Bonum Certa Men Certa

Links 16/9/2016: Uber Uses GNU/Linux, Dell's New Laptops

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source


  • Health/Nutrition

    • Delinkage Of R&D Costs From Product Prices
      It is essential that policy makers reform the systems for financing R&D, and de-link the costs of R&D from the prices of products.

      First, let’s reflect on why we have high drug prices. When we grant monopolies on products, through patents or other measures, the company that has the monopoly exploits the monopoly, fairly predictably, to maximize profits, and increasingly, this means aggressive pricing.

      Why do we have public policies to create monopolies? Because that is part of our system of funding R&D. That is really the only reason to create the monopolies in the first place.

      But, there is an alternative that would do a better job of funding R&D, with low drug prices, and that is a system that is based on delinkage.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Latest Estimate Pegs Cost of Wars at Nearly $5 Trillion
      The total U.S. budgetary cost of war since 2001 is $4.79 trillion, according to a report released this week from Brown University’s Watson Institute. That’s the highest estimate yet.

      Neta Crawford of Boston University, the author of the report, included interest on borrowing, future veterans needs, and the cost of homeland security in her calculations.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Swedish Court Upholds Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange
      The 45-year-old Australian has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June 2012, seeking refuge there after exhausting all his legal options in Britain against extradition to Sweden.

      Assange has refused to travel to Stockholm for questioning over the rape allegation, which he denies, due to concerns Sweden will extradite him to the US over WikiLeaks' release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      This is the eighth time the European arrest warrant has been tested in a Swedish court. All of the rulings have gone against him.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Exxon lobbying: New documents reveal push against electric cars
      Exxon is lobbying the UK government to stop them pushing for electric vehicles as a way of tackling climate change or air pollution, according to documents obtained under Freedom of Information rules (FOI) by DeSmog UK.

      The documents reveal the firm lobbied UK transport department officials in three separate presentations given after the UK signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change last year.

    • Two hurt as train derailed in flood landslide near Watford Junction
      The 06:19 BST service from Milton Keynes to Euston left the track at about 07:00 BST, Network Rail said.

      A portion of the train derailed and was then hit by another train. It was a "glancing blow" and the other train continued on its way.

      A man was treated for a neck injury and a woman treated for chest pains.

      London Midland and Virgin services remain "severely disrupted" from the north-west, Scotland, and the Midlands.

  • Finance

    • Hatch Still Trying To Change The Finalized TPP Deal To Make It Even Worse For Other Nations
      As Techdirt noted in 2014, by agreeing to the "fast track" procedure for trade deals, Congress has essentially given up its power to change them. That's a two-edged sword. Although it makes the ratification process simpler, because things like TPP and TTIP must be accepted or rejected in their entirety, it also means that political bosses have no ability to tweak the text to make it more likely the deals will be ratified. That's coming back to bite one of the people who introduced the fast track bill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.

    • Deutsche Bank: No plan to pay $14B Justice Dept. settlement
      Deutsche Bank AG said Friday it does not intend to pay $14 billion to settle civil claims with the U.S. Department of Justice for its handling of residential mortgage-backed securities and related transactions.

      The bank confirmed in a statement that the Justice Department had proposed a settlement of $14 billion and asked the German bank to make a counter proposal.

    • Northern Powerhouse: George Osborne to stay and fight for project
      George Osborne has said he will stay in the Commons to "fight for the things I care about" as he launches a think tank to promote the Northern Powerhouse.

      Mr Osborne, who was sacked as chancellor by Theresa May, said: "I don't want to write my memoirs because I don't know how the story ends."

      There had been a "bit of a wobble" by Mrs May over the project, he said.

      No 10 says Mrs May is building on his plan to create a northern economy to rival London and the South East.

    • Over 200 Economics & Law Professors Urge Congress To Reject Corporate Sovereignty Provisions In Trade Deals
      We've written quite a lot for years about the massive problems with "corporate sovereignty" provisions in trade agreements -- so-called "investor state dispute settlement" (ISDS) provisions -- that allow companies to "sue" countries for regulations they feel are unfair. These aren't heard by courts, but rather by "tribunals" chosen by the companies and the countries. Some supporters of these provisions claim that there's really nothing wrong with them because they help encourage both investment in different countries and more stable and fair regulations.

    • TPP members agree not to renegotiate sweeping free trade deal
      The 12 countries that signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact earlier this year agreed Monday that they will not renegotiate the deal, Japan’s TPP minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.

      The minister also told reporters the 12 nations confirmed they will move ahead with domestic processes quickly to adopt the U.S.-led trade pact.

      Ishihara’s remarks came after he joined ambassadors and other representatives from 11 countries for a TPP meeting at the official residence of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy in Tokyo.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • State Department Delays Records Request About Clinton-Linked Firm Until After The 2016 Election
      Beacon Global Strategies is a shadowy consulting firm that’s stacked with former Obama administration officials, high profile Republicans and a number of Hillary Clinton’s closest foreign policy advisers. But beyond its billing as a firm that works with the defense industry, it is unclear for whom specifically the company works, exactly what it does, and if Beacon employees have tried to influence national security policy since the firm’s founding in 2013.

      And now the Obama administration has complicated the effort to find out — at least until after the presidential election. Last week, the State Department delayed its response to a 2015 public records request for any correspondence between Beacon and agency officials until May 2017.

    • Nigel Farage aide defects to Tories claiming a mass exodus from Ukip
      One of Nigel Farage’s closest aides, who headed Ukip’s media operation for three years, has said the party has “disintegrated” and that she has joined the surge of members and supporters turning to the Conservatives.

      Alexandra Phillips said Theresa May had delivered on all key elements of Ukip’s 2015 election manifesto “within a matter of months”, leaving her former party with few places to go in policy terms.

      “I think ideologically the Tories are doing the Ukip dance now,” she said, pointing to policies on Brexit, immigration, grammar schools and fracking. Phillips said Farage had been “inspirational” to work with and would be remembered as “one of the most incredible politicians of our generation”.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Congressman In Charge Of OPM Hacking Report Announces Plan To Investigate Stingray Use Next
      It's a good point, one fresh in the mind of millions thanks to the just-delivered OPM report. The government appears willing to take security seriously if it means doling out tax dollars to dozens of agencies with cyberstars in their eyes and crafting bad legislation, but not so much when it comes to actually ensuring its own backyard is locked down.

      Chaffetz was one of the legislators behind the 2015 attempt to turn the DOJ's Stingray guidance into law, laying down a warrant requirement for US law enforcement. Unfortunately, the bill went nowhere. Presumably, a thorough investigation into law enforcement use of this repurposed war tech might prompt more legislative cooperation in the future.

      Chaffetz has done little to endear himself to security and law enforcement agencies since his arrival on the Hill. In addition to the failed Stingray warrant bill, Chaffetz also partnered with Ron Wyden to attempt to add a warrant requirement for law enforcement GPS tracking -- something the Supreme Court almost addressed in its US v. Jones decision.

    • Edward Snowden: House Intelligence Committee Slams NSA Leaker As Disgruntled Employee, Thief
    • Congress Celebrates Snowden Release by Accusing NSA Whistleblower of Invading Privacy
    • ‘He is not a whistleblower. He is a criminal’: Scathing congressional report slams Edward Snowden and says he leaked secrets that 'caused tremendous damage' to national security
    • ‘He is not a whistleblower. He is a criminal’: Scathing congressional report slams Edward Snowden and says he leaked secrets that 'caused tremendous damage' to national security
    • NSA Whistleblower Condemns Mass Surveillance | UK-Argentina Relations Thaw
      Today’s main stories: NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, protagonist of the film The Good American which is premiered in the UK tonight, reveals that the 9/11 attacks in New York and many more recent terrorist attacks across Europe could have been avoided if the US had not relied on methods of mass surveillance. Bill Binnie and the film’s director, Friedrich Moser join us in the studio to discuss the ethics of mass surveillance and whether Edward Snowden could receive a presidential pardon.

    • National Security Officials Offer Hedged Support For Strong Encryption
      As Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr mount another attempt to legislate holes in encryption, national security officials are offering testimony suggesting this is no way to solve the perceived problem. Another encryption hearing, again hosted by a visibly irritated John McCain (this time the villain is Twitter), featured testimony from NSA Director Michael Rogers [PDF] and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre [PDF] -- neither of whom offered support for mandated backdoors.

      As nice as that sounds, the testimony wasn't so much "We support strong encryption," as it was "We support strong encryption*."

      Lettre's testimony follows statements of support for encryption -- and opposition to legislated backdoors or "golden keys" -- with the veiled suggestion that the government will be leaning heavily on tech companies to solve this problem for it.
    • If Snowden Doesn’t Know Privacy Protections of 702, That’s a Problem with NSA Training
      The House Intelligence Committee just released a report — ostensibly done to insist President Obama not pardon Snowden — that is instead surely designed as a rebuttal to the Snowden movie coming out in general release tomorrow. Why HPSCI sees it as their job to refute Hollywood I don’t know, especially since they didn’t make the same effort when Zero Dark Thirty came out, which suggests they are serving as handmaidens of the Intelligence Community, not an oversight committee.

      There will be lots of debates about the validity of the report. In some ways, HPSCI admits they’re being as inflammatory as possible, as when they note that the IC only did a damage assessment of what they think Snowden took, whereas DOD did a damage assessment of every single thing he touched. HPSCI’s claims are all based on the latter.

      There are things that HPSCI apparently doesn’t realize makes them and the IC look bad — not Snowden — such as the claim that he never obtained a high school equivalent degree; apparently people can just fake basic credentials and the CIA and NSA are incapable of identifying that. The report even admits a previously unknown contact between Snowden and CIA’s IG, regarding the training of IT specialists. BREAKING: Snowden did try to report something through an official channel!

    • Review: ‘Snowden,’ Oliver Stone’s Restrained Portrait of a Whistle-Blower
      Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” a quiet, crisply drawn portrait of the world’s most celebrated whistle-blower, belongs to a curious subgenre of movies about very recent historical events. Reversing the usual pattern, it could be described as a fictional “making of” feature about “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning documentary on the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. That film seems to me more likely to last — it is deeper journalism and more haunting cinema — but Mr. Stone has made an honorable and absorbing contribution to the imaginative record of our confusing times. He tells a story torn from slightly faded headlines, filling in some details you may have forgotten, and discreetly embellishing the record in the service of drama and suspense.

      In the context of this director’s career, “Snowden” is both a return to form and something of a departure. Mr. Stone circles back to the grand questions of power, war and secrecy that have propelled his most ambitious work, and finds a hero who fits a familiar Oliver Stone mold. Edward (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, leaning hard on a vocal imitation) is presented as a disillusioned idealist, a serious young man whose experiences lead him to doubt accepted truths and question the wisdom of authority. He has something in common with Jim Garrison in “J.F.K.” and Ron Kovic in “Born on the Fourth of July,” and also with Chris Taylor and Bud Fox, the characters played by Charlie Sheen in “Platoon” and “Wall Street.”

    • If Someone Is Testing Ways To Take Down The Internet, Perhaps It's Time To Build A Stronger Internet
      This article is getting a collective "oh, shit, that's bad" kind of reaction from many online -- and that's about right. But, shouldn't it also be something of a call to action to build a better system? In many ways, it's still incredible that the internet actually works. There are still elements that feel held together by duct tape and handshake agreements. And while it's been surprisingly resilient, that doesn't mean that it needs to remain that way.

      Schneier notes that there's "nothing, really" that can be done about these tests -- and that's true in the short term. But it seems, to me, like it should be setting off alarm bells for people to rethink how the internet is built -- and to make things even more distributed and less subject to attacks on "critical infrastructure." People talk about how the internet was originally supposed to be designed to withstand a nuclear attack and keep working. But, the reality has always been that there are a few choke points. Seems like now would be a good time to start fixing things so that the choke points are no longer so critical.
    • As “Snowden” Opens, Three Largest Rights Groups in U.S. Call on Obama for a Pardon
      The day after the New York premiere of Oliver Stone’s new movie, “Snowden,” the three largest human rights organizations in the U.S. teamed up to launch a campaign calling on President Obama to pardon the NSA whistleblower.

      Snowden himself spoke via video from Moscow at a press conference Wednesday morning alongside representatives from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.

      Snowden called whistleblowing “democracy’s safeguard of last resort” and argued that if the Obama administration does not reverse its practice of prosecuting whistleblowers, it would leave a legacy of secrecy that is damaging to democracy.

    • Rights Groups, Riding Film Publicity, Urge Pardon for Edward Snowden
      Three human rights groups on Wednesday urged President Obama to pardon Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked secret documents about National Security Agency surveillance in 2013 and is living in Russia as a fugitive from criminal charges.

      The start of the campaign coincides with the theatrical release this week of the movie “Snowden,” a sympathetic, fictionalized version of his story by the director Oliver Stone. Together, the film and the campaign, called “Pardon Snowden,” opened a new chapter in the debate about the surveillance Mr. Snowden revealed and about whether his leaks will go down in history as whistle-blowing or treason.

    • Former CIA Officer: President Obama Should Pardon Edward Snowden
      This week, Edward Snowden, multiple human rights and civil rights groups, and a broad array of American citizens asked President Obama to exercise his Constitutional power to pardon Snowden. As a former CIA officer, I wholeheartedly support a full presidential pardon for this brave whistleblower.

      All nations require some secrecy. But in a democracy, where the government is accountable to the people, transparency should be the default; secrecy, the exception. And this is especially true regarding the implementation of an unprecedented system of domestic bulk surveillance, a mere precursor of which Senator Frank Church warned 40 years ago could lead to the eradication of privacy and the imposition of “total tyranny.”

      That today we are engaged in a meaningful debate about whether such a system is desirable is almost entirely due to the conscience, courage and conviction of one man: Edward Snowden. Without Snowden, the American people could not balance for themselves the risks, costs and benefits of omniscient domestic surveillance. Because of him, we can.

      For this service, the government has charged Snowden under the World War I-era Espionage Act. Yet Snowden did not sell information secretly to any enemy of America. Instead, he shared it openly through the press with the American people.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • CBP Fails to Meaningfully Address Risks of Gathering Social Media Handles
      Last month we submitted comments to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, opposing its proposal to gather social media handles from foreign visitors from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries. CBP recently provided its preliminary responses (“Supporting Statement”) to several of our arguments (CBP also extended the comment deadline to September 30). But CBP has not adequately addressed the points we made.


      As we said in our comments, we do not doubt that CBP and DHS are sincerely motivated to protect homeland security. However, the proposal to collect social media handles has serious flaws—and the government has failed to adequately address them.

    • Sarah Harrison on Snowden’s escape, Oliver Stone’s film, Assange, Courage and whistleblowers
      Sarah Harrison, Courage’s acting director and longtime WikiLeaks journalist, has sat down for several interviews to discuss various news items happening this week: the premiere of Oliver Stone’s film ‘Snowden,’ Harrison’s return to the UK after years of effective exile, and WikiLeaks’ US releases.

      After she assisted Edward Snowden escape from Hong Kong to Moscow, and stayed with him in Sheremetyevo Airport in Russia with hopes of reaching Latin America, Harrison was advised to stay out of the UK, where British terrorism laws threaten to criminalize journalistic work. She’s lived in Berlin for the last three years, but since David Miranda’s recent legal success challenging his 2013 detention in Heathrow, Harrison’s lawyers suggested she could attempt to return home.

    • FBI can’t pretend to be the AP without special approval. They can pretend to be Apple.
      As a number of outlets have reported, the DOJ IG just released a report on FBI’s impersonation of a journalist in 2007 to catch a high school student making bomb threats. As I will explain in more detail in a follow-up post, it somewhat exonerated the Agents who engaged in that effort. It also gives reserved approval of an interim policy FBI adopted this June (that is, well after the press complained, and just as the IG was finishing this report) that would prevent the FBI from pulling a similar stunt without higher level approval.

      But some of the details in the report — as well as one of its recommendations — suggests that the FBI would still be able to pretend to be a software company including a software update. Here’s the recommendation.

    • How Washington Blew Its Best Chance to Fix Immigration
      In June, not long after Donald Trump attacked an Indiana-born judge because he was “Mexican,” I went to go see Representative Raúl Labrador in the Longworth Office Building on Capitol Hill. Labrador, an Idaho Republican, cuts an unusual profile in Washington. Born in Puerto Rico, he was raised Mormon by a single mother in Las Vegas and now, as he told me, represents “one of the most conservative districts in the United States, one of the whitest districts in the United States.” Labrador came to Congress as part of the Tea Party wave of 2010 and later helped found the Freedom Caucus, the House’s conservative vanguard. He was also a pivotal member of a bipartisan group of eight House members who, in early 2013, came together in hopes of producing comprehensive legislation to fix the nation’s immigration system.

      Today, nearly every word of that last sentence feels as if it were ripped from a political fiction of “West Wing”-level implausibility. Immigration is the conflict that has eaten the 2016 elections — relegating other pressing issues to the margins, embodying Washington’s political dysfunction, further polarizing a divided country and, above all, fueling the presidential campaign of a man who began his candidacy by vowing to build a wall to keep Mexico from sending “rapists” to America. In recent weeks, even Trump’s own campaign seems to have grown alarmed by the political toxicity of what it has unleashed, embarking on a series of incoherent revisions before settling back on hard talk about creating a “special deportation task force.”

    • Jay Z: 'The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail'
      Why are white men poised to get rich doing the same thing African-Americans have been going to prison for?

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • This Bill Could Stop Protectionist State Broadband Laws, But ISP Control Over Congress Means It Won't Pass
      We've noted for years that one way incumbent broadband providers protect their duopoly kingdoms is by quite literally buying state laws that protect the status quo. These laws, passed in roughly twenty different states, prevent towns and cities from building their own broadband networks or in some instances from partnering with a private company like Google Fiber. Usually misleadingly presented by incumbent lobbyists and lawmakers as grounded in altruistic concern for taxpayer welfare, the laws are little more than pure protectionism designed to maintain the current level of broadband dysfunction -- for financial gain.

      Earlier this year, the FCC tried to use its Congressional mandate under the Communications Act to eliminate the restrictive portions of these laws in two states. But the FCC's effort was shot down as an overreach by the courts earlier this month, and the FCC has stated it has no intention of continuing the fight. That leaves the hope of ending these protectionist laws either in the hands of voters (most of whom don't have the slightest idea what's happening) or Congress (most of whom don't want the telecom campaign contributions to stop flowing).

  • DRM

    • Apple Surveys Its Users About Headphone Port
      In the wake of Apple’s controversial announcement that it’s newest strain of iPhones will not be including a headphone jack, it’s been reported that the company is now sending out survey emails to Macbook Pro users that reference a potential removal of the headphone port in future models.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Boise State Somehow Got A Trademark On Non-Green Athletic Fields
        It's football season again, which means some significant portion of America is routinely spending some significant chunk of its weekends watching some significant portion of male college students give some significant portion of each other irreparable brain damage. It's an American thing, I suppose. Also, an American thing is the acquisition of overly broad trademarks that border on the laughable. Intersecting these two bastions of American pride is Boise State, with a recent NY Times article discussing how the school managed to trademark athletic fields that include grass that is blue, with attorneys working with the school suggesting that any non-green colored field might result in trademark action.

    • Copyrights

      • Free Wi-Fi in cities? ‘We panicked for five minutes. Then we realised it’s not serious’
        Telecoms companies were as surprised as anyone when Jean-Claude Juncker announced Wednesday (14 September) that the European Commission wants every city and village in the EU to offer some free public Wi-Fi by 2020.

        “We panicked for five minutes. Then we realised it’s not serious,” one industry source said.

        Juncker mentioned the plan during his annual “State of the Union” speech early yesterday.

        But the proposal that was published a few hours later doesn’t actually guarantee free wireless internet access.

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