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Links 28/1/2019: Linux 5.0 RC4, Microsoft Offends Mozilla

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  • Desktop

    • 10 Reasons Why I Use Linux
      Linux only updates when I choose. I can choose the Linux distro layout, feel and features. Linux supports more hardware. Linux is fixable. Linux is free as in free beer. Linux is secure and safe to use. Linux is stable. Linux is simple to maintain. Linux support is excellent. Linux is perfect for sharing and collaboration.

    • Microsoft cripples Windows Media Player on Windows 7 -- a seemingly dirty tactic to increase Windows 10 upgrades
      Windows 7 is still a great operating system -- one that millions of people use every day. Understandably, Microsoft cannot support the OS forever, so it will stop doing so in less than a year. While I would urge many Windows 7 users to switch to a Linux-based operating system, Microsoft would rather these folks upgrade to Windows 10 instead. The problem? Many Windows 7 purposely avoided the newest version of Windows due to overall bugginess and a perception of spying due to aggressive telemetry. Embarrassingly, Windows 10 -- initially released in 2015 as a free upgrade -- only recently overtook Windows 7 in marketshare. Yikes!

      The right thing to do at this point, is to allow Windows 7 to function as it has until support runs out, right? I mean, why add stress to the lives of existing Windows 7 users? Sadly, Microsoft has a different idea. You see, the company has decided to purposely cripple both Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center on Windows 7, and Windows Media Center on 8.x. Microsoft will stop supplying metadata for media through these much-used programs. As you can guess, Windows Media Player on Windows 10 will continue to offer this capability. Hmm, I wonder why that is...

  • Server

    • Everything you need to know about Kubernetes, the Google-created open source software so popular even Microsoft and Amazon had to adopt it
      It started off as a side project by a group of Google engineers as a way to expand upon Borg — the search giant's infrastructure management software, named after the infamous "Star Trek" baddies.

      It ended up becoming a massive phenomenon among software developers, with tens of thousands of code contributions from programmers across the planet, and users at companies like Ticketmaster, Spotify, Pizza Hut, Lyft, the New York Times, eBay, and even "Pokémon Go" developer Niantic. In fact, it's used by at least 54% of the Fortune 500.

    • Kubernetes jobs: 9 facts and figures
      Kubernetes jobs - some of today’s hottest IT roles - pay a national average of $144,648. What else should IT pros and hiring managers know?

    • Blockchain can help enterprises improve multi-cloud network management
      A study last year reported that 81 percent of enterprises now have a multi-cloud strategy, and a majority have a hybrid of private and public clouds. That’s a significant number of companies struggling to manage complex existing networks and multiple clouds as well as the associated security strains. Blockchain technology may still be the new kid on the block, but it has a lot of promise in exactly this kind of environment. Let’s take a look at two common challenges where blockchain has potential:

    • CoreDNS joins Kubernetes, Prometheus, and Envoy
      CoreDNS, the DNS server created to serve as support infrastructure for Kubernetes, has been “graduated” by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, sustainers of Kubernetes and other open source technology for building modern clouds.

      The graduated status is a green light to anyone deciding whether to make CoreDNS a significant part of their Kubernetes deployment or other infrastructure, or to use CoreDNS to replace older, antiquated, or less flexible DNS servers.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • The Linux Kernel Likely To See A Hardware Accelerator Subsystem
      Given the increasing rise of hardware accelerators for compute offloading of particular tasks especially now around deep/machine learning with more chips coming to market, the Linux kernel will likely soon see the introduction of a formal subsystem for these different accelerator drivers.

      This week saw the initial Linux kernel driver patches published for the Habana Labs Goya AI processor. That open-source driver effort and hardware is interesting in its own right, but being spurred unintentionally from that discussion was whether the Linux kernel should have a hardware accelerator subsystem for the current drivers and more that are surely coming down the pipe.

    • Linux 5.0-rc4
      Another week, another release candidate - this time from home.

      Nothing particularly stands out, except for the fact that the bulk of the pull requests came in late in the week. Which worked out ok, if only because it meant I could do a fair chunk of them on my main machine rather than on my laptop.

      And that "most pull requests come in Friday-Saturday" is a pretty common pattern, so it's not like it's worrisome. People push their work for the week to me, and/or just target making the next rc. Whatever the reason, things look pretty normal, and nothing huge stands out.

      Size-wise, rc4 has a bit more commits that the last few releases have had at this point, but it's not even remotely a new record size, and not all that much of an outlier anyway. I _do_ hope that things will start to calm down for rc5 onwards.

      All the other statistics look pretty normal too: a bit more than half the patch is drivers (networking, sound, tty, usb, gpu, scsi, binderfs, you name it). With the rest being arch updates (x86, arm, arc) headers, some library fixes, core networking and kernel. And some selftest updates, but the tooling changes are much smaller than they were the last couple of rc's.

      So everything looks ok. Shortlog appended for people who want to skim the details.

      Go test and report any oddities you can find, but I think we're doing fine.


    • Linux 5.0-rc4 Kernel Released - "Everything Looks Ok"
      Linus Torvalds has returned from his trek to LCA 2019 and released the Linux 5.0-rc4 kernel.

    • Great Wall Motor Joins the Open Invention Network Community

    • Intel Linux WiFi Driver Seeing Support For The 22260 "Cyclone Peak", Other New Cards
      The Intel WiFi Linux driver "IWLWIFI" will see support for various new WiFi adapters with the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle.

      Along with many other patches staged over the past week into the IWLWIFI development repository was adding the PCI IDs for a number of Intel WiFi chips.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Linux Foundation Launches LF Edge Group With 5 Projects
        The Linux Foundation today launched an edge computing initiative, called LF Edge, that will serve as an umbrella organization for the foundation’s three existing edge projects plus two new projects contributed by Samsung and Zededa.

        The new group’s list of founding members reads like a who’s who of chipmakers (Arm, Intel, and Qualcomm), telecommunications companies, (AT&T, NTT, and Ericsson), cloud providers (Baidu and Tencent), and edge infrastructure vendors (Packet, Dell EMC, HPE, and IBM), to name a few.

      • Arrcus looks to 400G future, Tonga stuck on satellite connection, and Linux Foundation's new edge computing effort
        Relative newcomer Arrcus wants to help networking upstarts follow the industry's juggernauts into the 400Gbps Ethernet world with the latest update to its year-old ArcOS network operating system.

        Speaking to The Register ahead of the launch, founder and CEO Devesh Garg said the migration to 400G will take the industry about two years, and that should give challenger vendors the chance to play.

        The challengers Arrcus wants are white-box vendors for now, particularly those using Broacom's latest StrataXGS chipsets, the 12.8Tbps Tomahawk 3, top-of-rack Trident 3, and Jericho switch/router silicon – targeting service provider and large-scale enterprise markets.

        Garg claimed Arrcus is the first independent OS vendor to port to the Tomahawk 3.


        Apparently, the Akraino Edge Stack effort isn't enough, because the Linux Foundation has launched another edge effort: LF Edge.

        In fact, as the foundation's announcement said, Akraino has become a piece of the new effort, alongside other existing projects – EdgeX Foundry, and the Open Glossary of Edge Compting.

        Bringing the total projects under LF Edge to five will be work from Samsung ("a hub for real-time data collected through smart home devices") and ZEDEDA, which will produce an "agnostic standard edge architecture".

        The result, the foundation said, will be an "an open, interoperable framework for edge computing independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating system", all under the LF Edge umbrella.

        Combining the three existing projects gives LF Edge more than 50 members at launch.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Vulkan's Portability Extension Coming Along, MoltenVK Now Boasts EXTX_portability_subset
        It has yet to appear in a Vulkan specification update, but the MoltenVK implementation that supports the Vulkan API on iOS/macOS by mapping it to Apple's Metal drivers now supports the VK_EXTX_portability_subset functionality.

        VK_EXTX_portability_subset is the experimental feature designed as part of the Vulkan Portability initiative. This allows for Vulkan implementations like MoltenVK to mark features as unsupported that otherwise are required by the Vulkan specification. The VK_EXTX_portability_subset extension can also be used to define properties/limits on what it can allow.

      • The New Features On Deck For Mesa 19.0: Vulkan Additions, FreeSync, Soft FP64 & More
        If all goes well, Mesa 19.0 will see its feature freeze this week and kick off the release process by the issuing of the first release candidate. Here's a look at some of what can be expected out of this Mesa3D quarterly feature update.

      • Mesa To See Better Infrastructure For Supporting Render-Only GPUs
        With many current ARM/embedded devices having their GPU render and display hardware split into different blocks, Mesa is seeing infrastructure improvements for making it easier to support new platforms in this split configuration.

    • Benchmarks

  • Applications

    • Get started with eDEX-UI, a Tron-influenced terminal program for tablets and desktops
      There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year's resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an "out with the old, in with the new" attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn't have to be that way.

      Here's the 15th of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.

    • Gscan2PDF 2.3.0 Released with Time Info in Metadata Fixed
      Gscan2pdf, GTK tool to produce PDF / DjVu from scanned document, released version 2.3.0 a few hours ago.

      While v2.1.3 does not really fixed the issue that time is always set to 0 UTC. Gscan2pdf 2.3.0 fixed it by optionally also include time information in metadata of PDF or DjVU.

    • Inkscape Free SVG Editor Releases 1.0 Alpha
      Inkscape Released 1.0 Alpha after 15 years.

      Inkscape the free and open-source SVG editor released 1.0 Alpha version.

      Inkscape is a quality SVG editor for illustrators, graphic artists used for designing logos, charts, illustrations and everything else.

      After 15 years, Inkscape finally closing towards a major release 1.0. With this major release, a bundle of improvements are coming up. This is the most awaited major release for the fans of Inkscape and with this alpha release, it is finally closing towards it.
    • 5 Best Free Linux Econometric Software
      Econometrics is the application of statistical or quantitative methods to understand economic issues and test theories, and models. It is the study of economic models, mathematical statistics, and economic data. It is also a set of tools which can verify or disprove economic theory using real-world data. Econometrics is an essential part of university economics degrees.

      Econometric software is statistical software that is specialized for econometric analysis. This type of software offers regression analysis including time-series analysis and cross-sectional analysis. Modern econometric software enhances the process of model formulation, estimation and validation, and provides helpful graphical information as well as tables of output. They are important tools in the analysis of stock markets, budget planning, and aid in decision making by policy makers.

      For many years the computer package SAS (developed by the SAS Institute) has dominated the econometric software market. Other prominent software includes GAUSS, OxMetrics, Stata, and SPSS. All of these applications are high quality and available for Linux. However, they are commercial software released under proprietary software licenses. The purpose of this article is to identify open source software which allow users to perform econometric analyses.

    • Top Hex Editors for Linux
      Hex editor lets you view/edit the binary data of a file – which is in the form of “hexadecimal” values and hence the name “Hex” editor. Let’s be frank, not everyone needs it. Only a specific group of users who have to deal with the binary data use it.

      If you have no idea, what it is, let me give you an example. Suppose, you have the configuration files of a game, you can open them using a hex editor and change certain values to have more ammo/score and so on. To know more about Hex editors, you should start with the Wikipedia page.

      In case you already know what’s it used for – let us take a look at the best Hex editors available for Linux.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • RivenTails: Defense, a mix of a 3D puzzle platformer with Tower Defense will come to Linux this year
        RivenTails: Defense from developer Kivano is a rather sweet and colourful looking game blending two rather different genres together.

        I must admit, the idea of mixing together a 3D puzzle exploration game with tower defense does sound quite intriguing to me.
      • The Mean Greens - Plastic Warfare now has official Linux support once again
        The Mean Greens - Plastic Warfare, a third-person shooter where you take on the role of a toy soldier is once again supported on Linux.

        It arrived on Linux way back in 2016 but sadly the Linux version was left out of date for a little while, plus the SteamOS icon to show off Linux support was removed. I spoke to the developer about it, where they admitted having "dropped the ball on that" not informing Linux gamers what was happening. Not long after I mentioned all this, new builds were made for Linux and a day ago the SteamOS icon returned!

      • Six years later, the horror adventure ASYLUM should hopefully release this year with Linux support
        It's been a long wait for the horror adventure 'ASYLUM' to finally release, with 2019 looking more likely and Linux support is still confirmed.

        For those unfamiliar, ASYLUM was crowdfunded on Kickstarter way back in February of 2013, where they managed to get around $119K from over three thousand backers.

      • Crytek teases 'new AAA game' built with SpatialOS
        Crytek, the developers of the Crysis series and Early Access survival shooter Hunt: Showdown, is working on a "new AAA game" built using Improbable's SpatialOS, the multiplayer-focused cloud platform.

        Crytek said it would reveal more about the game—built using SpatialOS and Crytek's own game engine, CryEngine—"soon", but didn't give any more details.

      • Best Free Linux Video Console Game Emulators
        Emulation refers to the duplication of functions of one system using a different system. Specifically, an emulator is software specifically written to emulate aspects of the original console or computer, primarily the CPU, I/O and memory system.

        This article selects the best free and open source software to emulate classic video consoles, such as the Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, Sega Mega Drive, Sony PlayStation 2, Sony PlayStation 3, and many others.

        We’ve rated all of the emulators featured in this article. Take note that some of the video consoles are much harder to emulate than others. The scores don’t take that factor into account and therefore shouldn’t therefore be used as a comparative measure. Instead, we simply score each emulator on their own merits taking into account things like their accuracy, performance, features, and compatibility.

      • Lutris has the first release candidate available for 0.5 which needs testing
        Lutris, the excellent bit of software that allows you to bring together your scattered game library is closing in on a final release of the 0.5 overhaul. The first release candidate is now out for you to find some bugs.

        Compared with the previous beta, there's not a huge amount that's new. Although, it does include the extremely handy built-in search feature. This new feature allows you to search the Lutris website game library, from within the application directly to add it to your collection. It's much nicer!

      • The free and open source game engine 'Godot Engine' has a third 3.1 beta out
        No need to wait for Godot, the third beta of Godot Engine 3.1 is officially out for you to break it apart and report issues.

        The Godot team has been blasting through the bugs for this release, starting off at around 600 reported issues at the start of the month they're down to only around 200 now which is quite a difference.

        We've been hard at work fixing bugs since the Godot 3.1 beta 2 last week, and our new beta 3 snapshot is a lot closer to what we want the final 3.1 to be like.

        There were over 600 bugs listed for the 3.1 milestone at the start of the month, but we've been reviewed them tirelessly over the last few weeks, and many of them have been fixed, or postponed to the next milestone when they were not critical. The GLES2 backend is getting more and more mature, especially for the web and mobile platforms where severe issues have been fixed.

      • FoxTail, the sweet in-development point and click adventure has a second chapter out now
        For those who love their classic inspired point and click adventures, take a look at FoxTail which now has a whole second chapter available.

        Additionally, they now have a composer to bring more life to the game with some better music. They've added in 64bit support, the ability to pick the second chapter right away for those who have finished chapter one and a Polish translation.

      • SteamOS got updated recently, previous beta promoted to stable with a new beta for security fixes
        SteamOS, Valve's Linux distribution aimed at a more console-like big TV experience actually saw some small updates recently.

        Firstly, the 2.166 beta that was released way back in August of 2018 was finally promoted to the stable channel so you don't need to mess about with opting into the SteamOS beta. This is important, since it brings with it an updated NVIDIA driver, an updated Mesa driver, security fixes and a bug fix for an unresponsive login button.

      • The Latest Happenings With Feral's GameMode For Optimized Linux Gaming
        It's been nearly one year since Feral Interactive introduced GameMode for optimizing the Linux gaming experience/performance. With not hearing anything out of the project in a while, I decided to poke around its development code this weekend.

        GameMode's inaugural feature was switching to the P-State/CPUFreq "performance" governor when games are running rather than the common ondemand/powersave defaults on most Linux distributions. For many games this can help the performance both with AMD and Intel processors.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Xfce's Catfish Search Now Faster, Better Desktop Integration
      There is a new version of the Catfish search utility, which is GTK3 based and part of the Xfce project, but works on other desktop systems as a Linux/Unix system search tool as well.

      The Catfish 1.4.7 release is faster as now it will only render thumbnails in the results when the thumbnail view is active. Also, boosting the search performance, /dev is no longer searched by default unless the user explicitly wants to search files within that directory.

    • Linux File Search Tool ‘Catfish’ Just Got Even Faster
      Catfish is my go-to file search tool on the Ubuntu Linux desktop — and going by improvements in its latest release, it might just become your go-to search tool, too!

      But before we take a look at the changes that are on offer in Catfish 1.4.7, here’s a quick recap of the tool should anyone be unfamiliar with it.

    • LXQt Desktop Adds Split View to File Manager, More in Latest Release
      A new version of the LXQt desktop environment is now available for download.

      LXQt is the successor to the lightweight LXDE desktop.

      While it isn’t a desktop environment we’ve given much attention to over the past few years, the improvements on offer in its latest update are well worth a shout out.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • 3 simple and useful GNOME Shell extensions
        The default desktop of Fedora Workstation — GNOME Shell — is known and loved by many users for its minimal, clutter-free user interface. It is also known for the ability to add to the stock interface using extensions. In this article, we cover 3 simple, and useful extensions for GNOME Shell. These three extensions provide a simple extra behaviour to your desktop; simple tasks that you might do every day.
      • Gradio is Dead! Long Live Shortwave!
        Ever listen to radio stations on the Linux desktop? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Gradio.

        The desktop radio player app, which I mentally pronounce “gray-dee-oh“, has been a staple part of the Linux desktop app scene for the past few years.

        Heck, we’ve certainly written enough about it enough since its debut back in 2016!

        But the developer of Gradio, the terrifically talented (and appropriately named) Felix Häcker, has become a member of the GNOME foundation (and a collaborator on the new GNOME Podcasts app) he’s decided to make some changes.

  • Distributions

    • MakuluLinux Core OS Debuts With Impressive Desktop Design
      have charted the progress of Core's development through sometimes daily ISO releases over the last few months. I can attest to the near constant revisions and design tweaks Raymer has applied.

      The more I used Core, the better choice it became over its LinDoz and Flash kin. That, of course, is purely a personal observation. But the features I loved in the other two MakuluLinux options either were even better when integrated into Core, or were surpassed by the Core-only innovations.

      MakuluLinux Core's rebuilt Xfce desktop is so well tweaked it looks and feels like something new.

      Given the amount of forking Raymer did to Xfce, he could call the desktop something new. For me, referring to it as "the new Core desktop" makes perfect sense.

    • Reviews

      • Review: KaOS 2018.12
        KaOS is an independent desktop Linux distribution that features the latest version of the KDE desktop environment, the Calligra office suite, and other popular software applications that use the Qt toolkit. KaOS employs a rolling-release development model and is built exclusively for 64-bit computer systems.

        Some changes have come to the KaOS distribution lately, including the migration of applications to OpenSSL 1.1 (from OpenSSL 1.0) and KDE Plasma 5.14 is now in the project's repositories. KaOS currently ships with a welcome window called Croeso which offers a lot of customization options for first-time users. Croeso replaces the old Kaptan welcome screen.

        KaOS has dropped support for Qt 4 which has not received active development for a while. The latest snapshot also updates Calamares and introduces a fix to make sure systems with Btrfs volumes should install properly on UEFI-enabled computers. Further, the project's release notes warn the distribution cannot be installed on a RAID system.

        The latest snapshot of KaOS is 1.9GB in size. Booting from this media brings up the KDE Plasma desktop. The interface features a blue and grey theme with the desktop panel displayed vertically down the right-hand side. I think KaOS may be the only distribution I have used which places the panel in this manner.

        Once the live desktop loads we are shown a welcome window which offers to open the distribution's guide (which features installation instructions), launch the Calamares installer, display on-line documentation, show us the operating system's default passwords, or open the user forum. The forum and documentation links are opened in the Falkon browser.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Fedora

    • Debian Family

      • Netfilter software in Debian Buster
        I would like to give a brief update on the status of Netfilter software packages for Debian Buster.

        Before getting into details, worth noting that back in 2016, I spearheaded the creation of a Debian packaging team to reunite all packaging efforts related to Netfilter software in Debian. The team materialized finally, but in practice every maintainer works in their own packages mostly.

        One of the most important changes for this release is a bump towards nftables, the replacement of the iptables/xtables framework. This bump is just what was decided at the Netfilter Workshop 2018 in Berlin: encourage users to migrate to native nftables and promoting the nft-based version of the iptables command line interface as a way to ease this migration.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint 19.1: A sneaky popular distro skips upheaval, offers small upgrades
              While Ubuntu and Red Hat grabbed most of the Linux headlines last year, Linux Mint, once the darling of the tech press, had a relatively quiet year. Perhaps that's understandable with IBM buying Red Hat and Canonical moving back to the GNOME desktop. For the most part Linux Mint and its developers seemed to keep their heads down, working away while others enjoyed the limelight. Still, the Linux Mint team did churn out version 19, which brought the distro up to the Ubuntu 18.04 base.

              While the new release may not have garnered mass attention, and probably isn't anyone's top pick for "the cloud," Linux Mint nevertheless remains the distro I see most frequently in the real world. When I watch a Linux tutorial or screen cast on YouTube, odds are I'll see the Linux Mint logo in the toolbar. When I see someone using Linux at the coffee shop, it usually turns out to be Linux Mint. When I ask fellow Linux users which distro they use, the main answers are Ubuntu... and Linux Mint. All of that is anecdotal, but it still points to a simple truth. For a distro that has seen little press lately, Linux Mint manages to remain popular with users.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

    • Mozilla

      • Microsoft and Mozilla engineers battle over Chromium adoption via Twitter
        Microsoft may have waved the proverbial flag of surrender when it announced its new direction for its web browsing development, but one of the last remaining Chromium-adoption holdouts, Mozilla, just got some help from staunch advocates of competition, when faced by offbeat pressure from Microsoft engineers to convert.

      • Microsoft engineer spanked for proposing Mozilla gives up on Gecko Firefox rendering engine
        Microsoft’s recent decision to abandon their EdgeHTML rendering engine in favour of Google’s Chromium rendering engine has been somewhat controversial, not due to the (likely positive) impact on their users, but due to the effects it would have on the level of competition there is exists in the web rendering engine area. With Microsoft capitulating to Google, and Opera already using Chromium, it leaves Mozilla’ Gecko as the lone stand-out flying the banner of open web standards.

        It was therefore rather brave of Kenneth Auchenberg, a Microsoft program manager working for the Code team, to suggest it was time for Mozilla to already throw in the towel.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice Community Member Monday: Pierre-Yves Samyn
      I get involved through my work, at the time with version 1.1.3 if my memory is good. The software imported less than the ODF format for this project, consisting (in part) of using the software conversion features. I was immediately seduced, and reported to the project my experience in creating training support, user support, etc.

  • Education

    • 7 Best Free Student Information Systems for School Administrators in 2019
      Succeeding in education requires pushing yourself to get ahead, and with these seven free study tools for students and teachers, that push comes at no cost to you.

      There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure children at your school receive the best education possible. As technology continues to seep into the world of education, keeping track of students and operations on paper just doesn't cut it anymore.

      You need a tool that can do it all. That is where student information system software comes in.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)


    • Defeatism, enemy of freedom
      Fighting a battle when the odds are against you requires a lot of courage and a strong moral conviction. These attributes perhaps best describe Dr Richard M. Stallman (RMS to fellow programmers) for whom computing freedom is non-negotiable. A pioneer in the field of computing, Stallman could see how computing would be used to control its users and he took up the cause of users. In some ways, Stallman’s life and approach can be compared to that of Mahatma Gandhi. While Gandhi fought to free Indians from colonialists, Stallman is on a mission to ensure that users of software are free from the control of providers of software, which in these days, comprise a few mega corporates. If Gandhi’s struggle was for the political freedom of people in the Indian sub-continent, Stallman’s is against colonisation of computer users around the world. Gandhi lived a life of strong values and convictions, which are beyond our grasp. It was Gandhi’s firm conviction that acted as a catalyst in India’s freedom struggle. And so is Dr Stallman’s in the world of computing.

      Richard Stallman and his work came to public attention around the mid-1990s. It was the time when Internet was gaining ground across the world. To take advantage of Internet’s possibilities, UNIX-like systems were necessary. GNU/Linux Operating system, which came out of Stallman’s work for a free operating system, became very popular among sophisticated Internet users. So did his message for computing freedom.

    • Meet Guix at FOSDEM
      For the second time, we are also organizing the Guix Days as a FOSDEM fringe event, a two-day Guix workshop where contributors and enthusiasts will meet. The workshop takes place on Thursday Jan. 31st and Friday Feb. 1st at the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICAB) in Brussels.

      This year there will be few talks; instead, the event will consist primarily of “unconference-style” sessions focused on specific hot topics about Guix, the Shepherd, continuous integration, and related tools and workflows. We are also happy to welcome fellow Nix hackers, which should allow us to develop cross-distro cooperation.

      Attendance to the workshop is free and open to everyone, though you are invited to register (there are only a few seats left!). Check out the workshop’s wiki page for registration and practical info. Hope to see you in Brussels!

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development


  • 7 ways to search without using Google
    Most people will not appreciate the glory of, but coders and software developers definitely will: The website lists thousands of pieces of open-source software. These packages and tools are free to the public, and you can use for them for any programming project. The site has a wide selection of package managers including WordPress, PyPi, Rubygems, Atom and Platform IO.

    A account also alerts you to software updates and sends notifications about incompatibility and dependency issues.

  • The Faces Behind the Wall: My Experience at the US-Mexico Border
    Nothing prepares you for Juarez, Mexico. The human grief, but also the resilience of the human spirit that I have witnessed at the US-Mexico border compels morally-guided solutions, certainly not walls.

    On December 15th of last year, I joined a local delegation from the Washington state area, as we headed first to El Paso, Texas, then to Juarez, Mexico.

    The main goal behind our visit was to observe, understand and to be critical of the national security measures the United States has taken, and the results of these abrasive policies. What we have learned and witnessed, however, has added more than a human dimension to our understanding of the suffering of refugees and immigrants in Central and South America, but convinced us that the wall debate is entirely the wrong approach to this persisting humanitarian crisis.

  • Science

    • We analyzed 16,625 papers to figure out where AI is headed next
      Almost everything you hear about artificial intelligence today is thanks to deep learning. This category of algorithms works by using statistics to find patterns in data, and it has proved immensely powerful in mimicking human skills such as our ability to see and hear. To a very narrow extent, it can even emulate our ability to reason. These capabilities power Google’s search, Facebook’s news feed, and Netflix’s recommendation engine—and are transforming industries like health care and education.

      Facebook’s plan to merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger sounds a privacy alarm DeepMind’s new AI just beat top human pro-gamers at Starcraft II for the first time Boeing’s electric autonomous passenger air vehicle just had its first flight AI is sending people to jail—and getting it wrong Will people ditch cash for cryptocurrency? Japan is about to find out But though deep learning has singlehandedly thrust AI into the public eye, it represents just a small blip in the history of humanity’s quest to replicate our own intelligence. It’s been at the forefront of that effort for less than 10 years. When you zoom out on the whole history of the field, it’s easy to realize that it could soon be on its way out.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Vermont’s GOP Governor Says He’ll Sign Legislation Protecting ‘Roe’
      Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who favors some restrictions on abortion access, came out in support of a bill introduced Wednesday to protect abortion rights in the state.

      The bill, which would protect abortion rights should conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade, was introduced on the house floor by Reps. Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington) and Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), and it has overwhelming support in the Democratic-majority house and state senate. Wednesday marked the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

    • Scientists Are Using Bacteria to Remove Harmful Contaminants From Our Water
      John Coates’ laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, hums with activity. Negative 80-degree freezers whirr, liquid nitrogen bubbles, grad students meticulously measure and mix complicated concoctions. But all of this is nothing compared with the commotion going on at a microscopic level.

      The Coates lab is growing many different kinds of bacteria, multiplying in petri dishes at mind-boggling rates. But these bacteria aren’t out to harm people or animals. In fact, quite the opposite — they’re hard at work breaking down a dangerous chemical that pollutes waterways across the United States.

      The chemical, called perchlorate, comes from rocket fuel, munitions and fireworks. It’s dangerous to humans because it can impair thyroid function. It can also affect the thyroid in freshwater animals like fish and amphibians, even altering gonad development in some animals. But certain bacteria, including several species of Dechloromonasand Azospira, have evolved to use perchlorate to make energy-storing molecules. In the process, they turn it into harmless chloride and oxygen.

    • Coffee harvests face risk from rising heat
      Coffee drinkers, be warned. A combination of factors – including climate change – is threatening supplies of the beans on which the coffee harvests depend.

      Latest analysis by a team of scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London found that more than 60% of over 120 coffee species known across Africa, Asia and Australasia are threatened with extinction.

      For many people, coffee is their favourite tipple. In the UK alone, more than 80 million cups of coffee are drunk every day. The experts at Kew say a total of 100 million people around the world depend on coffee for their livelihoods.

      Climate change, together with fungal diseases and the impact of land clearances and deforestation, are all having negative impacts on coffee plants.

    • “Affordable” Health Insurance vs Health Care
      This is really the crux of the issue and is the divide we need to emphasize in our next round of fixing the Democratic Party.

      There is no such thing as affordable health insurance, because on a purely moral basis, no one should have to pay for administration costs to deny coverage, and to generate a profit for such a universal basic human need.

      Insurance 101 teaches us that making small regular payments to build up a buffer for a large emergency expense is a good and prudent idea, even if that large expense never materializes. On a personal level this is called self-insurance. So why don’t we all just insure ourselves? Clearly, the wages most people make, and the costs of modern health care, do not balance out. A group of people making regular payments can pay for a wide array of services for the entire group, including a few very expensive ones, as long as there are some very healthy people paying in to build up a large enough fund. Additionally, a large fund can be managed professionally to generate interest through short term investments to help grow the fund. The larger the group, the better this works.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Venezuela: None of Our Business

    • Trump's 'Axis of Evil': Pompeo, Bolton & Abrams
      US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on countries to "pick a side" on Venezuela, urging them to back opposition leader Juan Guaido in a Saturday speech at the UN Security Council in New York.

      "Now, it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem," Pompeo told the Security Council.

      Russia accused Washington of plotting a coup attempt and had tried to stop the meeting requested by the United States. "Venezuela does not represent a threat to peace and security. If anything does represent a threat to peace, it is the shameless and aggressive action of the United States and their allies aimed at the ouster of the legitimately elected president of Venezuela," Russia's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the UN Council.

      On Friday, neoconservative Elliott Abrams was appointed US special envoy for Venezuela.

      “Elliott will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country,” Mr Pompeo said, according to Reuters.

    • War Against Iran Becoming Ever More Likely
      Donald Trump’s domestic troubles, combined with the current makeup of his foreign policy team, provide a confluence of circumstances, perhaps a perfect storm, to pull the United States into a war with Iran.

      Indeed, the walls are closing in around Trump. The president’s poll numbers—once seemingly impervious to an already unprecedentedly tumultuous administration—are sinking, even among his most ardent supporters, as he increasingly boxes himself into the corner of a government shutdown for which the public says he’s largely responsible. At the same time, impeachment looms on the horizon. House Democratic committee chairs are winding up for some serious investigations into a whole range of alleged misdeeds by the president and some of his Cabinet appointments, and Robert Mueller is wrapping up his investigation into Trump’s highly questionable ties to Russia.

      In short, Trump’s position has never been weaker. And despite what appears to be his personal desire to extract U.S. troops from the Middle East, as shown by his order to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and his assertion two weeks later that Iran’s leaders “can do what they want” there, his deepening political problems may make war more attractive.

      As Jim Lobe pointed out in September, Trump has previously signaled that a president could benefit politically by starting a war with Iran, as he predicted President Obama would do no less than half a dozen times between late 2011 and 2013 in order to win reelection or “show how tough he is.” At least back then, Trump correlated political redemption with war against Iran. And with what’s left of his domestic agenda on hold indefinitely due to the Democratic takeover of the House, Trump’s attention—as erratic as it is—is very likely to shift to foreign policy where he not only enjoys greater freedom of action but can also deflect attention from his disastrous presidency.

    • Pompeo, Hypocrisy and War
      On January 2 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Brazil, and his Department noted that in discussions with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo they “highlighted the importance of working together to address regional and global challenges, including supporting the people of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua in restoring their democratic governance and their human rights.” Pompeo declared that the US and Brazil “have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes.”

      From this we gather that Pompeo is a strong advocate of democratic governance and will always make it clear that the United States supports unfortunate people living in countries having “authoritarian regimes.” It is apparent he must believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

      Unfortunately it transpired that Pompeo is a selective supporter of democracy and freedom of religion, because after he left Brazil and went to the Middle East he voiced vigorous support for despots who rule countries in a manner that is undeniably authoritarian.

      In a speech in Cairo on January 10 Pompeo threatened Iran and declared that “Nations are rallying to our side to confront the regime like never before. Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions.” It must be gratifying for him that these nations have joined the US in its crusade against Iran, three of them being hereditary monarchies and one run by a non-regal martinet.

    • While Criticizing Maduro, Sanders Says US Should 'Not Be in the Business of Regime Change' in Venezuela
      Amid warnings that the Trump administration is actively seeking to topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday spoke out against the U.S. government's "long history of intervening inappropriately in Latin America" even as he criticized Maduro for his violent crackdown on opposition protesters and violations of the country's constitution.

    • How Washington’s Devastating “Economic Blockade” of Venezuela Helped Pave the Way for Coup Attempt
      Venezuela remains in a state of crisis as opposition forces—with the backing of the United States—attempt to unseat the government of Nicolás Maduro. On Thursday, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the military continues to stand by Maduro. His remarks came one day after President Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new leader. Guaidó, the new head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president on Wednesday during a large opposition protest. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the U.S. to remove all of its diplomats from Venezuela, but Washington is ignoring the request, claiming Maduro no longer has authority to take such action. We speak to two long-term observers of Venezuelan politics: Venezuelan-born NYU professor Alejandro Velasco and Steve Ellner, who lives in Venezuela, where he taught for several decades.

    • How Long til Trump & GOP Radical Islamophobia causes Major Massacre?
      Three extremist white nationalists who plotted to blow up a Somali-American apartment complex in Kansas have been sentenced to 25 years in prison. The men made and tested explosives to use on the Somali immigrants, whom they called “cockroaches” and other terms that CNN couldn’t repeat. Somalis are Sunni Muslims. If it hadn’t been for an informant who warned the FBI, the men could well have carried out a major atrocity.

    • The Super Bowl Spectacle
      The spectacle of the Super Bowl and NFL and college football is the acme of ideology, for in its full flower it exposes and manifests the essence of all ideological systems. It is the impoverishment, enslavement and negation of real life. The spectacle, just like the ancient Roman arena of bread and circus is the expression of estrangement, the alienation between human beings. This represents the extreme stage of the expansion that has turned necessity against life.

      Plato said, that “what is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” Today, we apparently have wonderful athletes mostly undereducated, in universities that no longer train students to think critically, and inferior politicians, because we have so cruelly separated freedom from virtue, because we have defined freedom in a morally inferior way. Our founding fathers, who all read and understood the Enlightenment, defined democracy with virtue. Today, we have long had what Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick called, the dark ages of democracy.

      The modern spectacle of the Super Bowl depicts the dark age of democracy of what society can deliver, but within this depiction what is permitted is rigidly distinguished from what is possible. The public has been co-opted to pay the large share of stadium costs for the private team owners, the league operates under no anti-trust laws, the Department of Defense and the Pentagon pays the teams to stand at attention during the Star Spangled Banner to promote militarism and recruitment into foreign wars. On college campuses around the country football stadiums and training facilities are constructed at values five-hundred times as expensive as college libraries.

    • Venezuela: ‘Let Trump Be Trump’
      The decision to promote Juan Guaidó as a rival president to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela was clearly made in Washington, not in Caracas. The speed with which US allies in the Americas and western Europe recognised Guaidó’s claim on 23 January to be the legitimate president of Venezuela would not have been possible without a lot of prior coordination – and a lot of pressure by the Trump administration.

      It’s no surprise that right-wing governments in Latin American countries like Colombia and Brazil are going along with a US attempt to overthrow a left-wing regime. (The support of Brazil’s new neo-fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro, was a foregone conclusion.) But it’s shocking when Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain also back this sort of intervention in another country’s internal affairs.

      Maduro’s government does not deserve to survive. It has run the country’s economy into the ground, its ‘re-election’ last year was the product of a ruthlessly rigged vote, and three million Venezuelans (10% of the population) have fled abroad. But this is a problem for Venezuelans to solve, not foreigners, and least of all Americans.

      There is a long, bad history of American attempts to overthrow left-wing governments in Latin America. Some of them, like Cuba (1960), Nicaragua (1981) and Venezuela (2002), were against regimes born in revolutions; others, like Brazil (1964), Chile (1973) and Argentina (1976), were against democratically elected governments. It made no difference to Washington.

    • Afghanistan: America's Shameful War
      An ancient Hindu prayer says, ‘Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’

      The United States, champion of freedom and self-determination, is now in its 18th year of colonial war in Afghanistan. This miserable, stalemated conflict is America’s longest and most shameful war. So far it has cost over $1 trillion and killed no one knows how many Afghans.

      This conflict began in 2001 on a lie: namely that Afghanistan was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US. These attacks were planned in Europe and the US, not Afghanistan, and apparently conducted (official version) by anti-American Saudi extremists. This writer remains unconvinced by the official versions.

      We still don’t know if Osama bin Laden instigated the attacks. He was murdered rather than brought to trial. Dead men tell no tales. However, Mullah Omar, leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, told my late friend journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave that bin Laden was not involved in 9/11. Who benefited? Certainly not the Afghans. They have been at war for the past 40 years.

      As I wrote in my first book, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribal majority were fierce fighters and were incredibly brave. Their Taliban movement was a tribal-nationalist-Islamist force devoted to fighting communism, drug dealing and foreign influence. Taliban stamped out the Afghan opium trade and had just about crushed the drug-dealing Russian-backed Tajik northern alliance – until the US invaded in 2001. The Afghan drug lords quickly became US allies and remain so today.

    • Calling for US Troop Withdrawal, House Dems Demand 'Diplomatic, Political, and Humanitarian Strategy for Syria'
      "While we believe there was never a military solution in Syria—nor Congressional authorization for the use of force—we are deeply concerned about the chaotic way in which the withdrawal plan has been rolled out," the letter states, "including continuing confusion over the timeline for the withdrawal and your administration's lack of a diplomatic strategy in Syria."

      Noting worries over hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton's recent remarks that contradicted Trump's stated desire to bring troops home, it continues, "We strongly support the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, and at the same time recognize that such a decision nevertheless presents risks that can and must be mitigated through the implementation of a coherent and well-thought-out plan."

      The letter—which was also sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan—asks the president for detailed responses to a list of questions about his policy goals and plans for Syria by Jan. 31. In addition to 32 House Democrats, letter is backed by the groups Peace Action, Win Without War, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

    • Gerd Büntzly, Crime Fighter
      I was with Gerd Büntzly, 69, of Herford, in a demonstration in Germany July 17, 2017. So were Steve Baggarly, Susan Crane, and Bonnie Urfer, all of the United States. Ours was a peaceful if covert, night-time occupation of a protected aircraft shelter or bomb bunker far inside the Büchel Air Force Base, near the beautiful Mosel River valley.

      We were there to help prevent the unlawful use of the shelter in nuclear attacks or nuclear war preparations. Routine nuclear war planning by US and German Air Force personnel there, using US B61 nuclear bombs (NATO’s so-called “nuclear sharing”), violates the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and several other international treaties, all binding on the United States and Germany.

      In spite of our formal complaint to state prosecutors against “selective prosecution” of Gerd, and the violation of his “equal protection” rights, only he was charged, tried, and convicted of trespass and property damage (for clipping fences) in January last year. This Jan. 16, he was in court again appealing the conviction. Susan Crane from California and I travelled to Koblenz to speak on his behalf. Attorneys were quite sure that we two could testify, but ultimately were not allowed.

    • Sixty Years of the Cuban Revolution
      We are urged to resist Trump’s lies: the lies of US capitalism. But there are lies about those lies that are not resisted. They are not recognized.

      You see this in an intriguing new book about US interrogation during the Korean War, Monica Kim’s The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: the Untold Story. [i] The “untold story” it tells is not untold. It is about “a complex eco-system of violence, intimacy and bureaucracy” aimed at solidifying US global power. We learn the self-proclaimed guardian of the world lied about its methods, claiming “our traditional lack of imperialistic ambition”.

      The empire denied being an empire. The war in June 1950, Monica Kim argues, was about violation of the 38th parallel; by 1952 it was violation of human subjects. The US made the “stunning” claim that a simple “yes” or “no”, recorded by an interrogator, was the “free individual choice” of Koreans and Chinese prisoners. US policy of voluntary repatriation was psychological warfare.

      It is not an “untold story”, not even, or especially the subject-violating part. Only the details change. US subject fashioning was known more than a century before the Korean War. A group of non-radical priests in Cuba began a remarkable debate (1836-8), influencing neighboring countries, about precisely this question.[ii] They knew imperialism erases people. It erases them to themselves.

      It deadens moral imagination so there is no “free choice” to be human. You can’t meaningfully choose what you can’t imagine. This is the part of the “new liberal paradigm” Kim misses: Truth is useless if we can’t imagine, or don’t want to accept, what that truth explains. If, in daily life, I accept the liberal lie about “free individual choice”, I won’t believe what contradicts it, no matter the evidence.

    • Stop Dangerous and Counterproductive US Intervention in Venezuela

    • Confirming US Orchestration, Report Details Pence's Key Phone Call to Venezuelan Opposition Leader
      As U.S. lawmakers, civil society leaders, and Latin America experts continue to warn against American intervention in Venezuela's internal political affairs, the Wall Street Journal on Friday confirmed suspicions that opposition leader Juan Guaido's move to declare himself "interim president" of Venezuela this week was highly coordinated with the Trump White House and Republican lawmakers.


      At the center of the push to oust Maduro and replace him with Guaido, the Journal reports, were some of the most hawkish congressional Republicans and members of Trump's cabinet, including national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as officials from the right-wing governments of Brazil and Colombia.

      According to the Journal, a "decisive moment" in the behind-the-scenes planning came on Tuesday, Jan. 22, when Trump met with top White House officials and Republican lawmakers the day before scheduled street protests by the opposition.

      "Other officials who met that day at the White House included... Pompeo and Bolton, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who presented Mr. Trump with options for recognizing Mr. Guaido," the Journal reported. "Mr. Trump decided to do it. Mr. Pence, who wasn't at that meeting, placed his phone call to Mr. Guaido to tell him, 'If the National Assembly invoked Article 233 the following day, the president would back him.'"

    • Rivals Maduro and Guaido Vie for Venezuelan Military Backing
      The struggle for control of Venezuela turned to the military Sunday, as supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido handed leaflets to soldiers detailing a proposed amnesty law that would protect them for helping overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

      At the same time, Maduro demonstrated his might, wearing tan fatigues at military exercises. Flanked by his top brass, Maduro watched heavy artillery fired into a hillside and boarded an amphibious tank.

    • Election Interference Before Military Intervention? Hands Off Venezuela
      When it comes to interfering in other countries’ election, no nation is better at it than the United States. No nation interferes more and no nation does so more blatantly. The recent machinations in Venezuela that recognized Juan Guiado as the President of that country are just the latest proof. In case you missed the news, Juan Guiado, who was recently elected to head Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president of Venezuela on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. His announcement was met immediately with support from the right wing regimes in Brazil, Colombia and the United States. A few other nations—Canada and Costa Rica among them—joined the US and the others. It seems safe to assume that Guiado did not make his announcement until he knew he had the support of the United States. Of course, it’s not like there was much of a chance that Washington would not provide such support, given that its agencies have been trying to remove the Bolivarian government from power since it was first elected to power in 1999.

      Guiado is a member of the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party. This party’s politics are considered right of center, yet in a manner quite descriptive of the current state of the Socialist International, it is a member of that group. Voluntad Popular does not favor nationalization of the Venezuelan oil industry and favors neoliberal capitalism (euphemistically known as supporting the free market) over any form of socialism. Along with a broader coalition, it has been part of the protests against the Bolivarian government. These protests are supported by forces to the right of Voluntad Popular and US intelligence/propaganda agencies. They have supported the sanctions on the Venezuelan economy; sanctions which have driven millions of Venezuelans into deep poverty. Based on the history of sanctions, one assumes that this is the intention of the sanctions in the hope that the Venezuelans most affected by the sanctions (who are also the Bolivarian government’s strongest supporters) will turn against the government.

    • American History for Truthdiggers: Just How Good Was the 'Good War'?
      The United States’ role in the Second World War has been so mythologized that it is now difficult to parse out truth from fantasy. There even exists a certain nostalgia for the war years, despite all the death and destruction wrought by global combat. Whereas the cataclysm of World War II serves as a cautionary tale in much of Europe and Asia, it is remembered as a singularly triumphant event here in the United States. In fact, the war often serves as but a sequel to America’s memorialized role in the 20th century: as back-to-back world war champ and twice savior of Europe. The organic simplicity of this version suits the inherently American vision of its own exceptionalism in global affairs.

    • How Not to Report on Prison Conditions
      The United States, by all metrics, has one of the cruelest prison systems in the world.

      In addition to having 25 percent of the world’s prison population (with just 5 percent of the world’s people), U.S. prisons use tortuous solitary confinement, tolerate widespread sexual violence, host massive racial disparities, and routinely abuse children, among other human rights violations.

      The idea that the U.S. is “too soft” to people in prison is something even right-wingers rarely bother to argue anymore.

      So it may come as a shock that ostensibly mainstream outlets like USA Today, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and NBC News thought it newsworthy to report that prisoners at Coleman federal prison in Wildwood, Florida got a routine holiday meal — steak — that was slightly above their normal, bottom-of-the-barrel provisions.

    • The guy who stole a century-old painting in broad daylight from a Moscow museum has been caught
      The man who walked into the Tretyakov Gallery on January 27 and stole a century-old painting by Arkhip Kuindzhi is now in police custody, according to Russian law enforcement. Officers say they’ve also recovered the undamaged “Ai-Petri: Crimea” landscape painting, which the thief reportedly tried to hide at a construction site in the Moscow region’s Odintsovo district. Police say the suspect is 31 years old, and the Telegram channel Readovka posted a photograph of his arrest.

    • Police arrest drunken man who vandalized monument in Crimea dedicated to Russia's invading troops
      Police in Simferopol have arrested the intoxicated man who vandalized the city’s bronze monument to Russia’s unmarked soldiers who arrived in Crimea in February 2014, ahead of the secessionist referendum that led to Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula.

      The Russian troops are known euphemistically as “the polite people.” The statue was erected near Crimea’s Supreme Council in the summer of 2016.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Emma Best's New Transparency Project Targets Russian Leaks She Says Wikileaks Refuses To Touch
      If you hadn't noticed, Wikileaks isn't quite the transparency operation it used to be. Staffers who routinely helped rein in Assange's less noble impulses long ago left the effort behind, leaving us with the often bizarre comedy that is Wikileaks in 2019. And while that doesn't justify the misguided DNC lawsuit or the potential threat to transparency posed by government efforts to prosecute leakers, that doesn't change one undeniable fact: modern Wikileaks is increasingly seen in infosec and policy circles as a poorly-written joke, long-since buried under the rubble of numerous scandals and Assange's bulbous ego.

      That's not to say that Wikileaks didn't provide an invaluable service in its prime. Its early operations lit a much-needed fire under a press routinely terrified of speaking truth to power, especially in regards to the United States' often bipartisan, mindless unchecked international militarism. These days, however, Wikileaks is more about pandering to MAGA kids for bitcoin donations, selectively avoiding transparency, and levying silly legal threats against the press rather than actually adhering to its core mission of a decade ago.

      Still, there's no doubt that Wikileaks of old contributed to a marginally braver press, even if it remains obvious that a lot of work on this front still needs to be done. And its influence continues to be mirrored by subsequent incarnations looking to improve on the formula, even as those efforts criticize Wikileaks' increasingly erratic behavior in the wake of a percussive parade of unflattering revelations.

    • NY Governor Offers Journalists A Gift No Journalist Would Be Interested In Receiving
      While it's refreshing to see a political figure think someone other than law enforcement might need a little extra protection, sentencing enhancements that only apply when certain people are assaulted or killed is never the answer. The state already has a law against assaulting journalists. It's called assault. And in certain cases, it can be felony. (Which, ironically enough, happens anytime anyone assaults a cop in New York.)

      There's no reason for journalists to be afforded extra protections just because of their job. If it doesn't make sense for cops, it doesn't make sense for journalists. A profession is not a race, gender, or religious persuasion. Hate crime laws make very little sense themselves, but at least they address the fact people may be targeted for aspects about themselves they have no control over. Journalists and cops don't need to be journalists and cops. A person's race is not a choice and they can be targeted for abuse and physical attacks simply for being the wrong color.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Animals Scored Significant Victories With the 2018 Farm Bill
      It is no secret that moving legislation over the finish line in Washington, DC, has not been easy of late. However, members of Congress did come together to pass the 2018 Farm Bill — a massive public-spending package that funds agriculture, conservation and food policy. It was signed into law by President Trump on December 20, just two days before the government shutdown began. While Big Agriculture with its factory farming model is not too kind as a general rule, the Farm Bill did right by animals in several important respects.

      First and foremost, animal advocacy groups and concerned citizens successfully worked to remove an anti-animal provision that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) added to the House version of the bill. Of greatest concern to animal advocates was that Representative King’s amendment would have nullified thousands of duly enacted laws concerning puppy mills, horse slaughter for human consumption and extreme confinement of farm animals. In its overreach, however, King’s measure also threatened to undermine child labor laws and fire-safe cigarettes.

      King repeats messages of “pro-states’ rights” rhetoric, yet the legislation he introduces year after year threatens those very liberties. Recognizing that Americans care about the humane treatment of animals, Congress wisely opted to reject his dangerous amendment.

    • Encouraging Energy Conservation: Is Less More?
      Is messaging about consumers’ home-energy habits important in climate change mitigation? Many organizations say yes, and are conducting outreach to raise awareness and persuade individuals to improve their energy use.

      But are the messages being used in that outreach actually working? Our research, recently published in the journal Energy Policy, suggests the types of messages that are typically used don’t always have the desired effect. This research also suggests ways to improve energy-conservation messaging.

      Often energy-related messages are crafted under the assumption that the information they contain will be received, processed and acted upon in a rational way. What does this mean? As traditionally conceived, rationality implies that people maximize their utility (more commonly referred to as their happiness) subject to their material constraints (i.e. the money they have) and their beliefs about the world (i.e. the information they have).

      The richness of human behavior, however, means that people don’t always act in ways that can be explained by this model. People may, for example, care about the utility of others — in other words, they may care about others’ happiness in addition to their own. Constraints may take the form of time or willpower, rather than money. People’s beliefs may be shaped not only by the objective information they have, but also by their perceptions of what other people believe. Moreover, people don’t always act according to the beliefs they hold.

    • End Times, Dead Ahead
      Bendell’s 15-minute video monologue should be viewed in the context of the current status of the world’s climate crisis, which is a mindboggling steroid-enhanced-CO2-laced trip to nowhere but trouble, and it’s smack dab on target (actually ahead of target) for a grim, bleak world that alters all life and contorts the socio-economic compact, meaning sudden death for the “neoliberal brand” of capitalism, which will not survive once the world comes to accept and recognize its inherent villainy, notably its massive extensive disruption of the earth system of life, or Gaia.

    • How This Oil Refiners Group Rallied GOP Governors' Support for Trump’s Rollback of Auto Standards
      As the Trump administration worked to revise and relax federal fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and light trucks, an oil refiners trade group worked connections with Republican governors to rally support for the proposed rollback.

      Emails obtained by Documented, a watchdog group that tracks corporate influence in government, revealed that the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) were actively recruiting Republican Governors to sign onto a public comment letter supporting the weaker standards, while also “shopping around” a pre-written op-ed with language borrowed from the American Energy Alliance, a free market advocacy group run by a former Koch Industries lobbyist.

    • Our Environmental Past Holds the Solution to Our Climate Future
      Climate change is caused by climate pollution. When we discovered human sewage pollution was killing millions in the 19th century, we couldn’t stop making human sewage. What did we do? We treated the pollution.

      Why aren’t we treating climate pollution? Is it because we can’t? When we discovered that human sewage pollution was killing millions, we thought it would be too expensive to put a toilet in every backyard. So, we made rules and laws that said costs didn’t matter, human life was more important. It wasn’t too expensive after all.

      Then we discovered that too many outhouses were polluting the groundwater and millions were still dying. So we made new laws that said we must put a toilet in every home and dump the sewage in the river. We thought that would really be far too expensive. But it wasn’t.

      When the dying continued, we realized we must treat the sewage. That was ridiculously expensive, so we thought. But the law said we must now treat human sewage pollution, and we did…. And it wasn’t expensive after all.

      To make our environment safe, we did what we thought at first was too expensive. A billion toilets, two billion … and we continue to do this today, spending a half trillion dollars across the planet every year treating human sewage and drinking water to ensure a safe and healthy environment.

    • People Power: 160,000 European Protesters Demand Action on Climate Crisis
      At least 80,000 people marched in a cold rain in Brussels Sunday in another massive protest demanding that the European Union take urgent and far-reaching action to address the world's climate crisis.

      Sunday's march was the fourth climate march in the past three weeks—each one significantly bigger than the last—as students across Belgium and other European countries have skipped their high school and college classes in order to shame those in power who refuse to move urgently.

      "The objective of the march is to challenge the Belgian government as well as the heads of state and government who will attend the European Council summit in Brussels on 21 and 22 March," Larry Moffett, one of the organizers of Sunday's march, told the Brussels Times. "The march participants will call on them to meet the target of a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030."

    • Bees Face Yet Another Lethal Threat in Dicamba, a Drift-Prone Pesticide
      While soybean farmers watched the drift-prone weed killer dicamba ravage millions of acres of crops over the last two years, Arkansas beekeeper Richard Coy noticed a parallel disaster unfolding among the weeds near those fields.

      When Coy spotted the withering weeds, he realized why hives that produced 100 pounds of honey three summers ago now were managing barely half that: Dicamba probably had destroyed his bees’ food.

      In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extended its approval of the weed killer for use on genetically modified soybeans and cotton, mostly in the South and Midwest, for two more years. At the time, the EPA said: “We expect there will be no adverse impacts to bees or other pollinators.”

      But scientists warned the EPA years ago that dicamba would drift off fields and kill weeds that are vital to honeybees. The consequences of the EPA’s decisions now are rippling through the food system.

    • The Green New Deal is Not Enough: We Need an Alternative Globalization
      The Green New Deal is the most ambitious climate plan in Congress.

      Developed through years of grassroots activism and propelled to fame by the rising star of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the proposal has attracted the support of more than 40 members of Congress, Senators from Sanders to Booker, and even 64% of registered Republican voters.

      While the details remain unclear, the general outline – a comprehensive, state-led transition to 100% renewable energy, founded on green jobs and economic justice – is both popular and necessary. Without a dramatic overhaul of the American economy, averting climate change will be impossible.

      But domestic policies won’t be enough.

      From the birth of neoliberalism in the 70’s through the rapid economic globalization of the 90’s, the ruling parties of the Global North have spent decades constructing a global economic system rigged in the interests of capital.

    • Teen Environmentalist Greta Thunberg Pushes Davos Elites on Climate Action
      While domestic woes sidelined major figures like U.S. President Donald Trump, this year’s gathering of the global elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos showcased divisions on pressing issues like trade and the environment.

      In the end, a spunky 16-year-old Swedish climate activist all but stole the show.

      The World Economic Forum, which wrapped up Friday, was characterized by discord over momentous issues like Brexit and world trade. Many of the leaders closest to those questions — from Trump to Britain’s Theresa May and China’s Xi Jinping — did not show up as they had in past years.

      Environmentalists, meanwhile, howled about alleged hypocrisy after reports that a record number of flights by carbon-spewing private jets would ferry rich corporate bigwigs to talk at the event this year — including about global warming.

    • My Message to Davos Elites: Act As If Our House Is on Fire. Because It Is.
      According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

    • Global Economy on the Brink as Davos Crowd Parties On
      Typically each annual meeting has a theme. This year there are several: the slowing global economy, the fracturing of the international trade system, the growing levels of unsustainable debt everywhere, volatile financial asset markets with asset bubbles beginning to deflate, rising political instability and autocratic drift in both the advanced and emerging economies, accelerating income inequality worldwide—to mention just a short list.

      On the eve of this year’s World Economic Forum gathering, some of the most powerful, wealthy, and more prescient capitalists have begun to speak out to their capitalist cousins, raising red flags about what they believe is an approaching crisis.
    • Right "To Their Faces," 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Tells Davos Elite Climate Crisis Their Fault
      Speaking Thursday before a panel that included U2 frontman Bono, former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, acclaimed conservationist Jane Goodall, and panel host and billionaire Marc Benioff, Thunberg echoed themes from a video she created to share with Davos-goers.

      "Some people say that that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is not true—because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame," Thunberg said to the peope in the room. "Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people."

      Her statement was followed by silence until Bono began applauding. Other audience members and panelists then followed suit.
    • Ten Thousand Students March in Berlin as Global #ClimateStrike Movement Rises
      An estimated ten thousand students took to the freezing cold streets of Berlin, Germany on Friday as they added their voices to the growing youth-led global uprising that is demanding urgent and far-reaching action to address the world's climate crisis.

      Following others using the #ClimateStrike tactic inspired by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden, the #FridaysforFuture march in Berlin was held as students across Switzerland also held protests on Friday and two days after 35,000 young people marched in Brussels.

      The students in Germany marched to the Ministry of Economics where a conference focused on the country's coal industry was being held. Outside the building they called on the nation's leaders to phase out coal immediately.

      "The general problem is not that there's a lack of knowledge, but of action," one student demonstrator told Deutsche Welle. "That's why it's good to go into the streets and express our views."
    • Complacency and the Environmental Catastrophe
      Ask any reasonably well-informed person what the cause of climate change is and the chances are they will say greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s), but they would only be partially correct. While it is true that man-made GGE’s are clogging Earth’s lower atmosphere, trapping heat and resulting in widespread climate change, the underlying 21st century cause, in contrast to the 19th and early 20th century when information was scarce, is something much more personal and lethal: complacency. Widespread complacency among politicians, big business and to a lesser degree, the general public, is the reason why, despite the various cries for restraint, global GGE’s continue to increase.

      Complacency is why air pollution is getting worse in cities and towns across the world, leading to a range of health problems and premature deaths; complacency has caused the destruction of the planet’s rain forests, 85% of which have been lost through human activity, and it’s why the oceans have been poisoned and robbed of fish. Complacency is fueling the greatest extinction of animal and plant species in our history, it’s setting forests alight, filling the oceans and rivers with plastics and other pollutants, and is the reason why the ice mass in the North Pole is melting at unprecedented rates, leading to rising sea levels, flooding and the erosion of land, destroying homes and natural habitats, taking lives, displacing people – potentially millions.

      It is complacency, which a wise man once described as the root of all evil, that is causing all of this and more – the ‘I’m all right Jack’ mentality’. And no matter how many reports are published and forecasts made, or how often someone speaks or writes about what is the greatest crisis in human history, few listen, even fewer act and nothing substantive changes, certainly nothing that matches the scale of the catastrophe. Do people even know there is a crisis, really? The level of apathy amongst governments and corporate power beggars belief, as does the lack of coverage in mainstream media, such as the BBC. Environmental issues should be headline news every single day, but scan the websites and publications of the mass media and the environment is barely mentioned.

    • Small Laws, Great Crimes: the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act
      It’s been said that small laws breed great crimes. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act is such a law. The crimes committed against the people in its name are legion.

      But it got even more criminal last week when the Colorado Supreme Court decided the protection of public health and the environment was not the purpose of the law, that, instead, the public must share their lives and fortunes with the economic interests of the oil and gas industry. Indeed, the public’s interests might have to be sacrificed if protecting them proves too costly for the industry.

  • Finance

    • A Way Out of the Modernistic Cultural Malaise
      Neoliberalist economics promotes market-based values, identities, and forms of agency. Its aim, via state controls, is to privatize, deregulate, economize, and subject all working institutions and social relations to the dictates of privatization, efficiency, deregulation, and commodification. I will call neoliberalism’s cultural influence ‘modernistic’.

      Modernistic thinking, I believe, encourages certain behaviors, for example, defenses of inequality, patriarchal masculinity and exercise of a selfishly reactive social mentality. Its captive thinkers may even tout modernistic developments as politically induced cultural outcomes in harmony with the given, natural order.

      Accordingly, modernistic thinking can curtail an evolving (Darwinian) sense of political agency by epitomizing, even reifying, values that have already failed society. Postmodern theory may have long since found those values to be humanly inadequate. In short, neoliberalism’s modernistic ethos is either failing to understand or ignoring promising postmodern critiques, one of which follows.

      Discontents within modernistic social structures can result from a pervasive, yet scarcely recognized form of domination. Structurally sourced dominations, of course, deserve special focus for those concerned with social progress. Some of their recognizable characteristics and suggested eliminations are outlined below.

    • Nash Exchange publishes open-source staking contract
      Decentralized financial service platform Nash has finalized and released the NEX token staking contract. The smart contract allows NEX (Nash Exchange) token holders to stake their tokens in return for a portion of fees generated by the exchange. The team has made the contract open-source to preserve transparency and allow users to personally audit the code.

    • Roaming Charges: American Hunger Games
      The shutdown has become Trump’s RealityTV version of The Hunger Games. How long can federal workers go without being paid? How will they perish? Hunger, influenza, hypothermia, suicide? Place your bets.
    • As Long Beach Luxury Development Booms, The Poor Get Left Behind
      It was a stifling mid-August afternoon when Jennifer learned she had until the end of the year to move out of her cramped studio apartment in the East Village of downtown Long Beach. She suspected the eviction was coming. For the past year, she had been looking for a new place as her landlord slowly remodeled her modest building, the place she’s called home for more than 13 years. He knew she could not pay the increase in rent, so he told her it was time to go. Jennifer, who is in her 50s, qualified for Section 8 low-income housing and searched futilely for an opening in the area. There was nothing she could afford to live in and not a single Section 8 apartment was vacant.

      Five years ago, Jennifer lost mobility in her right leg because of diabetes. Confined to a wheelchair, she still managed to take classes at Cerritos College and work a part-time job. She slogged her way around town on the bus and never complained that her apartment was located up a narrow flight of wooden stairs. She simply collapsed her wheelchair and scooted her rear end up each step to her front door, making the trip more than once if she had groceries or extra bags to bring in. Her daughter used to help with the rent and daily chores, but she left Long Beach three years ago to attend a trade school on the East Coast. “It would have been better to be on the first floor, but I couldn’t afford to move,” Jennifer says. “I’ve been searching for a place to live, a unit that can accommodate my wheelchair and kitties, but I can’t find a single one, anywhere. My landlord sent me listings to Section 8 places, but they are ones I’ve already called about that don’t really exist. I’ll probably end up sleeping in an RV.”

    • Trying to Build a ‘Better Bitcoin’ is as Pointless as Creating a ‘Better’ Google Search
      MIT researchers have designed a new cryptocurrency, Vault, to make it easier for new users to join the network by reducing the bandwidth for starting a new node by 99% over Bitcoin.
    • Exclusive: $630 Million Cryptocurrency Dash Releases ‘Biggest Upgrade’ Since Governance System
      By The Dash community has been banging its head against a wall for a while now. As its developers ramp up infrastructure to make mass adoption easier, it loses users in the process. Dash dropped from a number seven crypto in 2017 to 15th place over the last 12 months, losing 92% of value from an all-time high market cap of $11.6 billion.

      However, in the spirit of better late than never, Dash is finally releasing its newest upgrade Evolution 0.13. And–whatever your stance on Dash–you have to admit, it’s pretty impressive.

    • France, Yellow Vests and the MEK
      No one today is surprised at the foreign policy of the United States. War, violation of international law and disdain for human rights are all characteristics of the criminal enterprise known as the U.S. government.

      Most of the U.S.’s allies display some or all of these same vices, but some are often considered above such activities. One that is mistakenly believed to be better than the U.S. is France. A look at some of its current policies is instructive.

      At present, there are two groups active in France. One is known as the ‘Yellow Vests’ an informal organization that started to protest an increase in fuel taxes, and expanded to oppose a wide range of practices of the government of President Emmanuel Macron that are seen as detrimental to the public. There was no well-established plan and no recognized leader.

      The second organization is the MEK (Mujahideen-e Khalq), a terrorist organization that seeks the overthrow of the Iranian government. MEK members have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

      One would think that a responsive government would react positively to protesters opposing government policies. Government officials would look at those policies; acknowledge the problems they cause, and work with the opposition, in this case, the Yellow Vests, to fully understand their concerns. Then they would work to resolve the issues.

      One would also think that any reasonable government would condemn a well-organized and well-financed terrorist group, and offer no support to it in any form.

      Unfortunately, this is not the case with the government of France. The reverse, unfortunately, is true. The Macron government works tirelessly and violently to end the Yellow Vest protests, while it welcomes and supports the MEK.

      Why would this be? The explanation is not difficult to see.
    • Warren Forces Issue of Massive Economic Inequality Into 2020 Debate With 'Ultra-Millionaire Tax'
      Weeks into a national conversation over the possibility of taxing the wealthiest Americans at far higher rates in order to correct severe income inequality in the U.S., Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made clear that the issue will be addressed in the 2020 presidential election, unveiling a plan to tax assets over $50 million.

      Two economists who are advising Warren, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of University of California at Berkeley, announced to the Washington Post that the senator is proposing an annual tax of two percent for assets over $50 million, as well as a three percent tax for assets above $1 billion. The proposal, the economists estimate, would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years and would affect just .1 percent of American households—raising the percentage at which their wealth is taxed to just 4.3 percent from 3.2 percent.
    • Don’t Build the Wall, Build Affordable Housing
      Trump’s vanity wall is a solution in search of a problem. The only emergency is the one created by Trump and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with their brutal repression and moves to deny migrants fleeing violence their legal right to seek asylum. Research shows that immigrants are actually an economic boon, so this manufactured crisis aimed at repressing asylum seekers literally costs us all. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that we are facing an epic crisis in housing in the United States. Instead of building a wall, the US should build more public housing.

      The Trump/McConnell shutdown puts the US’s major affordable housing programs — public housing, Section 8 vouchers and project-based rental assistance — at risk. Project-based rental assistance has been hit the hardest. Tens of thousands of low-income renters and families risk eviction because the shutdown has caused funding to lapse on 650 of these properties. The shutdown also hurts residents of public housing because broken boilers or leaking roofs may go unfixed, as housing authorities can’t access money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make repairs. And arguably the most long-term vulnerable are renters with Section 8 vouchers, through which housing authorities pay a portion of tenants’ rent directly to private landlords. The vouchers are funded through February, but are at risk if the shutdown extends to March. Private landlords may decide that accepting Section 8 vouchers is a risk they no longer want to take, due to the threat of future government shutdowns.

      Even before the shutdown, the country was already facing an affordable housing crisis. In New York City, there are more than 209,180 families on the waiting list for its 175,636 units of public housing. A 2018 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) found that average renter wages are not enough to afford modest rental apartments.
    • The Permanent Temp Economy
      The title of Louis Hyman’s book, “Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary,” gives a glimpse of the specificity readers will find in this meticulous chronicle of the rise of temporary work, from post World War II to the present. Hyman is a thorough and fair-minded guide through the evolution of attitudes toward labor and the resulting societal upheavals. Because he tracks the slow but steady trajectory toward the gig economy from its first steps in recessionary 1958, much of his research will be surprising to those who are not MBAs or labor historians.

      The U.S. enjoyed about 25 years of economic growth and relative stability after the Second World War, and the ’58 recession was short-lived. Still, it was that long ago that entrepreneur Elmer Singer began to publicly warn of the unlikely continuation of secure, full-time employment for all, and the perils of complacency that would descend on those failing to react to numerous signs threatening corporate vitality.

      At first, Singer promoted his idea of temporary workers for use in emergency situations only, seemingly savant about what Americans would accept and how quickly. He understood that cost cutting is more profitable than customer growth, and his low-overhead vision of supplying a wide array of businesses with temporary employees in all kinds of circumstances began to take hold in the early ’70s. Singer also correctly read the country’s consistently narrow regard for women; he had the nerve to build a business that for years employed mostly “white-gloved” women, and call it Manpower. (At intervals, Hyman reminds readers of our discriminatory workplace history, including New Deal policies that instituted essential worker protections, except for men of color and all women.)

    • As Shutdown Ends, Workers Worry About Their Future
      Federal workers who have gone a month without getting paid during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history expressed relief Friday that a deal had been reached to end the impasse, but are worried they’ll be in the same spot in a few weeks.

      Ivan Tauler and his wife spent an exhausting three weeks calling, researching and haggling to get relief from government agencies, schools, banks and utility companies to scrape by during the shutdown that caused him to be furloughed from his cartographer job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in West Virginia.

    • The World to Come
      The ruling elites are painfully aware that the foundations of American power are rotting. The outsourcing of manufacturing in the United States and the plunging of over half the population into poverty will, they know, not be reversed. The self-destructive government shutdown has been only one of numerous assaults on the efficiency of the administrative state. The failing roads, bridges and public transportation are making commerce and communications more difficult. The soaring government deficit, now almost a trillion dollars thanks to the Trump administration’s massive corporate tax cuts, cannot be eliminated. The seizure of the financial system by global speculators ensures, sooner rather than later, another financial meltdown. The dysfunction of democratic institutions, which vomit up con artists such as Donald Trump and hold as alternatives inept, corporate-indentured politicians such as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, is cementing into place a new authoritarianism. The hollowing out of the pillars of the state, including the diplomatic corps and regulatory agencies, leaves the blunt force of the military as the only response to foreign disputes and fuels endless and futile foreign wars.

      Just as ominous as the visible rot is the internal decay. Among all social classes there is a loss of faith in the government, widespread frustration, a sense of stagnation and entrapment, bitterness over unfulfilled expectations and promises, and a merging of fact and fiction so that civil and political discourse is no longer rooted in reality. The nation’s isolation by its traditional allies and its inability, especially in the face of environmental catastrophe, to articulate rational and visionary policies have shattered the mystique that is vital to power. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” George Orwell wrote. “That is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Our elites have exhausted fraud. Force is all they have left.

    • The Shame of the One Percent Continues
      Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sir David Attenborough called on government and business leaders to support, with practical plans, “United Nations decisions on climate change, sustainable development, and a new deal for nature.”

      “What we do now, and in the next few years, will profoundly affect the next few thousand years,” he said. True enough, but politically speaking, Sir David probably knows as well as anyone that precious few in his audience will be motivated to act decisively in the human interest—no more so than at any previous Davos meeting.

      At this very moment, in fact, Oxfam published its latest data on global wealth distribution. It’s another sad rendition of an old theme: the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer. Notwithstanding China’s remarkable poverty reduction, the rest of the world’s poor are getting a decreasing share of the economic pie. As a result, Oxfam reports, “the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.” In 2016 it took 61 billionaires to match the wealth of the world’s 50 percent in poverty, and 43 billionaires in 2017.

    • Zimbabwe’s Capitalist Crisis: Finance Minister a ‘Fraud’ and ‘Political Moron,’ as Army Represses Protests
      Once again, a formidable burst of state brutality against Zimbabwe’s citizenry has left at least a dozen corpses, scores of serious injuries, mass arrests, internet suspension and a furious citizenry. The January 14-17 nationwide protests were called by trade unions against an unprecedented fuel price hike, leading to repression reminiscent of former leader Robert Mugabe’s iron fist.

      Most of the country’s economy ground to a halt. For more than a week, the cities remained ghost towns, as army troops continued attacking even ordinary civilians who are desperate to earn a living in what often seems to be the country’s main occupation these days: street vending of cheap imported commodities. A national strike of 500,000 civil service workers has been called. Most essential commodities are now vastly overpriced or in very short supply. This is what a full-on capitalist crisis looks like.

      The stresses are obvious within elite politics, for as ever in Harare, rumors of political upheaval abound. But whatever happens to the ruling party’s leadership, a more brutal fiscal policy plus an even tighter state squeeze on hard currency appear to be the new constants. The stubbornness of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership is partly due to the ideological fervor of his finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, an academic economist with a dubious practical track record and fast-fading international credibility (as CNN interviewers now openly laugh at answers to questions). Ncube argues that Zimbabwe’s problems boil down to loan repayment arrears to international creditors, a high state budget deficit and a trade deficit.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: Friedrichs, the Union-Busters’ Warhorse
      Given our tremendous success, one can assume that unions are not on death’s doorstep after all. But well-funded anti-union forces have been stepping up their attacks on teachers unions, and trying to encourage union members to “opt-out” of union dues.

      What hit unions in 2018 almost hit us in 2016–Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was a similar suit to Janus, and it too made it up to the US Supreme Court. The unions would have lost, except Justice Antonin Scalia died shortly after the case was argued in front of the Supreme Court, leaving only eight members to decide the case, and the lower court’s decision stood.

      Plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs is now back as the voice of the opponents of teachers unions. She and her new book Standing Up to Goliath: Battling State and National Teachers’ Unions for the Heart and Soul of Our Kids and Country are being vigorously promoted by Breitbart, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Southern California Newspaper Group, and others.

      Friedrichs has been a prominent critic of teachers unions and public education in general, and of United Teachers of Los Angeles’ recent strike in particular.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Immigration, civil liberties advocates reject Democrats' plan to offer Trump "smart wall"
      As Democratic leaders in the House reportedly prepare to release a plan to compromise with President Trump by proposing a "smart wall" — that is, increased border security without a literal, physical wall — advocates for immigrants' rights and civil liberties are skeptical.

      "We are very disappointed but not surprised that the Democrats would propose 'smart wall' funding — they have included such allocations in previous reform proposals and supported inclusion of these line items in previous budgets," Catherine Tactaquin, executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, told Salon by email.
    • La Madre Buena (The Good Mother)
      For a five-minute, heart-lifting hiatus from the madness, watch this alluring little film about a resolute Mexican mother who is clear on our president - "He is the devil" - but who loves her son enough to give him the birthday present he wants. In La Madre Buena, first-time director Sarah Clift presents "a simple story about the lengths a mother will go to for her child." A U.K. citizen with a Mexican fiancé, she has traveled widely and lovingly in Mexico and wanted to showcase "strong women, family unity and the beauty and faith of the Mexican people I have had the pleasure to meet" - especially against the backdrop of Trump's racist interpretations of the country "I simply do not agree with."

    • You Can’t Go Home Again: the Liberal State is No More
      In a previous article I argued that often confusing and divergent arguments within the neoliberal critique could be best understood as the tensions between two opposing currents of thought. One tendency understands neoliberalism as the unfettered reign of the free market, often called Free Market Fundamentalism (FMF), the other sees neoliberalism as the fusion of the corporation and the state sometimes called Corporate Power.

      If it’s FMF what does that mean for activism. If it’s Corporate Power what does that imply for strategy?

      The greater the emphasis on FMF then the more possible it might seem to re-regulate the corporations back to within tolerable limits after recapturing the state through elections. The greater the emphasis on corporate power the less possible incremental (primarily) electoral approaches seem, and the more likely that revolutionary measures will be required to abolish corporate power.

      You Can’t Go Home Again

      FMF remains such a popular idea among progressives precisely because it allows us to imagine an easy escape. That escape is a return to the liberal-regulatory state that governed the US between the mid-1930s and mid-1970s. The problem — and most likely an insurmountable one — is that the old liberal-regulatory state was dismantled and replaced by a new corporate-regulatory state.

      This bit of wishful thinking also forgets that the now defunct liberal state was codified by law and mandated by election due to massive protest and organizingin the 1930’s and cemented into place only at the high human costs of world war. The construction of the liberal state required mass movements, some with revolutionary aspirations, and it’s reconstruction would require nothing less.

      Equally daunting is the fact that the decline of the liberal state wasn’t caused by the rise of neoliberalism alone but by urban rebellions and social movements. Why would we return to the liberal state that brought us the Vietnam War, COINTELPRO, environmental destruction and the urban crisis among other wonders?
    • Trump Folds on Shutdown After Yet Another Historically Bad Week
      Just after 1 pm on Friday afternoon, a five-alarm Washington Post headline slashed through what had already been a noisy news day: “Congressional Leaders, Trump Reach Tentative Deal to Temporarily Reopen Government Without Wall Funds, According to Hill Officials.” The gist, later confirmed by Donald Trump himself in a rambling Rose Garden statement, was simple: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wins again.

      The deal as struck is virtually identical to the one he was offered 35 days ago, and was essentially the clean continuing resolution defeated Thursday in the Senate (despite earning six Republican votes): Open the government for three weeks, period; no money for Trump’s border wall or anything else. After a day that saw air travel to LaGuardia and other East Coast airports disrupted because of staffing shortages, Trump chose to cut bait on his base and back down, finally.

      It was, in no uncertain terms, a historic humiliation both for the president and for the congressional Republicans who empowered and enabled him throughout this debacle. I am looking at you, Mitch McConnell.

      The final vote and signature on Friday night served as an exclamation point at the end of an incredible, unprecedented week that began with several White House officials, including the president, trying to commiserate with furloughed federal workers and failing in grisly fashion. An old friend of mine who made a lifelong career as a commercial real estate attorney twigged me to something noteworthy buried within another of Trump’s jousting matches with the English language.
    • Joe Biden’s “Bipartisanship” Promotes Republican Agenda
      Joe Biden laughed off a New York Times report last week that described how he had praised a Republican lawmaker in a speech last year before midterm elections. The ex-Vice President made the remarks about the report on Thursday while speaking to a conference of mayors in Washington, DC.

      “I read in The New York Times today that one of my problems, if I ever run for President — I like Republicans. Okay, well bless me father for I have sinned,” Biden said to laughter and applause.

      “Where I come from, I don’t know how you get anything done unless you talk to one another again,” he added, praising bipartisanship for its own sake.

      But the Times had not reported that Biden merely “likes Republicans,” or that he had worked with them to “get things done” in the past. The paper said Biden praised Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in a speech to a conservative audience that personally netted him $200,000 in speaking fees.

      The speech, before the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan, also took place just weeks before midterms. Upton ended up defeating his Democratic opponent, Matt Longjohn, by 4.5 percentage points.

      The Times noted that Republicans referenced Biden’s praise when branding Upton as being able to work with Democrats, and that local Democratic officials were incensed by Biden’s intervention.
    • Dancing On America’s Grave
      Washington is a fucking zoo. The entire town seems to be teeming with almost demonic energy that’s usually reserved for Third World capitals hours before the fall of some CIA funded cannibal despot. We have had fucked up presidencies before, about 44 of them if memory serves correctly, and the temptation is always rich to proclaim the current bastard the worst, but the Donald is a very special flavor of fucked up and his ADHD appears to be contagious. For the first time in centuries, the crumbling ghettos surrounding the District of Colombia look downright pristine compared to the cracked ivory white domes that have long cast shadows across their project courtyards. If you look real carefully through the purple haze of the Sour Diesel and Sherman Hemsley of Potomac Gardens you can just barely see a teary-eyed Mike Pence in a West Wing window, dreaming of someplace that’s green.

      All across the vast expanse of Trump’s America this chaos is spreading like lice. Peep through the blinds of any given ranch-style rambler from Pittsburgh to Peoria and you’ll witness tableaus straight out of a Flannery O’Connor novel. Grotesque creatures ranting and raving across the dinner table at one another over their supposed loved ones’ refusal to despise the right villain in this sick Southern Gothic horror story of a country. Brothers at war with brothers over two sides of the same foul oligarchy. Republicrats or Dempublicans? Crips or Bloods? Kind of grants the concept of ‘White People Problems’ a sick new irony. How much for a room at the Gardens again? I desperately need some sleep and even gunshots beat the sound of gnashing teeth and cable news.

      Meanwhile, Donald Trump and his Botox poisoned limousine liberal nemesis, Nancy Pelosi, continue to play one side of the country off the other, shutting down our crooked federal government over some fictional crisis manufactured in the middle of the fucking desert. Prison guards and TSA gropers are expected to sexually violate the public without a paycheck while Trump bets his staffers $6 billion that he can piss over that 12-foot wall.

      This madness has also spread across the globe as it has become increasingly apparent that those good old Gestapo days of American primacy are numbered. In no arena is this more apparent than that blood-soaked sandbox the limeys declared Syria. On any given day, at any given second, the Administration Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight takes as many as 63 separate positions on that awful place. Pull the troops out. Leave the troops in. Protect the Kurds. Fuck the Kurds. Kill Assad. Throw him a surprise party. Arm ISIS. Bomb the shit out of them and then arm them again. Declare them dead as disco. Declare disco alive and well. Then a bomb goes off in Manbij and we start the same hysterical search for answers all over again.

    • It's Time to Update Aging Voting Equipment Before the 2020 Election
      Sixteen million voters encountered problems voting in 2016. A big culprit was aging voting equipment.

      When Ronald Campbell went to his polling location in Horry County, South Carolina, to vote in the 2018 midterms, he wasn’t expecting it to become an odyssey. But when he and his wife arrived at their polling location, the lines were so long that Ronald feared he and his wife wouldn’t be physically able to stand for the amount of time it would take to get to the voting booth. Nevertheless, they returned to the polling location four separate times throughout the day until the line had become reasonable — that’s how determined Ronald and his wife were to vote.

      But Ronald never got a chance to cast his ballot.

      When they finally reached the check-in table, Ronald learned that when he changed his address at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the voter registration system was not updated. He would need to cast his ballot at a different polling location. However, it was too late. The location had already closed.

      Ronald’s story is not unique. Long lines, caused in part by old election equipment, were pervasive throughout Horry County, the state of South Carolina, and nationwide. Approximately 16 million voters encountered an issue while casting a ballot in 2016, according to an MIT study. One significant contributor to the 16 million voters facing problems was the voting equipment. The solution to many of these reported problems is for federal, state, and local governments to work together to replace aging election equipment before the upcoming 2020 elections.
    • Revolving door brings Trump-tied lobbying firm even closer to the White House
      Brian Ballard has gone from zero to 100 clients real quick, leveraging his Trump ties to build a powerhouse lobbying firm practically from nothing and collecting numerous high-profile clients since the beginning of the Trump administration.

      Ballard Partners has obtained more than one hundred foreign and domestic clients since Trump’s election and taken in more than $28 million from its clients during that time frame.

      After establishing himself as a top political fundraiser for the Trump campaign in 2016, Ballard was a member of Trump’s transition team and served as vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee before embedding himself as a leading lobbyist at the center of Trump’s orbit.

      Ballard has continued to grow his lobbying operation, assembling a team of key players in Trump world.

    • Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential bid announcement imminent: report
      Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is planning to announce his bid for president in the 2020 election, according to insiders who spoke to Yahoo! News reporters.

      According to the two sources “with direct knowledge of his plans,” Sanders plans to announce his bid shortly. One of the sources said Sanders was emboldened by polls showing he was one of the top candidates in the Democratic primary field; specifically, Sanders was “heartened,” according to Yahoo! News, by polls indicating he was “one of the leading candidates among African American and Latino voters.” A source also alluded to polls that suggested Sanders is the most popular politician in the country.

      “What the senator has this time that he didn’t have last time is he is the most popular elected official in the country right now,” the source told Yahoo! News. “That’s light years away from 2016, when very few people knew who he was.”
    • End of Shutdown Still Leaves Contract Workers Hanging

    • With Federal Workers Locked Out, Where Are Those Right-to-Work Groups?

    • 'This Is a Cave, Not a Wall': After 35 Days Trump Agrees to End Shutdown by Signing Deal Made Before Christmas
      "This is a cave, not a wall," said the Working Families Party after President Donald Trump announced on Friday a deal to temporarily end the 35-day government shutdown over his demand for a border wall.

      Speaking outside the White House, Trump said the bipartisan deal to fund the government through Feb. 15 would be immediately put forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). If approved by Congress, though it will contain no funding for the wall, Trump said he would sign it.

    • Warnings of 'Tipping Point' in Trump Shutdown as Airport Staff Shortages Cause Major Flight Delays
      Has the record-long government shutdown over President Donald Trump's border wall demand finally reached a "tipping point"?

      Many answered in the affirmative on Friday after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) halted flights into New York's LaGuardia Airport due a shortage of air traffic controllers, who are among the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who have now missed their second paycheck as the partial shutdown heads into its fifth week.

    • Destroying Government
      Donald Trump opened the new year with belligerence. He authored the shutdown of the United States federal government. For a country where everything seems to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is bizarre to have government offices closed for weeks. In a meeting with congressional leaders in early January, Trump threatened that unless he got the money to build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, he would keep the government shut down for a year. It is likely that the new Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives will come to an accommodation with Trump. Democrats do not have the appetite for a long-drawn-out battle with a man who relishes the opportunity to undermine the government and the idea of the government. That is, after all, the agenda of people like Trump—to destroy government and allow big business to set the rules.

      Evidence of Trump’s attitude came quickly as he appointed various former corporate men to high positions in his Cabinet. Four departments in particular are to be headed by men whose former employers had been regulated by their new offices: the Defence Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Health and Human Services Department and the Interior Department. Alex Azar, for instance, is a former president of Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical company. He is now Trump’s acting Secretary of Health and Human Services. Eli Lilly is one of a handful of firms that will be regulated by Azar’s department. Rules that have closed a revolving door between business and government are loose. They have not sealed the leakage between these two sectors. Trump has wedged the door open. His men make no pretence of being above the muck of corporate corruption.

      Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, is now the acting Defence Secretary. This means that Shanahan, as the head of the Defence Department (known by its unofficial name, the Pentagon), is to oversee the massive contracts given out by the Defence Department to U.S. military contractors. The five largest contractors of the U.S. government are all corporations that manufacture military equipment: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrup Grumman. Boeing has about $21 billion in contracts from the U.S. government. The Pentagon said that Shanahan would recuse himself in the deals with Boeing. But since Boeing and the four other contractors essentially dominate the procurement process, it seems unlikely that any decision made by Shanahan would not impact Boeing itself.

    • Two Roads Diverged
      President Trump’s chances of planting the seed of rebellion against Nancy Pelosi within the Democratic Party has a better chance of success than the Democratic Party has in planting seeds of rebellion against President Trump.

      The single, unambiguous focus of profit to investors unites Republicans like a Spartan phalanx whereas the focus of Democrats is on “The People,” far less definitive and determinate than cash and not restricted in use to Democrats. Populists and Nationalists, from Trump to Orban claim to represent “the will of The People.” Democrats are less likely to hold their ground because they are not deaf to the arguments of profit making. Sanders, Warren, Ocasio Cruz and others on the Left may be but they do not represent the majority of those Speaker Pelosi is representing.

      One wonders whether the inevitable clash between House Speaker Pelosi and the new and young women in this Congressional Freshman class will be reconciled in ways that demonstrate the greater effectiveness of women in politics than men in politics.

    • A Campaign Finance Proposal: Let’s Do Away with SOTU
      Well, Trump blinked. In his standoff with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over the 2019 State of the Union address, the president finally conceded that he doesn’t get to deliver the speech before a joint session of Congress unless he’s invited to do so — technically by the House and Senate, but as a practical matter by Pelosi herself. She’s going to wait until the ongoing “government shutdown” ends to invite him. He’s going to impatiently await that day.

      It’s not very often that I agree with any politician, let alone Pelosi. When I do, it’s usually on “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” grounds. This matter included. I don’t really care WHY she withdrew the invitation. I just hope it stays withdrawn. Forever.

      The Constitution requires the president to “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

      It does not require the president to do so in the form of a live speech. While the first two presidents (George Washington and John Adams) gave State of the Union speeches, the third (Thomas Jefferson) just sent a written report — as did every subsequent president for more than a century, until Woodrow Wilson revived the speech ritual.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Mortal Kombat 11 Skips Japan Release Due to Excessively Violent Content
      Mortal Kombat 11, the next fighting game by NetherRealm Studios, was announced during The Game Awards. The game was given a release date of April 23rd 2019 for PC and consoles. It seems that Mortal Kombat 11 will be blocked from releasing on Steam in Japan.
    • Cameroon Military Arresting, Trying, And Jailing Journalists On 'Fake News' Charges
      Here in the United States, the term "fake news" is used (most prominently by the President) to declaim news stories the reader doesn't like. It has little to do with whether or not the content is untruthful and almost everything to do with swinging public opinion against the press outlet and its reporting.

      The term has become a handy tool for autocrats and authoritarians seeking to punish journalists and others who publish content they don't like. The stakes in the United States are still low. Elsewhere in the world, real jail time is involved. If government officials don't like their dirty deeds exposed or their policies questioned, they just turn to a handy new set of laws predicated on a term no one can define.

      Daniel Funke at Poynter catches up on the story of Cameroonian journalist Akumbom Elvis McCarthy. McCarthy sent messages detailing brutal acts by law enforcement and the military, warning that the government treats reports of abusive behavior as "fake news." His call-out of the government's dismissive behavior towards its own problems was greeted with charges -- and six months in jail -- for disseminating "fake news."

    • D. Dalton, Rapporteur on Terrorism Regulation, about to enable Mass Censorship
      Daniel Dalton is a Member of the European Parliament (Conservative Party, part of the far-right ECR political group) and, as the text’s rapporteur, he is in charge of leading the debate on the Anti-Terrorism Censorship Regulation (read our article on this Regulation). Being from the UK, he will be leaving the European Parliament in a few months but, before then, he intends to let the European Union outsource censorship on the Internet to Google and Facebook, destroy small and medium Internet actors and let the police order removal of illicit content within one hour, without judicial authorization.

      Last Wednesday, he published his “draft report” – the baseline from which the European Parliament may amend the authoritarian Regulation proposed by the European Commission last September, and hastened by France and Germany. This draft report does not suggest many changes from the initial Regulation. Maybe Mr Dalton simply does not care about this Regulation, as he is about to leave us to our fate anyway.

    • Silence of the Lambs: The Case of Marzieh Hashemi
      In the wake of the outcry after the abduction and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi—in a foreign country and under the directive of a rogue Crown Prince—one would think the threshold to condemn the detention of an American journalist in the United States without charge or trial would be quite low. Unfortunately, it has proven to be nearly insurmountable.

      Marzieh Hashemi, a US citizen and anchorwoman of Iran’s English-language news station, PressTV, had been held under these circumstances for 10 days beginning shortly after her arrival to St. Louis Lambert International AirportJan. 12 to work on a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. She was finally released, again without charge, on Wed Jan. 23.

      Hashemi was purportedly an alleged material witness in an as-yet unspecified investigation. She was forced to remove her headscarf and offered pork to eat, both against the tenets of her religion, before being transferred to Washington, D.C. to an unknown location.

      As such, the muted response of those organizations whose primary purpose is to stand for press freedoms and human rights and against religious intolerance was rather remarkable.

      The Committee to Protect Journalists “expressed concern” in their statementon the situation but simultaneously found it necessary to add that, “Iran routinely jails journalists” as if to provide pretext for the US to do likewise.

    • Arrest of Marzieh Hashemi Reveals Bipartisan Nature of Police State
      Arresting PressTV’s Marzieh Hashemi on no criminal charges demonstrates by any objective measure the United States operates as a rogue state in its utter contempt for accepted international human-rights law and standards.

      Hashemi, an African American mother and grandmother converted to Islam, moved to Iran more than 25 years ago. She has become an internationally recognized journalist as a result of her press and media work in Iran, but specifically with her work on PressTV, an outlet that—like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom—receives most of its support from the Iranian government.

      Hashemi flew to the United States to visit an ailing brother and to complete a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. She was working on this film when she was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in Saint Louis. For two days, her family had no information on what had happened to her. When she was finally allowed to communicate with her children, they were horrified to learn that she had been disappeared by the FBI and moved to a detention center in Washington, D.C., where she was subjected to degrading treatment, including the forcible confiscation of her hijab, constant surveillance, disrespecting her halal diet as required of her adopted faith by feeding her animal products, and not informing her as to why she was being detained.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Data Privacy Year
      Today is Data Privacy Day, known in Europe as Data Protection Day.

      It's not new. Though created in 2006, it commemorates the Council of Europe treaty creating "the first binding international instrument which protects the individual against abuses which may accompany the collection and processing of personal data and which seeks to regulate at the same time the transfrontier flow of personal data." The treaty was signed on January 28, 1981, a date when the ancestors of today's PCs were still in the wombs of IBM and Apple. Hats off to Eurocrats who were decades ahead of a problem that's worse than ever.

      Clearly, a day isn't enough—not when most humans are still naked as newborns in the digital world, and not much better equipped to protect and project their privacy there.

      See, like nature in the physical world, the digital world came without privacy. But while we've had millennia to make privacy meaningful in the physical world, we've had only a few decades here in the virtual one where you're reading this now. And so far we've failed.

    • How WhatsApp Merger With Facebook Messenger Puts Your Privacy At Risk
      With the news that WhatsApp and Instagram are to merge 'under the hood' with Facebook Messenger to create a unified messaging platform...

    • Public Understanding of GDPR
      Today is the 13th annual Data Protection Day in Europe and the first since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force last May. We are publishing new research today about the public understanding of GDPR and what it means for how organisations communicate about how they use data.

    • Russian venture capitalists want lawmakers to legalize market for ‘depersonalized data’
      The Internet Initiatives Development Fund is lobbying Russian lawmakers to adopt new regulations that would allow citizens to sell their own “depersonalized data” on the open market. The venture capital fund says individuals could earn as much as 60,000 rubles ($900) a year by providing this information to different companies. The organization argues that the draft legislation would help reduce Russia’s existing black market trade of individuals’ personal data.

    • In WSJ Op-Ed, Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Down to Users and Misses the Point
      He starts with one of his greatest hits: “People consistently tell us that if they’re going to see ads, they want them to be relevant.” This perpetuates the ad industry’s favorite false dichotomy: either consumers can have “relevant” ads—targeted using huge collections of sensitive behavioral data—or they can be bombarded by spam for knock-off Viagra and weight-loss supplements. The truth is that ads can be made “relevant” and profitable based on the context in which they’re shown, like putting ads for outdoor gear in a nature magazine. To receive relevant ads, you do not need to submit to data brokers harvesting the entire history of everything you’ve done on and off the web and using it to build a sophisticated dossier about who you are.

      Zuckerberg soothingly reassures users that “You can find out why you’re seeing an ad and change your preferences to get ads you’re interested in. And you can use our transparency tools to see every different ad an advertiser is showing to anyone else.” But a recent Pew survey on how users understand Facebook’s data collection and advertising practices, and our own efforts to disentangle Facebook’s ad preferences, tell a far different story.

      Pew found that 74% of U.S. adult Facebook users didn’t even know that Facebook maintained information on their advertising interests and preferences in the first place. When Pew directed users to the ad preferences page where some of this information resides, 88% found there that Facebook had generated inferences about them, including household income level and political and ethnic “affinities.” Over a quarter of respondents said the categories “do not very or at all accurately represent them.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • An America That Keeps the Doors Open to Citizenship Is Better for New Americans, Old Americans, and Americans Still to Come
      President Trump’s latest compromise deal to end the government shutdown comes with strings—strict new anti-immigration rules on asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). All children from the Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salavador would be automatically rejected from asylum. Current DACA and TPS recipients would have to reapply rather than renew their membership. TPS recipients would have to meet an income and nationality test. These proposals would leave many people with established lives in the U.S. in legal limbo. As Democrats and moderate Republicans negotiate with the President, and some Democrats break ranks, they should consider the long-lasting consequences of any deal. Lives hang in the balance now – yes – but also, pressingly, for generations to come.

    • 5 Ways to Protect the Planet Without Disenfranchising People With Disabilities
      People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by disasters, which are worsening and increasing because of climate change. The National Council on Disability estimated that a “disproportionate number of the fatalities” amid Hurricane Katrina were people with disabilities. Typical evacuation routes and disaster plans are often not accessible to this vulnerable group, while interruptions to electricity are deadlier for those who require machines to treat medical conditions.

      And it isn’t just disasters like fires, superstorms, and floods. Extreme heat, which up to 75 percent of humanity may be at risk of experiencing by 2100, has adverse physical and mental health effects in healthy individuals. But people with neurological conditions who cannot sweat or regulate body temperature are even more vulnerable to extreme heat.

      And those are just a few examples.

      The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report released late last year identified poor—and those with disabilities of any kind are more likely to be poor than able-bodied people—and vulnerable (including those with health or physical conditions) people as those who will be affected first and hardest by a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

    • 2019: The Year to Examine Toxic Masculinity
      Toxic masculinity strikes again, this time in Provo, Utah on the day of the 2019 Women’s March. Police were alerted to the problem when Christopher Cleary posted on his Facebook page that All I wanted was a girlfriend. All I wanted was to be loved, yet no one cares about me I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend before and I’m still a virgin, this is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place soon and being the next mass shooter cause I’m ready to die and all the girls the turned me down is going to make it right by killing as many girls as I see.”

      Cleary was arrested on a charge of felony threat of terrorism. Although no official link has been made, it appears that Cleary identifies with incel culture, which blames women for their lack of relationships. Cleary is already on probation for stalking and harassing a woman in Colorado.

    • Will Self-Driving Cars Take Us to Utopia or Urban Hell?
      Despite public trepidation, self-driving cars are now debuting in San Francisco and Phoenix, Arizona. These robot taxis are required to have human backup drivers for now, but “autonomous vehicle” technology is quickly improving as major corporations such as Uber, Google, Apple and Tesla continue to invest.

      RehtinkX, an independent tech think tank, estimates that 95 percent of passenger miles traveled in the United States will be served by automated taxi services by 2030. Analysts and transportation advocates are no longer questioning whether self-driving cars, buses and delivery vehicles are going to a viable part of our transportation future. Instead, they are debating what that future should look like.

      Environmental equity researcher Hana Creger has two distinct visions of a future where self-driving vehicles are part of everyday life. She warns that if policy makers allow the market to make decisions without regulation, taxation and community input, we could be headed toward “transportation hell.” In this scenario, self-driving cars are used mainly by those wealthy enough to afford a luxury replacement to personal vehicles, leaving everyone else with congested streets, heavy traffic, longer commutes in sprawling cities and a deteriorating, underfunded public transportation system. Meanwhile, opportunities to cut climate-disrupting carbon emissions would be lost.

      On the other hand, Creger also envisions a modern landscape where self-driving cars are part of a cleaner transportation system built for everyone. In this scenario, fleets of electric automated vehicles are shared by commuters, reducing traffic and air pollution, and providing mobility that everyone can afford — including working people who currently use public transportation rather than personal cars and may not have immediate access to the latest smartphone or digital gadget. Self-driving taxis compliment walking, biking, and traditional bus and train routes rather than encourage urban sprawl and crowded highways.

    • Violence Against Indigenous People Is Rising Across the World
      “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.” — Jair Bolsonaro, quoted in Correio Braziliense newspaper, April 12, 1998, translated.

      Unfortunately, in spite of some gains here and there, the phenomenon of anti-Indigenous violence seems to be ramping up once again to match the sentiments of earlier colonizers around the world. Bolsonaro’s quote above — which is one of many the newly elected president of Brazil has expressed throughout his career, including those in his recent campaign promises — reflects this trend. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs reported in August 2018 that “more than ever before in recent times, Indigenous human rights defenders are being killed, attacked or harassed in their endeavors to protect their land. States, while not necessarily the perpetrators, are unwilling or unable to protect Indigenous Peoples and are even, in some cases, collaborating with the perpetrators.”

      According to an analysis by the Carnegie Endowment for Democracy, the context was usually relating to mega projects linked to extractive industries and big business.

      The United States is no exception. It is now clear that “Individual #1” can be considered a member of a group of dictators running world governments today, including a “new wave of elected dictators” that has recently emerged, who are engaging in assaults on Indigenous rights and lands. Moreover, like Bolsonaro, Donald Trump has a history of anti-Native racism.

      In 2000, when New York was considering expansion of American Indian casinos, Trump’s own casino company took out more than $1 million in ads depicting American Indians as violent criminals with ties to mobsters. This lobbying, which was never reported as such and was instead presented as an anti-gambling campaign, was later found illegal. The state lobbying commission imposed a $250,000 fine.

    • Uncle Sam Wants Your DNA: The FBI’s Plan to Create a Nation of Suspects
      Uncle Sam wants you.

      Correction: Uncle Sam wants your DNA.

      Actually, if the government gets its hands on your DNA, they as good as have you in their clutches.

      Get ready, folks, because the government— helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), President Trump (who signed the Rapid DNA Act into law), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget)—is embarking on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.
    • To live and learn like Lenin. ‘Meduza’ visits a Russian school where Soviet youth lives on
      Mass youth organizations were a childhood staple in the Soviet Union. The Little Octobrists (ages 7 – 9), the Young Pioneers (ages 9 – 14), and the Komsomol (ages 14 – 28) served an analogous purpose to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in the United States, but in 1991, they collapsed along with the state that sponsored them. Anna Gerlinger, the principal of School 35 in the southern industrial city of Novokuznetsk, decided that her school’s Young Pioneer organization would not follow suit: she feared that the school would “lose its identity.” 28 years later, School 35 is now a lyceum, and Octobrists and Pioneers still roam its halls. They have formal salutes, wear the Pioneers’ signature red kerchiefs, and sing the organization’s classic songs, but communist ideology no longer plays a major role in their activities. Meduza’s special correspondent Irina Kravtsova traveled to Novokuznetsk to meet the present-day Pioneers and their teachers.
    • Moscow city officials took 789 days to ‘fix’ a broken street light. (In the end they just removed it.)
      Once upon a time, Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov noticed that a street light not far from Vnukovo Airport had stopped working. Good Samaritan that he is, Golunov reported the outage on Moscow’s “My City” Web portal, where fellow citizens can notify local officials about problems in the area. Three weeks after Golunov submitted his report, the city responded and promised to repair the street light. So he waited. And then he waited some more. Seven-hundred, sixty-eight days later, Moscow officials finally acted, dismantling the street light and removing it completely.

    • Russia and Putin Mark 75 Years Since WWII Siege of Leningrad
      The Russian city of St. Petersburg marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the devastating World War II siege by Nazi forces with a large military parade Sunday in the city’s sprawling Palace Square.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin later laid flowers at a monument in Piskarevskoye Cemetery, where hundreds of thousands of siege victims are buried.

      The siege of the city, then called Leningrad, lasted nearly 2€½ years until the Soviet Army drove the Nazis away on Jan. 27, 1944.

      Estimates of the death toll vary, but historians agree that more than 1 million Leningrad residents died from hunger or air and artillery bombardments during the siege.

    • Leaving Food and Water for Migrants at the Border Shouldn’t Be a Crime
      On January 19, a federal judge found four women guilty of misdemeanors after they entered the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge along the U.S.-Mexico border without a permit. The group traveled there in August 2017 to leave food and water for migrants at a time when temperatures generally reach triple digits in the Arizona desert.

      The four individuals are members of No More Deaths – a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, which has been providing life-saving aid to migrants in desperate conditions.

      When the women were charged in December 2017, they at stated that they were motivated by religious convictions and a belief that all human beings should be provided with the means of survival.

    • Transcending Language Barriers to Connect With Asylum Seekers
      Many asylum seekers fleeing violence say there’s no obstacle that will deter them, not even a border wall.

    • The FBI Says It Can Neither Confirm Or Deny Social Media Monitoring Programs It Publicly Secured Contracts For

    • Dissenting Women
      Historian Linda Ford has written a stunning book: Women Politicals in America: Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart (2018, 564 pp.). In addition to the harrowing tales of women freedom fighters, we may be reminded of our national history through this lens. Ford’s book raises important questions we need to ponder. Women’s activism has sometimes promoted equality and freedom; what methods and political environment have enabled these advances? How have repression and co-optation diminished the struggles for justice? What still remains to fulfill the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the genuine “American Dream”?

      Since the 1960s, radical militancy challenging the root causes of poverty, racism, and war has cooled. One cause is much co-optation of radical protest into nongovernmental organizations. Another strike against signficant change was COINTELPRO, which disrupted movements and scared away new supporters. However, repression has been constant since colonial times. Ford, in her biographical sketches of women political prisoners, describes this in great detail. Along the way, similarly harsh treatment of male politicals is revealed. Even lawyers trying to ensure constitutional rights of accused dissenters are targeted. We are also reminded of the dismal state of justice and prison conditions for ordinary criminals.

    • Navalny foundation's office manager says police tried to recruit her as a mole, offering to pay for her mother's cancer treatment
      In a new video published on Alexey Navalny’s YouTube channel, an office manager for the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) named Olga Bulaeva recalls how the Russian police recently tried to recruit her to work against Navalny, offering to help pay for her mother’s cancer treatment.

      In a six-minute video shared on January 28, Bulaeva describes raising two children as a single mother, as her mother fights cancer and cares for her father who suffered a stroke several years ago. Bulaeva says two uniformed officers recently detained her at a subway station as she was returning home from work. The men forced her into a room and left her alone with someone who introduced himself as “Dmitry.” He refused to release her until she listened to his proposal: cooperate with the police and she would get help paying her mother’s medical bills. Bulaeva says she was led to believe that this cooperation meant leaking information about FBK or writing something defamatory about Navalny.
    • Those MAGA-Hatted Covington Kids
      Yes, the Black Hebrew Israelites spat racist taunts at the MAGA-hatted Kentucky high school kids. And yes, the drumming Native American inserted himself between the two groups.

      But the head MAGA boy did block the drummer’s path and stood there with a defiant smirk that exactly duplicated the sneers of his predecessors a couple generations ago who confronted blacks desegregating southern lunch counters.

      And the students backing the smirker instantly morphed Transformer-like into a mob that exactly duplicated the throngs celebrating ancient lynchings.

      After the nation’s initial shocked rejection of this scene, these history re-enactors are being raised on morning-TV network pedestals as youthful victims of a tragic rush to judgment.
    • The Covington Altar Boys, Institutional Racism and the Doctrine of Discovery
      The smirking Covington Altar Boys episode brings back memories of when I was attending a 99% white, elite, all boys Catholic High School. It was in 1963/65, the peak of Catholic culture in the US, with John Kennedy in the White House and Pope John XXIII in the Vatican. As a Freshman, I joined 264 other incoming 9th Graders at Sacred Heart Seminary, a ten-acre walled/fenced Gothic compound in Inner City Detroit, ostensibly there to train young men with “a vocation” for the priesthood. To say it was toxically hierarchical is an understatement (and, of course, it was toxically patriarchal).

      It was a weekday residential school for me, since I was from Flint. Five of us from Flint were car-pooled back and forth over weekends by our parents. Over half of us students were residential, sleeping in cavernous open three story-tall halls on the top floor of the huge 15-acre Gothic compound. Many others came from the wealthy suburbs surrounding Detroit and went home for their nights. I went from a week of classes and Masses and many other chapel times to weekends of being an altar boy at Masses, sometimes three or four per weekend. I never got a day off from Mass.

      We immediately were divided into six classes based solely on IQ tests they gave us…9A, 9B, 9C, 9D, 9E and 9F! Each class was successively larger as you went down the list. We spent most of our time in enforced silence. Older students were “”Prefects and Monitors” and gave out demerit slips for any talking during no talk periods, 3-hours a day of study halls and especially Grand Silence from 7PM until you sat down for breakfast, or other rules violations. We were awakened by a huge buzzer at 6am and were required to make our beds, shower, dress and be at morning prayers in the chapel by 6:20. All done in silence. You could not even give a meaningful glance to anyone w/o getting a demerit write-up!

    • Data Reveals Driving as a Person of Color in Illinois Leads to More Unjustified Searches
      Baseless traffic stops and inconsistent search standards harm the public trust and damage police-community relationships. In January 2016, Richard Jackson, a Black man, was driving to his home on Chicago’s West Side when he noticed a car trailing him. As he turned into the alley leading to his driveway, the unmarked police car pulled him over and four officers leapt out, demanding that he lower all four of his car’s windows. Jackson’s grandparents, who live with him, watched from their home’s window in fear.

      After running his license, one officer told Jackson he would be let go with a warning. But when Jackson asked why he had been stopped, the officer’s tone changed. In response, the officer angrily asked if Jackson wanted to “tell it to a judge” then lied and said that Jackson had cut off the police car and run a stop sign.

      The officer issued Jackson two citations, but Jackson fought the tickets and they were ultimately dismissed. Jackson filed a racial profiling complaint, only to have his case closed once his tickets were dismissed — meaning that no one ever investigated the officers' conduct that day.

    • Of DACA and the Word Wizard
      It all started in September 2017. That was when the Trump, acting through his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, let it be known that the program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was coming to an end. The program provided protection for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who had entered the United States illegally.

      DACA was the culmination of years of failed efforts by Congress to take steps to protect illegal immigrants. Those efforts began in 2002 with the introduction of legislation known as the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” or “Dream Act.” In its early incarnations, it was focused on providing financial aid for children who were in the country illegally. As it continued to be introduced in subsequent years, it was modified to include a pathway to citizenship for “dreamers.” Although the legislation was introduced repeatedly following its initial introduction in Congress in 2002, it never became law. As a result, the plight of “dreamers” remained in limbo. There are reportedly 3.6 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States who were brought into the United States before they attained age 18 and would be the beneficiaries of the legislation were it ever to pass. Without it they live under the constant threat of deportation.

    • Jenni Monet on Indigenous Journalism
      This week on CounterSpin: Media have allowed brouhaha over video of a group of high school kids in Trump hats appearing to mock a Native American elder to utterly eclipse reporting on the Indigenous Peoples March that was its context—though it’s not clear how much thoughtful attention the demonstration would have received anyway. Corporate media’s lack of interest in indigenous issues, and their ahistorical, distorted view of them when they do cover them, are long overdue for change.

      Jenni Monet is an independent reporter who writes about indigenous rights. We’ll talk with her about what’s missing from big media and what it means.

    • Romania to Give Holocaust Survivors Top Honors
      Romania’s president is giving one of the country’s highest honors to eight Romanian Jews who survived the Holocaust and dedicated their lives to keeping the memory of Holocaust victims alive.

      President Klaus Iohannis said he is awarding the national “Order of Faithful Service” honor to the Holocaust survivors on Monday to “mark their suffering … and for … moral attitude they showed during their lives.”

      One of the honorees, 94-year-old Rachel Davidovits was taken from her school in northern Romania and later deported to Auschwitz with her sister and parents.

      Some 280,000 Romanian Jews and 11,000 Roma were deported and killed when the country was run by pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu.

    • The Wall is Not Beautiful
      Donald Trump insists that the border wall he wants built will be nothing less than beautiful. He has assured us that the latest version, a series of steel slats topped by triangular spikes, will fulfill the non plus ultra of architectural design: it will be “totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” "Boom. Bing. Done."

      Hardly anyone believes it will be effective. Not against terrorism, not against drug cartels, and not against migrants. And hardly anyone believes it will be beautiful, either. But while a host of arguments have been raised against the wall's efficacy, almost nothing has been said about its supposed aesthetic virtues.

    • The Empathetic Trump
      It all started in September 2017. That was when the Trump, acting through his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, let it be known that the program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was coming to an end. The program provided protection for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who had entered the United States illegally.

      DACA was the culmination of years of failed efforts by Congress to take steps to protect illegal immigrants. Those efforts began in 2002 with the introduction of legislation known as the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” or “Dream Act.” In its early incarnations, it was focused on providing financial aid for children who were in the country illegally. As it continued to be introduced in subsequent years, it was modified to include a pathway to citizenship for “dreamers.” Although the legislation was introduced repeatedly following its initial introduction in Congress in 2002, it never became law. As a result, the plight of “dreamers” remained in limbo. There are reportedly 3.6 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States who were brought into the United States before they attained age 18 and would be the beneficiaries of the legislation were it ever to pass. Without it they live under the constant threat of deportation.

      In 2012, supporters of the legislation to protect dreamers persuaded President Obama to take steps to protect children who had been brought into this country illegally. On June 15, 2012, President Obama created DACA. Describing the program, the Department of Human Services said that immigrants who had been brought into the country illegally as children could be considered for temporary lawful status with work authorization, subject to taking certain steps to establish eligibility. Those steps included, among other things, demonstrating that on June 15, 2012 they were under the age of 31, had arrived in the United States, before attaining age 16, and had lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007, 5 years before DACA was created. DACA did not provide its beneficiaries the more comprehensive protection they would have received had Congress passed the Dream Act, but it was considerably better than nothing. And it was DACA that the Trump through his henchman Sessions, let the country know was coming to an end.

    • The 'Sympathetic Racist' Returns to the Big Screen in 'Green Book'
      This year a similar face-off seems to be brewing between “BlacKkKlansman,” based on the memoir by Ron Stallworth about a black undercover cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, and “Green Book,” based on real-life jazz pianist Don Shirley’s 1962 tour through the deep South with his Bronx-born Italian American driver, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. The former depicts various types of racists, ranging from bug-eyed Klansmen to well-meaning bureaucrats. The latter centers on an overeducated snob, played by Mahershala Ali, who won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar, and his lovable lug of a racist driver played by Viggo Mortensen, also nominated.

      One thing among many that “Green Book” and “Driving Miss Daisy” have in common is the portrayal of what might be, and has been, called a “sympathetic racist.” It’s a figure not found in any of the movies made by people of color this year—“The Hate U Give,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Sorry to Bother You”—or any other. Among white directors, on the other hand, it’s common in films that take race as a focus.

      The character type has reliably appeared in a series of high-profile films, from Stanley Kramer’s “The Defiant Ones,” in which Tony Curtis plays a sympathetic racist chained to fellow escaped convict Sidney Poitier, to Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” in which Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn have to decide if a kind and handsome doctor who works with the U.N. (again, Poitier) is good enough to marry their unaccomplished daughter. In more recent years, Clint Eastwood directed and starred as a sympathetic racist in “Gran Torino,” about a widowed vet rankled by his Vietnamese neighbors.

    • States are on the front lines of fighting inequality
      When Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., almost immediately took aim at America’s growing income inequality by recommending a 70 percent tax rate on income over US$10 million.

      Income inequality refers to the unequal distribution of income between the rich and poor.

      Inequality in the U.S. has dramatically increased since the 1970s, under both liberal and conservative administrations in Washington. And the kind of policy Ocasio-Cortez is proposing will be impossible to pass with the polarized politics in Washington D.C.

      The federal government could reduce inequality by raising the federal minimum wage, raising taxes on the wealthy, regulating the financial sector and strengthening labor unions.

      Instead, the federal government has more often done the opposite in recent decades, and these actions have contributed to growing inequality. In my recent book with William Franko, “The New Economic Populism: How States Respond to Inequality,” we examine what the states are doing to combat inequality in the absence of federal action to address it.

    • Facebook knowingly duped game-playing kids and their parents out of money
      Facebook orchestrated a multiyear effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back, according to court documents unsealed tonight in response to a Reveal legal action.

      The records are part of a class-action lawsuit focused on how Facebook targeted children in an effort to expand revenue for online games, such as Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga.

      The more than 135 pages of unsealed documents, which include internal Facebook memos, secret strategies and employee emails, paint a troubling picture of how the social media giant conducted business.

    • Police Release Video of Officers’ Fatal Struggle With Teen
      Officials have released body camera video of a deadly encounter between police and a black teenager who died after struggling with officers in a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, footage that fueled a civil rights group’s call for an independent investigation.

      Greensboro Police Chief Mike Petyo released the footage after a county prosecutor announced Thursday that he isn’t asking a grand jury to consider criminal charges in the September 2018 death of 19-year-old Anton Black.

      The video shows Black’s mother screaming after police chased her son to his family’s home, where an officer smashed a car window and shocked Black with a stun gun before the teen struggled with three officers and a civilian. The footage also captured how Black’s mother and officers reacted when they realized he stopped responding.

      Caroline County State’s Attorney Joseph Riley said in a statement that his office “is not empowered to prosecute tragic acts.” An autopsy report, signed Wednesday by the state’s chief medical examiner, says Black’s congenital heart condition, mental illness, and stress from the struggle likely contributed to his death.
    • From MLK To Nathan Phillips: Love Can Defeat Hate
      Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Day coincided with a viral race-fueled interaction between a Native American man by the name of Nathan Phillips and a gang of budding Trump fascists. The video went viral not so much for the events of the day itself, but for the chilling feeling, one got after watching the video. As Nathan Phillips plays his drum, chants and prays, he is surrounded by a group of devilish children who appear to lack any form of feeling other than the desire to humiliate and degrade. As the gang leader stares at Mr. Phillips, one can see the coldness in his eyes. The smirk on his face declares that this is all a sick joke. Mr. Phillips’ sincerity, passion and desire for a better world is nothing but weakness to this young man. It’s a haunting picture of Trump’s America.

      The leader’s followers are no better. One begins to feel trapped as it feels like the gang is surrounding the viewer. You get the sense that they could do something awful and go home, without a care in the world. The gang looks homogenous, organized and ruthless. They even look modern—a new image of fascism, away from the black and white photos, begins to emerge. There at least feels like a threat of violence is about to boil over. We should be glad no one was armed. This is Trump’s America, ready to blow.

    • 'These Are Not Normal Nominees': As Trump Stacks Courts With Far-Right Judges, Dems Urged to Recognize Depth of Crisis
      Data for Progress, as co-founder Jon Green outlined Thursday, analyzed data—compiled by political scientists Maya Sen of Harvard and Adam Bonica of Stanford—going back to the Nixon administration for district courts and courts of appeals appointees.

      For those who hadn't donated to campaigns, researchers examined other available information, such as "age, race, employment history, party of appointing president, and ideologies of home state senators, and the judiciary committee chair who oversaw their confirmation."

      The think tank found that "Trump's appointments stand out as being conservative, white, and male relative to his predecessors'—though they do not seem to be significantly younger than the appointments made by earlier presidents. Over 90 percent of Trump's appointments so far have been white and three quarters have been men, combining for over 70 percent who are both white and male."

    • In Praise of Direct Action (and More)
      As the partial federal shutdown moved into its third week, I found myself thinking about the late left economist and sociologist Giovanni Arrighi’s concept of “workplace bargaining power” (WBP). By WBP, Arrighi meant the ability some strategically placed workers possess to idle capital and harm profits by bottle-necking the interdependent, integrated, and continuous flow of production. This, Arrighi argued, was different from the special “marketplace bargaining power” (MBP) some workers derive from the possession of scarce skills. WBP is available to “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” workers by virtue of their strategic position in highly capital-intensive production processes. It was no small part, Arrighi theorized, of how the United States’ once powerful industrial unions arose amidst the mass unemployment of the Great Depression [1].


      Corporate Media Spin: A Great Victory…for Nancy Pelosi

      Notice the framing on “liberal” (Democratic) CNN and MSNBC: the end of the shutdown has been repeatedly called “a victory for Nancy Pelosi,” but not and more accurately a victory by and for working people, who exercised critical workplace, marketplace, civic, moral, and political bargaining power at the strategic point of airline flight production. No surprise there. Acknowledging the political potency of direct action by ordinary working people beneath and beyond the masters’ election cycle is pretty much a no-no in the corporate news and commentary complex. At CNN and MSDNC, where practically one-third of air-time goes to corporate advertisers (with Big Pharma represented to a comic degree), it’s all about two capital-serving things right now

    • The Nine Worst Lawfare Injustices in the US and What They Tell Us About Ourselves
      The law should apply equally to everyone. The 14thAmendment guarantees to all Americans the “equal protection of the laws”. But when we go to war this guarantee is often violated. War means designating an “enemy” to be defeated using every available means including the law. We call this “lawfare” when the law, instead of providing equal protection, is bent to become a weapon of war against a certain targeted “enemy”.

      The Japanese internment during World War II is perhaps the clearest example of “lawfare”. 110,000 Japanese Americans, 60% of whom were US citizens, were forced to abandon their homes and businesses on the west coast of America and became internees in concentration camps for years. Although the Supreme Court (in Korematsu v. US, 323 US 214 (1944)) was deeply concerned that this internment of mostly American citizens, some with as little as one-sixteenth Japanese blood, was a racist, discriminatory order which violated the 14thAmendment, the Solicitor General assured the Supreme Court that a classified report by the Department of Defense said that the west coast Japanese represented a security threat to the US. Without having seen the classified report, the Supreme Court upheld the internment order stating that during a national security crisis, the Court should give appropriate deference to the executive branch’s handling of the crisis. Years later, historians found the report and discovered that the overall consensus of security experts was to the contrary; the Japanese-Americans were nota security threat. Apparently, the Solicitor General felt compelled to lie. Truth is generally the first casualty of war…and of lawfare.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Changes in Qualcomm's market power over the years and their relevance to antitrust remedies
      Tomorrow (Monday) the FTC will get a couple of hours for its rebuttal, and its sole live witness will be Professor Carl Shapiro. Qualcomm's experts tried to discredit his analysis. Reasonable people can always disagree on methodology: economics is not an exact science. But those Qualcomm experts taking aim at Professor Shapiro's approach by claiming it wasn't sufficiently numbers-driven were, to put it mildly, a case of the pot calling the kettle black. One of them, Dr. Chipty, couldn't deny having failed to consider more than 200 million baseband chips in Samsung phones; two others, Professor Snyder and Professor Nevo, had little more to offer than a convoluted version of "you can't argue with success." The latter spouted nonsense about Microsoft's past per-hardware vs. per-software operating system licensing strategy and the practical implications of chipset licensing, and in a language spoken widely in San Jose and even more widely in Qualcomm's town, he was simply "hundido" after he had to concede his FRAND "analysis" ignored key contract terms and multiple major licensees to the point he might have excluded most of the market.

    • Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Iancu (Fed. Cir. 2019)
      Last week, in Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Iancu, the Federal Circuit reversed the entry of summary judgment by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which concluded that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had not erred in calculating the Patent Term Adjustment (PTA) for U.S. Patent No. 8,747,897. The '897 patent, which is directed to an oral osmotic pharmaceutical dosage form of treprostinil, is owned by Appellant Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and exclusively licensed by Appellant United Therapeutics Corp.

      During prosecution of U.S. Application No. 11/412,100, which issued as the '897 patent, the Examiner issued a final Office Action, and Supernus responded by filing a Request for Continued Examination (RCE). After filing the RCE, Supernus was notified that an opposition had been filed in related European Patent No. EP 2 010 189 (which had issued from a European application corresponding to an International application that claimed priority from the '100 application). One hundred days after the European Patent Office's notification of the opposition, Supernus filed a supplemental Information Disclosure Statement (IDS) citing the Notice of Opposition and other documents concerning the opposition. The USPTO ultimately issued the '100 application as the '897 patent, determining that the '897 patent was entitled to 1,260 days of PTA. The Office's PTA determination included an assessment of 886 days of applicant delay, of which 646 days were assessed for the time between the filing of the RCE and the submission of the supplemental IDS. Supernus filed a request for Reconsideration of Patent Term Adjustment, arguing that the Office should have applied 37 C.F.R. ۤ 1.704(c)(6) in this instance rather than 37 C.F.R. ۤ 1.704(c)(8). The Office, however, rejected Supernus' request, concluding that ۤ 1.704(c)(8) applied and that the 646-day reduction in PTA was proper.

    • Reduced to Practice, but Not Yet Ready for Patenting
      In a split decision, the Federal Circuit has sided with the patentee Dr. Barry — affirming the induced infringement and $17 million damages judgments as well as several determinations regarding the public-use and on-sale statutory bars. The patents here are directed to spine surgery methods that involve large screws drilled into the spine.


      The dissenting opinion by Chief Judge Prost offers a concise explanation of a primary issue in the case:

      The facts are simple. More than one year before filing for the ’358 patent, Dr. Barry successfully performed his claimed surgical method on three different patients, charging each his normal fee. Dr. Barry’s method was thus prima facie “on sale” or in “public use” before the critical date under 35 U.S.C. €§ 102(b) [pre-AIA].
      The majority added to these facts — that Dr. Barry was not satisfied that his method worked well enough until follow-up testing that occurred after the third surgery.

    • Copyrights

      • Foreign Stream-Ripping Site Wins Against Music Labels Based On Jurisdiction
        It's been quite frustrating to watch the music industry continually turn its legal gaze to whatever it insists is the "new" threat. From the traditional piratey-scapegoats like Napster, to torrent sites, and on to file-lockers, before finally moving over to stream-ripping sites -- it's been quite predictable, if a bit silly. As with so many industry-led crusades against technology tools, this attack on these types of sites carries with it the misguided notion that because a site or tool can be used to infringe on music copyrights, it therefore is an enemy and must be shut down entirely. We've seen this same tactic used against tons of technology tools that have had perfectly legal uses in the past, but in the case of stream-ripping sites, most have decided to simply fold.

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