeak, used either to shut down criticism and debate, as shown above, or to acerbate the listener’s emotional state — think “baby parts” and “death panels” — or provide a positive light on something that is generally frowned upon. (Ergo: Tax-avoiding billionaires become “job-creators.”) The GOP has become truly masterful at distorting political discussion through language, and at each Republican debate, just about every candidate showcases this manipulation. In George Orwell’s classic essay on this subject, “Politics and the English Language,” he seems to describe modern Republicans to a tee, repeating the same tired, yet convenient phrases (the phrases have changed, of course).
    • Texas Legislator Claimed Rape Doesn’t Exist In Marriage
      Texas State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) apologized Wednesday after the Texas Observer published a 2008 quote from an online post in which the lawmaker joked that nothing a husband does to his wife could possibly be rape.

      The rape “joke,” accompanied by a yellow smiley emoticon giving a thumbs-up sign, was : “Rape is non existent in marriage, take what you want my friend!”

      Stickland told the publication that he ““severely regrets” the comments now. “I do not feel that way today. I can only repent and ask for forgiveness from the people it offended and hurt. Rape is serious and should never be joked about the way that I did regardless of my age,” he explained. Stickland’s official biography indicates that he is now 32 years old.

    • Citizenship-stripping on the Rise Worldwide
      The debate may prove to be academic—a new opinion poll shows 86 percent of French people saying oui to the idea. If approved, the amendment might still be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights, but don't hold your breath: Citizenship-stripping in the name of fighting terrorism is on the rise worldwide, including in Europe.
    • What About the Police Crime Rate?
      The failure to indict a police officer for yet another killing of a young, Black person – this time a child, 12-year-old Tamir Rice – should outrage us and cause us to look more deeply at the structures that make both Rice’s shooting and the non-indictment mutually reinforcing acts. Similarly, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the brilliant organizing within it compels us to look at the relationship between crime and policing in a new way: it forces our society to confront how it allows the police to get away with committing crimes against Black and brown communities.

      When it comes to policing, civil and human rights lawyers are myth busters. We work with organizers, activists and journalists, to bust storied myths, passed down through generations, that attempt to normalize unaccountable police power and the abuses that inevitably flow from it. We also bust the myths about Black and brown criminality that many people believe are true, but simply aren’t.

    • Law, Order, and Social Suicide
      Want a ringside seat for the war on crime? Go to A few hours ago (as I write this), the site had listed 1,191 police killings in the U.S. this year. I just looked again.

      The total is up one.
    • The most important movies of 2015 were not in any theater
      Every December, I make a list of what I think are the best movies released that year. It has never seemed so beside the point as it does this time, looking back at 12 months in which the moving images that actually mattered — the ones that needed to change the national conversation and maybe even started to — weren’t on multiplex screens or dialed up through our cable guide but came crashing through our browsers, our cellphones, and on the nightly news.

      To me, the most important movie of 2015 was the police car dash-cam video of the July arrest of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman, in Prairie View, Texas. Not just the three minutes or so of the altercation with a white police officer that resulted in Bland’s being taken to the local jail, where she allegedly hung herself three days later, but the entire 52-minute expanse of the tape, for reasons I’ll discuss in a moment.

    • Christmas with Assange
      Confined in Ecuador’s embassy in London, Assange shows a patent physical and psychological deterioration. But with his intellectual voracity and capacity of attention intact, he seeks international and Argentinean support.
    • Jeb Bush Says No Need For Federal Investigation In Tamir Rice Case
      Former Florida governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told reporters that a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers in the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice shows that “the process worked.”

      “If there is a grand jury that looks at all the facts and doesn’t indict maybe there’s reasons for that,” Bush said Wednesday night in Lexington, South Carolina. “I don’t believe that every grand jury is racist.”

    • Los Angeles Saw a Huge Crime Increase in 2015. Or Did It?
      It's also sort of stunning that apparently violent crime was basically flat in the second half of the year. That means violent crime was up about 40 percent from January-June, and then dropped to 0 percent in July-December. This is...a little hard to believe. And no, the deployment of 200 more Metro cops can't even remotely account for that.

      Anyway, I'll be curious to see what happens next year. Maybe this whole thing is just an artifact of better crime statistics. Hard to say. In any case, the mayor says LA is safer than at any time since the 1950s. I'm not sure how he figures that, but apparently that means there's nothing to worry about. Go about your business, citizens.
    • Christian Religious Liberty Is More Popular Than Religious Liberty For Everyone Else
      Most Americans believe Muslims deserve religious freedom, according to a poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 61 percent said religious liberty was important for people of Muslim faith, though the number is dwarfed by the 82 percent who believe Christians’ religious liberty is important.

      The figure wasn’t drastically different along political lines either, as 60 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats supported religious protections for Muslims. Those numbers for Christians were 88 and 83 percent, respectively.

      “These numbers seem to be part of a growing climate of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States,” Madihha Ahussain, an attorney for Muslim Advocates, a California-based civil rights group, told AP. “This climate of hatred has contributed to dozens of incidents of anti-Muslim violence in recent weeks.”

    • Neighbors and Family Recount Chilling Details in Chicago Police Shooting
      Eyewitness accounts from neighbors appear to confirm a Chicago police officer began shooting into the home of Quintonio Legrier and Bettie Jones from several feet away while standing on the sidewalk. That contradicts the police department's early account, which suggests one of the officers opened fire in the entryway after Legrier confronted him.

      Legrier, a 19-year-old engineering student, and Jones, a 55-year-old mother of five and workers' rights activist, were shot on Saturday when officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at their home around 4:30 a.m. Jones opened the door when police responded to a call from Legrier's father.
    • Male Legislator Mocks His Colleague’s Nipples In Push To Ban Public Exposure
      Members of New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled state legislature are pushing for a bill that would make it illegal for a woman to show her nipples in public. And while the bill contains an exemption for breast-feeding, that didn’t stop representatives from sharing their opinions on the matter of public breast-feeding on social media Tuesday night.

    • Florida 911 Dispatcher Accidentally Shoots and Kills Daughter
      The Orlando Sentinel reports Sherry Campbell, who works as a 911 dispatcher, told investigators she was awakened by what she thought was a stranger breaking into her home. That noise was actually the sound of her daughter, Ashley Doby, moving about the house. Campbell fired a single shot that fatally struck Doby in the chest.
    • Obama Reportedly Will Move To Expand Gun Background Checks By Executive Order
      In 2015, 457 people died from 353 mass shootings (as of December 17). After Congress blocked legislative efforts, the president will now take executive action to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals.

    • Police Union Boss on Tamir Rice: ‘Act Like a Thug and You’ll Be Treated Like One’
      His comment calls to mind those made by current and former heads of the Cleveland union, which represents the officers responsible for Rice’s death. Former boss Jeffrey Follmer previously said on MSNBC that Rice was an imminent lethal threat who might have survived had he listened to police commands—even though the 12-year-old boy was given less than one second to react to purely hypothetical orders before he was fired upon. Current boss Steve Loomis had even worse things to say: he called Rice “menacing.”
    • People Are Fed Up: Protests of 2015
      This year saw a flood of passionate, creative, often furious protests, with many in this country focused on racist police and economic inequality. Revisit some of those most powerfully suggesting that, with concerted collective action, change is possible. Take heart. And a peaceful new year.

    • Cops Not Punished After Beating Innocent Child So Bad with Flashlight He’s Permanently Disabled
      Grand Rapids, MI — Suffering permanent physical and mental damage after a Michigan police officer savagely beat his head bloody with a flashlight, an unarmed teen recently filed a federal lawsuit against the cops for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. Although the teen was cleared of the charges against him, none of the officers involved in the beating received any disciplinary action.
    • Reasons to Celebrate: Key Progressive Gains in 2015
      Among the progressive issues that won on local ballots this fall, November 4th, voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage in the five states where they appeared.

      The year also saw decisions to have phased-in minimum wage hikes in Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland, and San Francisco.

      And the Huffington Post points to a recent analysis showing that workers in 14 states will see the minimum wage go up.

      Contributor Erik Sherman wrote previously at Forbes: "With 28 states now supporting minimum wages higher than the federal level, pressure on Congress will increase, while states with lower figures could find themselves economically uncompetitive for workers and, therefore, businesses."

    • 5 Cities Where Police Reform Efforts Will Play Out in 2016
      In the summer of 2014, a series of incidents of police brutality brought the issue of excessive force into the mainstream national debate. Since then, progress on the reform front has been slow, but still moving. Police shootings in 2015, from that of Walter Scott in South Carolina to Jamar Clark in Minneapolis, have received more attention, from the media, the public, and authorities, than similar cases in previous years. That's led to a tripling in prosecutions of police officers on murder and manslaughter charges in 2015—there were a total of 18 cops charged this year. This year also saw the White House launch a panel on police reform, which called for more guidelines, training, and spending, but offered little in the way of introspection on how our culture of more laws contributes to endemic police violence.

    • 2015: The Year in Gun Politics

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • #SaveTheInternet - did you e-mail TRAI yet?
      So, you must've heard about Facebook's plan to "bring the Internet to the poor in India" that they've named Basics. If you've read the plan in detail, you'll see that it isn't really bringing the Internet to anyone for free. Well, technically it is, but let's look at the complete picture before we begin celebrating, shall we?

      Fact: "Free basics" is not providing free access to the whole of the Internet.

    • Your New Years Resolution: Tell The EU Not To Undermine The Foundations Of The Internet
      For a few weeks now, we've been telling you about a worrisome EU consultation on regulating the internet. That consultation was supposed to end today -- but it's been extended a week. As we noted recently, the survey technology built by the EU Commission had a major bug in it, meaning that many people had their submissions rejected. Based on this, we requested that they extend the survey. We got back two separate responses, the first telling us that they were very sorry, but it would be "impossible" to extend the survey. The second response was that they had agreed to extend the survey one week... but only for people who had run into problems. Given the two conflicting responses, I asked for more information on this (including how they would keep it open only for those people). I also asked if they were planning to announce this anywhere. I was told that it would likely be impossible to make an announcement, and I never heard anything else, as I believe many left for the holidays.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Patent amendments not allowed during court proceedngs, rules Malaysia's highest court
      It is so easy to get wrapped up in one's own orbit. What impacts you right here and right now, be it your local weather, your commuter train delays or the decision of your local patents judge, is often as far as your daily horizon ventures. However, it is becoming increasingly important that IP practitioners look further afield as to what is happening in IP law and practice in other jurisdictions. Much like a lion, the IPKat prides itself in bringing news of important decisions from other jurisdictions.

    • The Return of the Patent Troll: 2015 in Review

      The lack of action in Congress was 2015’s biggest disappointment. House and Senate committees both managed to pass reasonable bills aimed at reducing litigation abuse by patent trolls. Meanwhile, opponents of reform tried to muddy the waters by introducing a terrible bill that would make it even harder to challenge bad patents at the Patent Office. In the end, legislative reform efforts stalled over the summer and Congress did nothing. Lawmakers might return to the issue before the next election. With trolls running rampant, we need legislative reform now more than ever.

      While we did not see blockbuster Supreme Court patent decisions like last year, there was some progress in the courts. Most importantly, the lower courts have applied the 2014 ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank (which held that abstract ideas do not become patentable simply because they are implemented on generic computers) to invalidate a significant number of abstract software patents. The outlier, of course, is the Eastern District of Texas which is granting motions based on Alice at much lower rates than other courts. This has created an even greater incentive for trolls to flock to that district.

    • Price Controls Will Slow Drug Innovation
      Last session, legislators introduced AB 463, which would have required drug companies to detail the profits and expenses on the development of all treatments that cost more than $10,000. It failed, but it was part of this same anti-gouging approach epitomized in the drug-price ballot initiative.

    • Wikipedia, Again
      I loved the idea of Wikipedia in the early years. I used to read encyclopaediae, the dead-tree-kind, as a boy. My father bought them from door-to-door salesmen. I kept them with me for years. With the Internet and search engines the dead-tree-kinds are pretty well obsolete. When Wikipedia came along, I made a local copy for use in the North. The Internet connection could drop and we were still on the air thanks to a LAMP stack. Kids loved it. I worked at it. It took weeks of sifting through articles and hundreds of thousands of images to remove age-inappropriate content. I did that.

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