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Links 22/1/2019: Kodachi 5.8, LibreOffice 6.2 Finished

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Startup 101: Here’s How Open Sourcing Can Be Beneficial For You
    In this week's Startup 101, Upekkha founder Prasanna Krishnamoorthy tells how to make the right decision in open sourcing.

  • Is Bettering Threat Intelligence And Cyber Security the New Role For the Blockchain?
    Blockchains are typically epitomized by security and safety for storing data on its FL. They traditionally use depend on the trustless model to be completely trustworthy. On the principle of protection, it will make sense to begin applying the Blockchain initiative to a newly emerging movement in the cybersecurity space.

  • Crypto Pundit: Ethereum (ETH) Is “Doomed To Be Centralized”
    On January 14th, Preston Byrne, an attorney at Bryne & Storm that is enamored with blockchain technology, took to Twitter to mention his thoughts on Ethereum (ETH), likely in the context of the then-impending Constantinople hard fork, which was recently delayed due to security qualms. Byrne joked that the popular blockchain is more centralized than “the core of a neutron store falling into the event horizon of a black hole,” accentuating his true thoughts on Ethereum.

  • New Open Source Cryptocurrency Grin Has Deep-Pocketed Donors
    New cryptocurrency Grin launched its mainnet on January 15th. Grin is a volunteer-run project that says it’s only interested in getting the MimbleWimble technology — on which it is based — into public usage. But with major funding from multiple crypto investment firms and businesses, it’s unclear what safeguards Grin has in place to ensure the project remains independent.

  • Challenges in open source voice interfaces
    voice interaction begins with a wake word—also called a hot word—that prepares the voice assistant to receive a command. Then a speech-to-text engine transcribes an utterance from voice sounds into written language, and an intent parser determines what type of command the user wants to execute. Then the voice stack selects a command to run and executes it. Finally, it turns written language back into voice sounds using a text-to-speech engine.

    At each layer of the voice stack, several open source solutions are available.

  • Google cloud and GO-JEK’s announce Feast, a new and open source feature store for machine learning

  • The best free photo editor 2019
    GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the best free photo editor around. It's packed with the kind of image-enhancing tools you'd find in premium software, and more are being added every day.

    GIMP’s interface will be instantly familiar if you have ever used Photoshop or other premium photo editing software – especially if you select the single-window mode, which lays out all its toolbars and canvases in an Adobe-style layout.

    The photo editing toolkit is breathtaking, and features layers, masks, curves, and levels. You can eliminate flaws easily with the excellent clone stamp and healing tools, create custom brushes, apply perspective changes, and apply changes to isolated areas with smart selection tools.

    GIMP is an open source free photo editor, and its community of users and developers have created a huge collection of plugins to extend its utility even further. Many of these come pre-installed, and you can download more from the official glossary. If that's not enough, you can even install Photoshop plugins.

  • Call for Answers: Survey About Task Assignment
    rofessor Igor Steinmacher, from Northern Arizona University, is a proeminent researcher on several social dynamics in open source communities, like support of newcomers, gender bias, open sourcing proprietary software, and more. Some of his papers can de found in his website.

    Currently, Prof. Igor is inviting mentors from open source communities to answer a survey about task assignment in projects. See below the description of the survey and take some time to answer the questions – the knowledgement obtained here can be very interesting for all of us.

  • The future of open source: An increased focus on security and performance

    This has always been critical as open source is inherently a shared resource system; we need to avoid an open source “tragedy of the commons”, especially now, given the heavy corporate backing of key open source projects. The support and investment from key tech players is critical to the future of open source; contributions from other enterprises, SMBs and general users is equally critical to ensure that the future of open source is open to everyone, not only the well-funded tech firms.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Friend of Add-ons: Shivam Singhal
        Please meet our newest Friend of Add-ons, Shivam Singhal! Shivam became involved with the add-ons community in April 2017. Currently, he is an extension developer, Mozilla Rep, and code contributor to (AMO). He also helps mentor good-first-bugs on AMO.

        “My skill set grew while contributing to Mozilla,” Shivam says of his experiences over the last two years. “Being the part of a big community, I have learned how to work remotely with a cross-cultural team and how to mentor newbies. I have met some super awesome people like [AMO engineers] William Durand and Rebecca Mullin. The AMO team is super helpful to newcomers and works actively to help them.”

      • Code Coverage on Phabricator
      • This Week In Servo 124

      • How to make VR with the web, a new video series
        Virtual reality (VR) seems complicated, but with a few JavaScript libraries and tools, and the power of WebGL, you can make very nice VR scenes that can be viewed and shared in a headset like an Oculus Go or HTC Vive, in a desktop web browser, or on your smartphone. Let me show you how:

        In this new YouTube series, How to make a virtual reality project in your browser with ThreeJS and WebVR, I’ll take you through building an interactive birthday card in seven short tutorials, complete with code and examples to get you started. The whole series clocks in under 60 minutes. We begin by getting a basic cube on the screen, add some nice 3D models, set up lights and navigation, then finally add music.

        All you need are basic JavaScript skills and an internet connection.

      • The Coral Project is Moving to Vox Media
        Since 2015, the Mozilla Foundation has incubated The Coral Project to support journalism and improve online dialog around the world through privacy-centered, open source software. Originally founded as a two-year collaboration between Mozilla, The New York Times and the Washington Post, it became entirely a Mozilla project in 2017.

        Over the past 3.5 years, The Coral Project has developed two software tools, a series of guides and best practices, and grown a community of journalism technologists around the world advancing privacy and better online conversation.

        Coral’s first tool, Ask, has been used by journalists in several countries, including the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe, whose series on racism used Ask on seven different occasions, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting.

        The Coral Project’s main tool, the Talk platform, now powers the comments for nearly 50 newsrooms in 11 countries, including The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Intercept, and the Globe and Mail. The Coral Project has also collaborated with academics and technologists, running events and working with researchers to reduce online harassment and raise the quality of conversation on the decentralized web.

  • LibreOffice

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • Stable release: HardenedBSD-stable 12-STABLE v1200058.2

    • OPNsense 19.1-RC1 released
      For almost four years now, OPNsense is driving innovation through modularising and hardening the open source firewall, with simple and reliable firmware upgrades, multi-language support, HardenedBSD security, fast adoption of upstream software updates as well as clear and stable 2-Clause BSD licensing.

      We thank all of you for helping test, shape and contribute to the project! We know it would not be the same without you.

      Download links, an installation guide[1] and the checksums for the images can be found below as well.

    • OPNsense 19.1-RC1 Released With Many Improvements To This BSD Firewall Platform

    • Out-Of-The-Box 10GbE Network Benchmarks On Nine Linux Distributions Plus FreeBSD 12
      Last week I started running some fresh 10GbE Linux networking performance benchmarks across a few different Linux distributions. That testing has now been extended to cover nine Linux distributions plus FreeBSD 12.0 to compare the out-of-the-box networking performance.

      Tested this round alongside FreeBSD 12.0 was Antergos 19.1, CentOS 7, Clear Linux, Debian 9.6, Fedora Server 29, openSUSE Leap 15.0, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS, and Ubuntu 18.10.

      All of the tests were done with a Tyan S7106 1U server featuring two Intel Xeon Gold 6138 CPUs, 96GB of DDR4 system memory, and Samsung 970 EVO SSD. For the 10GbE connectivity on this server was an add-in HP NC523SFP PCIe adapter providing two 10Gb SPF+ ports using a QLogic 8214 controller.

    • join-ing any open wifi network is now possible

    • Support for 2TB of memory added


    • Radio Telescopes Horn In With GNU Radio
      Who doesn’t like to look up at the night sky? But if you are into radio, there’s a whole different way to look using radio telescopes. [John Makous] spoke at the GNU Radio Conference about how he’s worked to make a radio telescope that is practical for even younger students to build and operate.

      The only real high tech part of this build is the low noise amplifier (LNA) and the project is in reach of a typical teacher who might not be an expert on electronics. It uses things like paint thinner cans and lumber. [John] also built some blocks in GNU Radio that made it easy for other teachers to process the data from a telescope. As he put it, “This is the kind of nerdy stuff I like to do.” We can relate.

    • GNU Parallel 20190122 ('Shutdown') released
      GNU Parallel 20190122 ('Shutdown') has been released. It is available for download at:

    • freedink @ Savannah: New FreeDink game data release
      It adds 4 new sounds replacements, 1 update sound, 1 new translation and 2 updated translations.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Letting people work where they want shows how much you value them
      Open organizations are inclusive. They aren't inclusive solely because it's the right way to be but because it produces better outcomes. Inclusivitiy enables a more diverse set of viewpoints.

    • Open Data

      • Cities agree on minimal interoperability mechanisms

        Over a hundred European cities have agreed on ‘Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms’ defining the communication between software programmes and building blocks to allow co-creation and sharing of services. The MIMs, advocated by the Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) initiative, are “simple steps towards using new technology”, OACS chairman Martin Brynskov said on Thursday.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Containers On The Edge
        There are two major families for the choice of operating system and ecosystem: RTOS-based and Linux-based families. Smaller, cost-constrained devices tend to benefit from the simplicity of RTOS-based, while more full-featured and complex devices benefit from the richness of Linux (see The Shift to Linux Operating Systems for IoT for more background on the reasons for these approaches in IoT). Linux has been used in embedded devices for almost as long as it has existed (see here for an excellent timeline of early embedded Linux usage by Chris Simmons). The focus here is on Linux based products, as they have the needed functions such as access controls and memory segregation that allows for upgrading portions in a controlled fashion.

      • YouTuber Fits A Fully Functional Computer Into A Mouse
        While the YouTuber’s original plan was to squeeze a Raspberry Pi inside of a regular computer mouse but was unable to do so due to size constraints. Hence, he 3D printed a computer mouse to fit the components of the computer inside the mouse.

        Dubbed as “The Computer Mouse”, the device consists of a Raspberry Pi Zero W computer, a 1.5-inch color OLED LCD display with a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels, a 3D-printed mouse, a rechargeable 500 mAh battery, and a tiny Bluetooth retractable keyboard for text inputs and more complicated commands. It also has a power button at the edge to start the tiny computer. Further, it runs GNU/Linux-based operating systems such as Raspbian.

  • Programming/Development

    • Best Programming Language for Hacking: Top 15 Reviewed for Ethical Hacking
      Ethical hacking is the art of legally penetrating enterprise networks in order to discover potential flaws that hackers might leverage for creating an entry point in a given network. The target of these ethical hacking endeavors is to find out any exploit before they fall in the hand of harmful attackers and patch them before any attack could take place. Ethical hackers use a diverse set of hacking programs and programming languages for this purpose. Today, we will outline the 15 best programming language for hacking a corporate network successfully. However, we suggest you obtain every necessary permission required before using such high-tech hacking programming, or else you might fall under the radar of law enforcement agencies.

    • Optimizating Conway
      Conway’s Game of Life seems to be a common programming exercise. I had to program it in Pascal when in High School and in C in an intro college programming course. I remember in college, since I had already programmed it before, that I wanted to optimize the algorithm. However, a combination of writing in C and having only a week to work on it didn’t leave me with enough time to implement anything fancy.

      A couple years later, I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Seven months away from computers, just hiking day in and day out. One of the things I found myself contemplating when walking up and down hills all day was that pesky Game of Life algorithm and ways that I could improve it.

      Fast forward through twenty intervening years of life and experience with a few other programming languages to last weekend. I needed a fun programming exercise to raise my spirits so I looked up the rules to Conway’s Game of Life, sat down with vim and python, and implemented a few versions to test out some of the ideas I’d had kicking around in my head for a quarter century.

    • py3status v3.16
      Two py3status versions in less than a month? That’s the holidays effect but not only!

      Our community has been busy discussing our way forward to 4.0 (see below) and organization so it was time I wrote a bit about that.

    • #195 Teaching Python at Apple

    • PortableCL Continues Marching Towards The POCL 1.3 Release
      When it comes to being able to run OpenCL kernels on CPUs, the main option at this point for Linux systems is POCL as the Portable Computing Language. While POCL 1.2 was released just this past September, we're still very much looking forward to the upcoming POCL 1.3 release with more improvements for this portable OpenCL 1.2~2.0 implementation.

    • Fixing pelican revealjs plugin
      After my recent talk about blog-o-matic, I was trying to upload somewhere the slides I used.

      Since some time ago I started using Reveal-MD, so I could use MarkDown to create and show slides, but wanted also a way to upload them for consumption.

      Pelican-revealmd plugin seemed to be the answer.

      It does use pypandoc library and ‘pandoc’ for doing the conversion.

    • Working With Files in Python

    • Further modifying the video editing application

    • PyDev of the Week: Nina Zakharenko

    • Factorial function using Python's reduce function

    • How this woman went from a $20,000 a year Trader Joe's job to a well-paid programmer at a San Francisco startup
      But she was intrigued with the idea that she could have a fantastic career in tech by learning to code and wanted to try. She took a basic HTML course on Code Academy, a site that hosts free learn-to-code courses and it made sense.


      You can even "fork" a project, she says: meaning make a copy of it that you can alter as you wish, sharing it with others.

    • Homebrew 1.9 Adds Linux Support, Auto-Cleanup, and More
      The latest release of popular macOS package manager Homebrew includes support for Linux, optional automatic package cleanup, and extended binary package support.

      Linux support, merged from the Linuxbrew project, is still in beta and will become stable in version 2.0. It also enables the use of Homebrew on Windows 10 systems with the Windows Subsystem for Linux installed.

      Auto-cleanup is meant to optimize disk space occupation by removing all intermediate data that Homebrew generates when installing packages. This can be a significant amount when Homebrew actually builds the packages from sources instead of just installing binaries. Auto-cleanup is opt-in by setting the HOMEBREW_INSTALL_CLEANUP. This behaviour will become opt-out in version 2.0, where you will be able to set the HOMEBREW_NO_INSTALL_CLEANUP environment variable to disable auto-cleanup.

    • Streamline your JBoss EAP dev environment with Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces: Part 1

    • Counteracting Code Complexity With Wily - Episode 195
      As we build software projects, complexity and technical debt are bound to creep into our code. To counteract these tendencies it is necessary to calculate and track metrics that highlight areas of improvement so that they can be acted on. To aid in identifying areas of your application that are breeding grounds for incidental complexity Anthony Shaw created Wily. In this episode he explains how Wily traverses the history of your repository and computes code complexity metrics over time and how you can use that information to guide your refactoring efforts.

    • Qt Visual Studio Tools 2.3.1 Released
      The Qt VS Tools version 2.3.1 has now been released to the Visual Studio Marketplace.

    • Ben Cotton: Inclusion is a necessary part of good coding
      Too often I see comments like “some people would rather focus on inclusion than write good code.” Not only is that a false dichotomy, but it completely misrepresents the relationship between the two. Inclusion doesn’t come at the cost of good code, it’s a necessary part of good code.

      We don’t write code for the sake of writing code. We write code for people to use it in some way. This means that the code needs to work for the people. In order to do that, the people designing and implementing the technology need to consider different experiences. The best way to do that is to have people with different experiences be on the team. As my 7th grade algebra teacher was fond of reminding us: garbage in, garbage out.

    • Additional properties in .editorconfig
      For some inexplicable reasons vim-editorconfig stopped working with my latest build of neovim. I am not sure why and I haven’t have enough time to debug it properly. As a workaround I have temporarily (?) switched to editorconfig-vim. The former plugin is all written in VimL, so it was not problem to extend properties it supports by two more ones spell_enabled and spell_language corresponding to spell and spelllang vim options respectively. The later plugin is in Python and it is a bit more complicated, but fortunately it has an explicit hook for custom plugins.
    • Big O Notation and Algorithm Analysis with Python Examples
    • Factorial function using Python's reduce function
    • Serverless and Knative: Installation through Deployment
      Serverless, Knative and FaaS will change your workflow as much as any change to design patterns in your career.

      In this video, Red Hat’s Kamesh Sampath will deep dive all about Knative.
    • Using Terraform and cloud-init on Hetzner

    • Glibc Gets Patched For Three Year Old Security Vulnerability
      CVE-2016-10739 has been around since April 2016 as implied by the number and finally today this security issue has been fixed in the Git development code for the upcoming Glibc 2.29 GNU C Library.

    • Fedora 30 Going Through Its Formalities To Ship With & Built By The GCC 9 Compiler


  • How I Switched Working From Office Full Time to Remote 3 Days A Week
    I’m a freelance since 2012 and usually work at the office of my clients. I had 2 intense years some time ago and it was so intense I needed a break.That’s not optimal because, as you know, a freelance does not earn money when he does not work. No paid vacation. Moreover the freelancer can not count on any unemployment compensation (at least in France). I work on side projects since 2015 but I’m far from being self-sufficient. After my previous mission, I took a 6 month break and had important personal finance issue after that. You guess. So it’s obvious if I want to remain freelance, I need to work on a regular basis.


    Paris is a quite crowded city. Public transportation are overcrowded and some subway lines are too old. It generates a lot of stress for everyone, public transportation workers and users. When you go to work and especially if you live in Paris suburbs, after a chaotic ride from home, it usually means you haven’t started to work but you’re already stressed out. You also waste between 45mn and 1h30mn for each ride, between 1h30 and 3 hours each day!

    Given the fact I work on several side projects, helping communities to grow and developing online services, I need time. Even the lunch break time. I’m not a workaholic, I love playing squash, watching movies, reading, playing poker so I’m not going to work everyday until 2 or 3am.

  • Microsoft Wallet for Windows Phone to be retired in February
    Support is set to end for all Windows 10 Mobile devices by the end of this year, and Microsoft is already beginning to retire apps in anticipation. In an update to the , Microsoft has noted that the app will be "officially retired" on February 28, 2019.

    Microsoft Wallet is the official tap-to-pay method for Windows Phones, similar to Apple Pay and Google Pay on iPhones and Android devices. The app also allows users to load up their loyalty and membership cards, allowing them all to be stored in one place.

  • Science

    • GamChix women in Technology celebrates 1st anniversary
      It is part of the organisation’s mandate to participate in global activities to empower women in STEM by conducting activities such as mentorship training, child online safety and safe browsing, capacity building and online training on UNIX systems and DNS servers with the aim of enhancing skills in all various aspects of computing.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Meet the Short-Order Cooks So Good Waffle House Officially Calls Them ‘Rockstars’

      An independent franchise manager in Columbus, Ohio, named Fred Thomas invented the marking system in the 1990s and Waffle House adapted it nationally. Testing conducted by the company has shown it to be faster than computerized ordering.

    • Damning court docs show just how far Sacklers went to push OxyContin

      Documents released this week (PDF) allege—and include new, rather damning evidence—that members of the Sackler family not only knew about the illegal and loathsome activities at Purdue, but they personally directed them. Members of the Sackler family, particularly Richard Sackler, aggressively pushed for extreme sales figures—and profits—which they accomplished in part by bullying their sales representatives; targeting vulnerable patients, such as the elderly and veterans; suggesting that the addictive opioid was an alternative to safe medications like Tylenol; and encouraging doctors to write longer and higher dose prescriptions, according to the lawsuit. All the while, the family allegedly dismissed evidence of OxyContin’s addictiveness and blamed patients for their addictions—referring to them as “reckless criminals.”

    • 46 Years After ‘Roe’ and We’re Still Fighting. We Must Do Better.
      It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever worked within the reproductive health, rights, and justice fields that our movement has a history of leaving the most vulnerable behind.

      We’ve consistently failed to repeal the Hyde Amendment—even when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House—denying some of the most vulnerable people access to abortion coverage. As a movement, we’ve sidelined this issue for far too long, and it’s hurting real people all across the country who are stuck making dehumanizing choices about whether to pay for an abortion out of pocket or for rent, groceries, or even to keep the electricity on.

      The mainstream pro-choice movement has also ignored the unique issues facing young people. I can’t even remember the last time there was a nationwide push to repeal state-level parental consent or notification laws. It’s almost as if advocates have accepted defeat without giving young people a fighting chance.

    • Health insurers want you to try cheaper drugs first, but that can hurt you
      Few people are familiar with the term “step therapy,” but most Americans have health insurance policies that adopt it. Step therapy programs, also known as “fail first policies,” require patients to try less expensive treatments before insurers agree to pay for more costly alternatives. Thus, insurers can deny coverage for a drug your doctor prescribed because you haven’t found other, cheaper medications to be ineffective first. As many as 75 percent of large employers have insurance plans with step therapy, and Medicare is increasingly embracing this approach as well.

      My husband and I encountered step therapy when he was prescribed a new medication for his Parkinson’s disease. As a professor of law and bioethics, I have since researched and written about this phenomenon. I have found that step therapy can be sensible in some instances, but it also raises important concerns and should be carefully regulated.

    • 'Medicare for All and Equal Rights Aren't Trends': Ocasio-Cortez Fires Back After Aaron Sorkin Lectures Young Progressives
      "News flash: Medicare for All and equal rights aren't trends," the New York congresswoman wrote, referring specifically to Sorkin's flippant dismissal of the push for equal rights for transgender Americans as a "Republican talking point they're trying to distract you with."

      "When people complain about low turnout in some demo[graphics], it's not because communities are apathetic, it's because they don't see you fighting for them," continued Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. "If we don't show up for people, why should you feel entitled to their vote?"

    • Dr. King would want us to fight for Medicare For All
      Despite vehement opposition from the American Medical Association, Medicare and Medicaid were passed into law in 1965. Importantly, the federal government required participating hospitals to comply with the non-discrimination rules of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Hospitals and doctors who wanted payments from Medicare and Medicaid were mandated to provide all medical services to minority patients and to hire medical personnel regardless of race. Nonetheless, before Medicare was officially launched in July 1966, there were still many hospitals and clinics that continued to discriminate against patients and families on the basis of race.

      In March 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his allies at the Medical Committee for Human Rights called for non-violent direct action, lawsuits, and complaints to the federal government against such hospitals. Dr. King and the MCHR identified the then-segregated American Medical Association as complicit with the discrimination and racism practiced by hospitals across the country. They accused the AMA of a “conspiracy of inaction” in civil rights. Dr. King then elaborated, “We are concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death. I see no alternative to direct action and creative nonviolence to raise the conscience of the nation.”

    • Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
      Back in 2016, I posed the question in The Ecologist whether regulators in the EU were acting as product promoters when it came to the relicensing of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. The renewal of the license for glyphosate in the EU was being debated at the time and much evidence pointed to collusion between regulators and corporate interests whose sales of the herbicide add up to many billions of dollars a year.

      In that article, I referred to evidence presented in various documents written by environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason. Now, in the wake of a new, important paper by Charles Benbrook (14 January) in the journal ‘Environmental Sciences Europe’, Dr Mason has lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman accusing European regulatory agencies of collusion with the agrochemicals industry.

      Mason has been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission over a period of 18 months, challenging them about ECHA’s classification of glyphosate. She notes that many people around the world have struggled to understand how and why the US Environmental Protection Agency and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), came to the opposite conclusion.

      The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

    • Trump Swamp Threatens Waters of the US
      Last month, the Trump EPA finally issued its intended replacement to the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and R.D. James, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, wrote in the Kansas City Star that less stringent water rules will give “hardworking Americans the freedom and certainty they need to do what they do best: develop, build and invest in projects that improve the environment and the lives of their fellow citizens.”

      What’s really going on is that President Trump wants to give the nation’s chronic polluters freedom from consequence for harming ecosystems and the nation’s drinking water.

      While Trump has spent nearly two years railing against clean water rules, he has feigned neither a serious scientific nor economic rationale for rolling them back. Much like his assault on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and mercury air toxics standards, the intended beneficiaries of the weaker rules he proposes are indiscriminate developers and operators of mines, power plants, and agribusinesses who have all lobbied for a blind eye to the seepage and runoff of ash, heavy metals, oil, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste.

    • Hollywood Still Thinks Body Shaming Is Hilarious
      In the new film Isn’t It Romantic, actress Rebel Wilson plays a woman who suffers an injury and wakes up trapped inside a romantic comedy. The trailer shows one incredibly attractive man after another making romantic gestures to her. Rebel Wilson, I should note, played “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect. She was the fat girl, the comic relief — not the romantic lead. Last year, Amy Schumer’s movie I Feel Pretty is similar: She’s an unattractive-feeling woman who hits her head and wakes up with tremendous self-esteem. Both films put women who aren’t exactly Hollywood’s ideal of feminine beauty at the center of romantic comedies. In each, the gag is that a “fat ugly girl” either believes that she’s beautiful or that men do. I grew up on a steady diet of romantic comedies in a household dominated by a fat-phobic mother who berated us every time we put food in our mouths.

    • New Court Rulings Keep the Birth Control Mandate in Place
      Reproductive rights supporters received good news this week, as the courts ruled against a Trump administration attempt to block birth control access and indirectly harm abortion providers.

      A federal court in California first obstructed President Donald Trump’s effort to dismantle the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act on January 14. The ruling stated that the new policy of allowing expanded religious objections to the ACA’s birth control mandate should not go into effect until the courts have decided whether the rule is constitutional.

    • Refugees Are Not Health Threat to Host Countries, WHO Study Finds. In Fact, It's the Opposite.
      In the first report of its kind, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday revealed that refugees are likely to be in good overall health when they leave their home countries, but are put at risk for infectious and chronic diseases in their new homes—where quality and affordable healthcare is often unavailable to them.

      Host countries must work "to protect" migrants from the heath risks they encounter after traveling to their new homes, the report said.

      "Refugees and migrants are potentially at greater risk of developing infectious diseases because of their exposure to infections, lack of access to health care, interrupted care, and poor living conditions during the migration process," WHO reported.In the first report of its kind, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday revealed that refugees are likely to be in good overall health when they leave their home countries, but are put at risk for infectious and chronic diseases in their new homes—where quality and affordable healthcare is often unavailable to them.

      Host countries must work "to protect" migrants from the heath risks they encounter after traveling to their new homes, the report said.

      "Refugees and migrants are potentially at greater risk of developing infectious diseases because of their exposure to infections, lack of access to health care, interrupted care, and poor living conditions during the migration process," WHO reported.

  • Security

    • Vulnerabilities Found in Highly Popular Firmware for WiFi Chips
      WiFi chip firmware in a variety of devices used mainly for gaming, personal computing, and communication comes with multiple issues. At least some of them could be exploited to run arbitrary code remotely without requiring user interaction.

      The security flaws were discovered in ThreadX, a real-time operating system (RTOS) developed by Express Logic. The vendor claims on their website that ThreadX has over 6.2 billion deployments, being one of the most popular software powering Wi-Fi chips.

      The firmware is also powering the Avastar 88W8897 SoC (Wi-Fi + Bluetooth + NFC) from Marvell, present in Sony PlayStation 4 (and its Pro variant), Microsoft Surface (+Pro) tablet and laptop, Xbox One, Samsung Chromebook and smartphones (Galaxy J1), and Valve SteamLink.

    • Wolf Halton on what’s changed in tech and where we are headed
      The tech industry is changing at a massive rate especially after the storage options moved to the cloud. However, this has also given rise to questions on security, data management, change in the work structure within an organization, and much more. Wolf Halton, an expert in Kali Linux, tells us about the security element in the cloud. He also touches upon the skills and knowledge that should be inculcated in your software development cycle in order to adjust to the dynamic tech changes at present and in the future. Following this, he juxtaposes the current software development landscape with the ideal one.

    • Rocke coinminer disables cloud protection agents
      A group of hackers that specializes in infecting servers with cryptocurrency mining software has started disabling security software agents used in cloud environments to evade detection. Known as Rocke in the security industry, the group has been active since at least April 2018 and is known for exploiting critical vulnerabilities in web application frameworks and servers like Apache Struts, Oracle WebLogic and Adobe ColdFusion.

    • Malware used by “Rocke” group evolves to evade detection by cloud security products

    • Malware uninstalls cloud security products from Linux machines
      After removing the cloud security, the malware then proceeded to mine the monero cryptocurrency on its hosts.
    • Linux Virus Removes Security Software to Mine Monero [Ed: Bogdan Popa, "Microsoft News Editor" (basically the Microsoft PR/propagandist of Softpedia), only ever writes about GNU/Linux to attack it. Here too he uses a misleading title, a provocative headline and picture. These are already-compromised machines. It's not a "Linux" issue per se. So yeah... Microsoft loves Linux... Linux FUD.]
    • Hackers Wield Commoditized Tools to Pop West African Banks
      Symantec says. Attackers also used an open source, remote administration tool for Windows called UltraVNC, then infected systems with Cobalt Strike malware, which can also provide backdoors onto PCs and download additional malware. "Communication with the C&C server was handled by dynamic DNS infrastructure, which helped shield the location of the attackers."
    • Huawei and Apple smartphones are both made in China, so what is the difference?
      Do Huawei phones really pose that much more of a security risk than iPhones in the face of China's potential espionage threat? A
    • Google Play malware used phones’ motion sensors to conceal itself
      Malicious apps hosted in the Google Play market are trying a clever trick to avoid detection—they monitor the motion-sensor input of an infected device before installing a powerful banking trojan to make sure it doesn’t load on emulators researchers use to detect attacks.

    • New Android Malware Uses Motion Sensors To Stay Hidden
      ecurity measures are not the only ones seeing improvements! Malicious apps are also figuring out new ways to enhance its working, and one such Android malware proves this.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Break free from traditional network security
      From a security stance, the network is becoming perimeterless, and rather than a hard network barrier, the corporate network needs to be porous; security inside the network has to be zero-trust.

      The experts Computer Weekly contacted regarding perimeterless network security generally agree that such an architecture is not easy to achieve, but software-defined networking (SDN) and containerisation offer network security architects a sound foundation on which to implement a perimeterless network security strategy.
    • State agency exposes 3TB of data, including FBI info and remote logins
      Oklahoma’s Department of Securities (ODS) exposed three terabytes of files in plain text on the public internet this month, which contained sensitive data including social security numbers, details of FBI investigations, credentials for remote access to computers, and the names of AIDS patients.

      Researchers at security company UpGuard found the files using the Shodan search engine, which indexes internet-connected devices. In this case, they ran across an unsecured rsync server registered to ODS.

      Rsync is a utility commonly found on Unix and Linux systems that enables administrators to synchronize files between different computers. It is used for ‘delta’ syncing, in which one computer copies to another only the parts of files that have changed, enabling them to maintain identical copies of the files in different locations.

    • Security updates for Tuesday

    • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #195
      As part of the Debian Long Term Support (LTS) effort it was noticed that an old package was failing to build beyond ~2015.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Autonomous weapons and the new laws of war

      Acknowledging the long, unpleasant history of devices which kill indiscriminately, or without direct human command, is crucial to any discussion of the risks, and morality, of autonomous weapons. It should not mask the fact that their capabilities are increasing quickly—and that although agreements to limit their use might be desirable, they will be very difficult to enforce. It is not that hard to decide if a landmine fits the criteria that ban such weapons under the Ottawa treaty. But whether a Harop is an autonomous robot or a remote-controlled weapon depends on the software it is running at the time.

    • War game: If China or Russia downed an ISR aircraft, how would the US really respond?
      Will the rise of drone warfare unintentionally drag the world into more conflicts?

      That’s what some pundits and policymakers have cautioned in the past, arguing that the absence of human pilots will allow military leaders to take on riskier missions without suffering political blow-back from losing crewmembers if a mission goes awry.

      A war game held at MIT Lincoln Labs and Harvard University in September 2017, however, challenges that assumption.

      The study makes the case that drone warfare could decrease the likelihood of conflict between states, as military planners will avoid the trap of escalating military options if an aircraft is lost.

    • ‘New IRA’ Suspected in Northern Ireland Car Bomb Blast
      olice in Northern Ireland said Sunday they suspect Irish Republican Army dissidents were behind a car bombing outside a courthouse in the city of Londonderry. Two men in their 20s have been arrested over the attack, which caused no injuries.

      Attackers hijacked a pizza delivery vehicle, loaded it with explosives and left it outside the city-center courthouse on Saturday evening, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said. The device exploded as police, who had spotted the suspicious vehicle, were evacuating the area.

      The force said a warning call was made to a charity in England and passed on to police minutes before the explosion.

      Police released surveillance camera footage of the car being parked in front of the courthouse, and of the driver sprinting away. Images also showed a group of young people walking past the car shortly before it blew up.

    • The US War Against the Weak
      War Against the Weak is a well-documented book of more than half a thousand pages, written by Edwin Black. It describes a criminal operation planned by the United States from the beginning of the twentieth century and put into practice between the 1930’s and 1960s with the purpose of creating a dominant superior race.

      That U.S. campaign, virtually ignored in the world today because of the media cover up to which it has been subjected, served as a model for the Holocaust of the Jewish population carried out by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

      Characters and institutions in politics and the economy that today are presented as respectable champions of democracy and respect for human rights, were involved in this genocide.

      The book tells us that, in the first six decades of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Americans labeled as feeble minded –because they did not conform to Teutonic patterns– were deprived of their right to reproduce.

      Selected in prisons, asylums and orphanages because of who their ancestorswere, their national origin, ethnicity, race or religion, they were sterilized without their consent, and prevented from procreating and getting married. They were separated from their partners by governmental bureaucratic means.

      This pernicious white collar war was conducted by philanthropic organizations, prestigious professors in elite universities, wealthy businessmen, and senior government officials who formed a pseudoscientific movement called Eugenics Its purpose, beyond racism, was to create a superior Nordic race that would impose itself at global level.

    • Confronting the Culture of Death
      The issue before us is death. Not only our individual death, which is more imminent for some of us this morning than others, but our collective death. We have begun the sixth great mass extinction, driven by our 150-year binge on fossil fuel. The litany of grim statistics is not unfamiliar to many of you. We are pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at 10 times the rate of the mass extinction known as the Great Dying, which occurred 252 million years ago. The glaciers in Alaska alone are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year. The oceans, which absorb over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, are warming and acidifying, melting the polar ice caps and resulting in rising sea levels and oxygen-starved ocean dead zones. We await a 50-gigaton burp, or “pulse,” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost on the east Siberian arctic shelf which will release about two-thirds of the total carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Era. Some 150 to 200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal are going extinct every 24 hours, one thousand times the “natural” or “background” rate. This pace of extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Ultimately, feedback mechanisms will accelerate the devastation and there will be nothing we can do to halt obliteration. Past mass extinctions on earth were characterized by abrupt warming of 6 to 7 degrees Celsius. We are barreling toward those numbers. The mathematical models for this global temperature rise predict an initial 70 percent die-off of the human species, culminating with total death.

      The corporate forces that have commodified the natural world for profit have also commodified human beings. We are as expendable to global corporations as the Barrier Reef or the great sequoias. These corporations and ruling elites, which have orchestrated the largest transference of wealth upward in human history, with globe’s richest 1 percent owning half the world’s wealth, kneel, and force us to kneel, before the dictates of the global marketplace. They have seized control of our governments, extinguishing democracy, corrupting law and building alliances with neofascists and authoritarians as the ruling ideology of neoliberalism is exposed as a con. They have constructed pervasive and sophisticated systems of internal security, wholesale surveillance and militarized police, along with criminalizing poverty, to crush dissent.

    • New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
      That section of the 1996 anti-Cuban Helms-Burton Act known as Title III allows Cuban exiles or their families and a few U.S. companies to seek remedies in U.S. courts for properties they lost in Cuba due to nationalization by the revolutionary government. Ever since, the U.S. government at six month intervals has announced that Title III would not be taking effect during the following six months. But on January 16 U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo indicated that suspended implementation that begins on February 1 will last only 45 days and not the usual six months.

      He explained that during that time a “careful review” would take place in order “to expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.” He cited “the Cuban regime’s brutal oppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms and its indefensible support for increasingly authoritarian and corrupt regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua,”

      Title III enables U.S. courts to impose financial burdens on foreign individuals or businesses that once utilized land and buildings in Cuba, or are doing so now. The former owners would be compensated. The possibility that the U.S. government will put Title III into effect troubles Cuban leaders deeply. Anything approaching implementation would render existing foreign investments and loans precarious. Future investments and access to loans would be questionable. Very likely, the flow to Cuba of desperately needed foreign capital, never bountiful, would contract.

      Cuba’s economy continues to lag, as indicated by low rates of growth – 1.2 percent in 2018, necessity to import 80 percent of its food, difficulties in repaying loans, and persistently low levels of personal income.

    • Sales Slump, Political Shifts Cast Shadow Over Gun Industry
      When gunmakers and dealers gather this week in Las Vegas for the industry’s largest annual conference, they will be grappling with slumping sales and a shift in politics that many didn’t envision two years ago when gun-friendly Donald Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress took office.

      Some of the top priorities for the industry — expanding the reach of concealed carry permits and easing restrictions on so-called “silencers” — remain in limbo, and prospects for expanding gun rights are nil for the foreseeable future.

      Instead, fueled by the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, the federal government banned bump stocks and newly in-charge U.S. House Democrats introduced legislation that would require background checks for virtually every firearm sale, regardless of whether it’s from a gun dealer or a private sale.

    • Call for Global Ban as Poll Shows Overwhelming Public Opposition to 'Horrifying' Killer Robots
      World leaders have shown little leadership in moving to ban autonomous weapons that would require no human involvement when selecting and killing targets, but a new survey shows that the global population overwhelmingly opposes the development of such "killer robots."

      Commissioned by the Campaign to Ban Killer Robots, a new poll released Tuesday by Ipsos MORI asked between 500 and 1,000 people in each of the 26 countries it surveyed whether they approved of autonomous weapons, and found that three in five respondents were vehemently against the proposal.World leaders have shown little leadership in moving to ban autonomous weapons that would require no human involvement when selecting and killing targets, but a new survey shows that the global population overwhelmingly opposes the development of such "killer robots."

      Commissioned by the Campaign to Ban Killer Robots, a new poll released Tuesday by Ipsos MORI asked between 500 and 1,000 people in each of the 26 countries it surveyed whether they approved of autonomous weapons, and found that three in five respondents were vehemently against the proposal.

    • Passenger on Russian flight arrested after demanding pilots turn toward Afghanistan
      A passenger on a flight from Surgut to Moscow has been arrested in the town of Khanty-Mansiysk after demanding that the flight leave its assigned route and head toward Afghanistan, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced in a press release.

      The Committee indicated that the passenger was drunk at the time of the incident. During the flight, he told the airplane’s crew he was armed, threatened to attack crew members, and attempted to enter the plane’s cockpit in an attempt to force a change in the flight’s route. He has been charged with hijacking an aerial vehicle, which carries a sentence of up to 12 years in Russia. The man is known to be 41 years old and has a criminal record.

    • Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
      As of January 20, 2019, the United States government remains partially shutdown for one month due to President Donald J. Trump’s insistence of $5.7 billion from Congress to fund his racist and medieval border wall. When it comes to this ongoing debate, Trump, along with his Republican cronies, suffers from selective amnesia: he forgets what doesn’t benefit him and remembers what’s in his best interest. While Trump agreed, on air, to take credit for a potential government shutdown on December 11, 2018, in an official meeting with Speaker of the HouseNancy Pelosiand Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, should the leading Democrats not support his wall fetish, he keeps blaming Democrats for the shutdown. Also, he conveniently “forgets” that he promised the American public and his “deplorable” supporters during his presidential campaign, especially at massive neo-Nazi simulated rallies, that Mexico would pay for it. Now that Mexico didn’t deliver on the billions of pesosto build this stupid wall, especially with the new leadership under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), Trump wants the American tax-payers to build his medieval “solution” to a 21stcentury problem.

      As part of his failed plan to partially shutdown the government in order to secure his $5.7 billion ransom for his promised wall of which keeps changes the type of material, from concrete to fence to steel to “peaches” (CNN, January 11, 2019)—Trump, along with his immoral surrogates, like Mike Pence, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Mick Mulvaney and Kirstjen Nielsen, keeps lying about the so-called emergency at the border. While border crossings by undocumented immigrants have been declining over the years, according to the New York Times (June 20, 2018) and many other sources, Trump and fellow liars erroneously claim that we’re experiencing a “crises” at the southern border. In fact, according to reporter Timothy Noah of POLITICO (November 2, 2018), in 2017, border arrests had dropped so low that “…to find a year with fewer border arrests, you have to go back all the way to 1971.” From 1971 to 2017, that’s almost 50 years!

    • Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
      Beginning to fill in his declaration of last year about turning space into a war zone and establishing a U.S. Space Force, President Trump was at the Pentagon last week promoting a plan titled “Missile Defense Review.”

      As The New York Times said in its headline on the scheme:: “Plans Evoke 1983 ‘Star Wars’ Program.” Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, called it “provocative and destabilizing and basically insane.”

      As Trump stated at the Pentagon on January 17: “We will recognize that space is a new war-fighting domain with the Space Force leading the way. My upcoming budget will invest in a space-based missile defense layer technology. It’s ultimately going to be a very, very big part of our defense and obviously of our offense.”

      The new United States space military plan comes despite the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that designates space as a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes. The U.S., the United Kingdom and then Soviet Union worked together in assembling the treaty. It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations. The release of the 100-page “Missile Defense Review” follows the Trump announcement, also at the Pentagon, in June, that he is moving to establish a U.S. Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. He stated then: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.”

    • US Taxpayers Have Been Funding Big Business’s Wars for 233 Years
      Since 1786, Congress has authorized subsidies to Big Business’s demand that US troops protect their unending drive to seize and exploit a weaker country’s raw resources or to monopolize overseas marketing.

      This centuries-old arrangement started in the US after the Revolutionary War in 1784 when heated complaints from business interests about bribes demanded by North Africa’s Barbary States pirates reached Thomas Jefferson, then the ambassador to France. Shippers were too cheap to either use cargo space for cannon or hire pirate brigantines. Yet overland-based merchants voiced no demands for federal protection to deal with pirates hijacking cargoes and passenger plunder. These merchants hired “shotguns” to ride with drivers of wagons and stagecoaches to protect their goods.

      But in shippers’ views, piracy was somehow different from highway robbery in principle, seemingly only because of business size and degree of loss. Ergo, large companies working the Mediterranean coast had a greater right to demand taxpayer protection because of those familiar claims of contribution to the US economy — jobs, raw-material purchases, expansion, import trade. That somehow made shippers’ interests “national interests” requiring taxpayer protection — cost-free to the shippers themselves, of course.

      Just how that was to be accomplished with no navy or standing army was ignored. So was the fact that taxes had just started to fill the Treasury of an infant nation prostrated by the Revolution’s costs and a public with near-empty pocketbooks. The whiskey excise tax was not the only revenue-raiser that set off protests.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • BuzzFeed Writer Fails Again
      Chalk up another failure for a rabid media desperately trying to prove the Russia-gate story, this time a piece by a reporter with a history of failure, as Joe Lauria reports.


      Guardian reporter Luke Harding, desperate for proof to back up his bestseller “Collusion,” reported in Nov. 2018 that Paul Manafort, briefly Trump’s campaign manager, had met three times with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in the Ecuador embassy in London in a story that provided zero evidence and hasn’t been confirmed by anyone else.

      In Nov. 2017, reporter Jason Leopold reported for BuzzFeed that Moscow had sent $30,000 to the Russian embassy in Washington “to finance [the] election campaign of 2016,” only for it to be revealed that the money was to pay for Russian citizens in the U.S. to vote in the 2016 Duma elections. Now Leopold has done it again. His report last week, with Anthony Cormier, that Trump had told his lawyer to perjure himself before Congress was refuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    • Buzzfeed, Question Time and the Purpose of Fake News
      Last week BuzzFeed published a front page story, under a “BREAKING” banner, headlined: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

      In the article, Buzzfeed reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier claim to have been told, by two anonymous sources, that Robert Mueller’s “Russiagate” investigation had evidence Donald Trump had instructed his lawyer to lie to Congress. That would be a felony, and obviously an impeachable offence.

      The reaction of the news media and associated twitterati was as quick as it was predictable. MSNCBC, CNN, the BBC, The Guardian…the usual suspects. They were all over it within hours.

    • Our Whistleblowing Laws Must Change
      The world has never needed more whistleblowers more. And yet whistleblowers have never face greater fear and uncertainty for speaking out against governments and corporations.

      One of the most high-profile whistleblowing cases, that of Julian Assange, is regarded by a wide range of UN experts as unlawful persecution. Assange cannot access his fundamental rights for fear of immediate extradition. This is despite an ostensible detente between Assange and the new Ecuadorean government.

      This horrifying precedent stands against the history of the ‘Samizdat’ press, an underground publishing network that held critical opinions on Soviet policy and eventually stoked the atmosphere for Glasnost and Perestroika. Their fearless journalism, published at the risk of their lives, shone a light on the moral abyss of the totalitarian state. While official media like Pravda indicated that everything was OK, the Samizdat press spoke to the needs and concerns of ordinary people that they were forbidden to acknowledge in public.

    • By Working to Free Julian Assange We are Fighting for Justice…
      Thank you to the New York chapter of the Ecuadorian Confederation of Journalists for organizing this celebration of journalism and thanks to the consulate for hosting this event. It is an honor to have been invited and to take part of this discussion. For me it’s a discussion about people of courage, people who are doing the unbelievable work of uncovering information and bringing it to the public at large.

      What is information? What is it that we are calling news? The most important news is about issues that powerful people don’t want the general population to know. If we talk about something that everyone knows, no one will be interested.

      I can’t be here today in this Ecuadorian Consulate in Queens , talking to you, my friends and fellow journalists and not talk about the dear situation faced by Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks and currently under asylum jail in the Ecuadorian Consulate in London. It has been almost 7 years since Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to escape extradition by the British authorities. If he steps outside the embassy door, he will be immediately arrested and most likely extradited to the United States, where he would face a long prison sentence, or worse.

    • Does Journalism Have a Future?
      Facebook launched its News Feed in 2006. In 2008, Peretti mused on Facebook, “Thinking about the economics of the news business.” The company added its Like button in 2009. Peretti set likability as BuzzFeed’s goal, and, to perfect the instruments for measuring it, he enlisted partners, including the Times and the Guardian, to share their data with him in exchange for his reports on their metrics. Lists were liked. Hating people was liked. And it turned out that news, which is full of people who hate other people, can be crammed into lists.

      Chartbeat, a “content intelligence” company founded in 2009, launched a feature called Newsbeat in 2011. Chartbeat offers real-time Web analytics, displaying a constantly updated report on Web traffic that tells editors what stories people are reading and what stories they’re skipping. The Post winnowed out reporters based on their Chartbeat numbers. At the offices of Gawker, the Chartbeat dashboard was displayed on a giant screen.

      In 2011, Peretti launched BuzzFeed News, hiring a thirty-five-year-old Politico journalist, Ben Smith, as its editor-in-chief. Smith asked for a “scoop-a-day” from his reporters, who, he told Abramson, had little interest in the rules of journalism: “They didn’t even know what rules they were breaking.” In 2012, BuzzFeed introduced three new one-click ways for readers to respond to stories, beyond “liking” them—LOL, OMG, and WTF—and ran lists like “10 Reasons Everyone Should Be Furious About Trayvon Martin’s Murder,” in which, as Abramson explains, BuzzFeed “simply lifted what it needed from reports published elsewhere, repackaged the information, and presented it in a way that emphasized sentiment and celebrity.” BuzzFeed makes a distinction between BuzzFeed and BuzzFeed News, just as newspapers and magazines draw distinctions between their print and their digital editions. These distinctions are lost on most readers. BuzzFeed News covered the Trayvon Martin story, but its information, like BuzzFeed’s, came from Reuters and the Associated Press.

    • Oregon Lawmaker Wants Public Records Requesters To Tell Gov't Agencies What They Plan To Do With Released Documents
      It actually isn't reasonable to ask this question. There may be an extremely tiny subset of records requesters who seek to extract personal info from public records to engage in harassment or some other form of criminal activity. But it seems someone doing this wouldn't be honest about their intentions even if required to inform a government agency about their plans for the requested documents.

      What it will do is allow agencies to unilaterally refuse to release documents to requesters who give them reasons they don't like. The bill doesn't even hint at what would be considered unacceptable use for public records, which means agencies are free to explore the outer limits of the undefined term, leaving requesters with little recourse but lengthy appeals and expensive litigation.

      Even better (from the perspective of public servants who dislike serving the public), agencies will be able to compile secret blacklists from which to serve up request rejections, claiming the requester's stated reason for seeking documents is not one of the ones they find acceptable.

    • ‘Sex trainers’ who leaked Deripaska yacht footage are unexpectedly released from Moscow jail
      On January 22, a Moscow court unexpectedly freed the “sex trainers” Anastasia Vashukevich (also known as “Nastya Rybka”) and Alexander Kirillov (“Alex Leslie”). The two were arrested on January 17 at Sheremetyevo Airport in connection with a prostitution investigation.

      According to lawyer and human rights activist Pavel Chikov, prosecutors brought no charges against either Vashukevich or Kirillov, and the two were promptly released on their own recognizance. “They were just released, and we’re waiting for the investigator to inform us when they need to appear again in court,” Kirillov’s lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, told reporters.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Twitter threats, abuse, murder: what women face defending the environment
      Isabel Cristina Zuleta is a human rights activist in Antioquia, northern Colombia, where she works for the Ríos Vivos Movimiento de Afectados por Represas (movement of people affected by dams). According to the NGO Global Witness, 27 activists were murdered in this country in 2017 alone.

      Since 2010, Zuleta has opposed the construction of the Hidroituango hydroelectric dam on the river Cauca, Colombia's second most important. Ríos Vivos is trying to raise awareness of problems the dam could cause – including environmental damage, forced evictions, and the impoverishment of local residents whose livelihoods rely on the river.

      Because of her activism, Zuleta has faced threats, harassment, attempted forced disappearances, criminal charges as well as sexual violence. In 2013, she said she was kidnapped by agents of the government’s so-called Mobile Anti-Disturbance squad who also photographed her “partes íntimas” (‘private parts’) while she was in detention.

      According to a 2018 report by the Fondo de Acción Urgente (Urgent Action Fund Latin America and the Caribbean, or FAU-AL) human rights network, when Zuleta reported this treatment to the Attorney General, she was told that it “was not the important thing”, and instead she was accused of promoting attacks against the company building the dam.

      In August, Zuleta told 50.50 that activists had received a myriad of recent threats, including: people approaching them to say they cannot protest, or threatening to kill them; people tailing them on the streets; and death threats via text messages, phone calls and Twitter. The next month, two family members of activists from her organisation were murdered.

    • 'We Are Watching the Ice Sheet Hit a Tipping Point': Greenland Melting Even Faster Than Feared
      Using data from satellites and GPS stations across Greenland, his team found that by 2012, Greenland was losing ice at four times the rate it was in 2003, and that acceleration was focused in the southwest region. The cause of this unprecedented ice loss, they concluded, was global atmospheric warming from human activities coupled with a natural phenomenon that brings warmer air to West Greenland.

      "Global warming has brought summertime temperatures in a significant portion of Greenland close to the melting point," Bevis explained, "and the North Atlantic Oscillation has provided the extra push that caused large areas of ice to melt."

      This new study follows several others published in the past few months that show across the globe, but especially near the poles, ice is melting and oceans are warming even more rapidly than experts once feared, which could lead to worldwide sea level rise of more than 10 feet within this century alone.

      Given the ongoing ice loss in Greenland and elsewhere, what's clear, according to Bevis, is that "the only thing we can do is adapt and mitigate further global warming—it's too late for there to be no effect."

      However, the degree of devastation is still variable. The more rapidly that world leaders comply with mounting public demands for bold climate action and implement the systemic changes that scientists say are necessary to avert climate catastrophe—most notably, immediately phasing out fossil fuels—the better off we will be.

      As Bevis put it, "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

      Responding to the study, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir declared, "We must fight climate change together, the threat is real and we are reaching the tipping point."

    • The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
      Changing plant communities at the local scale are symptomatic of the changing climate globally. Patterns of temperature, precipitation and seasonal timing are shifting, and with them, the patterns of birth, growth, reproduction—and survival—of all living creatures.

      One widely observed syndrome is “season creep,” in which Spring has been arriving progressively earlier in the calendar year. This does not mean that every Spring starts sooner than the year before, but that an overall trend has been observed. For example, a survey of leafing, flowering and fruiting records from 1971-2000 for 542 plant species in 21 European Union countries showed advanced timing for 78% of the plants. According to other sources, “Spring events, such as blooming, frog breeding and migrant bird arrivals, have advanced 2.3 days per decade.” Winter snow cover duration—as measured from Fall to Spring—has decreased throughout the Northern Hemisphere since 1978. The earlier the snow melts, the less water is available during the hot summer, which affects a wide range of plants, animals and other life.

      Winters have been warming. For example, the average February maximum temperature in the US rose by 0.3 F per decade from 1895-2016. This general rise in the “floor” has been accompanied by an increase in “extreme” events, such as “false Springs” when temperatures warm up enough to trigger life cycle stages in a variety of species. When more “normal” weather arrives later—or another extreme event follows, but this time on the cold side—a plant can be injured or even killed. A common example is when a hot spell causes fruit trees to flower, and then a frost—even just a “normal” one—zaps the flowers, thereby taking out that year’s harvest.

    • Polar ice loss speeds up by leaps and bounds
      In the last few decades the speed of polar ice loss at both ends of the planet has begun to gallop away at rates which will have a marked effect on global sea levels.

      Antarctica is now losing ice mass six times faster than it did 40 years ago. In the decade that began in 1979, the great white continent surrendered 40 billion tons of ice a year to raise global sea levels. By the decade 2009 to 2017, this mass loss had soared to 252 billion tons a year.

      And in Greenland, the greatest concentration of terrestrial ice in the northern hemisphere has also accelerated its rate of ice loss fourfold in this century.

      Satellite studies confirm that in 2003, around 102 billion tons of ice turned to flowing water or broke off into the ocean as floating bergs. By 2013, this figure had climbed to 393 billion tons a year.
    • ‘A Bright Future’ Offers a Not-So-Bright Idea for Solving the Climate Crisis
      According to a new book, A Bright Future by Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist, the answer is an energy technique the Swedes call “kärnkraft,” which the book’s cover copy proclaims is “hundreds of times safer and cleaner than coal.”

      What is kärnkraft, you ask? Well, the description of the book doesn’t say.

      Neither does the table of contents.

      You also won’t find the answer in the foreword, by the popular science writer and psychologist Steven Pinker, although he does call A Bright Future “the most important book about climate change since An Inconvenient Truth.”

      How about the book itself? The first two chapters take a similarly vague approach. In fact it takes until page 27, at the bottom of a graph depicting kärnkraft capacity in the United States, to get the definition of this mystery word.
    • Copenhagen to be 1st Carbon Neutral City by 2025 and other Wind Energy Good News Stories
      Wind power is falling rapidly in cost, with turbines becoming bigger and more efficient.

      Alexandre Jeanblanc at Investor’s Corner explains that Copenhagen plans to become the first carbon neutral city in the world by 2025! Denmark is blessed with abundant wind energy sources, which is part of the explanation for the capital’s ability to put forward such an ambitious goal. Some 22% of Denmark’s electricity is produced by wind turbines, but the country intends to increase that proportion to 50% by 2025, only six years from now. But Jeanblanc points out that the city has greatly increased the efficiency of its public and older residential buildings. (A lot of buildings still don’t have proper insulation, a simple fix that significantly reduces carbon dioxide production). Copenhagen is also addressing transportation, making the city bicycle-friendly and hoping to account for 75% of trips inside the city by bicycle. The remaining automobiles and buses will be electric or hydrogen.

      Some ten percent of greater Copenhagen’s households will be powered by wind turbines set up on 9 artificial islands off its coast, with the complex to be named Holmene. Holmene will itself be net carbon zero, and a major new center of industry, including pharmaceuticals. It will have 5 huge wind turbines, each producing 6 megawatts.
    • Desalination plants are on the rise—so is their salty, chemical waste
      The rise of desalination plants, now almost 16,000 worldwide, has led to a glut of brine waste—much of which is dumped into oceans, which can raise salinity to dangerous levels and put toxic chemicals in the marine environment threatening ocean life, according to a new study.

      The study is the first to update estimates of desalination plants' discharge since the sharp increase in facilities over the past few decades and suggests there is an urgent need to find ways to deal with the huge amount of waste created at the plants, which remove salts from water in areas where freshwater is scarce.

      "Improved brine management strategies are required to limit the negative environmental impacts and reduce economic cost of disposal, thereby stimulating further developments in desalination facilities to safeguard water supplies," the authors wrote in the study, published today in Science of the Total Environment.

      The researchers found desalination plants are discharging more than 37 billion gallons of chemical-laden brine every day, which is a 50 percent increase over previous estimates. The authors note that amount is enough in a year to cover Florida under one foot of brine.

      Most desalination plants are in the Middle East and Africa and the paper found just four countries—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar— are responsible for about 55 percent of the world' total brine waste.

    • Legal challenge to Barrier Reef shark cull
      Queensland's Great Barrier Reef shark culling program is to be challenged in court by the Humane Society.

    • Energy Department Hires a Top Cheerleader for Petrochemical Hub Before Issuing Report Favoring It
      Near the end of 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired the leading promoter within academia of a massive and multi-faceted petrochemical complex proposed for West Virginia. A month later, the agency issued a report favoring the construction of such a complex.

      On November 9, the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) named as its new director former West Virginia University Professor Brian Anderson.

      NETL, which spearheads federal energy-related research and development (R&D) efforts, is currently deciding whether to grant $1.9 billion in R&D money toward building out the proposed petrochemical complex, known as the Appalachian Storage Hub.

    • Jump-Starting the Dam Removal Movement in the US
      New eras often start with a bang. That was the case in September when explosives blasted a hole in a concrete dam that had barricaded Maryland’s Patapsco River for more than 110 years.

      Like so many defunct and outdated dams in the United States, Bloede Dam’s impact on the Patapsco far outweighed its usefulness. Bloede produced electricity for less than 20 years. By then, so much sand and rock clogged its turbines that the dam became impossibly expensive to maintain. Instead, the power company shut it down. But for more than 100 years, Bloede stood as a monolith, blocking migrating fish, costing taxpayers millions in upkeep and drowning at least 10 people who couldn’t escape the underwater whirlpool at its foot.

      Excavators are currently removing Bloede’s last vestiges. Soon, native shad, alewives and herring will migrate from the Chesapeake Bay to the shoals where their ancestors have spawned for millennia. Boaters and swimmers will reconnect with their local river. The Patapsco River will come alive and boost the entire Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

      Removing unused dams, like Bloede, is one of the most important things we can do for rivers and the ecosystems they support.

      “Think of rivers as the veins and arteries of our country,” says Bob Irvin, president and CEO of American Rivers, a national river conservation organization, which also employs this writer. “Just like in our bodies, our veins and arteries work best when they are free and clear of obstructions.”

    • 2019 is the year to embrace energy democracy - or face social and climate breakdown
      2018 was a thunderous year for the climate which gave us a glimpse of the new normal: record-breaking heat, a blazing Arctic, the northern hemisphere seemingly on fire. These, alongside a clanging alarm about the disastrous impacts of 1.5€°C of global warming from the UN in October, contributed to growing public recognition that climate breakdown is very real and its effects serious.

      2018 also saw growing momentum for climate movements in confronting political inaction. From the Extinction Rebellion movement in the UK, to thousands of school children on strike in Australia (and similar movements elsewhere). Climate demonstrations in Europe bigger than ever. A record 5,000 people joined civil disobedience to protest coal mines in Germany. A number of laws were also passed that pointed in the right direction: Ireland and a number of cities divested from fossil fuels; the EU gave backing to citizen and community-owned renewable energy, and Spain lifted the controversial 'sun tax'. The costs of renewable energy and energy storage also fell.

    • Nuclear sunset overtakes fading dreams
      Once hailed as a key part of the energy future of the United Kingdom and several other countries, the high-tech atomic industry is now heading in the opposite direction, towards nuclear sunset.

      It took another body blow last week when plans to build four new reactors on two sites in the UK were abandoned as too costly by the Japanese company Hitachi. This was even though it had already sunk €£2.14 billion (300 bn yen) in the scheme.

      Following the decision in November by another Japanese giant, Toshiba, to abandon an equally ambitious scheme to build three reactors at Moorside in the north-west of England, the future of the industry in the UK looks bleak.

      The latest withdrawal means the end of the Japanese dream of keeping its nuclear industry alive by exporting its technology overseas. With the domestic market killed by the Fukushima disaster in 2011, overseas sales were to have been its salvation.

    • Trudeau Should Consider Buying GM and Making Electric Cars
      Long after the last factory has left Ontario, one can imagine Doug Ford still sporting a full-on Cheshire grin as he puts up billboards proclaiming the province “Open for Business.”

      Certainly, the premier didn’t seem even slightly embarrassed that he’d posted his billboards along the American border just before America’s biggest automaker announced plans last November to permanently shut down business at its flagship Ontario plant.


      It’s hard to imagine such a speedy transition — but then, it was probably also hard in 1910 to imagine Henry Ford’s futuristic Model T replacing the ever-popular horse-and-buggy. (Back then, the Model T was far too expensive for ordinary people. But within a dozen years, its price plunged by 70 per cent, and in 1925, almost two million Model Ts were sold.)

      The IMF researchers point out that a transition to 90 per cent electric cars by 2040 “would meet the conditions to keep global temperature rise below 2C.”

      They also note that such a transition would disrupt the auto industry. Since an electric car has fewer parts, they maintain that “on-shoring” — that is, assembling cars in advanced economies rather than “offshoring” them to low-wage countries — is likely.

      This suggests that a Canadian automaker building electric cars could lead to future jobs here.

      Of course, any decision to invest billions of taxpayer funds would have to be made with utmost care.

      Yet, oddly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed no such careful consideration when he promptly jumped in with 4.5 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase the leaky, 65-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline last spring, declaring it “in the national interest” to ensure the pipeline’s expansion after the corporate owner threatened to back out of the project.

    • Russia's Attorney General sides with Gazprom against Chechen officials
      Officials in Moscow are urging the Chechen authorities to walk back a recent court decision that forgave 9 billion rubles ($135.3 million) in debt owed to a Gazprom subsidiary by local customers. The Grozny court’s ruling granted a request by Chechen prosecutors to cancel the debt on the grounds that its statute of limitations had expired. Prosecutors also warned that the debt “had created social tensions and could provoke protests.”

  • Finance

    • Teachers Are Rising Up to Resist Neoliberal Attacks on Education
      Hannah Arendt once argued that, “Thinking itself is dangerous to all creeds, convictions, and opinions.” In the current political climate, the institutions that nurture critical thinking are similarly seen as dangerous and threatening to our increasingly authoritarian social order. These institutions include public and higher education along with almost any form of progressive media.

      As a result, purveyors of neoliberal ideology and policy have been working relentlessly to undermine public education in order to define it in strictly economic terms. Taking an instrumentalist approach obsessed with measurement and quantification, they have aggressively attempted to turn education into a business, faculty into devalued clerks and students into consumers.

      Fortunately, teachers and students are refusing to participate in the destruction of US education. The historic strike initiated on January 14 by 33,000 teachers in Los Angeles — the nation’s second-largest school district — is the latest evidence of a nationwide trend in which public school teachers and students have increasingly gone on strike and engaged in walkouts.
    • The Trump Tax Cut Is Even Worse Than They Say
      Jim Tankersley had a nice piece in the New York Times last week pointing out that the tax cut pushed through by the Republicans in 2017 is leading to a sharp drop in tax revenue. While this was widely predicted by most analysts, it goes against the Trump administration’s claims that the tax cut would pay for itself.

      Looking at full-year data for calendar year 2018, Tankersley points out that revenue was $183 billion (5.6 percent) below what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had projected for the year before the tax cut was passed into law. This is a substantial falloff in revenue by any standard, but there are two reasons the picture is even worse than this falloff implies.

      The first is that we actually did see a jump in growth in 2018 pretty much in line with what the Trump administration predicted. The tax cut really did stimulate the economy. It put a lot of money in the economy (mostly going to those at the top) and people spent much of this money. The result was that the growth rate accelerated from around 2.0 percent the prior three years to over 3.0 percent in 2018. (We don’t have 4th quarter data yet, which may be delayed by the shutdown, but growth should be over 3.0 percent.)

    • On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
      Government, parliament and parts of the media are obsessed by Brexit, almost to the exclusion of all else. The last few weeks have produced a cascade of apocalyptic warnings about the calamity facing Britain if it fails to depart the EU, or does so with or without a deal. These forebodings may or may not be true, but does this sense of crisis reflect the feelings of the British people as a whole?

      Are there identifiable signs of popular rage and division similar to those that accompanied the Home Rule crisis of 1912-14, the Great Reform Bill of 1832 or even, as one cabinet minister claimed a few days ago, the English Civil War in the 17th century, in which at least 84,000 died on the battlefield? So far there is no evidence of anything like this, though that is not to say the confrontation over Brexit might not one day erupt into violence.

      The media furore over a single MP being verbally abused outside parliament shows, contrary to overheated reportage, how quiet things have been on the streets up to the present moment.

      A striking feature of news reporting and commentary in the final weeks before the British withdrawal from EU on 29 March is how narrowly focused it is on Westminster and on the sayings and doings of the political establishment.

      Commenters have largely ignored what was supposed to be one of the lessons of the 2016 referendum, which was that London-based television, radio and newspapers were out of touch with the feelings of the country – a lack of understanding which led them to being surprised and shocked by the outcome of the vote.
    • The 'Uberfication' of education: warning about commercial operators

      Gavrielatos said Bridge International provides educators with scripted lessons developed in the US loaded onto a tablet. He says the introduction of technology platforms compensates for not having qualified teachers "who literally read word for word from a tablet".

      "This is Uberification of education and there are plans to scale it up in the global north," he says.

      "These staff are not trained teachers. They are high school graduates who instruct kids for a fraction of the price that it costs to employ a qualified teacher.

    • Global use of AI on the rise, but talent in short supply: report

      Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise around the world according to a new global study that found the number of enterprises implementing artificial intelligence (AI) grew 270% in the past four years and tripled in the past year.

    • The Cab Ride That Nearly Killed Me Changed How I Think About Ride-Hailing Apps

      In the months that followed, my journalistic curiosity took over. I began to wonder not only about my driver but also about all those who’ve poured into ride-hailing cars on the streets of Singapore and around the world. Were these companies doing enough to protect passengers from negligent drivers? Maybe Grab’s growth and its perceived triumph over Uber the day before my accident had come at a cost. Was it possible that, for all the convenience ride-hailing services offered, they were making cities less safe?

    • Amazon warehouse workers are getting utility belts that ward off robots

      Amazon has more than 100,000 robots in its warehouses, and so, naturally, needs to ensure that the machines play nice with human employees. The company’s latest solution to keep robo-human relations ticking over smoothly is what it calls the “Robotic Tech Vest” — a bit of kit that warehouse workers can wear to make them visible to nearby machines.

    • Amazon built an electronic vest to improve worker/robot interactions

      Over the course of the last year, Amazon began rolling out a new worker safety wearable to 25+ sites. From the looks of it, the Robotic Tech Vest is really more like a pair of suspenders attached to an electronic utility belt. The Amazon Robotics-designed product was created to keep workers safe when they need to enter a space in order to fix a robotic system or retrieve fallen items. Built-in sensors alert Amazon’s robotic systems to the wearer’s presence, and they slow down to avoid collision.

    • The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
      With the New Year and the US recovery soon to be record-breaking in duration, many are asking when the next recession is likely to come and what will cause it. While none of us has a crystal ball that gives a clear view of the future, there are a few things we can say. First, and most importantly, the next recession will not look like the last recession. The last recession was caused by the collapse of a massive housing bubble that had been the driving force in the previous recovery. While economists like to pretend this was an unforeseeable event, that is not true. There was an unprecedented run-up in nationwide house prices. It was clear that this was not being driven by the fundamentals of the housing market, as there was no remotely corresponding increase in rents, and vacancy rates were hitting record levels. Furthermore, it was easy to see the housing bubble was driving the economy. Residential construction was hitting record shares of GDP, more than two full percentage points above its long-term average of 4.0 percent of GDP.

    • Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
      According to Vincent Brengarth, a lawyer at the Paris Bar, in recent years we have been witnessing a disturbing drift in police repression in France, more specifically since November 2015 when the state of emergency was pronounced and extended several times, before being integrated into common law. We would henceforth be under “a state of emergency that does not say its name,” with preventive arrests only based on suspicion, without concrete evidence of an offence.

    • Oracle Paid Women $13,000 Less Than Men, Analysis Finds

      Oracle allegedly paid some female employees more than $13,000 less per year, on average, than male employees in similar roles, according an analysis of Oracle’s own pay data revealed Friday as part of a gender bias lawsuit against the company. The analysis was performed by economist David Neumark, a professor at UC Irvine, who claims the likelihood of such a disparity occurring by chance is less than one in 1 billion.

    • Two Snap Executives Pushed Out After Probe Into Inappropriate Relationship

      The Snapchat parent late last year fired its head of global security, Francis Racioppi, after an investigation by the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher into his relationship with the contractor, these people said.

      The probe, initiated by the company, found that Mr. Racioppi had a relationship with the woman, whom he had hired, and then terminated her contract after the relationship ended, these people said.

    • Two Snap execs forced out after probe into relationship with outside contractor

      The company's head of global security Francis Racioppi was fired by the Snapchat parent company late last month after an investigation found that he had an undisclosed relationship with a woman he hired as a contractor, according to the Journal. He reportedly ended her contract after their relationship came to a close.

    • The DeVos and the Defrauded
      Most investors couldn’t have seen it coming, but those in the business were thrilled. The day after The Trump was given the keys to the best playroom he’d ever had, the stock in Strayer Education, Inc., the company that owns the for-profit Strayer University, jumped almost 20%. Stock in other for profit universities enjoyed a similar increase. Investors were prescient. Betsy DeVos was named Secretary of Education.

      A fan of school choice, charter schools, and a major supporter of the Republican party, Betsy was a great choice for the position, even though she had no experience in the realm of education, other than her passionate support for the reportedly less than successful charter schools in Michigan.

      After Betsy was confirmed by the Senate, she made up for her own lack of knowledge about the world of education by hiring people who had been closely identified with the for-profit college business. Among them was Julian Schmoke, who was placed in charge of the unit that investigates fraud in higher education. From 2008 to 2012 Mr. Schmoke was associate dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University. That university engaged in assorted fraudulent activities, for which it paid more than $1 million in fines and penalties.

      Another Betsy hire was Robert Eitel who, prior to joining the Department, had been at Bridgepoint Education. That institution was fined $30 million on account of deceptive student lending practices.
    • Facing Populist Assault, Global Elites Regroup in Davos
      As the world’s financial and political elites convene here in the Swiss Alps for the World Economic Forum, their vision of ever-closer commercial and political ties is under attack — and the economic outlook is darkening.

      Britain’s political system has been thrown into chaos as the country negotiates a messy divorce from the European Union.

      Under President Donald Trump, the United States is imposing trade sanctions on friend and foe alike, and the government is paralyzed by a partial shutdown over immigration policy that forced Trump and a high-level U.S. delegation to cancel the trip to Davos.
    • As New Analysis Shows Global Elite's Wealth Surge, Davos Forum Urged to Address Climate Crisis
      The global elite are getting ready to gather in the Swiss Alps for the World Economic Forum (WEF), and while the backdrop may be one of "deepening gloom over the global economic and political outlook," a new analysis reveals that for at least some of the attendees, the outlook is sunnier than ever.

      Released by Bloomberg just ahead of the gathering in Davos, it shows how the net worth of some of the "gold-collar executives" that will be attending have surged in the ten years since the financial crisis.

      JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, for example, now holds $1.5 billion—a threefold increase over the decade. Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of private equity giant Blackstone, meanwhile, saw his wealth urge sixfold, as his net worth is now $12.3 billion. Rupert Murdoch's wealth similarly went up nearly sixfold, with his fortune now at $18.3 billion. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, for his part, is now worth $6.5 billion—a more than ninefold increase.
    • #ChiMayor19—Episode 2: Megaprojects For The Rich, Crumbs For The People
      In conjunction with reporting from journalist Aaron Cynic on the Chicago mayoral election, Shadowproof is producing a limited podcast series, “#ChiMayor19,” featuring Aaron.

      A new episode will be posted after each of Aaron’s reports on issues, which grassroots groups believe candidates for mayor must address if they are elected.

      The second episode in the podcast series is on megaprojects for wealthy developers in Chicago that are approved at the expense of struggling communities in the city. It ties in to Aaron’s report published on January 14.

    • 35,000 Hit Streets of Berlin to Demand Agricultural Revolution
      "With over €6 billion that Germany distributes every year as EU farming monies, environmental and animal-appropriate transformation of agriculture must be promoted," said protest spokesperson Saskia Richartz.

      Slow Food Europe captured some of the scenes on social media, and stated in a Twitter thread: "We believe that instead of propping up agro-industries, politicians should support the determination of small-scale farmers to keep climate-friendly farms, which are the future of agriculture."

    • The Radical Worker Politics of the Los Angeles Teacher Strike
      Depending on one’s capacity for optimism, 2018 either foretold the rebirth of labor militancy in the United States or, conversely, suggested the last gasp of a movement that has been in near-terminal decline since the 1970s. Two key events took place last year, which, per one’s analysis, have led to opposing predictions for workers in the US.

      First, in February 2018, after years of austerity under Republican control, West Virginia teachers and school personnel decided to go on strike. But this was no conventional work stoppage. In West Virginia, teachers are considered providers of “essential services”, making any strike action illegal. Of course, this is part of the reason why neoliberal politicians have been able to walk all over the backs of West Virginia teachers for decades, making them third-last in the nation in terms of pay.

      However, it also did not help that their unions — the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel — were all dead set against any risk-taking, never mind an illegal disruption of work.

      But against all expectations, West Virginia teachers captivated the nation when they decided to go on strike nonetheless, drawing inspiration from a long history of radical strikes in the state’s dying coal-mines. Their wildcat action brought out over 20,000 teachers shutting down schools in all 55 West Virginia counties.

    • The Deep-Pocket Push to Deep-Six Public Schools
      Back during the 1960s and 1970s, in cities, suburbs, and small towns across the United States, teacher strikes made headlines on a fairly regular basis. Teachers in those years had a variety of reasons for walking out. They struck for the right to bargain. They struck for decent pay and benefits. They struck for professional dignity.

      Now teachers in Los Angeles, America’s second-largest school district, are striking, the latest high-profile walkout in a new surge of teacher strikes that began last year. L.A. teachers are striking for the same dignity and decency teachers sought in the mid-20th century. But the L.A. struggle, many observers believe, amounts to much more than a battle over how school officials treat teachers.

      Teachers in L.A. are striking, in a most fundamental way, against how unequal America has become. They’re striking against our billionaire class.

      In Los Angeles, our billionaires have been up to no good. They’ve essentially staged an unfriendly takeover of the L.A. board of education, shoveling mega millions into the campaigns of school board candidates pledged to advancing an agenda that funnels public tax dollars to “charter schools” that have next to no accountability to the public.

      The newly elected billionaire-friendly board majority then proceeded to hire as superintendent a billionaire investment banker with no background in education. That billionaire proceeded to go about making L.A. a model for privatizing big-city school districts the nation over. Teachers in Los Angles are striking to stop him.

      The demands of striking L.A. teachers “for smaller classes, more support staff, safer schools, community schools, and charter school oversight,” explains Peter Greene, a long-time union activist with 39 years experience teaching, “are not about making their working conditions a little better, but about keeping public education alive and healthy.”

    • Guatemala in crisis after president bans corruption investigation into his government
      For months, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has been trying to stop a United Nations-backed anti-corruption investigation into his government.

      Morales, a stand-up comedian who ran for president in 2015 with the slogan “Not corrupt, nor a thief,” is accused of campaign finance violations. His administration is under investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, an influential international corruption panel called “CICIG” in Spanish.

      Last September, Morales told CICIG investigators they were no longer welcome in Guatemala and denied a visa to lead prosecutor Ivan Velasquez. The courts quickly ruled that Velasquez must be allowed to re-enter Guatemala to continue his work, but Morales has refused.

      On Jan. 6, immigration officers sent by Morales arrested Velasquez’s deputy prosecutor at the Guatemala City airport. The Constitutional Court ordered his release and reiterated that the government must let the CICIG continue its investigation.

    • Pain From the Government Shutdown Spreads. This Time It’s Food Stamps.
      Antoinette Martinez was relieved when she heard she would receive her food stamps for February about two weeks early. Her cabinet was nearly empty after the holidays, and now she could stock up on groceries to feed her family.

      But Martinez also feared she wouldn’t be able to make the funds last. “I know I’m gonna spend them and I’m gonna be struggling next month,” 31-year-old Martinez said late Wednesday as she loaded her car with bags from a Food 4 Less market in Los Angeles.

      The pain from the federal government’s partial shutdown is spreading in sometimes unexpected ways to millions of people who don’t work for the federal government.

      The roughly 40 million people who depend on federal food assistance will get their February benefits early, because the government shutdown means the money will be unavailable later, state and federal officials said. All 50 states and the District of Columbia issued the benefits this week, or plan to do so by Sunday, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Normally, they would be distributed on or after Feb. 1.

      It is unclear whether funding for the program will be available in March if the shutdown continues. The benefits for February cost the federal government approximately $4.8 billion.

    • It’s Time to Heed King’s Call for the Abolition of Poverty
      As long as what’s called “Western civilization” has existed, people have been punished for being poor. This isn’t something the Western world invented, but it’s been a consistent characteristic of it. In Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. … The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.” Through this call to abolish poverty, King put forth an indictment of Western civilization and of capitalistic society.

      The abolition of poverty contains the radical admission that the unacceptable doesn’t deserve repair or reform. It’s an honest approach to problems that can be so big and intimidating that they may tempt us to deny what’s plainly true. King was pointing out the mistaken perception that racial capitalism is civilized or advanced. Those who benefit most according to the logic of everyday terror say that we must accept the violence of capitalistic accumulation and the ruthlessness of money. They would have us believe this is as good as it can get. It’s not.

      From furloughed workers to the unemployed and others facing dire circumstances, we live in a time that has made crowdfunding a regular go-to for people who are struggling to meet their basic needs. The lack of a universal safety net has forced people to try to create their own. The fundamental basis of solutions that many on the left are arguing for — such as socialism — can be explained with this crowdfunding trend. We are saying that it’s completely absurd to work and pay taxes, yet still not have health care, functioning schools and all the needed resources for our communities that tax revenues are supposed to pay for. Our rights should not be made into luxuries, and we should not have to crowdfund for necessities that should be paid for with the wealth our labor generates.

    • Shutdown Exposes How Many Americans Live Paycheck to Paycheck
      Today marks the two-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, and we have learned some hard lessons in the interval. The ongoing, historically unprecedented shutdown of the federal government has exposed Trump as one of the worst deal-makers ever to stand up in two shoes.

      It has further exposed the Republican Party’s bottomless disdain for marginalized people through its craven refusal to contain the man who has unleashed all this misery. It has exposed deep fissures in Trump’s once-unbreakable base as more and more of his supporters — battered by tariffs and now the shutdown — come to correctly believe they’ve been played for chumps.

      The shutdown has exposed something else far more personal and uncomfortable, something most folks don’t like to talk about because it is too frightening to contemplate, something they can’t see an easy way to fix. It is this simple, terrible truth: A great many people in the US are one missed paycheck away from complete financial calamity.

      This has proven true for many of the federal workers and contractors furloughed by the shutdown. The end of the month is less than two weeks away, and those furloughed workers will collectively owe more than $400 million in mortgage and rent payments, to say nothing of utility bills and child care expenses. Throw in food and gasoline, and the math becomes grim in a big hurry.

      This crisis is not limited to furloughed federal workers, however. According to a report by Forbes Magazine, a full 78 percent of all US workers are living paycheck to paycheck. One quarter of workers are financially unable to set aside any money for savings after each pay cycle. Three quarters of workers are in debt, and half of those believe they always will be. Most minimum wage workers are required to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

    • Enough “Free Trade.” We Need Solidarity Economies and Reparations.
      “Free trade” is the modern form that imperialism takes: It is a system that protects and expands inequalities of power both between and within countries. “Free trade” empowers global North multinational corporations to continue — with minimal interference and tacit approval from global South governments — the unequal trade they developed with the global South during colonialism. Further, it allows global North multinationals (with their junior partners, global South multinationals) to increase inequality around the world by pitting working class people in the global North and global South against one another.

      Another way is possible. In order to build a progressive international political economy that produces material dignity and freedom for all the world’s people, we need to engage three distinct yet interrelated projects. We can build each project, piece by piece, advancing all three at the same time. The vision for what the three projects become can help us continue to build popular support as we advance each of the projects toward creating a transformed and democratic world economy.

      First, we need trade agreements that include strong labor, environmental and antitrust regulation in all countries, and agreements that end offshore tax havens for the wealthy and create fair access to markets for global South producers. These agreements can allow us to rapidly address some of the worst multinational corporate abuses. They can also create space for us to continue to build the other two projects, especially the solidarity economy institutions that can become the base for popular progressive power that we will need in order to organize to create a transformed world economy.

      Second, we need democratic international institutions that transfer technology and productive wealth from the global North to the global South so that we can begin to undo the ongoing violence of centuries of colonialism and imperialism. We can also use these institutions to coordinate investment in a just transition — led by Indigenous people and the mostly Black and Brown people who are on the front lines of the climate crisis — to a renewable energy economy, a program that can become an international version of a Green New Deal.

    • New York City Could Pave Way for More Paid Leave in US
      Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed an ordinance this month that would make New York City the first city in the country to mandate paid time off for its workers. His proposal would guarantee almost all the city’s workers at least two weeks a year of paid leave. (The smallest businesses are exempted.)

      This is a big step in bringing the country more in line with the rest of the world. Workers in every other wealthy country can count on some amount of paid time off. The European Union requires that all its members give workers at least four weeks a year of paid vacation. Several countries give more than five weeks a year of paid leave.

      While many better-educated and better-paid workers in the United States do get paid vacation, as do most union workers, many lower-paid workers get zero time off. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal is a first step toward changing this situation.

      Unfortunately, people in the United States tend to view the length of the work week and work year as being largely fixed. This is a large part of the story behind the bizarre fear that robots will take all the jobs. This fear is bizarre first and foremost because we are seeing extremely low rates of productivity growth. This weak growth is expected by almost all forecasters to persist into the indefinite future.

    • A 'Fundamentally Inhuman' Economy: 26 Billionaires Own as Much as World's 3.8 Billion Poorest People
      Titled "Private Good or Public Wealth?" and conducted by Oxfam, the new analysis found that 26 billionaires now own as much wealth as the world's poorest 3.8 billion people combined.

      According to Oxfam, the number of billionaires has doubled since the global financial crisis of 2008, even as average families have struggled mightily to recover.

      In contrast to the soaring fortunes of the global financial elite, the wealth of the world's poorest fell by $500 million each day in 2018—an overall decline of 11 percent.

      "The economy we have today is fundamentally inhuman," Paul O'Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America, said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

    • Capitalist-Style Wealth Gap: 1 Tech Guy = 1,000,000 Teachers
      Bill Gates may be a knowledgable man, but for starters he was lucky and opportunistic. In 1975, at the age of 20, he founded Microsoft with high school buddy Paul Allen. This was the era of the first desktop computers, and numerous small companies were trying to program them, most notably Digital Research, headed by software designer Gary Kildall, whose CP/M operating system (OS) was the industry standard. Even Gates' company used it. But Kildall was an innovator, not a businessman, and when IBM came calling for an OS for the new IBM PC, his delays drove the big mainframe company to Gates, who provided an OS based on Kildall's CP/M system. Kildall wanted to sue, but intellectual property law for software had not yet been established. David Lefer, a collaborator for the book They Made America, summarized: "Gates didn't invent the PC operating system, and any history that says he did is wrong."

      To a large extent Mark Zuckerberg also took his ideas from others. Zuckerberg developed his version of social networking while he was at Harvard. Before he made his contribution, Columbia University students Adam Goldberg and Wayne Ting built a system called Campus Network, which was much more sophisticated than the early versions of Facebook. But Zuckerberg eventually prevailed because of the Harvard name, better financial support, and the simplicity of Facebook. A possible fourth reason: it was alleged that Zuckerberg hacked into competitors' computers to compromise user data.

    • We’re Headed Towards Economic Apartheid Just as MLK Warned
      Most known for his famous “I Have Dream Speech,” King envisioned a future in which deep racial inequalities — including deep economic inequality — were eradicated. He worked tirelessly towards that mission. Over 50 years after his assassination, sensational media stories have focused heavily on the black unemployment rate, which has reached historic lows. President Trump was quick to claim credit for this improvement last year, tweeting: “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” (The rapper had recently criticized the president for a racist statement about African countries.) These headlines (and boasts) don’t tell the whole story, though. Most importantly, they exclude data on overall wealth — a critical measure of financial security. Wealth buffers families from the ups and downs of income changes and economic cycles, and allows households to take advantage of opportunities. A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies takes a more holistic look at where the country is in terms of racial economic parity. It reveals deep, pervasive, and ongoing racial economic division. The study shows that wealth is concentrating into fewer and fewer hands over time. And though working white people also struggle, the hands at the very top are overwhelmingly white. Far from closing, America’s polarizing racial wealth divide is continuing to grow between white households and households of color. Over the past three decades, the report notes, “the median black family saw their wealth drop by a whopping 50 percent, compared to a 33 percent increase for the median white household.” King foreshadowed that if we maintain our exploitive economic and political systems, then we’d get not only racial apartheid, but economic apartheid as well.

    • 26 Billionaires Have as Much Wealth as the World’s Poorest Half, Oxfam Reports
      This week, in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s wealthiest and most powerful politicians and business leaders meet at the World Economic Forum to discuss the state of the global economy. In advance of this annual gathering, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam performs an annual tradition of its own, what The Guardian calls “an annual wealth check” that examines the extent of the gap between the assets of the world’s richest and poorest. According to the 2018 version, titled “Public Good or Private Wealth?,” the world’s 26 richest billionaires own as much as the world’s 3.8 billion poorest people.

      In 2018, billionaire wealth rose by $2.5 billion per day, a 12 percent increase over the previous year, while the poorest half of the world had an 11 percent decline in its already meager wealth.

      The Oxfam report analyzed the assets of more than 2,200 billionaires around the world, using data from the Credit Suisse global wealth data book to calculate the wealth gap, and Forbes’ billionaire list from March 2018 to determine the wealth of individual billionaires.

      Among the report’s findings is that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos—currently the world’s richest man—has a $112 billion fortune. As The Guardian observes, “Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.”

    • Trump's shutdown is a historic opportunity for real change
      This week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers doubled its estimate of how much the shutdown - the longest in US history - will cost the economy. Others are warning that it could push the US towards a recession. Families across the country are scrambling to feed their children, keep their homes, and pay for expensive medications. As hundreds of thousands of federal and contract workers continue without pay, Trump has demanded that workers return to their jobs, stating that the shutdown will continue indefinitely - for months or even years - until his racist, multibillion-dollar border wall is approved.

      Despite Trump's claims that what he is doing is for the safety of everyday Americans, this moment could not make it plainer that he does not care about any of us - not even the working class white people he claims to represent. The wall's aim is not to protect ordinary Americans, but to rile up Trump's base using racism.

      This is a classic divide-and-conquer tactic, aiming to get poor white people to blame people of colour and not the political and corporate elite, for poverty. The wall will also make loads of money for an ever-growing corporate defence industry, who are deep in Trump's pockets, and see militarised borders, surveillance, deportation, war and incarceration as opportunities to make cash.

      But polling shows that Trump's plan is backfiring. By refusing to back down, Trump is actually losing support among his base. This carves out a path for leftists to present a new vision for this country, one that sees the fate of everyday people - both within and outside the US border - as deeply connected. We have an opportunity to present a political pathway where there is enough for all of us. We have an opportunity to actually win more people towards our side, and away from Trump, the fascist far right, and the political and corporate elite.

    • We should call it treason! They betrayed the country!
      What are the economic and fiscal costs of corruption in South Africa?

      The economic costs of corruption include lower levels of GDP growth, inefficient public investment, reduced investment, reduced entrepreneurial innovation, higher rates of inflation and inequality.

      Corruption drains the fiscus while lowering tax revenue.

    • Classroom deficiencies spilling over into protests on the street
      Have you ever faced a group of 20-plus children who have not yet been schooled in workable classroom etiquette? Who have never “lined up”, “kept quiet”, “sat still” to attend to announcements or addresses”? Who have not learned polite interaction with others in groups, nor experienced pragmatic turn-taking? Diverse temperaments, language skills and the social maturity levels of pupils require educated class management of staff.

    • The Fall of Davos Man
      The annual confab of the captains of global industry, finance, and wealth is underway in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum.

      Meanwhile, Oxfam reports that the wealth of the 2,200 billionaires across the globe increased by $900 billion last year – or $2.5 billion a day. Their 12 percent increase in wealth contrasts with a drop of 11 percent in the wealth of the bottom half of the people of the world. In fact, the world’s 26 richest billionaires now own as much as the 3.8 billion who comprise the bottom half of the planet’s population.

      If Davos’s attendees ignore all this, and blame the rise of right-wing populism around the globe on racism fueled by immigrants from the Middle East and from Central America, they’re deluding themselves.

    • Why Did Socialism Fail?
      Back then, the globe was commonly divided into three worlds: the developed capitalist nations became known as the first world; the second world encompassed the self-proclaimed “socialist” nations of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union; and the third world included Europe’s former colonies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In China and other third world countries, communist-led national liberation movements were driving out Western imperialism and endeavoring to transform their backward peasant economies into modern socialist states.

      However, even then, there were clear signs that genuine democratic socialism had failed to materialize. While the Marxist leaders of the second world claimed to be building socialism, the authoritarian, centrally planned industrial societies they ruled bore little resemblance to the egalitarian, working class democracies Marx and Engels had in mind. By the latter half of the 20th century, working people throughout the second world, from Hungary and Czechoslovakia to Poland, were openly rebelling against the “socialist workers’ states” that claimed to represent them.

    • Not Yet a Strike But a 'Work Stoppage Nonetheless': Unpaid TSA Agents Calling Out at Unsustainable Rates
      "TSA experienced a national rate of 10 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.1 percent rate one year ago on the same day, Jan. 20, 2018," the agency said in a statement on Monday. "Many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations."

      At some airports across the country, the shortage of TSA agents has resulted in security checkpoint closures and longer-than-normal wait times. In response to initial reports of a rise in TSA agent absences earlier this month, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton called the uptick in absences "fake news."

      Houlton has yet to respond to the TSA's latest figures.

      Ahead of the TSA's Monday announcement, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa wrote on Twitter that two senior Republicans close to the White House told him the only way for a real breakthrough in shutdown negotiations "is if TSA employees stay home and Americans get furious about their flights."

    • Putting Tax Rates and Billionaire 'Excess' in Moral Terms, Ocasio-Cortez Asks 'What Kind of Society Do We Want to Live In?'
      Appearing on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) once again brought to American households a discussion of the economic system which has allowed an extreme wealth gap to widen in the United States, explaining her proposal to impose a far higher tax rate on the wealthiest Americans in order to even the playing field.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • WhatsApp limits message forwarding in fight against misinformation

      WhatsApp initially limited messages to being forwarded 20 times in July, with the five time forwarding limit being tested out in India. Before that, you could forward a message to up to 256 people. WhatsApp began labeling forwarded messages around that time, too. The initial limits were prompted by a series of mob attacks and killings in India, set off by the spread of false information about child kidnappings.

    • Facebook's WhatsApp limits users to five text forwards to curb rumors

      Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) WhatsApp is limiting worldwide the number of times a user can forward a message to five, starting on Monday, as the popular messaging service looks to fight “misinformation and rumors”, company executives said on Monday.

    • WhatsApp limits text forwards to 5 recipients to curb 'misinformation, rumors'

      "We're imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today," WhatsApp’s Vice President for Policy and Communications Victoria Grand said at an event held in Jakarta.

      The cap on message forwarding was first introduced in India after the spread of rumors on social media led to killings and lynching attempts. Now the management has decided to extend this for users across the world.

    • Facebook adding 1,000 jobs in Ireland to help crack down on abuse

    • Facebook to add 1,000 new jobs in Ireland by year-end

      Facebook began work late last year on a new office campus in Dublin, which it said would quadruple its footprint in the city and allow it to more than double its current staff of over 4,000.

      In a speech in Dublin on Monday, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the new roles would primarily be assigned to its crackdown on abuse taking place on its site.

    • Sandberg admits to Facebook stumbles, says 'we need to do better' after rough year

      On Sunday, Sandberg outlined five things Facebook is doing as it "reflects and learns." Those steps include: Investing in safety and security; protecting against election interference; cracking down on fake accounts and fake information; making sure people feel like they control their own information; and increasing transparency at Facebook, she said.

    • GOP Rep. Seeks to Block Tlaib Palestine Congressional Delegation
      Ordinarily, the wealthy and powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (which ought to have to register as a foreign agent but doesn’t because it is so wealthy and powerful) pays for a trip of these Federal representatives to Israel, where they are introduced to Israeli politicians and given the Israeli story about the Palestinians. This is like visiting Columbia, South Carolina in the 1950s and asking the white state legislators there why Black South Carolinians are so poor and have such bad education and health statistics.

      As a result of such successful boondoggles and lobbying, the US is now giving $23,000 to each Israeli family over the next 10 years, $38 billion in total, at a time when Federal employees are not being paid at all and are losing their mortgages and people in Flint, Michigan, are still expected to drink lead-poisoned water. Israel is a wealthy country with a per capita income of $40,000 a year in nominal terms, slightly better than that of France. The only reason that the American public is forking over that kind of cash to the Israelis is that the Israel lobbies have given significant campaign contributions to many in Congress and expect them to put massive aid to Israel into the US budget as a quid pro quo.
    • The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros
      The glass tower that houses George Soros’s office in Manhattan is overflowing with numbers on screens, tracking and predicting the directions of markets around the world. But there’s one that’s particularly hard to figure out — a basic orange chart on a screen analyzing sentiment on social media.

      The data, updated regularly since 2017, projects the reactions on the internet to the name George Soros. He gets tens of thousands of mentions per week — almost always negative, some of it obviously driven by networks of bots. Soros is pure evil. A drug smuggler. Profiteer. Extremist. Conspiracist. Nazi. Jew. It’s a display of pure hate.

      The demonization of Soros is one of the defining features of contemporary global politics, and it is, with a couple of exceptions, a pack of lies. Soros is indeed Jewish. He was an aggressive currency trader. He has backed Democrats in the US and Karl Popper’s notion of an “open society” in the former communist bloc. But the many wild and proliferating theories, which include the suggestion that he helped bring down the Soviet Union in order to clear a path to Europe for Africans and Arabs, are so crazy as to be laughable — if they weren’t so virulent.

      Soros and his aides have spent long hours wondering: Where did this all come from?

      Only a handful of people know the answer.

      On a sunny morning last summer, one of them could be found standing in front of the huge buffet in the Westin Grand Hotel in Berlin. George Birnbaum is built like a marathon runner — tall and slender, his head and face shaved clean. Elegant horn-rimmed glasses frame his piercing blue eyes.

      Birnbaum — a political consultant who has worked in the US, Israel, Hungary, and across the Balkans — had agreed to talk for the first time about his role in the creation of the Soros bogeyman, which ended up unleashing a global wave of anti-Semitic attacks on the billionaire investor. But he also wanted to defend his work, and that of his former mentor and friend, Arthur Finkelstein.
    • Caroline Lucas pressures Prime Minister on need for People's Vote
      Following her meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss Brexit this morning, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said:

      "I’ve just come out of Downing Street having had a robust discussion with the Prime Minister.

      "I urged her to take no deal off the table and stop using it to blackmail MPs. It would be a catastrophe for the country and no responsible government should even contemplate it.

      "I raised the rights of the three million EU citizens who've made their homes here and British people living in Europe, and the Prime Minister agreed to do more to reassure people whose lives have been turned upside down by Brexit. I got an update on the situation with those countries which have yet to guarantee citizens' rights in the event of no deal.
    • 'Run Bernie Run': Grassroots Coalition Holding Weekend of Action to Make Case for Sanders 2020
      As a growing number of Democratic contenders announce their 2020 presidential campaigns, a coalition of grassroots groups hoping Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will also run are not waiting for an official declaration as they expand their organizing efforts and continue to make the case for why the senator would be the best candidate.

    • 'For the People': California Sen. Kamala Harris Announces 2020 Run
      Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Monday morning became the latest Democrat to announce a 2020 presidential run, choosing Martin Luther King Jr. Day to tell the country that "we know America can be better than this" and call on potential supporters to come "together" in order to "fight for our American values."

      "Let's do this, together. Let's claim our future. For ourselves, for our children, and for our country," Harris declares in a campaign video shared on social media and posted to her campaign website at


      According to Politico's reporting, based on interviews with "a half-dozen confidants and strategists," the belief is that her "background will allow [Harris] to project toughness against Donald Trump, and contrast what they call her evidence-based approach to law and politics with the president's carelessness with facts and legal troubles with the special prosecutor."

      In the mind of Harris skeptics, however, the hurdles for Harris might be higher than she knows.

      Last week, a widely-circulated New York Times op-ed written by Lara Bazelon, a law professor and the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles, argued that Harris cannot be considered a "progressive prosecutor" given her record as attorney general in California.

      "Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state's attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent," wrote Bazelon.
    • Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
      The level of absurdity in US politics has now reached such vertigo inducing levels as to render all manner of things permissible. Contact with the unwashed implies collaboration; discussion with the enemy implies assent. To go to a dinner party with a perceived hostile force in the context of business of diplomacy has become a child’s condemnation of misplaced loyalties. Yet everyday, thousands of engagements are made between powers and interests where nothing other than a hello is exchanged, or a pleasantry. Perhaps the more relevant question to ask here is that businessmen and women in power suggest the limits of the nation state and representation: to what extent can such figures claim to be legitimate as figure who think outside the logic of money and finance?

      In the impoverished, manic era of Donald Trump, the accusers have mimicked the man they wish to destroy. Mimicry replaces originality; the copycat cat reigns with derivative accusation and complaint. It is with ironic semblance that the individuals accuse him of mendacity, a dislike of evidence, and an aversion to the record, should be happy to throw all convention out as they take ring seats in speculation. Trump, the spy, the man of treason, the sell-out, runs the stables of the addled and confused.

      CNN was particularly busy on this dithering foolishness, demonstrating yet again that newfangled point that no news is worthy unless it can be made into a confection of some heft. The president demands this because of his character, the sensationalist figure, the man of game shows and the reality television persona. He must be sensationalised.

      Such theatre leads to such levels of gabbing as to be moronic. The president might be a Russian agent, because the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation in 2017 on Trump. Pause for laughter. The President was investigated by that glorious agency of record, the FBI, for suspected links. Pause for befuddlement. The Washington Post then ran a story claiming that Trump had gone to extensive lengths to conceal, even from his own aides, his interactions with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Tax payers’ funds, it seems, are being used for the most notable of ends.
    • [Reposted in another site now] Facebook Made a Lot of Money Tricking Children
      A trove of hidden documents detailing how Facebook made money off children will be made public, a federal judge ruled last week in response to requests from Reveal.

      A glimpse into the soon-to-be-released records shows Facebook’s own employees worried they were bamboozling children who racked up hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of dollars in game charges. And the company failed to provide an effective way for unsuspecting parents to dispute the massive charges, according to internal Facebook records.

      The documents are part of a 2012 class-action lawsuit against the social media giant that claimed it inappropriately profited from business transactions with children.

      The lead plaintiff in the case was a child who used his mother’s credit card to pay $20 while playing a game on Facebook. The child, referred to as “I.B.” in the case, did not know the social media giant had stored his mom’s payment information. As he continued to play the game, Ninja Saga, Facebook continued to charge his mom’s credit card, racking up several hundred dollars in just a few weeks.

      The child “believed these purchases were being made with virtual currency, and that his mother’s credit card was not being charged for these purchases,” according to a previous ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Freeman.

      When the bill came, his mom requested Facebook refund the money, saying she never authorized any charges beyond the original $20. But the company never refunded any money, forcing the family to file a lawsuit in pursuit of a refund.
    • U.K. Leader's Brexit Plan B Looks a Lot Like Plan A
      British Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her Brexit Plan B on Monday — and it looks a lot like Plan A.

      May launched a mission to resuscitate her rejected European Union divorce deal, setting out plans to get it approved by Parliament after securing changes from the EU to a contentious Irish border measure.

      May’s opponents expressed incredulity: British lawmakers last week dealt the deal a resounding defeat, and EU leaders insist they won’t renegotiate it.

      Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party accused May of being in “deep denial” about her doomed deal.

      “This really does feel a bit like ‘Groundhog Day,'” he said, referring to the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, in which a weatherman is fated to live out the same day over and over again.

    • Nine Years After Citizens United, Calls to Overturn 'Horrendous' Decision and Pass Pro-Democracy HR1
      With Monday marking the ninth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, campaign finance watchdogs say it's more urgent than ever to address "the degradation of our democracy" and overturn the 2010 decision which opened the floodgates to unlimited spending by corporate interests and the super wealthy.

      That decision by the high court further corrupted the democratic process by opening the floodgates to unlimited corporate political spending.

      Among its critics is the advocacy group Public Citizen, which argued in a Twitter thread that "Until #CitizensUnited is overturned, the corporate oligarchy will maintain the power to block the policies favored by the majority of Americans—from raising the minimum wage to addressing catastrophic climate change, breaking up Wall Street banks to winning #MedicareForAll."

      With President Donald Trump pushing the Supreme Court rightward, Public Citizen says the best hope lies in a successful push for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. The group sees hope in a new piece of far-reaching legislation—House Resolution 1 (HR1)—and the fact that is has 223 cosponsors.

      That legislation, as outlined in a statement from Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who introduced the measure this month, "shines a light on dark money in politics" and "levels the political playing field for everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics."
    • Trump's Russian Pop Star Pal Cancels U.S. Tour Over Probes
      Emin Agalarov, the Moscow pop star who arranged the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in New York at the height of the 2016 election campaign, abruptly canceled his U.S. tour, citing the risk of being detained.

      Agalarov said he’s ready to answer any question as part of U.S. probes into alleged Russian election meddling but couldn’t get assurances regarding freedom and safety before his now-abandoned swing through the U.S. He’d been due to perform in New York on Jan. 26, followed by shows in Toronto, Miami and Los Angeles.

    • No, Trump didn’t break open the Pizzagate scandal in 2011
      Ever since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015, Donald Trump has been ascribed mythical properties by his adoring fan base. According to the most conspiracy-obsessed diehards, when Trump’s not playing three-dimensional chess against his political enemies, he’s spending his spare time taking down the deep state and revealing a pedophilia ring at the highest level of power.

      The last one has been a particular fixation of those in the far-right nether reaches of the internet, who became enamored with “Pizzagate,” the theory that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was secretly running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor in Northwest D.C.

      Now, an old clip of Trump saying the word Pizzagate had become fodder for the president’s fans, again claiming he’s truly a god among men.


      Unfortunately for those who believe the president can see the future, Trump’s Pizzagate reference was not about a child sex ring, but about a scandal of Trump’s own making. In 2011, Trump was photographed eating pizza with Sarah Palin in New York City, where he used a knife and fork.

    • ‘Fake news’ is okay if it’s about #RussiaGate: Top 7 fake ‘collusion’ stories the media pushed
      BuzzFeed’s ‘bombshell’ claim last week that Donald Trump told ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to congress is just the latest in a long line of ‘Russiagate’ stories that have later turned out to be false.

      But BuzzFeed’s rubbished article is part of a phenomenon of what could be termed ‘acceptable fake news’ — fake news that gets a pass from the media because it serves a certain narrative. In this case, it furthers the ‘Russiagate’ narrative, which the mainstream media has been pushing breathlessly for two years. Lacking hard proof that Trump ‘colluded’ with Russia to win the 2016 election, they have clung to anything shred of fake evidence they can find.

      Last week, one astute Twitter user compiled a list of a whopping 42 Russiagate stories which were billed as bombshells but which ended up needing to be retracted or corrected. Here are seven of the most scandalous instances.

    • Trump’s Assault on the Rule of Law
      The “rule of law” distinguishes democracies from dictatorships. It’s based on three fundamental principles. Trump is violating every one of them.

      The first principle is that no person is above the law, not even a president. Which means a president cannot stop an investigation into his alleged illegal acts.

      Yet Trump has done everything he can to stop the Mueller investigation, even making Matthew Whitaker acting Attorney General – whose only distinction to date has been loud and public condemnation of that investigation.

    • Trump-Russia story keeps changing as lawyer Giuliani speaks again
      US President Donald Trump’s Russia problem is not going anywhere and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani spent the weekend making new bizarre revelations about the relationship.

      The former New York mayor said Mr Trump was involved in discussions about building a Trump Tower Moscow throughout his 2016 presidential campaign. “It’s our understanding that they went on throughout 2016 — there weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations,” Mr Giuliani told NBC’s Meet The Press.

      He told The New York TimesMr Trump had said negotiations to build a hotel in Russia were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won”. That’s a major step forward from previous claims by the President’s associates that he was minimally involved in talks of a deal and that it was cancelled far earlier.

      It would mean Mr Trump was still involved in a Russian deal when he called for an end to economic sanctions against the nation imposed by Barack Obama, gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, and called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails.

    • The Double Bind of Human Senescence
      Why isn’t innovative political thinking taken more seriously by more people? Why aren’t authentically new ideas considered as a way to alter the current dismal state of affairs in the world? The political cemetery is full of freshly dug graves. There are representatives of the Left and the Right residing in their sepulchers. Why are they so consigned?

      The two-term U.S. presidency of Barack Obama began with promises of hope and change but morphed almost immediately into a campaign of Wall Street bailouts, a milquetoast Keynesian stimulus, a continuation of the “War on Terror,” an attempt at slashing entitlement programs, and Rube Goldberg healthcare reform. In 2015, the SYRIZA rebellion in Greece against the austerian rulers of the European Union was systematically compromised and then crushed. The 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton was done in by the treachery of the presiding apparatus of the Democratic Party. Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn likewise has been relentlessly attacked by the media, the opposition parties, and even members of his own party; Corbyn appears to be neutralized as a result.

      The Right has fared no better. The triumph of Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was quickly followed by the ejection of Trump’s populist advisors and replacement by members of the neoconservative movement. The rebellion in Italy led by Matteo Salvini against the EU’s austerians seems to have been stymied. In France, the nationalist Marine LePen has not been able to survive past the second round of presidential elections in either 2012 or 2017.

      While many on the Left attribute humanity’s dire predicament to capitalism or the neoliberal order, I am convinced that evolutionary biology provides the most accurate explanation for our current predicament. This insight came to me after listening to a discussion involving Bret Weinstein, the noted theoretical evolutionary biologist. In this discussion, Dr. Weinstein proposed that the reason for humanity’s impasse is that we are up against what biologists call an Evolutionary Stable Strategy, or ESS.

    • We-Are-Not-Them Exceptionalism
      Halfway through 2018, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski hurled a mother-to-mother dagger at Ivanka Trump. How, during the very weeks when the headlines were filled with grim news of child separations and suffering at the U.S.-Mexico border, she asked, could the first daughter and presidential adviser be so tone-deaf as to show herself hugging her two-year-old son? Similarly, six months earlier, she had been photographed posing with her six-year-old daughter in the glossiest of photos. America had, in other words, found its very own Marie Antoinette, gloating while others suffered. “I wish,” Brzezinski tweeted at Ivanka, “you would speak for all mothers and take a stand for all mothers and children.”

      The problem, however, wasn’t just the heartlessness and insensitivity of the first daughter, nor was it simply the grotesque disparity between those mothers on the border and her. The problem was that the sensibility displayed in those photos -- that implicit we-are-not-them exceptionalism -- was in no way restricted to Ivanka Trump. A subtle but pervasive sense that this country and its children can remain separated from, and immune to, the problems currently being visited upon children around the world is, in fact, widespread.

      If you need proof, just watch a night of television and catch the plentiful ads extolling the bouncy exuberance of our children -- seat-belted into SUV’s, waving pennants at sports events, or basking in their parents’ praise for doing homework. If you think about it, you’ll soon grasp the deep disparity between the image of children and childhood in the United States and what’s happening to kids in so many other places on Earth. The well-ingrained sense of exceptionalism that goes with such imagery attests to a wider illusion: that the United States can continue to stand apart from the ills plaguing so much of the world.

    • Why Leslie Evans Must Resign
      It is no secret that feminism is Nicola’s passion. A gender-balanced Cabinet, all-female shortlists for SNP Holyrood candidates, gender balance on boards of public authorities, these and many more are results of Nicola’s feminist activism in government, much of it admirable. Leslie Evans is close to her and a key ally in driving forward that agenda.

      Leslie Evans has built a career out of promoting PC identity politics within local authorities and the civil service. In this story of her dishonesty when an officer at Edinburgh City Council, that appears to be her motivation against the project she sought to penalise. Evans frequently states her feminist principles.

    • The Next US-North Korea Summit
      The second meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un is scheduled for next month. The most likely location will be Vietnam. The agenda is much the same as before: how to get North Korea to denuclearize and the United States to dismantle its sanctions regime. The question remains: which side will make the first substantial move?

      The summit comes at a particular difficult time for Trump. The partial shutdown of the federal government is nearing the end of its third week, and most Americans blame the president. Pentagon chief James Mattis resigned over Trump’s insistence on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, a policy that other administration officials have attempted to reverse. The president faces fresh criticism of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the House of Representatives, now in the hands of the opposition Democratic Party, is getting ready to launch a slew of investigations into Trump’s affairs and policies.

      Kim Jong Un, on the other hand, has been busy consolidating his position. He visited China for the fourth time this month and began making arrangements for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s first visit to North Korea this spring. Relations with the South are proceeding more-or-less smoothly, with the groundbreaking ceremony for a new inter-Korean railroad taking place late last year.

    • The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
      On Friday, January 17, 2019, a sordid modern day short-lived tragedy unfolded in close proximity to the Lincoln Memorial. A national site that serves as an aide mémoire to the most divisive time in the nation’s history and the subsequent slow healing process, the Lincoln Memorial is a hallowed tiny piece of ground that stands as a remarkable testimony to the courage of those who stood and fought for decency.

      This ignoble tragedy included protagonists, antagonists, and an out-of-control chorus.

      Hebrew Israelites, well over 100 Covington Catholic High (Park Hills, Kentucky) students on a politically indoctrinating outing as part of the annual Washington, DC, March for Life (that brings Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians and Catholics in a joint effort to spew their venom), and several leaders of Native America organizations attempting to bring attention to the plight and disregard of Native Nations’ concerns that include land theft, exploitation of natural recourses that have a detrimental impact on the environment, and the passage of legislation that protects Native American women from violence and murder.

      While the narrative, including the charges and counter-charges, are an evolving cut and paste of facts provided by witnesses, video recordings, and those involved in this loathsome circus of odious behavior, the online reports have thus far demonstrated how two years of Donald Trump have legitimized hatred and given license to racist, bigoted, and misogynist rhetoric and vituperative of the worst kind.

    • “I Was Absolutely Afraid”: Indigenous Elder on “Mob Mentality” of MAGA Hat-Wearing Students in D.C.
      On Friday, thousands took part in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. The next day, video went viral of an interaction that took place soon after the march ended between an indigenous elder and a group of Catholic high school students from Kentucky who had attended a March for Life protest the same day. In the video, Omaha elder Nathan Phillips is seen peacefully playing his drum and singing while being encircled by the students—some of whom were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats. The video appears to show the students taunting and mocking Phillips. Some of the students are seen making a tomahawk-chop motion with their arms. One student wearing a red MAGA hat is seen standing directly in front of Phillips while grinning and smirking. The videos sparked widespread outrage, but some commentators walked back their critique of the students after more videos were posted online. We speak to Nathan Phillips about what happened. He is a Vietnam-era veteran and previous director of the Native Youth Alliance.

    • Is Pence as Unfit for Office as Trump?
      In the last two years, the press has spilled a Niagara of ink to describe President Donald Trump’s lies, flipflops, personal weirdness, and sheer unsuitability for office. As for Vice President Michael Richard Pence, despite his hectoring insistence on being the chosen instrument of the Almighty, many observers have resignedly noted that at least he has had the relevant experience in state and federal government his boss lacks, and remains (if barely) within the spectrum of behaviors of the typical American officeholder. Some have even identified him as the anonymous author of the September 2018 New York Times op-ed blasting Trump.

      But his January 16 speech announcing ISIS’s defeat should dispel any notion that Pence has the competence and good judgment necessary to govern. With his characteristic combination of smugness and robotic stiffness, he declared, “We are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated."

      One need not even engage in the argument over whether U.S. forces must withdraw from Syria or not—one could line up arguments on either side of the case—to recognize the fallacy of the vice president’s pronouncement. Conventional military force can seize territory from a group like ISIS and kill its adherents, but it cannot kill an ideology. Nor can military means alone “defeat” terrorism, which is a method, rather than a discrete and countable armed contingent with an order of battle. At best, military force can contain terrorism—but with the significant risk of stimulating local disaffection and terrorist recruitment.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Student addresses ‘misinformation’ and ‘outright lies’ about incident with Native American man

      Reason, a libertarian magazine, in an article on Sunday reported that full-length footage of the event shows Phillips placed himself between the students and the African-American protesters, who appeared to be yelling at the students.

    • Twitter suspends account that helped incident with Native American man go viral

      Additional footage and reports emerging later appeared to show that Phillips approached Sandmann after other protesters started hassling the students. It remains unclear whether Phillips was intervening on behalf of either group.

    • Twitter suspends account that helped ignite controversy over viral encounter

      McDonagh said he found the account suspicious due to its "high follower count, highly polarized and yet inconsistent political messaging, the unusually high rate of tweets, and the use of someone else's image in the profile photo."

    • [Older] Four years after Charlie Hebdo attacks, satirists bemoan the loss of reason

      Many saw the violence as an attack on free speech and freedom of the press, and as a warning of the dangers of intolerance and extremism.

      Four years later, the paper’s leadership says things have only gotten worse.


      "The hostility no longer only comes from religious extremists but now also from intellectuals," he observed.

    • How the Charlie Hebdo attack has changed free speech in France and the US

      Despite these rights, the majority of U.S. news organizations refused to publish Charlie Hebdo’s front page in the wake of last year’s attack, Corn-Revere said. This ultimately leads to a disparity in how the First Amendment is perceived and how it’s actually interpreted and put into action by newsrooms.

    • [Older] Paris honors attack victims at Charlie Hebdo, kosher market

    • [Old] Turkish mufti threatens opposition news site reminding Charlie Hebdo attack

      Reporters Without Borders director to Turkey, Erdol Önderoğlu, condemned the statements which "back Charlie Hebdo massacre" and called officials to take legal actions against it.

      Dissident journalist Fatih Portakal, a well-known figure on TV who President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan recently targeted for his opponent comments, also criticised the statements. " This is a systematic policy of 'if you are not on my side, don't talk, shut up'. Threats, orders, frightening, suppression efforts," Portakal said.

    • India’s Plan to Curb Hate Speech Could Mean More Censorship

      New rules proposed by the Indian government to rein in tech giants and combat fake news could have a profoundly chilling effect on free speech and privacy online. The proposed changes involve Section 79 of the IT Act, a safe harbor protection for internet “intermediaries” that’s akin to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the US. Current law protects intermediaries such as internet service providers and social media platforms from liability for the actions of their users until they are made aware of a particular post; intermediaries also must only censor content when directed by a court.

      The proposed amendments attempt to curb the spread of misinformation on platforms like Facebook and Twitter by effectively forcing internet companies to censor a broad swath of user content. They also require secure messaging services like WhatsApp to decrypt encrypted data for government use, which could affect the security of users around the globe. The rules also would require internet companies to notify users of their privacy policies monthly.

    • Leaked audio records allegedly show how Oleg Deripaska's associates plotted the arrest of the ‘sex trainers’ who claimed to have ‘RussiaGate’ dirt on him
      Opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny announced on Monday that he has learned about recordings of telephone calls apparently involving Oleg Deripaska and some of Deripaska's associates. Navalny says an anonymous source contacted him “a couple of months ago” with several tapes uploaded to YouTube. Navalny says he believes the recordings are authentic, arguing that the voice on file sounds like Deripaska's. He also points out that Deripaska filed a lawsuit in the town of Ust-Labinsk (where the billionaire is registered) demanding that Russian Internet service providers block access to this data.

      There are three different audio recordings: one about the seizure of a water bottling plant, and two about Anastasia Vashukevich (“Nastya Rybka”), including one call that includes people named “Tatiana,” “Georgy,” and “William” talking about Vashukevich’s arrest in Thailand. In the recording, Georgy insists that everyone in Vashukevich’s group needs to be “locked up,” while William points out that Thai law doesn’t imprison “sex trainers.” Georgy then says Vashukevich’s group could be charged with illegal business activities, instead.

    • Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation wants felony charges against Oleg Deripaska, saying the billionaire bribed police to prosecute a ‘sex trainer’
      Opposition politician Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has asked Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee to press felony charges against the billionaire Oleg Deripaska. In a statement shared online on Tuesday, Navalny’s organization said Deripaska and several of his associates are responsible for “ordering” and “bankrolling” a prostitution case against the “sex trainers” Anastasia Vashukevich (also known as “Nastya Rybka”) and Alexander Kirillov (“Alex Leslie”). According to FBK, Deripaska and his associates committed bribery, while the police officers pursuing the case accepted bribes and unlawfully prosecuted Vashukevich and Kirillov.

      Navalny’s team also wants a new prostitution investigation launched against Deripaska, arguing that the billionaire organized the “systematic casting, logistics, accommodations, and prostitution services” for himself and his associates, “including state officials for the purposes of bribery.”
    • Washington Post Tries to Take Down Parody Site Announcing Trump's Resignation
      If you were in Washington, D.C. last week, you had a chance to be one of the lucky recipients of a parody newspaper spoofing the Washington Post and crowing about the “Unpresidented” flight of Donald Trump from the Oval Office as he abandoned the presidency. The spoof, created by activist group the Yes Men, is also visible on the website

      The Washington Post’s lawyers were not amused, calling the parody an act of trademark infringement and raising copyright threats. We have responded to explain why the parody is protected by the First Amendment and fair use law.

      Dated May 1, 2019, the parody features a series of increasingly unlikely articles, including a mea culpa by the media for Trump’s rise to power and a story pointing out that the paper’s date is several months in the future in case the reader missed it.

      The fictional timeline of the paper credits protests like the Women’s March with Trump’s abdication, and includes a link to an action guide for people who want to pursue progressive causes.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Outsourcing Police Investigations to Google Risks Privacy and Justice
      In December, Jorge Molina was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Joseph Knight, an airport worker who was shot dead as he cycled home in the early hours of March 14, 2018, in Avondale, Arizona. The United States witnesses around 17,000 murders a year, but what made Knight’s case different was that police were led to their suspect only after asking Google to send Global Positioning System (GPS) data on all the mobile phones passing through Knight’s cycling route.

      The data revealed that a suspect vehicle, captured on surveillance footage, had taken the route. In receiving data from Google on all the devices that passed through it, the Avondale Police Department not only provided another example of what’s becoming an increasingly common practice in law enforcement, it also set a new precedent for other police departments elsewhere in the US. Even though it’s now a common and familiar practice for police to exhaustively trace the digital footprints of already identified suspects, it’s a relatively new development for them to actually gather the digital footprints of numerous people in order to home in on a suspect in the first place.

      That the Avondale Police Department was able to identify Molina using aggregated, area-based Google data is certainly an impressive feat. However, it required the filing of a “reverse search warrant,” which involves applying for information on a group of people in order to narrow down the search to specific persons of interest. And because this entailed the handing over of data belonging to individuals with no connection to Knight’s death, it raises some alarming questions about privacy. It also raises questions about the reliability of the arrests and convictions police secure, given that there is at least one case on record of an individual being wrongly imprisoned as a result of phone-sourced location data.

    • How is cyber-protection evolving to meet NIS requirement in the utility sector?
      The utility sector is a prime example of a service the directive has been laid down to cover, and one in undisputed need of protection. Society’s reliance on water, electricity and gas means a cyber-attack or cyber-physical attack would be damaging on multiple levels. From the risk of damage to individuals’ welfare to the financial losses – as well as the impact on the UK’s infrastructure and economy as a whole – a breach of systems could be catastrophic.

      As the time for implementing the directive moves onwards – the UK gas sector has a self-assessment deadline of February 2019– the need for UK-based utilities to deliver on the requirements becomes more pressing, not only to protect against attacks but to also avoid financial penalties for non-compliance.
    • Government urged to name and shame companies that fail to protect customer data
      The government has been urged to publicly name and shame British businesses with sloppy cybersecurity measures that could put customer data at risk.

      A new report released by the Cyber Security Research Group and the Policy Institute at King’s College London on Tuesday called on the government to do more to encourage businesses to improve their computer security.

      The report’s authors suggested that the National Cyber Security Centre expands its focus to include private businesses as well as public sector organisations.

      One way to do that, the report suggested, is to publicly identify businesses with poor cybersecurity. The report stopped short of calling on the government to publicly rate businesses according to their defenses, however.

      The NCSC, a division of British spy agency GCHQ, has publicly debated what more it can do to protect the public when it comes to cybersecurity.

      The agency said last year in a paper that it is “not clear what we should do about this, apart from calling out the companies who consistently fail to take fraud and security seriously.”

      The NCSC also said that it is “willing to intervene if particular infrastructure owners are intransigent in fixing their networks.”

      However, Matt Lock, director of sales engineers at cybersecurity business Varonis, cautioned against the government publicly naming companies which have been hacked.

    • France Hits Google With $57 Million Fine for Violating EU's New Consumer Privacy Rules
      Responding to the €50 million penalty levied against Google, Ailidh Callander of Privacy International said, "This fine should serve as a wake-up call for all companies whose business models are based on data exploitation to take data protection and individuals' data rights seriously."

      France's digital privacy watchdog, the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL), charges that although Google took some steps to comply with GDPR, it still fails to make data processing information "easily accessible for users" and does not validly obtain consent for showing users personalized ads.

      "The infringements observed deprive the users of essential guarantees regarding processing operations that can reveal important parts of their private life since they are based on a huge amount of data, a wide variety of services, and almost unlimited possible combinations," a statement from CNIL said.

      "This is the first time that the CNIL applies the new sanction limits provided by the GDPR," the statement noted. "The amount decided, and the publicity of the fine, are justified by the severity of the infringements observed regarding the essential principles of the GDPR: transparency, information, and consent."
    • First sanction against Google following our collective complaints
      On May 28, La Quadrature du Net, on behalf of 12.000 people, has filed five complaints before the CNIL (the French Data Protection Authority) against Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. Since then, the CNIL has decided that it was competent to handle the complaint against Google, while other complaints were directed in front of the Irish and Luxemburg authorities. Another complaint has been submitted before the CNIL by our friends from the Austrian association NOYB, against Android.

      Today, the CNIL has just decided to sanction Google with a 50 million Euros fine, stating that the advertising targeting on its operating system Android does not comply with the GDPR, the new European regulation that came into effect on May 25. However, this sanction is only the beggining of the answer to our complaint against Google, which denounced above all the advertising targeting imposed on Youtube, Gmail and Google Search in violation of our consent.

      The CNIL explains the amount of its sanction, which is very low in comparison of the annual turnover of nearly 110 billion dollars of Google, that the scope of its control was limited to the data processing covered by the privacy policy presented to the user when creating his account on his Android mobile phone. We therefore expect the CNIL to quickly answer to the rest of our complaint, regarding Youtube, Gmail and Google Search, by issuing a fine commensurate with this company and the extent and the duration of the violation of ours rights (the maximum amount possible, that we hope for, is 4 billion of euros, 4% of the global turnover).

    • France Uses New EU Privacy Law to Fine Google $56.8 Million

      The EU rules took effect across the 28-nation bloc on May 25, and gave national privacy regulators equal powers to fine companies as much as 4 percent of global annual sales for the most serious violations. Google has come under CNIL’s scrutiny many times before, but under the old rules, fines couldn’t exceed the maximum of 150,000 euros. While this is the first time CNIL has benefited from the new rules, several other countries have issued fines.

      The decision can be appealed. It was triggered by two complaints, one from noyb, a group created by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems. Google was accused of forcing users to agree to new privacy policies.

    • France hits Google with €50m fine for GDPR violations

      Google has been hit with a €50 million (US$56.8 million) fine by the French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) for violations of the GDPR following complaints by the organisations None Of Your Business and La Quadrature du Net, the latter representing 10,000 people.

    • Facebook fears no FTC fine

      Reports emerged today that the FTC is considering a fine against Facebook that would be the largest ever from the agency. Even if it were 10 times the size of the largest, a $22.5 million bill sent to Google in 2012, the company would basically laugh it off. Facebook is made of money. But the FTC may make it provide something it has precious little of these days: accountability.

    • F.T.C. Is Said to Be Considering Large Facebook Fines

      The investigation, which began in late March, is continuing, and the commissioners and staff have not reached a final conclusion, including how much the agency might seek in fines, the people said. Consumer-protection and enforcement staff members have provided updates on what they believe is evidence of privacy violations, but they have not submitted a final report.

    • Why Silicon Valley’s “growth at any cost” is the new “unsafe at any speed”

      Months earlier, Soltani had given similar testimony before a US Senate subcommittee, where he unequivocally said: "No other single company has done more to erode consumer privacy than Facebook."


      It's impossible, he explained, for most people to keep track of the ins and outs of APIs and other data-sharing practices.

    • Behaviour can be known with a little help from your friends: claim

      A study conducted jointly by the University of Adelaide and the University of Vermont claims that the behaviour of an individual can be predicted using social media data from eight or nine of their friends.

    • Home Office vetoes privacy campaigner from senior post in surveillance watchdog
      Plans by the intelligence services watchdog, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO), to appoint a former privacy campaigner and one of the UK’s leading experts on surveillance law to a senior role overseeing the intelligence services have been vetoed by the Home Office.

      Eric King, former director of Don’t Spy On Us – which campaigned for reforms to the UK’s controversial Investigatory Powers Act 2016, known as the "Snoopers’ Charter" – and former deputy director of Privacy International, had been due to become the watchdog’s first head of investigations in 2018.

      But King revealed that the Home Office refused him security clearance for the job because of his “previous work and associations”, despite high-level support from IPCO and current and former members of the police and the intelligence services for the role.

      The decision will be seen as is a setback for the IPCO and its head, Adrian Fulford, who actively courted the opinions of privacy groups critical of the UK’s mass surveillance regime so their views could inform the work of the regulator.

    • Deep fakes: how immutable blockchain-based life logs could combat them, and the implications for privacy

      It doesn’t matter how well someone protects details about their personal life. Deep fake technology is not limited by the facts, and so can simply create invented incidents apparently involving the victim. As AI technology advances, and hardware prices fall, so it will become more difficult to disprove convincing deep fake videos, especially for ordinary people of limited means and technical ability.

    • Dismantling the “Nothing to Hide” Argument

      When talking about privacy in the modern world, we are often faced with a common dismissive argument. Someone in the group always drags out the “I don’t have anything to hide, so it doesn’t bother me” argument. Privacy activists usually take offense to this, get agitated, or get flustered and go into a tirade about how they want the person to give them their full browsing history on all of their devices.

      When we encounter this form of thinking, it is important to understand that it isn’t really a position on the issue. It is the path of least resistance. Most people, when talking about technology, politics, or any intermixing of the two, do not want to put a large amount of effort or thought into the debate. They’ll hear a salient point or two from both sides and then shut down and stop listening.

    • As cash goes extinct in Sweden, the church moves to adapt

      Many banks and business no longer handle cash and refuse to deal with it. Consumers instead must pay with card or mobile applications.


      The churchwarden said it’s very hard to handle cash donations as no bank in the area accepts it.

    • We need to own our data as a human right—and be compensated for it

      Personal data needs to be regarded as a human right, just as access to water is a human right. The ability for people to own and control their data should be considered a central human value. The data itself should be treated like property and people should be fairly compensated for it.

    • near match fast lockout

      My phone decided it didn’t like my face and wouldn’t let me log in. Unusually, instead of giving me some retries, it immediately locked me out, requiring a passcode. At first I thought this might be a security measure, but I’m pretty sure it was just a glitch. However, it’s an interesting possibility for an authorization system. Fast lockout after a near match.

    • Life after social media: What I discovered after deleting all of my accounts

      The whole perfect storm of disgust came right around the time I went on vacation. After a week away with my family and books and getting the day's news in more reasonably spaced doses, I knew I didn't want to go back. I deactivated my Facebook account and, two weeks later, deleted it entirely. Then I did the same on Twitter. Even Instagram, which I generally enjoyed and had less beef with, went next, because it's a Facebook property. And just like that, more than a decade of my online life was gone. Images from exotic adventures. Conversations with friends who've passed away. Poof.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Kansas city pays $2.3 million to family of teen slain by police officer
      The family of John Albers had tried for a year to extract information about their son's death by an Overland Park officer. Now a citizens' group will try to unearth the police reports.
    • The US Celebrates King’s Nonviolence But Not His Antiwar Politics
      US jets bombed villages. US soldiers machine-gunned combatants and civilians. The Vietnam War had hit a fever pitch of death when Martin Luther King Jr. stepped onto the podium at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, and said, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

      The speech, “A Time to Break the Silence,” cost him. Newspapers damned him. Friends distanced themselves. President Lyndon Johnson, angered by what he thought was betrayal, reportedly called King, “that goddamn n***** preacher.”

      King risked isolation to speak hard truths. The US’s endless war had depleted the money needed to end poverty. The war was in support of a corrupt, authoritarian regime that suppressed a peoples’ desire to be free. The US was poisoned by its militarism; it was not the beacon of democracy but its destroyer.

      The King of “A Time to Break the Silence” is more relevant today than ever. The US’s war on the world has been ongoing. Poverty has deepened. The body count has only grown.
    • The Resurrection of Dr. King
      Over the last fifty years, there have been thousands of nonviolent movements for peace and justice that have made huge strides, and at the heart of every one of those movements stands the life, death and teachings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the global apostle of active nonviolence.

      Because of his legendary work in the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King’s stand against systemic poverty, institutionalized racism, permanent war and nuclear weapons, and his steadfast insistence on Gospel nonviolence as the best methodological tool for political change and the bottom line for human decency, thousands of nonviolent movements have sprung to life around the world. Dr. King’s courageous life and life-giving death have born tremendous fruit around the world in new unparalleled breakthroughs for justice and peace.

    • The Part About MLK White People Don’t Like to Talk About
      At the time of his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most reviled men in the United States. Today, we remember him as the beloved Dr. King, and many of us refer to him as such.

      But as we read mainstream articles and hear reports and speeches about how far we’ve come on this federal holiday honoring him, it is important that we remember some of the most hateful things that have been said about Dr. King and what he stood for by leaders of and in this country—Black and White—then and now. Why? Many of the conditions that he marched, boycotted, and spoke out against still exist today—racism, materialism, militarism. We celebrate him now, even while condemning today’s activists the same way Dr. King was condemned 60 years ago.

    • Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
      Here’s some good news. Louisville International Airport in Kentucky, Muhammad Ali’s hometown, will be renamed the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

      Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all-time, a sport that has many features that readers may abhor. Airports are also great stains on the environment, with aircraft spewing tons of CO2 into the environment. But with those considerations noted, there was the long-distance runner of boxing, Ali, who became a symbol of resistance to the war in Vietnam. The observation made at the time was that Ali was at the pinnacle of his success in the ring and that boxing was one of the few places that a black man could defeat a white man and not risk death for his effort.

      On April 28, 1967, Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religion, Muslim, and had his heavyweight boxing title taken away. He said he would not go half-way around the world to kill people who had not insulted or degraded his race, and that observation must have earned him the ire of hordes of militant haters across the U.S. Ali said: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”

      The controversy lasted decades after Ali won his case before the Supreme Court. In 2004, baseball pitcher Bob Feller, a World War II veteran and baseball hall of fame member said: “I object very strongly to Muhammad Ali being here to throw out the first pitch… [Ali] changed his name and changed his religion so he wouldn’t have to serve his country, and to me, that’s disgusting.”
    • An MLK Day Reflection: The Racial Wealth Gap Is Killing the Middle Class
      Fifty years after co-founding the Poor People’s Campaign, a multiracial campaign for economic justice, the state of King's dream of racial equity and freedom from poverty is far from attained.

      On the positive side, the U.S. Black unemployment rate reached historic lows in 2018. There's also been a modest recent uptick in median household wealth for Black, Latino, and white families alike. We could easily conclude that the racial economic divide is closing.

      But we took a closer look in Dreams Deferred, a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies. And it revealed we have a long way to go.

      While income statistics provide a valuable window into the annual fortunes of a family, an analysis of wealth tells us a more in-depth story about financial security and well-being.

      Over the past three decades, a polarizing racial wealth divide has grown between White households and households of color.
    • Suspected American spy Paul Whelan loses his first appeal in Moscow, as his lawyer confirms ‘classified intelligence’ charges
      The Moscow City Court has rejected suspected spy Paul Whelan’s attempt to appeal his arrest. On January 22, in a closed hearing, prosecutors revealed that Whelan was apprehended in possession of classified information. His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, later confirmed to journalists these allegations, also stating that Whelan has met with diplomats from the U.S., Ireland, and Canada, where he has citizenship. Whelan is also a British subject.

      According to Zherebenkov, Whelan accepted a flash drive containing secret intelligence, thinking the USB stick held only photographs of churches. “He's interested in cultural information,” Zherebenkov explained.

    • The 11 most anti-capitalist quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.
      Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To be fair, I guess I should wish “Sorry it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” to the people who don’t believe it should be a holiday and the politicians who voted against making it one. I’m talking to you, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).

      While both parties attempt to claim Dr. King, the Republicans have a much harder time doing so without distorting history and the truth. But the truth is, most politicians would distance themselves from Dr. King’s stunning (and spot on) indictments of capitalism. There are, of course, a few exceptions, here and there.

      As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let’s look at some of the things he said challenged capitalism and are left out of most history books.

    • To Fulfill MLK's 'Revolutionary' Vision, Sanders Says Corrupt, Divisive, and 'Racist' Trump Must Be Defeated
      In his address on Monday, Sanders made clear that Trump's bigotry is far from the only obstacle in the way of the kind of equal society King envisioned in his "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

      From mass incarceration to staggering levels of wealth, education, housing, and healthcare inequality, Sanders noted that racism is "alive" in the U.S. and can only be defeated with a transformative political agenda and bold collective action.

      "What he reminded us is courage of conscience, that we stand up, no matter what the odds, and take on the power, to fight for economic justice, to fight for social justice, to fight for racial justice, and to fight for environmental justice," Sanders said of King.

      "This country has suffered too long from discrimination," the Vermont senator continued. "We are not going backwards, we are going forwards, to a non-discriminatory society."
    • MLK Holiday Offers Stage for Democratic 2020 Hopefuls
      As Americans commemorated Martin Luther King Jr., Democratic presidential hopefuls fanned out across the country to honor the civil rights leader and make themselves heard on the national stage.

      Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., used the holiday to launch a presidential campaign that, if successful, would make her the first woman and the second black candidate to become president. Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted responsibility for his part in the passage of 1980s legislation that toughened sentences for crack cocaine possession, “a big mistake” because of its damage to the black community.

      New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lashed out at President Donald Trump for inspiring “hate and darkness” in a fiery speech in Harlem. South Carolina, a critical early-voting state in the Democratic primary, hosted two senators expected to seek the White House in 2020: Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
    • 'Preaching Is More Than Words': Rev. William J. Barber II Delivers Soaring Sermon in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
      To mark what would be the 90th birthday of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. this year, Rev. Dr. William Barber II—architect of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina and co-chair of the national Poor People's Campaign—delivered a sermon on Monday about what is means to preach and why, as Dr. King exemplified, good people of all backgrounds and beliefs "must march, organize and fight" against injustice wherever it is found.

    • Why Martin Luther King, Jr., would Support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, at 29, has become a lightning rod. She was recruited to run against a corporate Democrat by activists of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has become a significant caucus within the Democratic Party. Her advocacy of a higher marginal tax rate (no, she doesn’t want to raise taxes on you) and of a host of practical measures for addressing the exponentially increasing inequality and injustice in American society, has attracted the attention of the capos of the billionaires– the hatchet men working for the odious Rupert Murdoch and the mindless minions of the mountebank Trumps.

    • Critics to Mike Pence, US Marine Corps, and the CIA: Sorry, Martin Luther King Jr. Does Not Belong to You
      The family of Martin Luther King Jr. was among those who pushed back Monday amid the annual sanitization of the civil rights leader's message, as the nation marked what would have been King's 90th birthday—with Vice President Mike Pence drawing particular rebuke for attempting to co-opt his legacy.

      Martin Luther King III, King's son, denounced Pence for invoking King's words in an interview on CBS the previous day. Calling it his favorite line by the civil rights leader, Pence quoted King by saying, "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy," and argued that is what Donald Trump is doing by trying to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    • All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
      The annual King Day celebrations provide a great opportunity to defend Dr. King’s revolutionary legacy against The System’s efforts to white wash and degrade his frontal challenge to its crimes. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the great revolutionaries in U.S. and world history. He was a leader of the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movement, a fierce internationalist, anti-imperialist, and Pan Africanist, a Black militant, pro-communist socialist, and part of The Movement that was far to the left of and in opposition to the Democratic Party.

      Since 1980, with the rise of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, The Two Party System, aka U.S. imperialism, has waged a Counter-revolution against the Great Victories of the Revolutionary Sixties. In that the revolutionary left won so many of the ideological battles against U.S. hegemony, The System has understood that a counter-revolution must include a ferocious battle over the historical record. In the past 40 years, in particular, it has been profoundly painful to witness, and very difficult to combat, the lies and slanders against the historical, and political achievements of the Black and Third World led movements. This includes an epidemic of recantation literature written by depressed and disillusioned former radicals denigrating the great achievements of the U.S. Communist Party, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Black Panther Party, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Nation of Islam, the New Communist groups such as the League of Revolutionary Struggle, and the great communist led revolutions in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and Vietnam. It has also included character assassinations, arrests, and murders of those with the most vivid and irrepressible revolutionary memories. As just one terrifying reflection of the impacts of this campaign, I have heard young Black and Latino organizers, with such militant intentions, repeat without grasping the sources “this is not your grandfather’s civil rights movement” caricaturing the heroic and historic work of visionary leaders like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    • We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
      As Martin Luther King’s birthday is celebrated with a national holiday, his death day disappears down the memory hole. Across the country – in response to the King Holiday and Service Act passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 – people will be encouraged to make the day one of service. Such service does not include King’s commitment to protest a decadent system of racial and economic injustice or non-violently resist the U.S. warfare state that he called “the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.”

      Government sponsored service is cultural neo-liberalism at its finest, the promotion of individualism at the expense of a mass movement for radical institutional change.

      “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous,” warned Dr. King, “than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

      How true those words. For the government that honors Dr. King with a national holiday killed him. This is the suppressed truth behind the highly promoted day of service. It is what you are not supposed to know. It is what Thomas Merton, as quoted by James W. Douglass, called The Unspeakable: “It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and officials declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his service.”

      The word service is a loaded word; it has become a smiley face and vogue word over the past 35 years. Its use for MLK Day is clear: individuals are encouraged to volunteer for activities such as tutoring children, painting senior centers, or delivering meals to the elderly, activities that are good in themselves but far less good when used to conceal an American prophet’s radical message. After all, Martin Luther King’s work was not volunteering at the local food pantry with Oprah Winfrey cheering him on.

    • Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint
      It is easy to forget that in his day, in his own country, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was considered a dangerous radical. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media. The establishment’s campaign to denigrate King worked. In August 1966 – two years after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35—the Gallup Poll found that 63 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of King, compared with 33 percent who viewed him favorably.

      Today Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is viewed as something of an American saint. The most recent Gallup Poll discovered that 94 percent of Americans viewed him in a positive light. His birthday is a national holiday. His name adorns schools and street signs. Americans from across the political spectrum invoke King’s name to justify their beliefs and actions.


      As he did in his own day, King would be calling for dramatic cuts in the military budget to reinvest public dollars in jobs, education and health care. He would surely be marching with immigrants and their allies in support of comprehensive immigration reform. He would no doubt travel to the US-Mexico border to protest the mistreatment of children and their parents seeking asylum and refuge. He would be joining hands with activists seeking to reduce racial profiling by police and ending the mass incarceration of young people. Like most Americans in his day, King was homophobic, even though one of his closest advisors, Bayard Rustin, was gay. But today, King would undoubtedly stand with advocates of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, just as he challenged state laws banning interracial marriage. We don’t know what King’s views were on abortion, but in 1966, he was pleased to receive Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award in Human Rights. Accepting the award, he wrote: “There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. … Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision.”

    • Remembering Martin Luther King Jr., the Organizer
      Martin Luther King Jr. is rightly celebrated as a transformative political and moral leader who championed racial equality, but he is less often credited as a brilliant strategic and tactical organizer who led cutting edge campaigns to deliver the rights for which he is known. As an organizer, I am struck by the mastery of the organizing craft that infuses King’s writing, so on this holiday remembering his legacy, I’ll share several of King’s lessons that all activists can benefit from today.


      Some of King’s tactics evolved from his failures. When Albany ended without major victories due to what King called “vague” campaign goals, King designed the Birmingham campaign to focus on the desegregation of downtown stores.

      The famous 1963 March on Washington was a tactic with a particular goal in mind: Show white Americans what the civil rights movement looked like. For millions of white Americans tuning in on national television, the march’s well-dressed crowds and remarkable oratory ran completely counter to the fabrications they’d long been told about the Black civil rights movement, thus shifting their opinions on civil rights.

      King even had a knack for employing celebrity support as a tactic. In a memo dictated from a Selma jail, King asked deputy Rev. Ralph Abernathy “to call Sammy Davis and ask him to do a Sunday benefit in Atlanta to raise money for the Alabama project. I find that all of these fellows respond better when I am in jail or in a crisis.”


      While politics is understandably distasteful to many activists, King’s political savvy was essential to his success. He conversed regularly with Vice President Richard Nixon during the Eisenhower administration and built a direct line to the Kennedy and Johnson White Houses. And while he was never afraid to criticize even his closest political allies, he also was always quick to issue a telegram of appreciation whenever a politician did the right thing.

      King’s understanding of politics also informed his campaign tactics. Recognizing the movement’s lack of political power pre-voting rights, he focused on the economic pressure of boycotts or social pressure of direct action. While King famously wrote that direct action campaigns are never “well timed” in the view of the oppressor, he was actually quite savvy in his own timing. He delayed the start of the Birmingham campaign, for example, so that the campaign’s activism would not be detrimental to Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor’s more moderate electoral opponent. Regarding political compromise, King recognized that victories, however small, are needed to “galvanize support and boost morale” in furtherance of a long-term movement. Of course, King was the ultimate disruptor, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Poor People’s Campaign, and while he could work with politicians, his confrontational tactics never yielded to conventional politics.

    • Remembering the Real Martin Luther King Jr.
      Years after his death, Martin Luther King Jr., one of the great prophets of American democracy, has been reduced to little more than a lifeless statue. Yet his courageous call for peace and criticism of his government at a time of war must not be lost to history.

      Toward the end of his life, King turned his attention to poverty and the war in Vietnam. After giving the speech below, in which he called America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” King was dropped from Gallup’s annual list of the most admired Americans and was ridiculed by The New York Times, among too many others. Soon after, he was murdered.

      King said that America “can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over.” Those words were echoed years later by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man who served his nation in uniform, who devoted his life to the welfare of his community, but was dismissed as a kook and a racist and a hater of his country for challenging its moral impenetrability.

      America, apparently, does not take well to criticism. Thus it seems an appropriate time to let King, not the statue but the patriot, say his piece.

    • An MLK Day Reflection: The Racial Wealth Gap Is Killing the Middle Class
      Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 90 on January 15, so it's time for a progress report.

      Fifty years after co-founding the Poor People’s Campaign, a multiracial campaign for economic justice, the state of King's dream of racial equity and freedom from poverty is far from attained.

      On the positive side, the U.S. Black unemployment rate reached historic lows in 2018. There's also been a modest recent uptick in median household wealth for Black, Latino, and white families alike. We could easily conclude that the racial economic divide is closing.

    • What Activists Today Can Learn From MLK’s Bold Anti-War Stance
      In the year leading up to his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. became a prominent member of the movement against the Vietnam War. His April 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence” was so bold that it was condemned by 168 major newspapers and ended his working relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson.

      He could not have known the extent of the atrocities committed in the conflict. Weeks before the civil rights leader’s death, American soldiers killed hundreds of civilians at My Lai in what is now thought to be just one of many massacres during the war. King, facing public pressure to support the war, set an example for progressives by doing just the opposite.

      “The March on Washington was a powerful speech,” said Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis. “It was a speech for America, but the speech he delivered in New York, on April 4, 1967, was a speech for all humanity—for the world community. I heard him speak so many times. I still think this is probably the best.”

      After his Beyond Vietnam speech, King and Robert Scheer, now Truthdig’s editor in chief, spoke at a press conference together about the anti-war movement’s Vietnam Summer. The plan, according to The Harvard Crimson, had three steps: canvassing door to door, forming discussion groups to learn more about the war, and then carrying out political actions such as “pressing Congressmen to hold open hearings on the war in the community or petitioning to place a statement opposing the war on the ballot in local elections.”

      Today, King’s powerful anti-war legacy endures. At Time magazine, novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen endorsed King’s “ever expanding moral solidarity” and argued that the most radical part of King’s Beyond Vietnam speech was the idea that moral conviction should not be limited by race, class or nationality. That solidarity should even extend to the supposed enemy.

    • Here’s how the ‘sex trainers’ who claimed to have ‘RussiaGate’ dirt on Oleg Deripaska went from a Thai jail to a Russian jail
      “Nastya Rybka” gained notoriety in February 2018, thanks to an investigative report by Alexey Navalny. After several women staged a bizarre demonstration at its Moscow office, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation went looking on social media to identify its unwelcome visitors. One of these people turned out to be a 27-year-old Belarusian citizen named Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka. In September 2017, the same woman announced a “Navalny hunt,” vowing to honeytrap the anti-corruption activist and post the sex video online. Searching Vashukevich’s Instagram account, Navalny’s researcher also discovered photographs showing her on billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s yacht, together with a man journalists recognized as Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko. When the Anti-Corruption Foundation reported this information, reposting the images, Deripaska got a court to order Russian Internet providers to block Navalny’s website.

    • The Stupidity of Evil: Teens Shouting ‘Build that Wall’ at Native American Vet
      Some high school young men from a private Catholic school in Kentucky had been encouraged to attend an anti-abortion “March for Life” near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on Friday. Nearby, Native Americans were rallying for their rights.

      Vietnam Vet Nathan Phillips saw a mean crowd of white teens in Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” caps harassing four African American young men. He was beating his drum and chanting, and came forward, drawing the attention of the young thugs, realizing the danger, he said.

    • Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
      And thus did former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions warm up a Boston audience at his 2018 Federalist Society talk on the rising threat of “vigorous secularism.”

      I was inside, instead of outside with the protesters, to scratch an itch. Having worked against the War on Drugs for years, I appreciated the fact that such natural enemies as William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, and the Koch brothers shared my views on drug policy. As a former graduate student in philosophy and sophomore for life, I remain intrigued by the conflict between deeply held values expressed as competing legal rights. I sought a glimpse into the intellectual and ideological architecture that resulted in such episodic agreement between myself and said conservatives. How do we land on one side or another of these issues? I would “audit” this talk to catch that glimpse.

      Sophomore for life.

      “… it still okay for us to say ‘Hail Mary’?“

      Sessions added coyly, sharing a naughty wink with an adoring audience of white men in suits and a sprinkling of white women in work dress, implicitly defining them as victims of political correctness and the existential threat to Christianity.

      They didn’t look like victims, these well heeled acolytes of the Federalist Society (except perhaps those who hadn’t yet made partner). Indeed, Sessions bragged about the number of Supreme Court justices they had groomed, but it is the genius of the political Right to socialize and embrace the gritty motivations of victimhood.

      Sessions began by expressing genuine disgust at the killings in the Pittsburgh Synagogue, calming my ethnic paranoia that was fanned by his Hail Mary (read: War On Christians) remark. He then provided a litany of affronts to religious individuals and groups who had been silenced, coerced, or treated as second-class citizens: pastors “fearful” to stand in their own pulpits, small businesses and nuns forced to pay for “other people’s birth control,” and, at length, a sincerely devout baker forced to create a wedding cake for a gay marriage, an activity he finds morally offensive.
    • 'Literally What Jesus Told People to Do': In Arizona, Possible Prison Time for Leaving Food and Water for Migrants
      U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco on Friday convicted Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, and Zaachila Orozco—all volunteers with the organization No More Deaths—for entering the Cabeza Prieta refuge without a permit and leaving the items, which "erode the national decision to maintain the refuge in its pristine nature."

      The volunteers—who face up to six months behind bars and a fine of up to $500—and other critics of the Velasco's decision argued that the women were simply trying to save lives.

      "This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country," declared Catherine Gaffney, another of the group's volunteers. "If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?"

      Professor Katherine Franke, faculty director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School, challenged the outcome on legal grounds.

      "Velasco's guilty verdict in the case mirrored the government lawyers' trivialization of the defendants' religious liberty claims, describing them as 'a modified Antigone defense,'" she said in a statement (pdf). "He failed to undertake even a minimal legal analysis of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as the law required."

      Bill McKibben, a co-founder of who has talked openly about how his faith has driven his environmental activism, tweeted, "This is literally—literally—what Jesus told people to do."

    • Fighting for Black Lives in Schools and Unions
      Jesse Hagopian is a Seattle teacher, anti-racist activist and co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives who helped organize the founding actions of “Black Lives Matter at School.” He talked to Danny Katch about the importance of this year’s BLM at School week of action, set for February 4-8, as the initiative spreads around the country.

      Black Lives Matter at School issued a statement declaring solidarity with the strike by United Teachers Los Angeles, concluding: “It is no coincidence that the cities and districts most targeted for divestment in public education and investment in privatization are communities with majority Black and Brown students and families. We urge all those involved in the Black Lives Matter at School movement to support the just demands of the UTLA community.”
    • Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
      Even U.S. border agents cruelly firing tear gas at women and children hasn’t deterred a newer caravan from forming in Honduras.

      The president has used the situation to amplify his calls for a border wall, even though the number of unauthorized immigrants has been steadily falling and comes mainly from overstayed visas rather than illegal crossings.

      More recently, an agreement that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico has created turmoil in Tijuana and other border cities. Mexico and the United States have also proposed a bilateral investment program to curb migration from Central America. Disagreement over the border wall led directly to a U.S. government shutdown and a threat to cancel U.S. support to the region.

      Overall, the crisis in Central America is having a dramatic impact on U.S. politics.

      All this follows an earlier determination by the Trump administration that removed temporary protected status granted to tens of thousands of Hondurans after a 1999 hurricane had ravaged their country. The administration claimed that conditions had improved sufficiently in Honduras to warrant suspension of protected status, despite the fact that Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. (In fact, its rampant corruption from the drug trade has been investigated in detail by the U.S. government’s own Drug Enforcement Administration.)


      A hundred years ago, American businessmen basically took control of Central America.

      With the mostly white, Spanish-speaking aristocracy in the region, they set up subservient governments that strongly supported U.S. commercial interests at the expense of the indigenous populations. The U.S. government turned a blind eye to, or abetted, this repressive commercial domination of “banana republics.”

      The situation was exacerbated by the Cold War against Soviet communism. Unfortunately, that struggle was given such overwhelming priority in foreign policy that the United States often supported brutal autocrats so long as they were anti-communist. In Central America, this intensified existing U.S. support for its repressive governments.

    • Henry Giroux: Trump’s Enabling of Violence and Hate Is a Form of State Terrorism
      In this edition of Forthright Radio, we welcome back Professor Henry Giroux, who holds the McMaster University’s Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department, and who is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. He is a prolific author and journalist. His books -more than 65 – include America at War With Itself; Disposable Futures: Violence in the Age of Spectacle; Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror; Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, and The Violence of Organized Forgetting.

    • The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
      As a young activist in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, I heard plenty of Marxist dogma from left-wing sects that proselytized in major colleges and cities about how “monopoly capitalism is entering its final crisis.” The warnings of apocalyptic collapse were constant. They sounded absurd, more so as years passed with nothing close to a final crackup – no more convincing to me than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door with their articles of faith.

      Back then, up through the early 1970s, our country’s economy was expanding, the middle class was growing and industrialists largely tolerated unions. US-style capitalism went on to spread globally.

      But lately I’ve been wondering whether those Marxists were correct after all, if only a few decades premature. Take a deep look at two pillars of Western capitalism—the United States and the United Kingdom – and you see that there is something graver in today’s political crises than in most past ones.

      Both countries are locked in governing crises of historic proportions. On the surface, the issues are Brexit in the UK and Trump’s ego and wall in the US. Yet the roots of the problem go deeper. The problems are structural, starting now from the base of society where you find unprecedented anger, division and despair among the working classes after decades of economic neoliberalism have concentrated wealth toward the top.

    • The Irish Revolution’s overlooked history of nonviolent resistance
      This month marks the 100th anniversary of Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s Parliament. Amid the better-known events of a century ago that led to Ireland’s independence from its union with Britain, such as the Easter Rising or the island’s partition with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the significance of Dáil Éireann’s founding on January 21, 1919 is often underappreciated. This is unfortunate, since it played a crucial role in the Irish Revolution’s outcome and was a path-breaking event in the emergence of nonviolent civil resistance methods over the last century.

      The usual story of Ireland’s independence struggle runs something like this: Revolutionary movements such as Wolfe Tone’s United Irishmen in 1798 or the Fenians in 1867 staged a series of violent “risings” against British rule that, while creating romantic nationalist heroes, were easily suppressed (Google “the battle of Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch” to get a sense of how they often turned out). These “physical force nationalists” were opposed by “constitutional nationalists” such as Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell who instead pursued a nonviolent reformist agenda within the British political system that gradually proved more successful.

    • Protestors arrested outside Japanese Embassy amid ongoing dispute over Kuril Islands
      With negotiations between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin set to take place today, 11 protestors have reportedly been arrested outside the Japanese Embassy in Moscow. The activists, who are associated with the Left Front movement and the Russian Communist Party, were protesting in opposition to the possibility that the Kuril Islands would be transferred from Russian to Japanese control. Sergei Udaltsov, the coordinator of the Left Front movement, posted on Twitter about the arrests and claimed that approximately 100 people participated in the protest.

    • Russian lawmakers pass legislation making it harder for university grads to dodge the draft
      The new law would cancel an existing exemption whereby young men can avoid military summons by obtaining temporary residence permits.

    • MS-13 Member Who Secretly Helped Police Is Deported
      Henry was twice forced to join the brutal gang MS-13, first in El Salvador and then on Long Island. Twice, he tried to escape its violence. He became an informant, helping law enforcement arrest other MS-13 members.

      But his FBI gang task force handler broke a promise to help him, and immigration authorities revealed his identity, as we reported last year. This month, Henry was deported to El Salvador, despite warnings that MS-13 members there would hunt him down and kill him. He’s now gone into hiding.

      In an unusually emotional decision, a copy of which was recently obtained by ProPublica, an immigration judge, Thomas Mulligan, wrote that he was “very sympathetic” to Henry and found the 19-year-old’s testimony “truthful.” Nevertheless, Mulligan ruled that he had no choice but to deport him under U.S. and international law, because Henry had admitted to participating, albeit under duress, in two MS-13 murders when he was 12 years old, and because his chances of being tortured in El Salvador were less than 50 percent.

      Henry “had a very difficult childhood and was roped into a gang life from a very young age,” Mulligan wrote in his Nov. 27 decision. Yet the court “does not have the discretionary authority to take such humanitarian factors into its consideration.”
    • Who Is Kevin Cooper?
      Throughout my life, people have speculated about who Kevin Cooper is, or who they think I am. This is especially true since I was first sought, then arrested, and then wrongly convicted of what was dubbed by the mainstream media as the Chino Hills Murders. It is this horrific crime that sent me to California’s death row and for which I was almost executed in 2004.

      It is an odd experience to become part of the American historical narrative, to have words spoken and written about oneself in such a way that it strengthens the storyteller’s version of the subject, often falsely or to the degradation of the person about whom they are writing or speaking.

      This has happened to me, and it will, in all probability, happen again in the future.

    • Your Kids Are Watching
      This year's Martin Luther King Day comes with the usual dose of cognitive dissonance. Can we get any more grotesque than smarmy, other-hating Mike "I Am Not A Bigot I Just Sound Like One" Pence co-opting King by noting he "inspired us to change" just like his fuehrer? Who thought that would fly? Judging from social media, they miscalculated. Many prayed for lightning to strike Pence; an Alt Fed employee cheered the comparison by juxtaposing King and Trump quotes - MLK: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." DT: "Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything." MLK: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" DT: "These aren't people. These are animals," etc; others cited King's 1964 Berlin speech speech on the subject of walls, "a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth... For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact." One-upping Pence in mind-boggling tone-deafness, the NRA also pointed out King really liked guns. No words.

    • The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
      Any discussion of the detention of journalist Marzieh Hashemi must begin in the historical context that all presidents have used the Department of Justice for constitutionally prohibited personal ends. The calculated seizure and political intimidation of Mrs. Hashemi and her family in the United States is but the most recent flagrant instance.

      Whether it’s the deportation of political enemies during the Palmer Raids of the early 1900’s, or the COINTELPRO attacks a half a century later upon dissidents of color through assassination, mock show trials and indefinite detention of political prisoners, or the post 9-11 hysteria that drove hundreds of thousands of Muslims from the United States, or the targeted attack on whistle blowers and construct of the surveillance state by the last president, all have seen their executive power as essentially boundless, and their thirst to use it . . . largely unrestrained.

      Yet none before has been so public, indeed brazen, as is the current one in his utter contempt for the settled rule of law and procedure. Indeed in Trump’s view the Department of Justice exists as but a mere extension of his own political thirst and agenda and may be employed as a tool to implement personal and political reprisal. In this light, the lawless seizure of Marzieh Hashemi was as predictable as it is ominous in both process and substance.

      The history of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) has largely lain dormant with few prosecutions, if any, for violations and none before that have triggered the seizure of an American journalist pursuant to the subterfuge of a material witness order, here employed as little more than political handcuffs.

    • Chase Iron Eyes: Trump’s Mocking of Native Americans Gives License to Others to Denigrate My People
      As we continue to look at the video that has gone viral showing a group of Catholic high school students apparently mocking an indigenous tribal elder near the Lincoln Memorial, we speak to Chase Iron Eyes, an activist and lead attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project. He is a spokesperson for the Indigenous Peoples March.

    • How Central American migrants helped revive the US labor movement
      In the United States’ heated national debate about immigration, two views predominate about Central American migrants: President Donald Trump portrays them as a national security threat, while others respond that they are refugees from violence.

      Little is said about the substantial contributions that Central Americans have made to U.S. society over the past 30 years.

      For one, Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants have helped expand the U.S. labor movement, organizing far-reaching workers rights’ campaigns in migrant-dominated industries that mainstream unions had thought to be untouchable.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Re-decentralizing the Web, for good this time

      Originally designed as a decentralized network, the Web has undergone a significant centralization in recent years. In order to regain freedom and control over the digital aspects of our lives, we should understand how we arrived at this point and how we can get back on track. This chapter explains the history of decentralization in a Web context, and details Tim Berners-Lee’s role in the continued battle for a free and open Web. The challenges and solutions are not purely technical in nature, but rather fit into a larger socio-economic puzzle, to which all of us are invited to contribute. Let us take back the Web for good, and leverage its full potential as envisioned by its creator.

    • It’s Time To take back Our Internet
      Tim Berners Lee was recently awarded the Turing Award (The ACM A.M. Turing Award is an annual prize given by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to “an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community”). On receiving the award Berners Lee gave two message to the users of his invention that we all use every day. The World Wide Web needs a complete rethink to prevent spying and the spread of “nasty, mean ideas” on social media websites.

      You may have noticed the web has drastically changed since we first started using it. Advertising pop-ups are around every corner. Tailored directly at you because of the content you access online. Worms, trojans and viruses are spread by these advertising companies to infect our devices so that their ads get seen by more people. What Berners Lee was telling us is that corporations have muscled in on our free internet.

      But that was not the only message he conveyed as he received his well deserved and long overdue award.

    • Trump Hotel Fracas Highlights How T-Mobile's Consumer-Friendly Brand Schtick Is Wearing A Little Thin
      To be clear, T-Mobile initially had an indisputably-positive impact on the wireless sector. The company's decision to eliminate consumer pain points like long-term contracts and early termination fees was quickly mirrored by other carriers thanks to a strange concept known as "competition." And CEO John Legere's relentless attacks on giants like AT&T and Verizon have proven to be immensely entertaining over the years. All told, T-Mobile has built its entire brand on the back of the idea that it was a polar opposite of the type of ethically-dubious giants that have dominated telecom for a generation.

      In more recent years the company's "uncarrier" branding schtick has started to look a little worn around the edges. From supporting efforts to kill net neutrality to weirdly attacking the EFF, the company occasionally lets its mask slip, showing it's not all that different from the companies it professes to be better than. This shift has been particularly obvious as the company has tried to sell the press, public, and Trump administration on the company's job and competition killing merger with Sprint (like that time it hired Corey Lewandowski to "consult" despite his comments mocking a kid with Down Syndrome).

      As it rushes to consolidate the wireless sector from four to three carriers, T-Mobile's increasingly engaging in behavior it used to mock AT&T and Verizon for. Not least of which being the company's empty promises to police the sale of user location data to dubious third brokers and aggregators, something T-Mobile was perfectly happy to do in lock-step with other carriers.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • EU Council seeks to further justify SPC “Manufacturing Waiver” on grounds already rejected by WTO
      As discussed in our blog of 30 May 2018, the EU Commission has proposed an amendment to Regulation (EC) 469/2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products (“SPC Regulation”) aimed at introducing a “manufacturing for export exception.” The purpose of the amendment is to allow the manufacture of generic and biosimilar medicines within the EU for export to countries where there are no patent rights in force. The proposal included some “safeguards” aimed at assuring transparency (for example, prior notice to the national authority that granted the SPC) and preventing re-entry of the exported products into the EU market (basically stamping an “EU export” logo to the outer packaging).

      One of the issues raised by the proposal is whether or not it is compatible with the obligations assumed by both the EC and its Member States in the context of the TRIPS Agreement. In the Explanatory Memorandum that sought to justify the proposal, the Commission simply took it for granted that the “Manufacturing Exception” was in line with the TRIPS Agreement. Hence, it wrote that “The proposal is consistent with existing international trade agreements, such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) between members of the World Trade Organization as well as those free trade agreements that the EU has concluded with non EU-countries and that include supplementary protection-like provisions.” However, no reasons were given to justify the alleged “consistency”.

    • The Fortnite lawsuits: why performers stand a fighting chance to beat the game
      Last month, the company Epic Games was sued by three celebrities for reproducing in their video game what the claimants argue to be their dance moves. Since then, the question of copyright in dance has been the subject of much attention. Whilst most experts have cast their doubts on the success of the Fortnite cases (here), this Kat is inclined to think that the three claimants may still have a shot (considering past US precedents).

    • Patent Litigation 2019
      We are only 21 days into 2019, but trajectories in patent infringement lawsuits appear to be following the same patterns as 2018 — with the top-four venues staying in the same almost identical rank-order:

      D.Del E.D.Tex. C.D.Cal. N.D.Cal.

    • Supreme Court: Secret Sales are Still Prior Art
      The Supreme Court has affirmed the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of the “on sale bar” — holding that “Congress did not alter the meaning of ‘on sale’ when it enacted the AIA.” The particular focus here was whether “secret” sales continue to qualify as prior art under the revised Section 102. Here, the court says yes — “an inventor’s sale of an invention to a third party who is obligated to keep the invention confidential can qualify as prior art under €§102(a).”

    • Trademarks

      • CHEESE for (cannabis) seeds not a valid trade mark, says EUIPO First Board of Appeal
        In one way or another, cheese has been at the centre of IP news lately. Not long time ago, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the taste of a spreadable cheese could not be protected by copyright (see here).

        Now, cheese – though of a different kind (keep reading!) – is also at the centre of some trade mark developments in Alicante in an interesting decision recently rendered by the EUIPO First Board of Appeal.

      • he Name's the Thing
        Much to my chagrin, my kids like to waste their time not just playing video games, but also watching videos of others playing video games. This is a big business. Apparently the top Fortnite streamer made some $10 million last year. Whaaaaat? But these services aren't interchangeable. The person doing the streaming is important to the viewer.

        But what if two streamers have the same name, say Fred, or Joan, or...Kardashian. Should we allow someone to lock others with the same name out? Under what circumstances? And what if the service is simply being famous-for endorsements, etc.

        Bill McGeveran (Minnesota) has posted an article that discusses these issues called Selfmarks, now published in the Houston Law Review.

    • Copyrights

      • Torrent Paradise Is The New Decentralized ‘Pirate Bay’ With IPFS
        BitTorrent protocol has been around for years, and its decentralized nature is what makes it so popular. However, it comes with its own set of disadvantages when it comes to Torrent Sites using centralized search engines which are prone to outages and takedowns.

        To address this issue, a developer who goes by the handle ‘Urban Guacamole’ has launched a torrent index called Torrent-Paradise. It is powered by InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) — a decentralized network where the users make files available among each other just like BitTorrent.

      • Copyright negotiations hit a brick wall in Council

        A total of 11 countries voted against the compromise text proposed by the Romanian Council presidency earlier this week: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Slovenia, who already opposed a previous version of the directive, as well as Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. With the exception of Portugal and Croatia, all of these governments are known for thinking that either Article 11 or Article 13, respectively, are insufficiently protective of users’ rights. At the same time, some rightsholder groups who are supposed to benefit from the Directive are also turning their backs on Article 13.

        This surprising turn of events does not mean the end of Link Tax or censorship machines, but it does make an adoption of the copyright directive before the European elections in May less likely. The Romanian Council presidency will have the chance to come up with a new text to try to find a qualified majority, but with opposition mounting on both sides of the debate, this is going to be a difficult task indeed.

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