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Links 13/12/2018: IRS Migration, GNOME 3.31.3 Released

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  • Watchdog: IRS botched Linux migration
    Poor IT governance prevented the IRS from making progress on a long-term effort to migrate 141 legacy applications from proprietary vendor software to open source Linux operating systems, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

    Under a migration plan developed in 2014, two-thirds of targeted applications and databases were supposed to have been successfully migrated by December 2016.

    However, only eight of the 141 applications targeted have successfully transitioned to Linux as of February 2018. More than one third have not even started.

  • Inadequate Governance Leads to Linux Migration Delays at IRS

    The IRS hosts 190 applications on the Solaris Sun Sparc system, with 141 of those targeted for migration to the open-sourced Linux operating system. The audit found that the project staff lacked the technical skills and training required to carry out the migration.

    In 2013, an IRS analysis found that migrating their E-file system to Linux would save costs on paying $12 million in licensing fees over five years with Solaris. The plan was to migrate 33 percent of the target applications to Linux by the end of the 2015 fiscal year, and 66 percent by the end of the 2016 fiscal year.

  • Desktop

    • Linux on the Desktop: Are We Nearly There Yet?
      The numbers are pretty stark: Linux might be the backbone of everything from embedded devices to mainframes and super computers. But it has just a 2% share of desktops and laptops.

      It seems the only way to get most people to even touch it is to rip away everything you recognise as Linux to rebuild it as Android.

      Until recently, I was in the 98%. I honestly wasn’t even conflicted. I used Linux most days both for work and for hobbies – but always in the cloud or on one of those handy little project boards that are everywhere now. For my daily driver, it was Windows all the way.

      I guess what’s kept me with Windows so long is really that it’s just been good enough as a default option that I haven’t been prompted to even think about it. Which, to be fair, is a great quality in an operating system.

      The last time I tried a dual boot Linux/Windows setup was about 15 years ago. I was using Unix at university, and was quite attracted to the idea of free and open source software, so I decided to give it a go.

      This was back when, if you wanted to install Linux, you went to the newsagent and bought a magazine that had a CD-ROM on the front cover. I don’t exactly remember what distro it was – probably something like Slackware or Red Hat.

    • Windows 10 is still sending data to Microsoft, even if you don’t want it to
      When Microsoft first launched Windows 10 a few years ago, users quickly discovered that the operating system would collect and send data about them back to Microsoft unless explicitly told not to.

      In the years that followed, Microsoft created a Privacy Dashboard that would let all Windows 10 users better manage their privacy settings and prevent data from being sent to Microsoft’s servers. A new report now reveals that Microsoft may still be collecting some data from your Windows 10 device, even if you thought it wasn’t.

  • Server

    • Instaclustr Releases Three Open Source Projects That Facilitate Cassandra-Kubernetes Integration and LDAP/Kerberos Authentication

    • Instaclustr Announces Three Open Source Projects That Facilitate Cassandra-Kubernetes Integration and LDAP/Kerberos Authentication
      Instaclustr, the leading provider of completely managed solutions for scalable open source technologies, today announced the availability of three open source projects purpose-built to expand developers’ capabilities using Apache Cassandra and address pain points. These projects include an open source Cassandra operator for more seamlessly running and operating Cassandra within Kubernetes, and open source LDAP and Kerberos authenticator plug-ins for Cassandra.

    • Instaclustr expands Apache Cassandra with new open-source software
      Instaclustr Pty Ltd., which sells hosted and managed versions of popular open-source software Apache Cassandra, Spark and Kafka, is giving back to the community with three projects of its own.

      The company says it’s open-sourcing three “purpose-built” projects aimed at addressing pain points and expanding the capabilities of the Apache Cassandra database. Apache Cassandra is a distributed database that’s used to manage large amounts of structured data while providing continuous availability with no single point of failure.

    • Kubernetes open-source project matures as commercialization accelerates
      This week, the annual KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 event taking place in Seattle will give the cloud computing industry a chance to take stock of how far Kubernetes has come.

      On the flip side, the show also will work through the issues that may be preventing this open-source container orchestration platform from achieving its full potential.

      Kubernetes has been a banner story in high tech throughout 2018, and the technology looks like it will continue its momentum toward ubiquitous adoption in coming years. The Kubernetes ecosystem has become amazingly vibrant, though that’s a double-edged sword.

    • Kubernetes caretaker auditions for Hoarders; takes in another open source project
      At the Cloud Native Computing Foundation's (CNCF) KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 meetup on Tuesday, the CNCF revealed it will adopt, shelter and nourish an itinerant jumble of letters known on the street as "etcd."

      Pronounced "et-cee-dee" among those who dare speak its name, etcd is a distributed key-value store. It hails from the Linux /etc/ directory, which lives in the root folder and stores configuration files and related subdirectories.

    • Kubernetes and serverless are getting chummy in open source
      But the Cloud Native Computing Foundation — home to Kubernetes, the popular open-source container orchestration platform — wants everyone to know it’s not partial to either containers or serverless, and there’s room for both, and others, in next-generation enterprise technology.

      “We love serverless in CNCF,” said Chris Aniszczyk (pictured), chief technology officer and chief operating officer of CNCF. “We just view it as another kind of programmatic model that eventually runs on some type of containerized stack.”

    • Atomist Announces Delivery to Kubernetes With Its Open Source SDM, adds GitLab Support
      Atomist, the software delivery automation company, today announced the ability for developers to now deliver to Kubernetes using the open source Software Delivery Machine (SDM) in local mode. SDM local is completely open source and now supports delivery to Kubernetes, whether a single-node cluster on a laptop using minikube or a fully-managed Kubernetes service.

    • Why Kubernetes Is Successful and Boring
      Google has had a common message throughout 2018 about Kubernetes, and the message is simple: Kubernetes is boring.

      At the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA 2018 event here, Google engineer and conference co-chair Janet Kuo echoed comments made by her peer Aparna Sinha, group product manager at Google, at the Kubecon and CloudNativecon Europe 2018 keynotes in May, which is simply that Kubernetes is boring, and boring is good.

      Kuo said in the early days of Kubernetes the focus was on building fast and adding new features. By 2015, a focus was added to make it easier for users and administrators to build, deploy and use Kubernetes. At this point in the maturity cycle of Kubernetes, Kuo commented that adoption has moved from the early stage of adopters to more mainstream deployments.

      "Kubernetes is now getting so solid and so mature and so great, that it is very, very boring," Kuo said during her keynote. "Boring is good; it means that lots of companies are already using it, and it just works."

      Kuo added that being boring means organizations can just focus on delivering business value, rather than spending time on making Kubernetes usable.

    • Kubernetes Federation Evolution
      Deploying applications to a kubernetes cluster is well defined and can in some cases be as simple as kubectl create -f app.yaml. The user’s story to deploy apps across multiple clusters has not been that simple. How should an app workload be distributed? Should the app resources be replicated into all clusters, or replicated into selected clusters or partitioned into clusters? How is the access to clusters managed? What happens if some of the resources, which user wants to distribute pre-exist in all or fewer clusters in some form.

      In SIG multicluster, our journey has revealed that there are multiple possible models to solve these problems and there probably is no single best fit all scenario solution. Federation however is the single biggest kubernetes open source sub project which has seen maximum interest and contribution from the community in this problem space. The project initially reused the k8s API to do away with any added usage complexity for an existing k8s user. This became non-viable because of problems best discussed in this community update.

    • [Red Hat] Men: Step out of your bubble to champion gender diversity
      According to Catalyst Canada, men represent more than 95 per cent of the CEO positions in Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded companies. With such a big divide, those who are leaders must help define the role those with power and privilege play. Many men want to get more involved, but we must go about it the right way. We want to respect the successful work that has already been done, find the right fit for our skills and learn from our female leaders who have the deep knowledge of this issue. As Tanya van Biesen, executive director of Catalyst Canada, has said: “The path to gender equity is a journey. There is no silver bullet – only commitment and action.”

      As leaders, our self-worth is often measured by meeting hard targets and achieving financial goals. Stepping forward to become an advocate for gender diversity is uncharted territory for many of us. Yet, it is a business imperative with a body of evidence demonstrating a positive effect on the bottom line.

    • IBM's $34 billion Red Hat acquisition came after deal talks with Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, sources say
      When IBM announced its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat on October 28, the tech word was struck by the huge price tag, as well as its potential to revive IBM's struggling cloud business. But as it turns out, things could have gone a lot differently.

      Microsoft, Google, and Amazon all engaged in deal discussions with Red Hat and looked closely into an acquisition in the months and weeks before Red Hat struck a deal with IBM, according to sources familiar with the deal.

      As an open-source software company, Red Hat is strategic because of its popularity with developers. It's also is the largest commercial maker of the Linux operating system. IBM wanted the technology to enhance its hybrid-cloud project and to give its portfolio an edge.

      Red Hat indicated in a public filing on November 30 that three unnamed companies considered making bids in addition to IBM. CNBC reported in October that Google had looked into buying Red Hat. But Microsoft and Amazon's deal talks with Red Hat have not been previously reported.

    • IBM goes hard in open source so enterprises can take it easy
      IBM’s investment in open source goes back years. Big Blue went all-in on Kubernetes, the popular open-source container orchestration platform about two years ago, according to Chris Rosen (pictured), program director, offering management, IBM Container Service and IBM Container Registry. The company contributes to the open-source Cloud Native Computing Foundation upstream and then simplifies the technology for end users.

    • Arista EOS containers integrated with Red Hat, Tigera products
      Arista has integrated the containerized version of its network operating system with Red Hat and Tigera software to support containers running on public, private and hybrid clouds.

      Arista released this week a technology preview of the integration of containerized Arista EOS with Tigera Calico, the open source control plane the company developed to distribute security policy rules across containers and virtual machines running on cloud environments. Arista plans to make the integration generally available in 2019 within the Tigera Secure Enterprise Edition product.

    • Contrail, Red Hat treat multicloud-network headache with Kubernetes
      A number of computing customers lately are asking for a smarter network. This might mean programmability, transparency, multiple lanes for prioritized web traffic, etc. The question is, will software developers and administrators need to get smarter in order to use such networks? Don’t they have their hands full already refactoring applications and managing distributed cloud environments?

      Developers these days simply want to consume the network in the same way they consume compute and storage. They don’t want the job of configuring it — at least not if that entails plunging deep below the application layer.

      “The app is the thing that’s going to consume these things, and the app developer doesn’t necessarily want to worry about IP address and port numbers and firewall rules and things like that,” said Scott Sneddon (pictured, left), senior director and chief evangelist of cloud at Juniper Networks Inc.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Keeping up with Kubernetes | TechSNAP 392
      A security vulnerability in Kubernetes causes a big stir, but we’ll break it all down and explain what went wrong.

      Plus the biggest stories out of Kubecon, and serverless gets serious.

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 787

    • FLOSS Weekly 510: YottaDB
      A lifelong hacker and geek, K.S. Bhaskar has been programming for almost half a century, and as a consequence of the technology gap between India and the US when he was an undergraduate, has programmed computers designed in the 1950s. He spent many years in the electronic test and measurement, and scientific computing worlds before moving to databases and the predecessor of YottaDB. He led GT.M, the predecessor of YottaDB from 1995 to 2017, before founding YottaDB in 2017 to take that code base – which by then felt to him like one of his children – to new markets and applications.

      Christopher is a true geek, and from a young start always wondered how the world works. He knew from a young age the computer field is where he was going to wind up working due to the infinite ways they could be used and cool things they could be made to do. Christopher has spent time in the healthcare industry working with YottaDB/GT.M/M and applying modern software development techniques to it. He also is a maker with more Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, other development boards, along with a 3d printer to keep himself busy.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.19.9
    • Linux 4.14.88
    • Linux 4.9.145
    • Linux 4.4.167
    • Linux 3.18.129

    • Bounded loops in BPF programs
      The BPF verifier is charged with ensuring that any given BPF program is safe for the kernel to load and run. Programs that fail to terminate are clearly unsafe, as they present an opportunity for denial-of-service attacks. In current kernels, the verifier uses a heavy-handed technique to block such programs: it disallows any program containing loops. This works, but at the cost of disallowing a wide range of useful programs; if the verifier could determine whether any given loop would terminate within a bounded time, this restriction could be lifted. John Fastabend presented a plan for doing so during the BPF microconference at the 2018 Linux Plumbers Conference.

      Fastabend started by noting that the lack of loops hurts; BPF developers are doing "crazy things" to work around their absence. He is working to enable the use of simple loops that can be modeled by the verifier. There is academic work on ways to verify more complex loops, but that is a problem for later. For now, the objective is to detect simple loops and verify that they will terminate; naturally, it's important that the verifier, too, is able to terminate in a reasonable amount of time.

    • Binary portability for BPF programs
      The BPF virtual machine is the same on all architectures where it is supported; architecture-specific code takes care of translating BPF to something the local processor can understand. So one might be tempted to think that BPF programs would be portable across architectures but, in many cases, that turns out not to be true. During the BPF microconference at the Linux Plumbers Conference, Alexei Starovoitov (assisted by Yonghong Song, who has done much of the work described) explained the problem and the work that has been done toward "compile once, run everywhere" BPF.

      Many BPF programs are indeed portable, in that they will load and execute properly on any type of processor. Packet-filtering programs, in particular, usually just work. But there is a significant class of exceptions in the form of tracing programs, which are one of the biggest growth areas for BPF. Most tracing tools have two components: a user-space program invoked by the user, and a BPF program that is loaded into the kernel to filter, acquire, and possibly boil down the needed data. Both programs are normally written in C.

    • Taming STIBP
      The Spectre class of hardware vulnerabilities was apparently so-named because it can be expected to haunt us for some time. One aspect of that haunting can be seen in the fact that, nearly one year after Spectre was disclosed, the kernel is still unable to prevent one user-space process from attacking another in some situations. An attempt to provide that protection using a new x86 microcode feature called STIBP has run into trouble once its performance impact was understood; now a more nuanced approach may succeed in providing protection where it is needed without slowing down everybody else.

      The Spectre variant 2 vulnerability works by polluting the CPU's branch-prediction buffer (BPB), which is used during speculative execution to make a guess about which branch(es) the code will take; see this article for a refresher on the Spectre vulnerabilities if needed. Closing this hole requires changes at a number of levels, but a fundamental part of the problem is preventing any code that may be targeted from running with a BPB that has been trained by an attacker.

    • The x32 subarchitecture may be removed
      The x32 subarchitecture is a software variant of x86-64; it runs the processor in the 64-bit mode, but uses 32-bit pointers and arithmetic. The idea is to get the advantages of x86-64 without the extra memory usage that goes along with it. It seems, though, that x32 is not much appreciated; few distributions support it and the number of users appears to be small.

    • Get notifications for your patches
      We are trialing out a new feature that can send you a notification when the patches you send to the LKML are applied to linux-next or to the mainline git trees.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Verizon joins O-RAN Alliance board
        After announcing earlier this year that the xRAN Forum and C-RAN Alliance were merging, the O-RAN Alliance announced new board members—including Verizon—and a collaboration with the Linux Foundation on open source software.

        Verizon’s participation in the O-RAN Alliance isn’t a surprise given its work on Open RAN initiatives and its earlier involvement in the xRAN Forum—it was a contributor to the xRAN fronthaul specification that was released in April. That specification defines open interfaces between the remote radio unit/head (RRU/RRH) and the baseband unit (BBU) to simplify interoperability between suppliers.


        O-RAN also said it has started collaboration arrangements with The Linux Foundation to establish an open source software community for the creation of open source RAN software. Collaboration with The Linux Foundation will enable the creation of open source software supporting the O-RAN architecture and interfaces.

      • O-RAN Alliance and Linux to create an open source software community
        The O-RAN Alliance announced that Reliance Jio, TIM, and Verizon have joined the O-RAN board.

        AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch says, “It’s encouraging to see the O-RAN Alliance off to such a strong start and gaining momentum as we welcome three new board members.

        “It’s important that the wireless industry continues to come together to drive forward O-RAN’s goals for open networking, software, and virtualisation in global wireless networks especially as 5G is closer than ever.”

      • Hyperledger Onboards 12 New Members Including Alibaba Cloud, Deutsche Telekom and Citi
        Hyperledger has onboarded 12 new members, including such major firms as Alibaba Cloud, Citi, and Deutsche Telekom, according to an announcement published on Dec. 11. Launched in 2016, Hyperledger is an open source project created by the Linux Foundation and created to support the development of blockchain-based distributed ledgers. The new members were announced at the Hyperledger Global Forum in Basel, Switzerland. The latest general members that joined the initiative include Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant; financial services firm Citigroup, Deutsche Telekom, one of the largest telecoms providers in Europe; and European blockchain trading platform, among others.

      • Open Source Compliance in the Enterprise
        Open Source Compliance in the Enterprise, 2nd edition, by Ibrahim Haddad outlines best practices for organizations to adopt and use open source code in products and services, as well as participate in open source communities in a legal and responsible way.

      • Linux Foundation Brings the Year to a Close with 21 New Members Making the Commitment to Open Source
        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, announced the addition of 18 Silver members and 3 Associate members. Linux Foundation members help support development of shared technology resources, while accelerating their own innovation through open source leadership and participation in some of the world’s most successful open source projects including Hyperledger, Kubernetes, Linux, Node.js and ONAP. Linux Foundation member contributions help provide the infrastructure and resources that enable the world’s largest open collaboration communities.

        Since the start of 2018, on average a new organization has joined The Linux Foundation every day.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Wayland's Weston Switching Over To The Meson Build System
        Complementing the Meson build system support for Wayland itself, the Weston reference compositor now has been Meson-ized.

        Pekka Paalanen and Daniel Stone, both of Collabora, have landed the Meson build system support for the Weston compositor. At this stage the new build system should be fully working and correct.

      • AMDGPU DC Gets Polaris Corruption Fix, Some Code Refactoring
        AMD has published their latest batch of "DC" Display Core patches for the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver.

        This batch of 45 patches against this display code for the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager driver has some code cleanups and refactoring, changes some error messages to just warnings, and has a display corruption fix affecting some Polaris hardware.

      • Investigating GitLab
        The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) kernel subsystem is a fairly small part of the kernel, he said. It is also a fairly small part of the open-source graphics stack, which is under the X.Org umbrella. DRM sits in the middle between the two, so the project has learned development tools and workflows from both of the larger projects.

        The kernel brought DRM into the Git world in 2006, which was just a year after Git came about; it was a "rough ride" back then, Vetter said. With Git came "proper commit messages". Prior to that, the commit messages might just be a single, unhelpful line; now those messages explain why the change is being made and what it does. The idea of iterating on a patch series on the mailing list came from the kernel side as did the "benevolent dictator" model of maintainership. DRM, the X server, Wayland, and others all followed that model along the way.

        From the X.Org side came things like the committer model; in Mesa, every contributor had commit rights. That model has swept through the graphics community, so now DRM, the X server, and Wayland are all run using that scheme. Testing and continuous integration (CI) is something that DRM has adopted from X.Org; the kernel also does this, but DRM has adopted the X.Org approach, tooling, and test suites. For historical reasons, "almost everything" is under the MIT license, which comes from X.Org projects as well.

        There has been a lot of movement of tools and development strategies in both directions via the DRM subsystem. He thinks that using GitLab may be "the next big wave of changes" coming from the user-space side to kernel graphics, and maybe to the kernel itself eventually. This won't happen this year or next year, Vetter predicted, but over the next few years we will see GitLab being used more extensively.

      • AMDGPU For Linux 4.20 Gets The Final Radeon RX 590 Fix, Adds The New Vega PCI IDs
        With just over one week to go until the expected Linux 4.20 kernel release, Alex Deucher of AMD today sent in the latest batch of fixes to the DRM tree for landing at the end of this cycle.

        Notable about this latest set of "fixes" for the AMDGPU kernel graphics driver are:

        - The final Radeon RX 590 fix so this newer Polaris GPU no longer hangs under load. So once this Linux 4.20 material is merged to mainline, this month-old Polaris graphics card should now be happily running on Linux -- assuming you also have the latest Polaris firmware files and a recent version of Mesa. See our Radeon RX 590 benchmarks article for more details.

      • AMDVLK 2018.Q4.4 Driver Update Brings Performance Improvements, New Vulkan Bits
        AMD developers today outed their latest "AMDVLK" open-source Vulkan driver code drop dubbed AMDVLK 2018.Q4.4.

      • NVIDIA 415.23 Driver Fixes Build Issues Against Linux 4.20 Kernel
        The NVIDIA 415.23 driver was issued just to fix a build issue against the near-final Linux 4.20 kernels. In particular, there has been a build failure around the vm_insert_pfn function that is now worked around when building the NVIDIA proprietary driver's shim against the Linux 4.20 release candidates.

      • NVIDIA Now Shipping The Jetson AGX Xavier Module
        NVIDIA has been shipping the Jetson AGX Xavier Developer Kit the past few months while now they are beginning to ship the AGX Xavier Module intended for use in next-generation autonomous machines.

    • Benchmarks

      • Radeon ROCm 1.9.1 vs. NVIDIA OpenCL Linux Plus RTX 2080 TensorFlow Benchmarks
        Following the GeForce RTX 2080 Linux gaming benchmarks last week with now having that non-Ti variant, I carried out some fresh GPU compute benchmarks of the higher-end NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards. Here's a look at the OpenCL performance between the competing vendors plus some fresh CUDA benchmarks as well as NVIDIA GPU Cloud TensorFlow Docker benchmarks.

        This article provides a fresh look at the Linux GPU compute performance for NVIDIA and AMD. On the AMD side was the Linux 4.19 kernel paired with the ROCm 1.9.1 binary packages for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. ROCm continues happily running well on the mainline kernel with the latest releases, compared to previously relying upon the out-of-tree/DKMS kernel modules for compute support on the discrete Radeon GPUS. ROCm 2.0 is still supposed to be released before year's end so there will be some fresh benchmarks coming up with that OpenCL 2.0+ implementation when the time comes. The Radeon CPUs tested were the RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 as well as tossing in the R9 Fury for some historical context.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE Applications 18.12 Are Waiting for You
        It's that time of the year again. Everyone is in a festive mood and excited about all the new things they're going to get. It's only natural, since it's the season of the last KDE Applications release for this year!

        With more than 140 issues resolved and dozens of feature improvements, KDE Applications 18.12 are now on its way to your operating system of choice. We've highlighted some changes you can look forward to.

      • KDE Applications 18.12 Released With File Manager Improvements, Konsole Emoji

      • A simple blank makes the difference
        OFX is the Open Financial eXchange protocol used by various financial institutions in a few countries. KMyMoney provides an OFX client implementation using the open source LibOFX library allowing users to import transactions directly from the bank’s server without using the detour through a web-browser and a downloaded file into the ledger of the application.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.31.3 released
        GNOME 3.31.3 is now available.

        This will be our last snapshop before the year is over. Try it out, test it, improve it.

        If you want to compile GNOME 3.31.3, you can use the official BuildStream project snapshot.
      • GNOME 3.31.3 Released As Another Step Towards GNOME 3.32

      • Fractal December'18 Hackfest (part 1)
        The Tuesday 11th started the second Fractal Hackfest. I've organized this hackfest in Seville, the city where I studied computer science and here I've a lot of friends in the University so is a good place to do it here.

        The weather was important too for the hackfest selection, in December Seville is a good choice because the weather is not too cold, we're having sunny days.

        The first day was a good day, thinking about some relevant issues and planning what we want to do. We talked about the work needed for the interface split, about the E2EE support, new features and the need for a new release.

        We're having some problems with the internet connection, because the University has a restricted network policy and we ask for the guess internet connection the Monday, but we're still waiting.

  • Distributions

    • Pantheon Desktop Makes Linux Elementary
      The more I use the multitasking feature, the more I like its click-and-go navigational style. Getting rid of workspaces or running apps is simple. Hover the mouse pointer over the multitasking bar and click the icon's circled X.

      Elementary OS is a very solid Linux distro. Its uncluttered design is encouraged by not being able to place app icons on the desktop. There are no desklet programs to create distractions.

      So far, the only real obstacle I've encountered in using Elementary OS is the need to adapt to having fewer power-user features. While basic installation was smooth and event free, not having preinstalled text editors, word processors or an alternative Web browser was an inconvenience.

      New users who do not know what software they need to fill this void are at a big disadvantage. Want to Suggest a Review? Is there a Linux software application or distro you'd like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

    • Arch Family

      • Manjaro 18.0 Released – What’s New in Manjaro Illyria?
        Manjaro is an Arch Linux-based Operating System developed in Austria, Germany, and France with a focus on providing a beautiful user-friendly OS with the full power of Arch Linux to beginner computer users and experts at the same time.

        If you are not already familiar with Manjaro Linux then the developers have recently given more reasons for you to by dropping its latest release, Manjaro 18.0, codenamed “Illyria“. This update brings both major and minor updates to the OS and makes its overall experience more pleasant.

        It is fulfilling to see how well an OS that began as a hobby project has come this far with several UI scripts, support for NVIDIA’s Optimus technology, etc. right out of the box – features that come together to enhance its user experience.

        For an overview of its features, check out the 10 Reasons to Use Manjaro Linux.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • 2018-2019 Elections Underway with Calls for Candidates and New Members
        Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, the Elections Committee posted the Schedule for the 2018-2019 openSUSE Board Elections, along with the announcement of a Membership Drive and a call for nominations and applications for Candidates to fill three vacant seats on the openSUSE Board.

        The annual Board Elections are normally expected to run in November and December, with ballots cast and results published in time for the newly-elected Board Members to take their seats on the Board at the beginning of January. However, some additional work needed to be completed for this election, and the elections were delayed in part to accommodate the additional work.

      • SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 Service Pack 4 is Generally Available
        SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 Service Pack 4 is now generally available. Service Pack 4 marks the fourth generation of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12, a major code stream and product foundation with a lifecycle from 2014 to 2024 plus Long Term Support (10+3 years). This release consolidates all fixes and updates introduced since SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 Service Pack 3.

      • Making the Selection
        You’ve likely read or heard a lot about today’s data explosion and how it’s affecting enterprises. After combing through all the overexcited rhetoric about how quickly data is multiplying or how

        many petabytes you’ll soon have to handle, one thing remains clear: You need to find a new way to store and manage your data or you’ll get left behind.

        While that mandate puts pressure on your organization to act quickly, it’s also the catalyst to a whole new world of exciting opportunities. More data can mean deeper, more accurate insights into your operations and customer needs, which empowers you to streamline processes and personalize experiences like never before. More data can also lead to greater innovation and new sources of revenue.

    • Debian Family

      • Unexpected fallout from /usr merge in Debian
        Back in 2011, Harald Hoyer and Kay Sievers came up with a proposal for Fedora to merge much of the operating system into /usr; former top-level directories, /bin, /lib, and /sbin, would then become symbolic links pointing into the corresponding subdirectories of /usr. Left out of the merge would be things like configuration files in /etc, data in /var, and user home directories. This change was aimed at features like atomic upgrades and easy snapshots. The switch to a merged /usr was successful for Fedora 17; many other distributions (Arch, OpenSUSE, Mageia, just to name a few) have followed suit. More recently, Debian has been working toward a merged /usr, but it ran into some surprising problems that are unique to the distribution.

        Debian and its derivatives are definitely late to the /usr merge party. Systems running Debian testing that were initially installed before June 2018 still have /bin, /sbin, and /lib as normal directories, not as symbolic links. The same applies to Ubuntu 18.10. But both Debian and Ubuntu want to make the switch to a merged /usr. Debian tried, but it hit something completely unexpected.

        The Debian /usr merge history started in 2016, when Marco d'Itri got the usrmerge package into Debian unstable. This package contains a Perl script that converts an existing system into the state with a merged /usr. Also, a change was made to the debootstrap program (which installs a Debian system into a chroot), so that it could create the needed symbolic links by itself before installing any packages. The end result is the same in both cases.


        The Debian package sed also has /bin/sed, not /usr/bin/sed. In the bug report, the problem is treated like a one-off issue, to be solved by a rebuild. However, on the debian-devel mailing list, Ian Jackson quickly pointed out that the problem is, in fact, due to /usr merge on the build daemons. He suggested that the change should be reverted. Dirk Eddelbuettel seconded that suggestion, and noted that he expects "much more breakage to follow". Indeed, similar problems were triggered in sympow, pari, and monitoring-plugins. Other bugs of this nature can be found by searching the Debian bug tracking system for a special tag (but this search also finds other kinds of issues).


        The discussion is still in progress, though; no consensus has been reached. A bug was filed against debootstrap by Jackson to revert the change to merge by default for the next release of Debian. Due to the disagreement of the debootstrap maintainer to the proposed change, Jackson reassigned the bug to the Debian Technical Committee, which is the ultimate authority for resolving otherwise unresolvable technical disputes within Debian. There is also a request from the Debian backports FTP master that the default should be the same in Debian stable backports and in Debian testing. Emilio Pozuelo Monfort, a member of the release team, also spoke in favor of reverting to non-merged /usr in new installations.

        It is impossible to predict now how the Technical Committee will rule. In the worst case for /usr-merge proponents, proper introduction of a merged /usr into Debian may be delayed by a few more years. But, if it votes for keeping the status quo, new end-user systems in the next stable release of Debian will have merged /usr, old but upgraded ones won't, and the build daemons will reliably build packages suitable for both cases, just like what's planned for Ubuntu 19.04. No flag day is needed in this scenario, so it would follow the best Debian traditions of not forcing transitions onto users.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Mozilla Firefox 64 Is Now Available for All Supported Ubuntu Linux Releases
            Mozilla Firefox 64.0 continues the "Quantum" series with new features and improvements, including better recommendations for US users by showing suggestions about new and relevant Firefox features, services, and extensions based on their browsing habbits, enhanced tab management by allowing you to more easily and quickly close, move, pin, or bookmark tabs.

            This release also makes it easier to manage performance via a new "Task Manager" accessible from the about:performance page, allowing users to view which tabs consume more CPU time so you can close them to conserve power, adds link time optimization (Clang LTO) for Linux and Mac users, as well as a new toolbar context menu option to remove add-ons.

          • Compiz: Ubuntu Desktop's little known best friend
            The best part is that it takes no time at all to get up and running! I’ll show you how to transform Ubuntu into a desktop that is functionally similar to Mac.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • JFrog Empowers Millions of Open Source Go Developers, Announces Community's First Public Go Repository
    JFrog, the Universal DevOps technology leader known for enabling liquid software via continuous software update flows, is announcing the coming availability of JFrog GoCenter, the first-ever central repository for software modules developed in the popular Go programming language. GoCenter is a free, open source and public service that will be provided for the broad Go community in early 2019, and is being showcased at KubeCon Seattle.

  • Open Sesame
    Although it’s free for users, people invest time in making the technology better or creating it in the first place.


    When a project is open-source, it means that the software, hardware or data are open for users to use, access, change or distribute for free. An open-source project can also make it easier to bring a team together to develop a project, Davis says.

  • ‘This is not a big boys club’: FINOS seeks to open up open source
    Attend an event about open source development and collaboration in financial technology, and you will see developers and executives from Capital One, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and perhaps a handful of other financial institutions, along with open-source-focused vendors like Red Hat (now part of IBM).

  • The Autoware Foundation - An Open Alliance for Autonomous Driving Technology

  • What is Open Source & Why Should You Care?
    The term ‘open source’ is used with excitement throughout multiple industries, yet folks are still asking a lot of questions, chief among them: What is open source & why should I care? Well, for industrial and process manufacturing, open source is rapidly becoming a fundamental for the digitalization of these industries. Industrial automation users, system integrators, machine builders, and automation suppliers that understand how to embrace and leverage open source are dramatically improving their odds of being effective competitors in their respective industries.

  • QLC Chain to open source WinQ server router, focuses on multi-sig smart contracts
    QLC Chain has released its bi-weekly report, which highlights development progress of the public blockchain and VPN routers, adjustment of QLC Chain’s development plan, and updates to WinQ 2.0. Recently, an incentive program was announced for VPN operators and active community members to test the platform.

  • Fuchsia SDK and ‘device’ now included in Android Open Source Project
    Fuchsia, Google’s future OS project, is getting more connected to Android. The search giant has added two Fuchsia items to its Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code.

    A new commit posted to the AOSP Gerrit — an online code collaboration and management tool — added two Fuchsia ‘repos’ to the primary ‘manifest’ of AOSP.

    In other words, developers added two Fuchsia files to the instructions that tell Google’s download tool ‘Repo’ what to include when a user downloads AOSP. Further, for those unfamiliar with AOSP, it’s a compilation of Android made available for anyone to use.

  • Fuchsia SDK & Test Device Appear In Android Open Source Project
    Google has taken substantial new steps toward the release of its long-awaited new operating system Fuchsia, based on recently noticed changes to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) codebase. Although AOSP is most often connected to Android OS and development on that platform, Fuchsia OS has now appeared as both an SDK and test device in the repository. According to comments on the commits, the OS's repositories being included in the Android master manifest equates to an added 760MB. The Gerrit UI also shows changes to approximately 977 files in total with the addition of the Fuchsia software development kit (SDK) and a related test device. Interestingly, the test device SDK seems to be based on or at least tested with the configuration for 'Walleye' -- Google's codename for one of the Pixel 2 handsets.

  • Events

    • Linux group plans show and tell
      The Linux Users’ Group of Davis presents Open Source Computing “Show and Tell” event, an informal open night to talk about and demonstrate programs, computer projects or tricks and tips.

      Feel free to bring something to show or tell for 10 minutes, from a Raspberry Pi project to tools or utilities that you find handy. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun, whether you’re a hobbyist, coder, enthusiast or sysadmin.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

  • Licensing/Legal

    • FSF Licensing and Compliance Lab: 2018 and the future
      I am the current licensing and compliance manager for the FSF, though I've had several roles in my time here. The Lab handles all the free software licensing work for the FSF. Copyleft is the best legal tool we have for protecting the rights of users, and the Lab makes sure that tool is at full power by providing fundamental licensing education. From publishing articles and resources on free software licensing, to doing license compliance work for the GNU Project, to handling our certification programs like Respects Your Freedom, if there is a license involved, the Lab is on the case.

      When I started working at the FSF part-time in 2008, the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) was only a year old. Our Respects Your Freedom certification program didn't yet exist. The Free Software Directory wasn't yet a wiki that could be updated by the community at large. Things have changed a lot over the years, as has our ability to help users to understand and share freely licensed works. I'd like to take just a moment as 2018 draws to a close to look back on some of the great work we accomplished.

  • Programming/Development

    • One developer's road: Programming and mental illness
      The next year, I went to college and learned about SUSE Linux 6.1 and the Java SE 1.2 programming language. Another student introduced me to free software and the GNU GPL License and helped me install SuSE 7.1 on my new Compaq Evo N160c notebook.

      There was no more Microsoft software on my computer. The GNU/Linux operating system was exactly what I wanted, offering editors, compilers, and a command line that did auto-completion.

      Six months later, I installed Debian GNU/Linux. Since YaST2 was just a front end to configuration files, I had to use Debian Potato. My bootloader of choice was LILO, and the Second Extended File System was reliable—not buggy, like ReiserFS.

      In spring 2002, I read a book about the C programming language. I wanted to learn to do UIs like javax.swing, and a friend recommended Gtk+ 2.0, which was about to be released. At this point, I stopped using the KDE Desktop Environment. Gnome 2 was different and provided anti-aliased fonts with hinting. I used it to play Chromium B.S.U., and KNOPPIX did the magic.

    • newt
      I've been helping teach robotics programming to students in grades 5 and 6 for a number of years. The class uses Lego models for the mechanical bits, and a variety of development environments, including Robolab and Lego Logo on both Apple ][ and older Macintosh systems. Those environments are quite good, but when the Apple ][ equipment died, I decided to try exposing the students to an Arduino environment so that they could get another view of programming languages.

      The Arduino environment has produced mixed results. The general nature of a full C++ compiler and the standard Arduino libraries means that building even simple robots requires a considerable typing, including a lot of punctuation and upper case letters. Further, the edit/compile/test process is quite long making fixing errors slow. On the positive side, many of the students have gone on to use Arduinos in science research projects for middle and upper school (grades 7-12).

      In other environments, I've seen Python used as an effective teaching language; the direct interactive nature invites exploration and provides rapid feedback for the students. It seems like a pretty good language to consider for early education -- "real" enough to be useful in other projects, but simpler than C++/Arduino has been. However, I haven't found a version of Python that seems suitable for the smaller microcontrollers I'm comfortable building hardware with.

    • Preventing "Revenge of the Ancillaries" in DevOps

    • Wing Python IDE Version 7 Early Access

    • What's the future of the pandas library?

    • C Programming Tutorial Part 2 - Preprocessors
      In the first part of our ongoing C programming tutorial series, we briefly touched on the preprocessing stage. In this tutorial, we will discuss it in a little more detail so that you have a basic idea about it before learning other C programming aspects.


  • Science

    • NSW to ban mobiles in govt primary schools from 2019

      The New South Wales Government will ban the use of mobile phones in government primary schools from next year, in an effort to reduce the incidence of online bullying and also to remove a major source of distraction.

    • How a Dubious Forensic Science Spread Like a Virus
      THE PROSECUTION’S star witness — a forensics specialist named Herbert MacDonell — set out an array of props before the jury: a medicine dropper, a mirror hastily yanked from the wall of the courthouse bathroom and a vial of his own blood, drawn that day at a nearby hospital.

      It was a strange sight in the 1985 Texas courtroom, and the jurors, the judge and even the defense attorneys watched, rapt, as MacDonell laid the mirror flat and then climbed up on a chair, holding the vial and dropper.

      MacDonell’s expertise lay in an obscure discipline known as bloodstain-pattern analysis. He claimed he could reconstruct the events of a crime by reading the bloodstains left behind.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Health Care Sign-Ups Lag as Saturday Deadline Looms
      With just days left to enroll, fewer people are signing up for the Affordable Care Act, even though premiums are stable, more plans are available and millions of uninsured people can still get financial help.

      Barring an enrollment surge, the nation’s uninsured rate could edge up again after a yearslong coverage expansion that has seen about 20 million people obtain health insurance.

      A status report Wednesday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed nearly 20 percent fewer new people signed up than at about the same time last year. New sign-ups drive the growth of the marketplaces, helping keep premiums in check.

    • Arkansas Is Attempting to Ban a Safe and Effective Abortion Method
      Banning D&Es is part of a national campaign to push abortion out of reach. The ACLU is in a federal appeals court on Thursday, challenging a slate of Arkansas laws intended to prevent women from being able to get abortions. One of the four laws we are challenging is a ban on the dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, a safe and effective abortion method. If enforced, the ban would prevent women from being able to obtain an abortion at all.

      Arkansas’ ban is part of an anti-abortion campaign being orchestrated by states across the country. Already, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Kentucky have passed similar bans. But so far, every court to examine these laws has seen them for what they are — blatant attempts to ban abortion and prohibit physicians from using their best judgment in caring for their patients.

      The motivation behind these restrictions is not grounded in medicine or science. Major medical groups like the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have long spoken out against D&E bans. And, this year, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that D&E is the “superior method” of abortion after the earliest weeks of the second trimester.

    • Doctors Defending Convicted Child Abuser “Exceed the Limits of Credulity,” Judge Rules
      A Florida state court judge rejected a new trial for a man convicted of physically abusing his son, and harshly criticized the testimony offered on his behalf by two doctors who have served as expert witnesses for hundreds of people accused of child abuse.

      In denying James Duncan’s bid for another trial, Circuit Judge Michael Andrews found that the doctors — David Ayoub and Marvin Miller — promoted a “fringe opinion,” offered theories that were not believable and have never in hundreds of cases attributed a child’s injuries to abuse.

    • Lawsuit Targets Illinois’ Child Welfare Agency Over Children Languishing in Psychiatric Hospitals
      The Acting Cook County Public Guardian filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday on behalf of hundreds of children and teenagers in state care who have been held in psychiatric hospitals after they had been cleared by doctors for release, calling the practice inhumane and unconstitutional.

      The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that children in the department’s care, whose lives are already marked by trauma, are not unnecessarily held in psychiatric hospitals, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago.

      “The effects of holding children (beyond medical necessity) are heartbreaking at an individual level and staggering when multiplied among all the children who have been subjected to the practice,” the lawsuit claims.

      The lawsuit follows a ProPublica Illinois investigation in June that found nearly 30 percent of children in DCFS care who were sent to psychiatric hospitals between 2015 and 2017 were held there after doctors had cleared them for discharge. The children were hospitalized for a collective total of more than 27,000 days, or nearly 75 years.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Paul Ryan’s One Parliamentary Trick To Block Congress From Challenging Saudi Arabia’s War In Yemen
      As the United States Senate was about to advance a war powers resolution against the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives sabotaged any further votes against the war in the House.

      Representative Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders in the House took the unconventional route of tucking language into a rule that applied to the farm bill. The rule passed by a very narrow vote of 206-203.

      The language said provisions of the war powers resolution process “shall not apply during the remainder of the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress to a concurrent resolution introduced…with respect to Yemen.”

      Nearly all Democrats in the House voted against the rule except for five Democrats—Representative Jim Costa, Representative Al Lawson, Representative Collin Peterson, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, and Representative David Scott.

      Peterson claimed he didn’t know a “damn thing” about the provision before it was added, but he clearly did not understand the seriousness of his vote. “All it did say was that they couldn’t have a vote or something.”

      In November, the GOP engaged in a similar maneuver. While the Yemen war powers resolution picked up momentum in the Senate, they stuck a provision to block votes against the war in a bill involving wolves.

      Perhaps, this is how the outgoing Speaker of the House expresses his gratitude for a Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Public Service that was bestowed upon him on November 28.

      Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat who has been one of the principal sponsors of an anti-war resolution in the House, reacted, “Americans around this country are wondering what does a farm bill have to do with the war in Yemen, and the answer is absolutely nothing.”

    • 'What a Despicable Sham': MSNBC's Chris Hayes Denounces Five House Democrats as 'Cowards' for Helping GOP to Block Yemen Vote
      While a vote in the U.S. Senate to push forward a War Powers Resolution on Wednesday resulted in applause from peace advocates and critics of the U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen, five Democrats in the U.S. House stirred outrage as they helped Republicans in the chamber pass a rule—attached to massive Farm Bill legislation—that effectively killed the hopes of voting on its version of the resolution for the remainder of the congressional session.


      The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reported that after the vote it was the "angriest at leadership I've seen progressive House aides and members in a long time." And with the final vote 206-203—a margin where the Democratic votes made the crucial difference—one of those aides told him that was "not a coincidence."

    • Then They Came - Senselessly and Truly Friggin' Unbelievably - For the Vietnamese
      What fresh hell is this. In yet another mindlessly cruel, deeply racist, utterly pointless move aimed at - what?! distracting the masses from the dumpster fire engulfing him? flexing his psychotic muscle by trying to find more people of color he can traumatize? - the Trump administration (sic) wants to deport certain Vietnamese immigrants who may or may not have committed any crimes but they're not quite white so really does it matter? According to The Atlantic, Trump et al - many suspect Nazi ghoul Stephen Miller - have unilaterally reinterpreted a 2008 agreement between Vietnam and the Bush-era U.S. that barred the deportation of any Vietnamese arriving here before 1995, when both sides reestablished diplomatic relations. Having once considered reversing the agreement, already deported a few people and then backing off, Trump now argues those Vietnamese are subject to immigration laws and eligible for deportation because what other havoc can he wreak?

      We're talking maybe 350,000 people, many of whom worked with/for - and often died with/for - U.S. troops as they razed the country, torched homes and ravaged families in the name of fighting Communism like we urged them to, after which they fled in terror to come here, allegedly to be safe. We're talking hard-working - and often Republican-voting - people who've lived and raised families here for decades; who, now in their 60s and 70s, like to grow lemongrass and coriander in plastic kiddie pools in their tiny, immaculate backyards; who remain so staunchly conservative that, when our Vietnamese daughter decorated a donation box for her Vietnamese language teacher with the current, commie, red and yellow flag, he gently advised her that Vietnamese parents picking up their kids would take offense. They are now the enemy?!? Online, many are struggling to find new words for "evil," "monster" and the kind of sick that daily invents a new hell for another group of vulnerable brown people. So are we.

    • Everyday Americans Can Put an End to the War in Yemen
      US tax dollars are supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which has already claimed the lives of some 85,000 children, and 12 million more people are likely on the brink of starvation. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, “the starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it.”

      The United States has long been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, and both the Obama and Trump administrations have provided considerable military support to the Saudi war in Yemen.

      But Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has finally spurred both Democrats and Republicans to take steps to end US military involvement in Yemen.

      On November 28, the Senate voted 63-to-37 to advance a resolution that would direct the removal of US Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen. However, S. J. Res. 54 carves out an exception for continued US-supported military measures against “al Qaeda or associated forces” that could be twisted to rationalize nearly any military assistance Donald Trump provides to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

    • 'We See You Stephen Miller': White House Reportedly Considering 'Despicable' and 'Racist' Plan to Deport Vietnam War Refugees
      First reported by The Atlantic on Wednesday, the White House plan seeks to reinterpret a long-standing agreement with Hanoi that protects from deportation all Vietnamese people who arrived in the U.S. before July 12, 1995—the date the two nations officially reestablished diplomatic relations after the Vietnam War, in which the U.S. killed millions of people and inflicted damage that lives on to this day.

      "In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation," The Atlantic noted.

      Winnie Wong, progressive organizer and founder of People for Bernie, offered a succinct translation of the proposed policy change: "Trump wants to deport Vietnamese grannies who have been living here for more than 40 years."

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Assange Appeals New Embassy 'House Rules'
      This week Julian Assange appealed court-mandated "house rules" he must follow while living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

    • The Australian Labor Party and the persecution of Julian Assange
      The Australian Labor Party is holding its national conference starting this weekend, at which it will be touting itself as the alternative to the current Liberal-National Party Coalition government headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Under a section headlined “Assisting Australians abroad,” Labor’s draft program asserts: “Australia should protect the safety of Australians overseas. Labor will deliver a high standard of travel advice and consular assistance to all Australians overseas.” It continues: “To the extent receiving governments permit, Labor will ensure consular representatives promptly visit Australians who have been arrested and maintain effective communication between legal representatives and the families of those who have been detained.” These words are exposed as shameless hypocrisy by Labor’s refusal, for over eight years, to do anything to defend Australian citizen and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. Labor held government when, in 2010, Assange made available a vast amount of information that exposed the scale of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well the sordid diplomatic intrigues and conspiracies conducted by American embassies and consulates around the globe.

    • Reader's View: Assange only holding warmongers accountable
      Watch out for that Julian Assange guy from WikiLeaks. He's real dangerous. He's trouble. He goes around exposing crimes against humanity committed by superpowers who use murderous violence masqueraded as "wars" — "wars" upon defenseless countries like Iraq.

    • Wikileaks' Assange undergoes medical tests at Ecuador's urging
      Assange first took asylum in the embassy in 2012, but his relationship with Ecuador has grown increasingly tense, with President Lenin Moreno saying he does not like his presence in the embassy.

      The government in October imposed new rules requiring him to receive routine medical exams, following concerns he was not getting the medical attention he needed. The rules also ordered Assange to pay his medical and phone bills and clean up after his pet cat.

    • Assange medical tests at Ecuador's urging
      Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has received a series of medical exams, Ecuador's top lawyer says, in line with a new set of rules for his asylum at the Andean country's London embassy that prompted him to sue the government.

    • Watchdog Raises Alarm About 'New Normal' as Hundreds of Journalists Worldwide Jailed for Doing Their Jobs
      "The past three years have recorded the highest number of jailed journalists since CPJ began keeping track, with consecutive records set in 2016 and 2017," the report explains. While the total figure dropped slightly this year, concerns over global crackdowns on press freedom remain high.

      "The terrible global assault on journalists that has intensified in the past few years shows no sign of abating. It is unacceptable that 251 journalists are in jail around the world just for covering the news," CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement. "The broader cost is being borne by all those who care about the flow of news and information. The tyrants who use imprisonment to impose censorship cannot be allowed to get away with it."

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Trump Administration’s Getting Sued for Failing to Protect Giraffes
      Animal advocacy and conservation organizations are taking the Trump administration to court for failing to protect giraffes who are suffering from what’s been dubbed a “silent extinction.”

      Although they might be one of the most easily recognizable and beloved animals on earth, giraffes have been quietly disappearing at an alarming rate. Since the mid-1980s, their population has declined by a startling 40 percent, leaving only an estimated 97,560 individuals in the wild.

      Last year, concerns about the threat of extinction prompted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to change their status from a species of Least Concern – skipping right over Near Threatened – to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

      Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse since then with the latest update this November that highlighted how much trouble they’re in.

    • We Must Challenge Capitalist Attempts at “Solutions” to Climate Change
      Climate activists have described this month’s Conference of the Parties on climate change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, as a make-or-break opportunity to avert disastrous climate change.

      The COP21 in Paris was similarly cast as a make-or-break moment in 2015, as well as the 2009 COP15 in Copenhagen. Since 1995, when the states that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Berlin, Germany, there have been COPs every year. As the COP is the treaty’s supreme decision-making body of the treaty, it has final decision-making authority over how the treaty will be interpreted and implemented.

      However, this year’s summit garnered exceptional attention because just two months before its opening, it was preceded by the release of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounding the alarm on climate change. Thus, we were told, the effects and costs of warming up the planet by 2.7€° Fahrenheit (1.5€° Celsius) will be much greater than the ultra-cautious, fossil-fuel-friendly IPCC has led us to expect up until now. Worse, we may reach this point in 10 to 12 years.

      The report’s urgent tone was highly gratifying to those who had for years been trying, to no avail, to convey just such urgency, and the document elicited a substantial response everywhere, even in the mainstream media.

      However, there is no cause for rejoicing; on the contrary, for behind the urgent tone of the October report, barring a popular revolt, COP24 portends business as usual. In short, it is old Kool-Aid in new bottles, and we are being asked to drink, copiously.

    • After 30 Years Studying Climate, Scientist Declares: "I've Never Been as Worried as I Am Today"
      "Global heating is technically more correct because we are talking about changes in the energy balance of the planet," Betts said. "The risks are compounding all the time. It stands to reason that the sooner we can take action, the quicker we can rein them in."

      But Betts went on to express dismay at the suicidally slow pace at which world leaders are working to confront the crisis that—if immediate and bold action is not taken—threatens to render the planet uninhabitable for future generations.

      "Things are obviously proceeding very slowly," Betts said. "As a scientist, it's frustrating to see we're still at the point when temperatures are going up and emissions are going up. I've been in this for 25 years. I hoped we'd be beyond here by now."

      As world leaders refuse to ditch fossil fuels or—in the case of the Trump administration—attempt to increase production, people around the world are mobilizing around ambitious solutions like a Green New Deal, which is rapidly gaining support in the U.S. Congress.

    • Senators Press for Expanded Probe of FEMA Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico Relief Efforts
      By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

      Senators Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Bernie Sanders, and Dick Durbin last week sent a letter to John Kelly, acting inspector general (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security, asking him to expand the ongoing investigation into the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) contracting in Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

    • As U.N. Calls for Urgent Action on Climate Change, U.S. Seeks to Dilute Pact to Cut Carbon Emissions
      U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a dire warning Wednesday that nations must act now to save humanity from devastating climate change. Despite this call to action, talks here in Katowice have been hindered by the United States and the world’s other biggest polluters, who are promoting fossil fuels and focusing on reducing emissions in developing countries but not their own. Talks are supposed to conclude Friday, but negotiators have expressed little hope in meeting the deadline. “It’s really hypocritical that the United States is here, negotiating in what I would characterize as bad faith,” says Meena Raman, of the U.S. role in climate talks at COP24. “[The U.S.] is seeking to dilute further what was a very delicate treaty that was concluded.” Raman is coordinator of the climate change program at Third World Network.

    • Fossil-Free Costa Rica: How One Country Is Pursuing Decarbonization Despite Global Inaction
      As world leaders struggle to agree on a plan to curb global emissions at the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, we look at Costa Rica’s plan to go fossil-free beginning next year. It will be the first country in the world to decarbonize its economy. Costa Rica generates more than 90 percent of its electricity using renewable energy. Costa Rican officials have announced they want to host U.N. climate talks in 2019, since Brazil rescinded its offer to host the summit following the election of right-wing climate change denier President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. We speak with Mónica Araya, a Costa Rican climate activist who works with the president of Costa Rica on sustainability issues. She is the director of Costa Rica Limpia, an NGO that promotes carbon neutrality and clean energy.

    • Coal in, activists kept out at Katowice climate talks
      All progress made during the first week of climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland was overshadowed by the deportation of at least 12 civil society representatives and the no-holds-barred promotion of the coal industry at the official conference venue. This seems not only ironic and distasteful but a violation of the principles of climate justice, human rights and transparency for a conference supposedly bringing the world together to further climate action.

      Hours before the climate march, a peaceful non-violent action organized by civil society representatives, organizations like received disturbing messages from colleagues informing them of being held by authorities at the airport. “People are detained for long periods in ill-fitted rooms, searched and interrogated. Then they are deported,” says Svitlana Romanko, regional coordinator of 350 in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.

      The representatives, deemed as “threats to national security,” are now safe and demanding accountability from both Polish leaders, as host of the COP, and world leaders, as they supposedly also represent interests of non-party stakeholders, such as observer organizations. Nugzar Kokhreidze, whose passport was taken away at passport control upon his arrival at the Katowice International Airport last week, says that one of the key values of the UN democratic process is participation. “Climate change is a challenge for all. That’s why participation of all sectors into the negotiation process is important and must be provided by the UN and the country where the conferences happen.” As of this writing, Kokhreidze is still at the Katowice airport, demanding an explanation from the Polish government on why he is deemed a threat to safety.
    • Climate Activists Must Organize Like It’s 2099
      Though Donald Trump’s Black Friday release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (FNCA) completely backfired–the media relentlessly covered the report, and with devastating detail–Trump nevertheless managed to escape being held to account for what is (arguably) the Assessment’s most damning observation:

      “Current trends in annual greenhouse gas emissions, globally, are consistent with RCP8.5.”

    • If Democrats Want a 'Green New Deal,' These Congressional Investigations Need to Happen
      A startling new report on climate change from the Trump administration makes clear that if the U.S. government and other major polluters don't do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the resulting climate impacts will be dramatic and costly, both to the U.S. economy and the long-term livability of the planet.

      These dire warnings are nothing new, but they come at a time when the Democratic party appears potentially willing to invest serious political capital on the issue of climate change. A new generation of Democrats, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshly elected New York representative, are pushing the old guard towards a “Green New Deal.”

    • 'Whoever You Are, Wherever You Are, We Need You': 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike
      Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish activist, on Wednesday called for a global climate strike. The day of action is set for Friday at "your school" or "anywhere you feel called."

      Thunberg, who's made headlines for her now-weekly school strikes to urge her home country to take bold climate action, made the call from Katowice, Poland, where she's attending the COP24 climate talks, now in their second week.

      Unfortunately, she said in her video announcing the strike, "as of now, there are no signs of commitment to climate action."

      "Our emissions are still increasing. At the same time... the science has clearly told us that we need to act now to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming," she continued. "Whoever you are, wherever you are, we need you now to stand outside your parliament or local government office to let them know that we demand climate action."

    • Inside the Tent: Big Polluters Work to Shape Paris Agreement Rules at the UN Climate Talks
      Should fossil fuel companies that knew their products contributed to climate change for nearly 40 years and did nothing about it now be allowed to have they say inside the UN climate talks?

      For the International Trade Emissions Associations (IETA), a business lobby comprised of some of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers and greenhouse gas emitters such as BP, Chevron, Rio Tinto, Eni, Total and Shell, the answer is yes.

      “Fundamentally,” the IETA writes, “we believe that our businesses should be part of the climate negotiations — because we intend to be part of the solution”.

      IETA has already wielded much influence on the UN climate talks. This year’s climate conference — known as COP24 — is widely considered to be the most important climate meeting of the last three years, with countries aiming to finalise the rulebook to implement the Paris Agreement.

      And the business lobby is determined to have its voice heard on how its members should be involved in implementing the Paris accord.

    • Young Activists School the U.N. at Climate Summit
      Close to 15,000 people have descended on Katowice, in the heart of Poland’s coal country, for the annual U.N. climate change summit. This meeting is dubbed “COP24,” for the 24th “Conference of the Parties” to the climate negotiations. The efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming have been ongoing since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Among those gathered are two young women, from the global North and South, who have decided to devote their lives to reversing humanity’s destructive addiction to fossil fuels, hopefully before it is too late.

      “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” said Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old climate activist from Sweden, addressing U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres here last week.

    • For the Future of Our Communities, Labor Support for The Green New Deal
      Four years ago, the New York climate march brought 300,000 people to the streets of Manhattan to demand action from national and world leaders. Marching in New York City with my family, we witnessed how thousands of people from all walks of life filled the streets with energy, passion, and hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren. 32BJ SEIU, the labor union I am honored to lead, played a vital part in the People’s Climate March because our members live and work in communities that are affected by climate change.

      We reside in coastal cities that have been flooded by storms like Hurricane Sandy. Our urban areas suffer with skyrocketing asthma rates. Many of us have families in the global south that have been devastated by climate change. We march and organize to bring attention to this existential crisis and demand action now. And we know that solutions can be found that both generate jobs and deliver sustainable energy.

      As the new crop of progressive legislators in Congress is showing us all, the time to be bold on issues like climate change, the economy, and immigration is now. Last week Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced the introduction of the Green New Deal, a plan to make climate change, clean air, clean water, and reductions in pollution a priority for the new Congress when its members take office in January.

    • Can China Save the Planet?: Review
      Lack of foresight isn’t new in politics. As John F. Kennedy wrote in Why England Slept (1940), that country had snoozed through the rise of, and German rearmament under, Adolf Hitler. Until the European war began, the British government, ill prepared to fight, hoped desperately for peace. (Kennedy’s father was U.S. ambassador there.) Following the Nazi blitz against London, the United Kingdom was rescued after the U.S. got into the war, prompted by the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

      The illusions entertained by the British government after Munich were minor compared with the behavior of leaders today, leaders who are neglecting and even denying the warning of climate scientists. So far, the fossil fuel purveyors and their allies in government have prevailed with propaganda about a claimed lack of scientific consensus and about such irrelevancies as cold weather in winter.

      Part of the problem is that nearly all of the public doesn’t understand the difference between the usual exaggeration of politicians and the normal professional caution of scientists. Part is that many adults assume climate change will be tolerable in their own lifetime, not understanding the 25-50 year lag between emission of greenhouse gas and its full effects. And part is the widespread investment by individuals in petroleum-powered vehicles, furnaces, and the fossil-fuel-powered electricity reliably supplied to appliances in homes, offices, factories, schools, and stores.

      However understandable the lack of foresight is, however, the consequences are unprecedented: never in recorded history has the entire planet been threatened as it is now by the accumulating blanket of invisible greenhouse gases.

    • Global Divestment Movement Celebrates Vow of 1,000 Institutions, With Nearly $8 Trillion in Assets, to Ditch Fossil Fuels
      While the COP24 climate talks are at risk of ending without a concrete plan of action thanks in large part to the Trump administration's commitment to a dirty energy agenda, environmental groups on Thursday celebrated a major milestone in the global movement to take down the fossil fuel industry after the number of public and private institutions that have vowed to divest from oil, gas, and coal companies surpassed 1,000.

      "When this movement started in 2012, we aimed to catalyze a truly global shift in public attitudes to the fossil fuel industry, and people's willingness to challenge the institutions that financially support it," May Boeve, executive director of, said in a statement. "While diplomats at the U.N. climate talks are having a hard time making progress, our movement has changed how society perceives the role of fossil fuel corporations and is actively keeping fossil fuels in the ground."

      According to 350, the institutions that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels hold nearly $8 trillion USD in combined assets. The 1,000th institution to vow to divest was Caisse des dépôts et consignations (CDC), which manages France's public sector savings, pensions, and investments.

    • How We Stop the World From “Burning Up”
      One way or another, society will move away from fossil-fuel-dominated systems. There are dystopian scenarios in which natural phenomena – the climate changes arising from global warming, resource constraints and so on – compel a collectively paralysed society to change. It is much more likely, though, that society will react, somehow, to the crisis it faces. This discussion of how it might do so starts from two questions. First, what is meant by ‘transition’ away from fossil fuels: a move to new technological systems, within existing social and economic ones – or the transformation, too, of those social and economic systems? Second, given what we know about global warming and other changes in natural systems, how long might, and/or should, the transition take?

      Climate scientists have drawn parameters within which to discuss this second question: there is a consensus among them that humanity collectively has, in the period starting in 1870, a ‘carbon budget’ of about 3200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions to work with, if the most dangerous effects of global warming are to be avoided. At the current rate at which greenhouse gases are being emitted, this budget would be used up entirely, well before the middle of this century. Beyond that, global warming effects (in particular, sea level rise, higher temperatures and weather volatility) could play havoc with humans’ living conditions on an unprecedentedly destructive scale. These forecasts suggest the need for a transition away from fossil fuels within two or three decades – over a much shorter period than is usually envisaged. One damaging aspect of the public discourse around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process is that this contradiction is constantly ignored, downplayed or, worse, normalised.

  • Finance

    • Dell is going public again, once it grabs back VMWare stock

      But that's looking likely to change again as Dell shareholders voted 61 per cent in favour of buying back VMWare tracking stock - Dell owns 80 per cent of the company - for $23.9bn, to take the company public again on 28 December.

    • Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
      Donald Trump was right when he said that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the United States and promised to renegotiate it when he became president. However, the renegotiated NAFTA-2 is worse than the original NAFTA and should be rejected.

      On December 1, NAFTA-2 was signed by President Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nietos. This started the process of approval by the legislatures of each country.

      Our movement for trade that puts people and planet first now has two synergistic opportunities: We can stop NAFTA II and replace corporate trade with a new model that raises working conditions and protects the environment.
    • Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement through Basic Color Theory
      With the rise of the gilets jaunes, the yellow vests movement sweeping France (and spreading to Belgium, the Netherlands and elsewhere), it has become apparent that the color of anti-neoliberalism is yellow. Despite much confusion, this much is clear. The people rising up in France did not take to the streets to protest a particular fuel or carbon tax; they are protesting inequality, the inequality of tax cuts for the rich coupled with tax increases and austerity for everyone else — inequalities and inequities inseparable from neoliberalism.

      Of course, neoliberalism can be attacked in a progressive as well as in a regressive way. It can be criticized in radical and reactionary and moderate ways. Donald Trump, for instance, rode to power by, among other things, attacking the decline in most people’s quality of life — a decline that is inseparable from the neoliberal organization of the world. In addition to considerable help from the anachronistic electoral college, Trump won the presidency by attacking NAFTA and other so-called free trade deals (arrangements central to neoliberal capitalism). He also promised to fix the crumbling infrastructure that accompanies the neoliberal austerity programs championed by financial elites. But he did all of this in a racist, nationalistic, ultra-reactionary way, scapegoating immigrants, Muslims, and others. And it is a curious fact that when blended with reactionary Republican red, anti-neoliberalism yellow creates orange — the color of Trump.

    • "You're Worth $1 Trillion. Why Do You Need Our $3 Billion?" Angry New Yorkers Confront Amazon Execs at City Council Meeting
      After being kept in the dark about New York's $3 billion deal with Amazon, allowing the trillion-dollar corporation to build its new headquarters—complete with helicopter landing pad for CEO Jeff Bezos—in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, concerned New York City Council members and scores of angry New Yorkers on Wednesday angrily confronted company representatives over the plan.

      At the first City Council meeting on Amazon's so-called "HQ2," about 150 protesters joined the mostly-Democratic lawmakers in slamming the closed-door process through which the city and state finalized the deal and the effect the corporation's arrival will likely have on affordable housing and community development in Queens and the entire city, as New York pours much-needed funds into the new one million square foot campus.


      The councilman also called on Amazon, whose CEO is the richest person on the planet, to simply build the headquarters with its own money and redirect the funds to public housing developments in the neighborhood.
    • I’m a Postal Worker. If You Get Mail in a Small Town or Suburb, Listen Up!
      I’ve been a postal clerk for 23 years, serving my customers in a public post office in Gresham, Oregon. As you might imagine, with the holidays fast approaching, it’s a busy time of year for us. Every day, I help my customers mail letters, cards, and packages across town and across the county. Even when we’re busy, it’s a joy to share a small part in spreading holiday cheer. Because the Postal Service charges uniform rates across the country, I don’t need to ask you if a package is being sent to a home or a business, or whether the recipient lives in a big city or a distant rural area. You can select a flat rate box that goes anywhere for one price, no matter what’s inside. Or if you pack your own gift, we price it based on weight and distance. The post office never charges you more to send your gift just because your grandma happens to live out in the country. If you took your packages to a private delivery firm, on the other hand, you might be hit with extra charges because of where your grandma lives.
    • The GOP Tax Bill Is Creating Jobs—Just Not in the U.S.
      We should have told them to be more specific. When President Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress called their massive tax overhaul last year the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” most of us assumed the jobs would be in the United States.

      Now we know better.

      Yes, unemployment in this country is low, but there’s no evidence it’s because of last year’s GOP tax cuts. More likely it’s simply a continuation of an eight-year trend of steady job growth that began under President Obama.

      On the other hand, we can reasonably connect specific losses in U.S. employment to the Trump-GOP tax law. For instance, last summer General Motors decided to build its Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico rather than the United States.

      Then this November, it announced plans to close five North American assembly plants and lay off nearly 15,000 workers in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Maryland.

      The Republican tax law encourages that kind outsourcing because it charges corporations just half the tax rate on foreign profits that it charges on domestic earnings. It’s hard to imagine a stronger lure for corporations to pack up their plant and equipment and ship them offshore.

    • A World That Is the Property of the 1%
      This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires -- Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates -- have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I don’t use exclamation points lightly or often.) Or as Oxfam reported in January of this year, the wealth of eight men -- and yes, they were men (including the three mentioned above) -- was equal to that of half the people on this planet in 2017. Yikes! And just to give you a sense of where we’ve been heading at supersonic speed, an Oxfam report a year earlier had 62 billionaires owning half the planet’s wealth. Imagine that: 62 to eight in a single year.

      Then consider what we know about the rise of the billionaire class. Again, according to Oxfam, a new billionaire appeared every two days in 2017, while 82% of the wealth being created on this planet already went to the top 1% and the bottom half of the global population saw no wealth gains at all. In 2017 (the last year for which we have such figures), the total wealth of the globe’s billionaire class ballooned by almost 20%. (And I want you to know that, unlike our president, I’m fighting hard to restrain the urge to put one or more exclamation points after every one of those sentences.)

      Oxfam released its figures this January to coincide with the annual meeting of the world’s top dogs at Davos in Switzerland. Assumedly, it will do so again in January 2019 and I shudder to think what the next set of stats are likely to be. In the meantime, consider what TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author most recently of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, has to say about a planet on which the actual economic situation of most people bears remarkably little relationship to what’s generally advertised and why, if you think stability is already a thing of the past in a Trumpian world, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

    • Yellow Vest Uprising Exposes Urgent Need for Rapid Energy Transition That Stiffs Elites, Lifts the Working Class
      President Donald Trump looked on approvingly at the chaos that engulfed Paris last weekend as more than 1,000 "Yellow Vest" protesters were arrested in one of their largest demonstrations yet—claiming that 100,000 French people had taken to the streets to protest policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

      But organizers unequivocally denied that the Yellow Vest movement is anti-climate policy, while analysts have pointed to the demonstrations as an urgent illustration of the fact that world governments, including French President Emmanuel Macron's, must take active steps to transition to a green economy while ensuring that low- and middle-income households don't bear the burden of that transition.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • 'They Are a Terrible Company': Fact-Checkers Speak Out About Facebook's Faux Effort to Fight 'Fake News'
      "They've essentially used us for crisis PR," said Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of the fact-checking site Snopes, one of over 40 outlets that have partnered with Facebook for the project. "They're not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck... They clearly don't care."

      While Facebook's effort to quell fears of "fake news" initially were praised by a wide range of media professionals, many have grown increasingly concerned about the consequences of the social media giant serving as the arbiter of what is and isn't trustworthy. Now, Binkowski and others have added their voices.

      As an example of her frustration, Binkowski pointed to "bringing up Myanmar over and over and over," as hate speech and propaganda flooded social media sites while the Myanmar military committed genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against Rohingya Muslims, forcing more than half a million refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

      Facebook not only ignored her concerns, said Binkowski—who has reported on immigration and refugees—"they were absolutely resistant." Binkowski left Snopes this year and now runs her own site.

    • Facebook grew so big that it destabilised the world. What now?

    • How WhatsApp Fuels Fake News and Violence in India

      The photos are not fake, but they don’t show the victims of a murderous Indian kidnapping ring either. The pictures are of children who were killed in Syria during a chemical attack on the town of Ghouta in August 2013, five years earlier and thousands of miles away.

    • ‘Americans Should Know Their Government Had a Hand in the Return to Fascism’ - CounterSpin interview with Brian Mier on Brazil's election
      This week on CounterSpin: Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has said he supports dictatorship and torture, that religious and ethnic “minorities must fit in or simply disappear,” that his political opponents should “leave or go to jail,” that the only problem with Brazil’s military dictatorship is that they didn’t kill enough people, that police should have “carte blanche” to kill whoever they like, and that he’d rather his own son be dead than be gay. The analysis offered by a Washington Post headline, then, that “Bolsonaro’s Victory May Mean Further Shifts in Tolerance and Moderation,” might seem to be a bad joke, were it not that such pieces are all some US media consumers may encounter.

      Migrants at the southern border seeking asylum from violence fomented by US policy underscore that we really are one world, interrelated. So how are US readers to understand what’s happening in Brazil, and its American flag-saluting, rape joke-making, Hitler-admiring president?

      We talked this week with Brian Mier. He’s an editor at Brasil Wire, as well as a freelance writer and producer. He also edited the book Voices of the Brazilian Left, a collection of interviews. He’ll join us from Brazil, where he’s lived for more than two decades.
    • Unequal Justice: Will the Supreme Court Change the Rules of Double Jeopardy to Benefit Trump and Manafort?
      In all likelihood, Terance Martez Gamble never thought he’d become a party in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, let alone one on “double jeopardy”—the principle, inscribed in the Fifth Amendment, that prohibits criminal defendants from being tried and convicted twice for the same offense.

      Yet that’s exactly what has happened to Gamble, a twenty-nine-year-old Alabama man with an eleventh-grade education, who is doing time in federal prison after being separately prosecuted by state and federal authorities for the same 2015 gun-possession crime. He is the petitioner in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court called, Gamble vs. The United States of America.

      Gamble’s lawyers maintain that his dual prosecutions run afoul of double jeopardy and the Fifth Amendment. The high court on December 6 heard oral argument on his appeal in an eighty-minute session, a sign of the heightened importance of the issues raised. Normally, the court devotes only an hour to oral argument.

      The case, which has divided civil rights lawyers and civil liberties groups, could impact Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and affect President Donald Trump’s ability to pardon such targets of the probe as Paul Manafort, who are potentially exposed to both federal and state criminal liability.

    • 'Stand Up, Fight Back!' Protestors Storm Capitol as Michigan GOP Moves Ahead With Lame-Duck Coup
      As Michigan Republicans move ahead with a raft of legislation that would dramatically weaken the authority of the state's newly elected Democratic governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, hundreds of outraged protestors flooded the capitol building in Lansing on Wednesday to denounce the GOP's anti-democratic power grab.

      "The people, united, will never be defeated!" demonstrators chanted as they condemned the Republican bills, which closely mirror "outrageous" measures that sailed through the Wisconsin legislature last month despite a wave of grassroots opposition.
    • The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
      Good news for humanity: the NRA is weakening. The gun-lobbying group is in “deep financial trouble,” Fortune Magazine reported, and warns that the NRA may not be able to keep going. “The group says it is under such financial distress because New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has convinced a number of financial service providers, banks, and insurance providers against doing business with the gun-advocacy group. As a result, the NRA claims that it will be forced to end its magazine publishing and television services, and will be forced to curtail rallies and potentially shutter some of its offices.”

      Governor Cuomo got a lot of credit for what, in reality, took an entire movement comprising hundreds of organizations. (For many reasons, business magazines tend to downplay the powerful role of social movements in economic shifts.) The reality is clear to those who have been following the Parkland students and movement groups like #NotOneMore and Everytown for Gun Safety: their strategies are working and the governor is a welcome ally.

      Symbolic protests work best when they are used to galvanize acts of economic noncooperation like boycotts, divestments, and severing business ties. The strength of such protests lies in their ability to raise the stakes of inaction for power holders. By compelling power holders to rise out of complacency, silence, and avoidance of the issues, movements can pressure power holders to use their leverage for tangible social justice changes. When people like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo throw their clout into getting businesses and organizations to withdraw economic and social support from the NRA, the impact is immediate. By highlighting that the choice is between kids (and others) lives and the greed of the NRA and gun industry, the youth-led protests, marches, speeches, and rallies have led to increasing numbers of people and businesses cutting ties with the NRA.

      Many companies have dumped the NRA over the years: the National Teachers Union dumped Wells Fargo over NRA ties. Enterprise, Avis, Budget car rentals, Delta and United airlines, and Wyndham and Best Western hotels have all stopped offering NRA discounts. The NRA claims that losing “perks” will not deter their members from pushing for their constitutional rights and civil liberties. Many people involved in the movement to end gun violence, however, feel it is important that NRA members aren’t being rewarded by corporations. In their minds, those who actively block legislation for gun control of automatic assault weapons shouldn’t enjoy special privileges while our children are being massacred.

    • Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
      As Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan are using lame-duck sessions to overturn the outcome of last month’s elections, throwing aside long-standing procedures and basic democratic principles, House Democrats seem determined to throw up roadblocks to limit what they can do with their new majority

      Specifically, likely Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is proposing the House adopt pay-as-you-go (paygo) rules that require all new spending be offset with either budget cuts or tax increases.

      These rules would also prohibit any new taxes on the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution. Overturning the rules would require a 60 percent supermajority, which means that a substantial number of Republicans would have to be pulled along to get passage.

      To see why this is such a poor idea, it’s only necessary to think of many of the proposals that Democrats floated in the recent election.

      There is considerable support among Democrats for “Medicare for All,” extending the Medicare program to the whole population. While many do not interpret this as meaning an immediate extension of Medicare to everyone, even lowering the qualifying age to 55 or 60 will mean additional spending.
    • Donald Trump Is Under the Bus
      Just after noon on Wednesday, the personal lawyer to the president of the United States was sentenced in federal court to 36 months in prison.

      Think about that.

      “Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s long-time consigliere and Man Who Knows All Secrets had his world turned inside out like a laundered sock on Monday morning,” I wrote on April 11 of this year, “when the FBI basically raided every place he’s ever spent more than five minutes. Cohen’s home, office and hotel all got the treatment courtesy of the office of the United States attorney for the southern district of New York, operating off a tip from special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigative team.”

      Eight months and a day later, here we are.

      The day of reckoning finally arrived for Donald Trump’s long-time attorney, fixer and bagman. Cohen, who once walked the streets of New York with the strut of a man who thought he could knock over buildings, finally had the building fall on him. Everyone whose arm Cohen ever twisted on behalf of Trump likely watched the network coverage of his sentencing as if it were the last 10 seconds of the Super Bowl and their team was on top.

    • British Security Service Infiltration, the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft
      The British state can maintain its spies’ cover stories for centuries. Look up Eldred Pottinger, who for 180 years appears in scores of British history books – right up to and including William Dalrymple’s Return of the King – as a British officer who chanced to be passing Herat on holiday when it came under siege from a partly Russian-officered Persian army, and helped to organise the defences. In researching Sikunder Burnes, I discovered and published from the British Library incontrovertible and detailed documentary evidence that Pottinger’s entire journey was under the direct instructions of, and reporting to, British spymaster Alexander Burnes. The first historian to publish the untrue “holiday” cover story, Sir John Kaye, knew both Burnes and Pottinger and undoubtedly knew he was publishing lying propaganda. Every other British historian of the First Afghan War (except me and latterly Farrukh Husain) has just followed Kaye’s official propaganda.

      Some things don’t change. I was irresistibly reminded of Eldred Pottinger just passing Herat on holiday, when I learnt how highly improbable left wing firebrand Simon Bracey-Lane just happened to be on holiday in the United States with available cash to fund himself, when he stumbled into the Bernie Sanders campaign.

    • 'Sore Loser Loses Again': Federal Judge Rejects GOP Lawsuit, Defends Mainers' Right to Ranked Choice Voting
      In the latest rebuke to Rep. Bruce Poliquin's (R-Maine) repeated attempts to hold onto his seat in Maine's 2nd congressional district after losing the midterm election, a federal judge threw out his lawsuit in which the two-term congressman claimed the state's use of ranked choice voting (RCV) was unconstitutional and unfair to voters.

      Local advocacy groups applauded as U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker rejected Poliquin's claim that the use of RCV, which has been endorsed repeatedly by Maine voters, violates Mainers' First Amendment rights and the Voting Rights Act, as well as his argument that the system is confusing to voters.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • EFF To U.S. Supreme Court: Rule Carefully In Free Speech Case About Private Operators, State Actors, and the First Amendment
      Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provide an opportunity for everyone to have a voice on the Internet, to communicate with friends, post their views, and comment on movies or the president. However, the fact that they provide a broad, open platform for speech doesn’t automatically mean they are “public forums” in the sense your town’s official Facebook page or @realDonaldTrump are. Those are run by the government or its officials, who, when it comes to the First Amendment, are “state actors” and can’t block people from the forum without complying with First Amendment standards. Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, are platforms created and run by corporations, which are private entities that can curate and edit content.

      The distinction between private entities and state actors providing forums for communication is crucial for the free speech rights of Internet users and the platforms they use. In a brief filed yesterday in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, we explained that private entities do not become state actors simply by providing their own platforms for use by other speakers.

      The case before the court, Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, doesn’t actually involve social media platforms—it’s about whether a public access television station is a state actor that violated the First Amendment rights of two producers by taking down their videos that criticized the station. But the court’s decision could have a profound impact on online speech. Here’s why: the television station is operated by a privately owned nonprofit. The State of New York has no control over or say in the station’s content. It does appoint two of the nonprofit’s 13-member board of directors. A lower court ruled that the station was an arm of the state actor and couldn’t block the videos.
    • What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
      There are many things wrong with ideologues. Here I mean those who see the world through a narrow dogma. It is as if they wear figurative blinders, like those real ones placed on draft horses, so as to prevent their gaze from wondering away from a designated path. As a consequence ideologues can sometimes be embarrassing—making gross general pronouncements based on the narrowest sets of beliefs and expecting the world to go along. Often they are just boring. However, give them a modicum of power and they can become downright dangerous.

      For instance, take the recent dustup at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It started when Marc Lamont Hill, a tenured professor holding an endowed chair in the School of Media and Communications, gave a speech at the United Nations. The occasion was the U.N.’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Hill, who is a longstanding critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, summarized the official discrimination practiced by Israel against the Palestinians—that is he laid out examples of Zionist Israel’s racist nature and practice—and then “endorsed a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
    • If You're Worried About Bad EU Internet Regulation, Just Wait Until You See The New Terrorist Regulation
      This seems to be the year for awful internet regulation by the EU. At least there were some redeeming qualities in the GDPR, but they were few and far between, and much of the GDPR is terrible and is creating real problems for free speech online, while simultaneously, undermining privacy and giving repressive governments a new tool to go after critics. Oh, and in the process, it has only made Google that much more dominant in Europe, harming competition.

      And, then, of course, there's the still ongoing debate about the EU Copyright Directive, which will also be hellish on free speech. The entire point of Article 13 in that Directive is to wipe away the intermediary liability protections that enable websites to host your content. Without such protections, it is not difficult to see how it will lead to a widespread stifling of ideas, not to mention many smaller platforms for hosting content exiting the market entirely.

      But here's the thing: both of those EU regulations are absolutely nothing compared to the upcoming EU Terrorist Regulation. We mentioned this a bit back in August, with the EU Commission pushing for the rule that all terrorist content must be taken down in an hour or face massive fines and possible criminal liability. Earlier this year, Joan Barata at Stanford wrote a compelling paper detailing just how extreme parts of the proposed regulation will go.

      Among the many questionable bits of the Terrorist Regulation are that it will apply no matter how small a platform is and even if they're not in the EU, so long as the EU claims they have a "significant number" of EU users. Also, if a platform isn't even based in the EU, part of the proposal would require the companies to hire a "representative" in the EU to respond to these takedown demands. If the government orders a platform to take down "terrorist" content, a platform has to take it down within an hour and then set up "proactive measures" to stop the same content from ever being uploaded (i.e., mandatory filters).
    • Arkansas Politician Introduces Bill To Make It Illegal For Social Media Companies To Block Content He Likes
      Arkansas state rep Johnny Rye is in galaxy mind mode. He's introduced a bill that aims to stop "censorship" by social media platforms by allowing the government to compel speech. I'm sure the irony is lost on Rye. But it's probably not the only thing sailing over Rep. Rye's head. (h/t Sarah McLaughlin)

      What Rye is trying to stop is social media companies moderating their own platforms. He appears to feel conservatives are being "censored" by Facebook, Twitter, etc. and thinks rolling over the First Amendment and Section 230 immunity is going to cure this perceived ill.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Privacy Coalition to Congress: Don’t Dismantle Stronger State Data Privacy Laws 18:55
      After years of claiming self-regulation would keep them in line, big tech companies spooked by new state data privacy safeguards are now calling for a national privacy law—one that would roll back these vital state protections.

      We are one of sixteen consumer privacy and civil rights groups to remind Congress that while we support federal baseline data privacy legislation that provides basic protection for all Americans, such a law must not come at the price of dismantling (or as lawyers say, “preempting”) the legal rights of people who live in states with stronger data privacy protections.

      State governments across the country have stepped up in the fight to strengthen privacy, with laws that grant their citizens important protections—such as a right to know what personal information companies collect about them (California), the right to decide whether to share biometric information with companies (Illinois), and protection from fraudulent collection of their data (Vermont).
    • How HTTPS Everywhere Keeps Protecting Users On An Increasingly Encrypted Web
      Way back in 2010, we launched our popular browser extension HTTPS Everywhere as part of our effort to encrypt the web. At the time, the need for HTTPS Everywhere to protect browsing sessions was as obvious as the threats were ever-present. The threats may not be as clear now, but HTTPS Everywhere is still as important to users as ever.

      In 2010, HTTPS Everywhere was a novel extension. It allowed users to automatically use the secure version of websites that offered both insecure HTTP and secure, encrypted HTTPS. Sites such as Google had only recently exposed to users the option to search using HTTPS. Facebook had not yet allowed users to browse the site securely. The dangers of insecure browsing were demonstrated by the powerful browser extension Firesheep, which intercepted HTTP packets and allowed attackers on the same WiFi network as their victims to hijack browsing sessions when logged in to popular sites. Firesheep provided a simple point-and-click interface to perform this "session hijacking" attack - no need for terminal screens or complicated command-line tools. Tools with similar functionality had existed for a while, but anyone could install Firesheep with minimal effort.

      Fast forward to 2018. HTTPS is more prevalent than ever, and continuing to take big strides. On July 24, Google announced that users of its Chrome browser would see HTTP sites labeled as "not secure." And a Google transparency report shows that between 71% and 90% of page loads are over HTTPS as of December 2018. The vast majority of the top sites not only offer HTTPS, but automatically redirect to the HTTPS version of the site when you connect over HTTP. This has led a lot of people to ask a very good question: what's the point of using HTTPS Everywhere anymore? Why should we use it when sites are already forwarding us to the secure version?

    • A Heartbroken Mom’s Letter To Tech Companies Criticizes Their ‘Smart’ Algorithms
      A devastated mom, via an open letter to tech companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Experian has criticized their flawed algorithms for displaying incessant baby related adverts, even though she gave birth to a stillborn child.

      The open letter, via a tweet, expressed the sorrow of the heartbroken Gillian Brockell (a Washington Post journalist) and further threw light on her ‘always-online’ presence on social media and how the tech companies tracked her pregnancy.
    • Research Writeup: Deanonymization and Proximity Detection Using Wi-Fi
      If you have been following my blog for a while you will know that I did research at Colgate University over the summers. My research was on Wi-Fi and how I can do some interesting stuff using it. The university just published its annual catalogue of all the research projects which happened over the summer. My research was done under the mentorship of Aaron Gember-Jacobson. I could not have asked for a better advisor. Here is the writeup of my project:

      According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 23.1% of female and 5.4% of male undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault, with only a minute percentage reporting their assault to law enforcement1. In certain cases, survivors can forget who the perpetrator was due to trauma and/or intoxication. I want to use technology to counter this problem. My hope is to reduce the number of potential culprits when such an incident occurs to make it easier for the survivor to identify the perpetrator.

      This can be made possible by using a device that most people carry at all times – a smartphone. The idea is to save the device identifier and the distance between your phone and that of each person who comes near you in a searchable database. This allows you, the user, to search for which device was near you at a particular time. The research is further divided into two parts. The first involved finding a way to effectively calculate the relative distance between two smartphones and the second involved information storage and querying. I focused mainly on the first part, which turned out to be more difficult and involved than I anticipated.

    • GCHQ to expand bulk device hacking practices
      Intelligence agencies in the UK are gearing up to significantly expand their large-scale data hacking operations in an effort to more effectively identify potential national security threats.

      Civil liberties groups and digital privacy advocates are raising concerns over what such an expansion of the “bulk equipment interference regime” (EI) would mean for the personal privacy of ordinary citizens.

      The bulk EI regime is the framework which allows for GCHQ agents to hack into individual phones, computers, USB sticks, and even entire communication networks. The expansion of EI has privacy experts worried that this would allow government agencies in the UK free reign to run mass snooping operations unchecked and unrestricted.
    • Supermicro says independent investigation found no spy chips on its motherboards
      San Jose-based server manufacturer Supermicro has written to its customers to tell them that an independent audit has found no evidence that malicious chips were planted on its motherboards.

      The claims that Supermicro’s servers, used by the likes of Apple and Amazon, had been interfered with by the Chinese somewhere along its supply chain first surfaced in October in an extraordinary report from Bloomberg Business Week.

      The claim, which Bloomberg claimed had been confirmed by umpteen unnamed current and former senior national security officials, as well as insiders at Apple and Amazon, was treated with caution by many members of the security community.

    • Amazon’s Disturbing Plan to Add Face Surveillance to Your Front Door
      Amazon’s patent application for doorbell cameras provides a roadmap for the company’s vision of a surveillance-heavy future. Recently, a patent application from Amazon became public that would pair face surveillance — like Rekognition, the product that the company is aggressively marketing to police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — with Ring, a doorbell camera company that Amazon bought earlier this year.

      While the details are sketchy, the application describes a system that the police can use to match the faces of people walking by a doorbell camera with a photo database of persons they deem “suspicious.” Likewise, homeowners can also add photos of “suspicious” people into the system and then the doorbell’s facial recognition program will scan anyone passing their home. In either case, if a match occurs, the person’s face can be automatically sent to law enforcement, and the police could arrive in minutes.

      As a former patent litigator, I've spent a lot of time reading patents. It’s rare for patent applications to lay out, in such nightmarish detail, the world a company wants to bring about. Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future, with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells.

    • Taylor Swift tracked stalkers with facial recognition tech at her concert

      US artists haven’t previously been publicized for using facial recognition tech at their concerts. However, the legality of doing so is on the artist’s side: a concert is technically a private event, therefore event organizers can subject concert-goers to almost any kind of surveillance.

    • Taylor Swift used facial recognition tech at concerts to spy on stalkers

      Taylor Swift used facial recognition technology at her live performances so that technicians running the system could then check those face scans against a private database of her stalkers.

    • The Future of Entertainment

      Taylor Swift fans mesmerized by rehearsal clips on a kiosk at her May 18th Rose Bowl show were unaware of one crucial detail: A facial-recognition camera inside the display was taking their photos. The images were being transferred to a Nashville “command post,” where they were cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of the pop star’s known stalkers, according to Mike Downing, chief security officer of Oak View Group, an advisory board for concert venues including Madison Square Garden and the Forum in L.A. “Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working,” says Downing, who attended the concert to witness a demo of the system as a guest of the company that manufactures the kiosks. (Swift’s reps did not respond to requests for comment.) Despite the obvious privacy concerns — for starters, who owns those pictures of concertgoers and how long can they be kept on file? — the use of facial-recognition technology is on the rise at stadiums and arenas, and security is not the only goal. Earlier this year, Ticketmaster invested in Blink Identity, a startup that claims its sensors can identify people walking past at full speed in about half a second. The ticketing giant hopes the technology will help fans move through turnstiles more efficiently, a privilege that may be offered to high rollers and VIP guests before it reaches the masses. “It holds a lot of promise,” says Justin Burleigh, Ticketmaster’s chief product officer, adding that the company plans to beta-test the tech at venues early next year. “We’re just being very careful about where and how we implement it.” — Steve Knopper

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Activist Zeros In on Canada’s Indigenous Women
      Cherry Smiley, born in Kamloops, British Columbia, is an artist, feminist activist, survivor of male abuse and aspiring politician from an indigenous background. Her mother’s side of the family is Nlaka’pamux and her father’s is Diné. “My maternal grandmother is a huge influence on my life. She’s 96, hilarious, and says what she thinks,” Smiley says.

      Smiley also is a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University in Montreal. Her research aims to help end male violence against women and girls in Canada, with a focus on indigenous women and girls. She is critical of Canada’s response to the number indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing in recent decades.

      I first met Smiley in 2015. She told me a story about speaking on a panel about the sex trade in Vancouver, which a number of indigenous women had attended. This topic is painfully relevant to them.

      Smiley told me, “The women in the audience were asking questions and they were great, but they were [furious], of course. The organizers were threatening to call the police on the aboriginal women in the room because we were too savage and out of control, and [they worried that] these ‘angry Indians’ [were] going to storm the panel.

    • The Use of Civil Asset Forfeiture in New Jersey Is Broken
      Claimants challenge forfeitures in just 3 percent of cases, allowing the state to seize millions’ worth of people’s property in a rigged process. I’ve spent the last year representing people in civil asset forfeiture cases across New Jersey. It looks nothing like justice.

      In theory, civil asset forfeiture empowers law enforcement authorities to deprive individuals of the ill-gotten gains associated with criminal activity. In reality, civil asset forfeiture grants law enforcement authorities effective impunity to steal from the public to enrich their departments.

      The ACLU of New Jersey recently issued a report on the use of civil asset forfeiture in our state, and the findings are alarming. The forfeiture system is failing all New Jerseyans — especially those in low-income communities and communities of color. In most cases I’ve seen this year, claimants won their money or property back. But they are the exceptions — not for having winning cases but for coming forward to make the government prove its claims.

    • Elkhart’s Acting Police Chief Has Previously Been Demoted, Reprimanded and Suspended
      When Ed Windbigler was suspended last month as the police chief in Elkhart, Indiana, his No. 2, Todd Thayer, became the Police Department’s public face, appearing at a town hall meeting, before a civilian oversight commission and on the radio.

      In each setting, Thayer defended the department — the “thin blue line” protecting law-abiding citizens from “predators” and “all the other garbage” — and attacked the media, with references to “tabloid” journalism and “ambush reporting.”

      On Monday, Windbigler resigned under pressure from Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese, who said he wants “new leadership” after reports by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica about how Windbigler minimized the beating of a handcuffed man. The news organizations have also reported that Windbigler repeatedly promoted officers with disciplinary histories. Efforts to reach Windbigler for comment have been unsuccessful.

    • Chicago Organizers Have Message For Next Mayor: Support People’s Agenda Or Face Resistance
      “The West Side is the heartbeat of Chicago,” said Janice Peters. “You can get to anywhere from this place anywhere in Chicago.”

      Peters, an organizer with the group Action Now, was with about 50 people, who boarded a bus on a cold, windy November morning to tour several Chicago neighborhoods. They heard from community leaders and talked with each other about what they want the next mayor of Chicago to support.

      The bus tour was organized by the Grassroots Collaborative, a Chicago-based coalition of community groups that organizes around issues of homelessness, immigration, economics, and education. It began at Lincoln Yards, an area along the north branch of the Chicago River slated for massive development by real estate company Sterling Bay.

      From there, the tour made five stops: Jackson Park, the site chosen for the Barack Obama Presidential Library; a public school on the south side; a pair of homes in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood; Roseland Hospital; a “safety net” hospital on the south side, and the site of a proposed new $95 million police academy on the west side.

    • This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
      This holiday season — a time so often associated with bringing family together — my thoughts keep turning to the families in the migrant caravans making their way to the U.S. southern border. I had the privilege of spending four days in Mexico last month with my organization, the American Friends Service Committee, to assess the needs of participants in the caravan and expand human rights monitoring. As I crept into my children’s bedrooms to give them a kiss when I got back, resisting the urge to wake them up for cuddling and conversation, I thought about what would make me pick up with them and flee, with little notice and even less information about what would lie ahead. Over and over again, our delegation heard of the need for more strollers for the migrant caravan. Could I even imagine dropping everything to walk 3,000 difficult miles with my children in my arms — without even a stroller?

    • Government Reverses Course, Sending 4-Year-Old Boy Back to His Father
      It looked like a happy holiday reunion: A 4-year-old boy wearing a Spider-Man baseball shirt sprinted across an airport baggage claim area in Austin, Texas, late Tuesday night and flung himself into his father’s arms, then immediately pulled toys out of his bag as if trying to catch his father up on all that was new in his life.

      He had a Woody doll from “Toy Story,” a coloring book and stickers. There were a lot more toys in his suitcase, the boy squealed, between hugs and kisses. And, he announced, his eyes widening at the sight of a couple of fake reindeer displayed on baggage carousel 1, he’d seen reindeer for real. “Some of them have horns,” the boy giggled, poking his index fingers from each side of his head.

      This reunion wasn’t about the holidays, however. It was the bittersweet homecoming of a father and son from El Salvador who’d been separated for more than 11 weeks and 1,800 miles for reasons the United States government still has not made entirely clear. Brayan and his father, Julio, are among a small, new wave of family separations that immigration lawyers and advocates say signal an unofficial continuation of the Trump administration’s controversial zero-tolerance policy.

      Brayan, with striking reddish-blond hair, and his 27-year-old father came to the U.S. seeking refuge from gang violence in September but were separated at a border detention facility in Texas. Brayan was sent to temporary foster care in New York, Julio to an immigration detention facility outside San Antonio. ProPublica is not using their last name because the family is worried that Julio’s wife and stepson could face gang threats in El Salvador.

    • To End Fear and Protect Justice, Dozens of Retired Judges Call on ICE to End Courthouse Arrests
      The letter says a January directive (pdf) from ICE, which instructed authorities to only target certain undocumented people—"aliens with criminal convictions, gang members, national security or public safety threats, aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States but have failed to depart, and aliens who have re-entered the country illegally after being removed"—in court and refrain from arresting family members or witnesses, was a step in the right direction.

      However, it charges, "interrupting criminal proceedings with civil immigration arrests undermines the justice system." Thus, the judges are calling on ICE acting director Ronald Vitiello to extend the "sensitive location" designation—which applies to schools, hospitals, places of worship, and public demonstrations—to local, state, and federal courthouses.

      The need for such action appears especially significant under the Trump administration. As the letter notes, "Federal immigration arrests of individuals appearing in state and local courthouses are not unique to the current administration, but reports suggest there has been a dramatic increase in ICE presence in courthouses over the last two years."
    • What World Do We Seek?
      If David Attenborough (the British Natural Historian, narrator of the video series, Planet Earth and a national treasure in the U.K.), gives a speech to the UN proclaiming the end of civilization and few hear it, does our world still collapse? If the President releases the Congressional report on climate change on Black Friday and no one heeds it, does it have an impact? If Trump tweets his denial of the substance of the report (which strongly affirms the reality of global warming) – does that mean anything at all? And, if the U.N. releases a chatbot designed to empower the people of the planet (at least, those with access to Facebook) to act in reducing carbon emissions, does that signal a democratization of the process or a profound cynicism as to the likelihood of an organized, intra-government, legislative solution to the climate catastrophe?

      We are being stress-tested on our ability to survive in the multiverse, the fractured continuum of space, time, matter and energy thatmanifests in parallel worlds wherefactual and counterfactual narratives co-exist.

      We are being asked, by our political circumstances, to believe in both truth and untruth, the fake and the real, and yet retain our equanimity. We are being asked to hold two opposed ideas in our mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function – a feat that F. Scott Fitzgerald considered “was the test of a first-rate intelligence”. We are being asked to consume and to conserve; to change and to sustain; to believe in progress – time’s arrow, and in the everlastingness of a regenerative natural world – time’s cycle.

      We are being asked to believe in the possibility of continued fossil-fueled economic growth while that phenomenon’s miasmic specter of global warming threatens to destroy the productivity and habitability of vast swathes of the planet. And, we are being asked, now, to believe that the server farms that support Facebook run on fairy dust.
    • Federal Court Says Massachusetts' Wiretap Law Can't Be Used To Arrest People For Recording Public Officials
      Seven years ago, the First Circuit Court of Appeals released its Glik decision. This decision found that recording public officials was protected by the First Amendment, overriding Massachusetts state law. The state wiretap law says recordings must have consent of everyone captured on the recording. The Appeals Court said recording police officers while they performed their duties in public was clearly covered by the First Amendment. The opinion also dealt with some ancillary Fourth Amendment issues, but seemingly made it clear these recordings were protected activity.

      The law remained on the books unaltered. Thanks to legislative inaction, the law is still capable of being abused. Since the Appeals Court didn't declare the law unconstitutional, or even this application of it, it has taken another federal court decision nearly a decade later to straighten this out. (h/t Courthouse News Service)

      The ruling [PDF] deals with two First Amendment cases. One deals with activists recording cops. The other deals with another set of activists -- James O'Keefe's Project Veritas -- and its secret recording of Democratic politicians. The specifics might be a bit different, but the outcome is the same: recording public officials is protected by the First Amendment. The state law is unconstitutional.
    • The Supreme Court Judgement and Scotland’s Colonial Status
      London’s Supreme Court, sitting in judgement on its Scottish colony, has ruled that parts of the Scottish Government’s UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill exceed the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

      The judgement is absolutely specific that the Scottish Bill breaches both the Scotland Act, the original devolution settlement, and the Tory/DUP government’s recent European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which rolled back devolution, grabbed powers from the Scottish Parliament over previously devolved areas and wrenched them back to Westminster. The Tory/DUP European Union (Withdrawal) Act Schedule 4 specified that it overruled the Scotland Act devolution settlement.

      If you carefully read the judgement, especially paras 47 to 65, the Supreme Court has gone still further than ever before in saying that neither the Scotland Act nor the Sewell Convention in any way limits the power of the UK Parliament to legislate for Scotland, even in devolved areas, without any need for consent from Scottish ministers or parliament. They even go so far as to specifically state that London ministers have an untrammelled power under the Scotland Act, without needing consent from Scotland or specific further endorsement from the Westminster parliament, to impose secondary legislation on Scotland.

    • Facing Pressure, McConnell Agrees to Criminal Justice Vote
      Under pressure from President Donald Trump and many of his Republican colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he will bring legislation to the floor to overhaul the nation’s federal sentencing laws.

      McConnell’s decision comes after more than three years of overtures from a large, bipartisan group of senators who support the criminal justice bill. Trump announced his support for the legislation last month, but McConnell treaded cautiously as a handful of members in his caucus voiced concerns that it would be too soft on violent criminals.

      Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican, said Trump’s push for the legislation was “critical to the outcome.”

    • FBI Files Show Agents Tracked Non-Violent Climate Activists as Part of 'Domestic Terrorism Case'
      When the U.S.-based launched its 'Break Free From Fossil Fuels' campaign in May of 2106, the global climate justice group called the multi-week set of coordinated actions "largest civil disobedience in the history of the environmental movement."

      With hundreds of actions taking place on six continents, the whole world was watching—and, according to newly-released documents, was the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

      Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Guardian published previously unseen FBI files on Thursday showing the agency tracking peaceful protesters in the U.S. who participated in some of the 'Break Free' demonstrations.

    • The Phrase “Border Security” Freezes My Soul Every Time
      “This is a national emergency,” Donald Trump said. “Drugs are pouring into our country. People with tremendous medical difficulty and medical problems are pouring in, and in many cases it’s contagious. They’re pouring into our country. We have to have border security. We have to have a wall as part of border security.”

      Seal up that border, with rifles and tear gas and concertina wire . . . and The Wall. The alternative, apparently, is an insecure border, wide open and unprotected. This seems to be the entirety of the “debate” over on this side of the border. Trump’s opponents may be horrified by the border patrol’s cruel treatment of asylum seekers — the tear-gassing of toddlers, for God’s sake — but surely everyone understands that the border has to be protected and secured. Right?


      This question leads us directly to the present flow of immigrants from the south — particularly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, Central America’s Northern Triangle.

    • Can Socialism Save Democracy?
      A consensus is emerging on the left that capitalism produces inequality, which leads to oligarchy, which undermines democracy, and paves the way to fascism; and only socialism can save democracy, because it can break the oligarchy, which will restore equality, so democracy can function effectively.

      It is a simple argument that is easily over applied, for modern democracy has always come coupled with markets. But it is an important argument that needs to be taken seriously, for inequality has threatened democracy, by fracturing the citizenry and producing oligarchy, since at least the time of Aristotle.

      Economic equality produces the shared basis of experience through which citizens might arrive at a national consensus. Shared experiences facilitate the social integration of autonomous individuals and ethnic minorities alike and produce the middle classes that might keep the wealthy in check.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The FBI Is Now Looking Into Those Bogus Net Neutrality Comments
      According to the NY AG's office, about 9.5 million of the more than 22 million comments filed with the FCC during the repeal's open comment period were filed using peoples' names without their consent (including my own and those of two Senators). Last October, the New York AG announced they had expanded their probe, issuing subpoenas to both numerous ISP-linked lobbying and policy organizations (like the industry's dubious Broadband for America policy vessel) as well as a few pro net neutrality consumer groups.

      Last week, numerous outlets falsely reported that "Russia" was behind these comments. There's no actual evidence of that (500,000 Russian email addresses were used, but that doesn't mean Russia itself was involved). As we've seen during the similar bogus comments plaguing other US government proceedings in recent years, the usual culprit is almost always the companies that stand to benefit from the regulatory efforts in question, since there's several DC policy shops that apparently sell these kinds of services (read: bogus support for terrible policies) as a value added service.

      And while it's pretty clear that the Ajit Pai FCC doesn't want anybody knowing which firm tried to stuff the ballot box and who was funding the initiative, the involvement of the DOJ and several additional AG offices means hiding the truth just got immeasurably more difficult. And depending what investigators find, that could seriously complicate next February's opening arguments in the net neutrality lawsuit against the FCC, which, if the FCC and its ISP allies lose, could end with the restoration of the FCC's 2015 rules, bringing us fill circle.

    • The FCC Has Made the Same Mistake for Text Messaging That It Did for Net Neutrality
      Almost exactly a year ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to strip net neutrality protections from the Internet and reclassify Internet Service Providers as an “information service” rather than a “common carrier” telecommunications one. This year, the FCC has voted to classify text messaging the same way.

      This classification is not just a minor legal technicality. It can have real effects on our ability to use text messaging for political speech and supporting charities. This is why EFF joined 19 other groups in signing a letter urging FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to either classify SMS and short codes as a common carrier or, at the least, wait to make a decision until the effects of classifying text messaging as an information service could be studied under today’s circumstances.

    • New FCC Data Indicates Future Broadband Access for Most Americans Will Be a Monopoly
      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) produced its first Communications Marketplace Report, a biannual report recently required by Congress, to comprehensively assess the status of America’s communications and media market. And here’s the good news: if what you want is a choice of slow, outdated Internet, then the United States market looks great.

      The major takeaway of this report, which provides policymakers in D.C. and the states a wide-ranging view of available data to see trends in the Internet, is that competition for broadband only looks good at slow speeds while a vast majority of Americans (EFF estimates at least 68 million) are facing monopoly or no access to high-speed broadband. In comparison to our international counterparts, the FCC currently ranks the U.S. in fifth place globally (an improvement from our 11th place showing last year) for fixed broadband speeds and 23rd place for mobile broadband speeds (yet curiously found that we have universal access to 4G LTE networks).

      In short, we still do not have an accurate picture of how bad the broadband monopoly problem is. The methodology the FCC relies on for collecting information is flawed. Namely, if one household in a census block has broadband, the data reports that an entire census block has access to the same service. The agency acknowledges that this risks overcounting deployment, but does not describe its plan to improve data collection.

    • Big Telecom Claims Oversight & Accountability Violates Its First Amendment Rights
      The Ajit Pai FCC's attacks on net neutrality have received ample attention. Less talked about is the fact that the attack on net neutrality was just one part of a much broader effort to eliminate what was already pretty tepid oversight of one of the least liked and least competitive tech sectors in America.

      The Pai FCC's Orwellian-named "Restoring Internet Freedom" order not only killed net neutrality rules, it dramatically rolled back FCC authority over big ISPs like Comcast, shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC ISP lobbyists know full well lacks the authority or attention span for telecom oversight. In addition to that, the FCC (again at big telecom's behest) has set about trying to claim states can't protect consumers either. With neither competition nor state or federal oversight keeping natural monopolies in line, it shouldn't take a degree in genetics to ferret out the potential pitfalls.

    • FCC Says It Will Finally Investigate Nation's Bullshit Broadband Availability Maps. Maybe.
      For years we've noted how the FCC's broadband availability maps are just comically bad. If you'd like to confirm that take, you can just plug your home address into the agency's $350 million broadband availability map and watch as entire ISPs and speed availability are largely hallucinated. This is a problem that never gets fixed, largely because the nation's entrenched broadband providers (and the politicians paid to love them) have a vested interest in pretending that the US broadband industry isn't just an aggressive hodge-podge of broken monopolies and duopolies nickel-and-diming the hell out of captive customers. Senators have been bitching about the maps a little more lately as states vie for FCC Mobility Fund Phase II Auction subsidies, which will dole out $4.5 billion to under-connected states over the next decade. Back in August, Montana Senator Jon Tester went so far as to suggest that said maps "stink" and that somebody should have their "ass kicked" for the terrible data the FCC uses for both subsidies and policy. Last Friday the Sisyphean quest to stop our maps from sucking turned an interesting corner, when the FCC announced (pdf) it was finally launching an investigation into whether "one or more" mobile carriers submitted false coverage data to the FCC. The FCC appears to be responding to a complaint (pdf) filed earlier this year by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), which stated that Verizon was "grossly overstating" the company's 4G LTE broadband coverage in its filings with the FCC.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • The Value of Patent Applications in Valuing Firms
      These are all good questions that are difficult to measure, and so scholars try to use natural experiments or other empirical methods to divine the answer. In a recent draft, Deepak Hegde, Baruch Lev, and Chenqi Zhu (all NYU Stern Business) use the AIPA to provide some useful answers. For those unaware, the AIPA mandated that patent applications be published after 18 months by default, rather than held secretly until patent grant. The AIPA is the law that keeps on giving; there have been several studies that use the "shock" of the AIPA to measure what effect patent publications had on a variety of dependent variables.


      They find that price discovery is faster after the AIPA. Interestingly, they also find that the effect is more pronounced in high-tech and fast moving fields -- that is, industries where new R&D information is critically important.

    • Patent case: Judgment no. 550/2018, Spain
      In a Judgment dated 26 July 2018, the influential Barcelona Court of Appeal (Section 15) rejected an overly narrow, “literalistic” interpretation of a patent claim. A claim’s terms must be interpreted according to the meaning that a person skilled in the art would give them – even if it is not the most scientifically “puristic” interpretation – also taking account of the patent’s description.

    • Qualcomm says a Chinese court has banned sales of older iPhones nationwide
      Qualcomm says it has scored an important victory in its long-running global patent battle with Apple over patent rights. According to Qualcomm, a Chinese court ruled that several recent iPhone models infringe multiple Qualcomm software patents and has ordered a nationwide ban on iPhone sales. Apple says it has already appealed the ruling.

      The ruling occurred on November 30, but Qualcomm announced the ruling today.

      Apple has downplayed the ruling's significance, telling media outlets that the ban has not yet taken effect and that it only applies to older versions of iOS software, not to the current version, iOS 12. The ruling also only applies to older iPhone models—including the iPhone 8 and iPhone X—but not to the iPhone XS and XR.

    • Pemetrexed: Italian Court reversed the first instance decision ordering a PI on the basis of Eli Lilly's patent

    • Novartis AG v. Ezra Ventures LLC (Fed. Cir. 2018)
      In Novartis AG v. Ezra Ventures LLC, the Federal Circuit addressed a narrow but important question regarding its jurisprudence on the issue of obviousness-type double patenting (OTPD). That question was whether its decision in Gilead Sciences Inc. v. Natco Pharma Ltd., which established that a first patent filed earlier than a second patent but that issued later, could be used to invalidate the second patent on OTDP grounds, if the reason the later-expiring patent was later-expiring was due to Patent Term Extension under 35 U.S.C. ۤ 156.


      The Federal Circuit affirmed, in an opinion by Judge Chen joined by Judges Moore and Hughes. The panel first addressed Ezra Venture's argument that extension of the '229 patent by Patent Term Extension also (improperly) extended the term of the '565 patent. As an initial matter, the opinion notes that "nothing in the statute restricts the patent owner's choice for patent term extension among those patents whose terms have been partially consumed by the regulatory review process," despite it not being uncommon for a patented drug to also be the subject of patents on "a product, a method of using that product, and/or a method of manufacturing the product." The panel agreed with the District Court that Congress did not choose language that would preclude extension of a patent on a drug product because it also "effectively" extends the patent, for example, on a method of using that drug product. Here, only one patent term was extended -- the '229 patent -- and this satisfies the statutory mandate and does not violate ۤ 156(c)(4).

    • Facebook and ZeniMax settle legal battle over Oculus VR and stolen secrets

      Among those hires was John Carmack, the well-known co-founder of id Software (which ZeniMax owns) who joined Palmer Luckey, Brendan Iribe, and the rest of the Oculus VR team in 2013 before Facebook bought the VR company for $2 billion. Variety and CNBC reported news of the settlement.

    • Trademarks

      • Russia: Analysing the case of Lunos v Linos
        Despite the seemingly unlimited choice of words and the vast imagination of people, collision between similar words, real or coined, is not infrequent. In normal life these words are homonyms or homophones and do not pose any problems in everyday activities. It is a different story in the world of intellectual property. Same or similar words may mean different things but in the eyes of the consumer they are the same and for businesses they may mean loss.

        Long ago, there was an international registration No 754940 covering in Russia and other countries the trade mark LINOS with priority of the year 2000 for goods in Class 10. Later, another international trade mark No 1279699 LUNOS was extended to Russia for the goods in Classes 3, 5, 21 and 10. The patent office recognised registration in all classes except 10. The reason for rejection was the confusing similarity of the trade marks.

      • Under Armour Can't Help But Issue A Cease And Desist For Tiny Clothier Cascade Armory
        Athletic clothing maker Under Armour has graced our fair pages a few times in the past, always for being on exactly the wrong side of the trademark equation. Between trying to torpedo tiny Christian companies like Armor & Glory, and ensuring that every member of the public is aware that its own executives don't have a sense of humor that they are aware of by suing Ass Armor, the mega-company has been quite busy making sure the entire world knows that only it is allowed to use the word "Armour." Notably important in all of this is that the company is exactly wrong in this claim, as trademark law nearly always comes down to whether customers will be confused by the use of words and trade dress, and it is not a platform for a single company being able to lock up a fairly common word.

    • Copyrights

      • Canal+ commits copyfraud, gets Banksy's painting-shredding video removed from Youtube
        In October, a delightful prank by the artist Banksy involved a painting of his shredding itself shortly after a Sotheby's bidder committed to spending €£1.04m to buy it.

        Banksy shot his own video of the stunt and posted it to Youtube. The video was widely reused by news networks in their coverage of the prank, including by the French giant Canal+.

        Canal+ didn't just make a fair use of Banksy's video, though: they also fraudulently claimed copyright over his footage with Youtube's ContentID filter, resulting in his video being censored.

      • School Boots Professor Off Campus After He Exposes Its Complicity In Predatory Publishing Schemes
        Predatory publishing -- the pay-for-play practice that allows anyone to have their research published as soon as the check clears -- may end up costing a professor his job. Derek Pyne, associate professor of economics at British Columbia's Thompson Rivers University, has managed to turn his own campus against him simply for telling the uncomfortable truth. His 2017 paper, The Rewards of Predatory Publication at a Small Business School, exposed the ugly side effects of the constant pressure on researchers and academics to be published. "Publish or perish," the saying goes. And if you can't get published by someone who thinks your research is worth publishing, get published by someone who thinks everyone with enough cash on hand deserves to be published. What Pyne found was schools rewarding publication, whether or not the publication was bought and paid for.
      • TV, Sports & Movie Companies Still Freaking Out That EU Copyright Directive Might Include A Safe Harbor For Internet Platforms
        Last week, as the last round of "trilogue" negotiations were getting underway in the EU on the EU Copyright Directive, we noted a strange thing. While tech companies and public interest groups have been speaking out loudly against Article 13, a strange "ally" also started complaining about it: a bunch of TV, movie and sports organizations started complaining that Article 13 was a bad idea. But... for very different reasons. Their concerns were that regulators had actually finally begun to understand the ridiculousness of Article 13 and had been trying to add in some "safe harbors" into the law. Specifically, the safe harbors would make it clear that if platforms followed certain specific steps to try to stop infringing works from their platform, they would avoid liability. But, according to these organizations, safe harbors of any kind are a non-starter.

        Those same groups are back with a new letter that's even more unhinged and more explicit about this. The real issue is that they recently got a ruling out of a German court that basically said platforms are already liable for any infringement, and they're now afraid that Article 13 will "soften" that ruling by enabling safe harbors.

      • Tech Giants Warn US Govt. Against EU’s ‘Article 13’ Plans

        The CCIA, which represents global tech firms including Cloudflare, Google, and Facebook, is warning the U.S. Government against the EU's copyright reform plans. According to the tech giants, Article 13 could result in significant economic consequences for the U.S. digital economy, with a possible ripple effect on the rest of the world.

      • Google Gets a Slap on the Wrist For Site-Blocking Failures

        Under Russian law, search engine operators are required to censor their search results to ensure that permanently blocked sites do not appear in their indexes. After failing to comply by interfacing its systems with the national FGIS blacklist database, Google has now been fined 500,000 rubles (US$7,545), the lowest amount that can be levied under existing laws.

      • Clash of the corporate titans: Who's spending what in Europe's Copyright Directive battle

        There's been a lot of money thrown around to determine the future of the Internet in the EU, but despite the frequent assertion that every opponent of the new Copyright Directive is a paid puppet for Google, the numbers tell a different story: according to the watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the entertainment industry are the biggest spenders by far, and they have obscured that fact by using dodgy accounting to make it look like Google is buying out the European Parliament.

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