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Links 3/2/2019: 4MLinux 27.2, LibreELEC 9.0, LibreOffice 6.2 RC3, Qt 5.12.1 Released

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  • Why Linux on Samsung DeX creates challenges for IT
    Samsung DeX combines the portability of mobile devices with the compute power of desktops, but users that want to use Linux on Samsung DeX can create a few challenges for IT.

    Samsung DeX -- which works with the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+, Note8, S9/S9+, Note9 and Tab S4 -- combines the compute power of the device and its Qualcomm Snapdragon chip in an emulation mode with a dock or cable to create a hardware connection for peripherals. Using a Citrix or VMware virtual desktop, users can plug in a large monitor, keyboard and mouse to achieve a desktop experience on a monitor from their mobile devices. This approach is attractive to users who occasionally need the full PC experience but are highly reliant on their smartphones for day-to-day work.

  • Desktop

    • What defines a top-tier, open source music player for Linux?

      In the two or so years I've been writing this music column, the Linux audiophile's world has evolved. New Linux distros and open source audio players have appeared, old ones have fallen by the wayside, a lot more music is available as high-quality digital downloads, new and high-quality playback hardware has emerged, streaming has taken off, vinyl sales continue to increase, CD and download sales continue to decrease… Therefore, it seems to be a good point to revisit my criteria for judging an open source music player and reconsider the players I've mentioned in the past.

    • 8 open source music players for Linux

      In the first part of this series, I write about the key requirements for an audiophile digital music player and shared the criteria I use to evaluate open source music players. Here in the second part, I'll use those criteria to help you pick the right software for your needs.

      First off, there are a lot of open source music players out there! Which is a wonderful thing, because each one is designed to make someone (or several someones) happy, depending on the features they require. A number of very thoughtfully designed and popular players don't serve my criterion of passing music directly through to my DAC, including Amarok (see this discussion), Clementine (see this discussion), and JuK (the only information I could find about setting output devices dates back to 2005).

    • Pine64 will have a busy 2019 thanks to the release of its new Linux laptop and tablet
      Pine64, the organization behind the Pine A64 SBC and Pinebook, is planning to release a new Linux-based laptop and a new tablet. Dubbed the Pinebook Pro and PineTab, respectively, the two devices aim to offer an open-source computing experience at a low price. The Pinebook Pro is priced at US $199 while the PineTab is priced at US $79.

    • ZaReason Gamerbox 9400: The ultimate Linux gaming PC
      few years back, Gabe Newell, Valve's CEO, said, "Linux is the future of gaming." Well, that didn't happen, but Valve, creator of the Steam game engine and network, is renewing its push for Linux games. So, it makes good sense that ZaReason, a Linux computer manufacturer, has released a top-of-the-line gaming PC: The ZaReason Gamerbox 9400.

      ZaReason CEO Cathy Malmrose said the GameBox 9400 was only the start. "Our current team is mostly gamers so, not surprisingly, that is the direction we are going. We have a full line of gaming machines in R&D," Malmrose said.

    • MX Tools revisited - A Swiss Army knife of penguins
      MX Tools continues to be one of the best and most unique Linux projects in a long while. It's original, refreshing and highly useful, especially to new users. The repertoire of utilities in this toolbox is very handy. System repair applications, tweak applications, codecs and drivers, and the lovely jubbly Package Installer. If you're not in the mood to work on the command line, you really don't have to.

      But there's always more that can be done. Integration into the system settings menu, for instance. Simulated runs. The ability to script actions so that users can have them available for deployment on other systems. The ability to revert actions (and not just to a default reset state). Perhaps MX Tools can be part of a first-run wizard that helps configure the system extras. And then, Xfce feels a bit outdated nowadays, so maybe branching into the world of online stuff wouldn't be bad - a cloud/online section with accounts, storage and such.

      All in all, MX Tools is a great feature. I haven't tested everything to the last detail, but from what I did do, I can say that the utilities are rather intuitive and safe, and they work reliably. Even experienced users will benefit from the toolbox, on top of already friendly defaults that Continuum has. The originality angle is another bonus, because there is a real effort of making something new and fun. More than worth testing. There you go.

  • Server

    • Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX Regressions: Dynamic Local Mode vs. Coreprio
      If you give Coreprio or DLM a go, and have interesting experiences to share, please feel free to leave a comment. Again, we’re having a hard time believing that the Windows fix for this regression issue will hit Windows 10 soon, but we can hope something will speed the process up. Until then, know that Linux takes better advantage of the chip than Windows, and that Coreprio can work as a stop-gap until an official fix drops.

    • Cumulus And Nutanix Hyper-Converged Partnership: 5 Things To Know
      CRN breaks down five things partners and customers need to know about the Nutanix and Cumulus Networks' new hyper-converged infrastructure partnership.

    • Migrating from Unix to Linux with VLSS
      “They are happier because they can do these projects and upgrades faster with less headaches,” Bolton said.

      There is a savings that comes from migrating to Linux, Bolton explained, it is a better business proposition to virtualize.

      The only drawback to the process was a learning curve, Bolton said. VLSS helped workers understand the system and employees attended training classes on how to do Linux operations.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • LHS Episode #268: Getting the AX
      Welcome to the 268th episode of Linux in the Ham Shack! In this episode, we discuss several amateur radio, Open Source and Linux in the Ham Shack-y topics. Those include a special call sign prefix for Australia, the Amateur Radio Parity Act (again), vulnerabilities in APT, API vs. IP, PJON, Pat and so much more. Thank you for tuning in. We love you all.

    • Floating Point Problems | TechSNAP 396
      Jim and Wes are joined by OpenZFS developer Richard Yao to explain why the recent drama over Linux kernel 5.0 is no big deal, and how his fix for the underlying issue might actually make things faster.

      Plus the nitty-gritty details of vectorized optimizations and kernel preemption, and our thoughts on the future of the relationship between ZFS and Linux.

    • LHS Episode #269: The Weekender XXIII
      Welcome to our latest edition of The Weekender. In this episode, the hosts discuss the usual blend of hedonism mixed with some upcoming amateur radio contests and special event stations, interesting Linux distributions, open-source events and news, interesting discussion and much more. Thank you for being a listener. We appreciate each and every one of you!

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 5.0, RTX 2060, ZoL & Other Topics Dominating Discussions For January
      January was certainly an exciting month with the Linux 5.0 kernel taking shape, the GeForce RTX 2060 launch and other new hardware, approaching the exciting open-source Radeon VII launch, and other Linux/open-source events to help warm up those otherwise experiencing a frigid winter.

    • Kernel 4.4.172 Breaking Some Application
      If you live in the stable environment, you will notice that Patrick has issued a new update on the kernel packages that fixed several security vulnerabilities and also some other minor issues found during kernel development and backported to earlier LTS release. Unfortunately, this new release broke some user-space application as they changed some of the API during the development, which was get_user_pages. It's still unknown why this changes happening on -stable releases which shouldn't change any interfaces.

    • Video: Another Kernel Report from LWN's Jon Corbet at LCA 2019
      I haven't watched it yet but I bet it's yet another good one from Jon.

    • Select HP Systems Can Now Update Their Firmware From Linux With Fwupd+LVFS
      After hinting another major OEM was to join the LVFS, Richard Hughes of Red Hat announced today that HP is the latest company backing the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) for distributing system firmware updates via this platform that is then applied on systems via Fwupd and conveniently exposed through the likes of GNOME Software.

      HP backing the LVFS for distributing firmware updates on Linux now pretty much rounds out the major OEMs for using this as the de facto platform for providing system firmware updates conveniently to Linux desktop users. There still are a few companies not onboard like Microsoft and Razer systems at the moment, but LVFS+Fwupd has pretty good coverage now among the major hardware vendors for supporting firmware updates as well as more and more peripheral devices from storage drives to Logitech hardware.

    • Please welcome HP to the LVFS
      As some of you have successfully guessed, HP Inc have been testing the LVFS for a few months now. There are now a few devices by HP available in the stable metadata and there are many more devices planned. If you’ve got a Z2, Z6, Z8, Z440, Z640 or Z840 system then you might want to check for an update in the GNOME Software updates panel or using fwupdmgr update in the terminal. There are quite a few updates with important fixes for various CVEs. I don’t know how many different models of HP hardware they are planning to support, or the order that they will be uploaded but I’m happy with progress.

    • dhcpcd hooks: what are they and why should you care?
      I know I didn't know what dhcpcd hooks were and why I should care about them. That is, until I set up a file server that runs headless and which I want to make sounds when certain events, such as the network coming up, occur. This, as may be evident, will help me ascertain whether, in absence of a monitor displaying graphical indicators, the machine booted and came online successfully--a pretty important status for a machine like a file server.

      dhcpcd (the final "d" stands for "daemon") is, of course, the utility that runs on a lot of Linux computers in order to get them connected to the network. It polls for an IP from whatever dhcp (dynamic host configuration protocol) server is running on the network, and the IP received gets assigned to the computer's designated network interface. So the "hooks" under discussion essentially latch onto that process and cause some other process(es) to be triggered once dhcpcd accomplishes its task. This, then, could allow me to implement the desired behavior on my headless file server

    • Linux Foundation

      • How to start and organize a Kubernetes meetup
        The rise of microservices and containers have given birth to thousands of different open source projects. Many of them are hosted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), with Kubernetes probably the best-known.

        One of the easiest (read: best) ways to learn and be part of this exciting technology advance is to join a local Kubernetes meetup group. But what if there's not a Kubernetes meetup in your area? The answer is easy: start one.

      • Portworx Looks To Improve Cloud Native Kubernetes Data Portability
        As organizations increasingly choose to adopt cloud native Kubernetes technologies, there is a corresponding need to make it easier to deploy and manage storage.

        Helping enterprises to manage storage in Kubernetes is the mission that Goutham Rao has been on since he helped to start Portworx in December 2014. Portworx is an enterprise grade cloud native storage vendor, and is a contributor to multiple open-source efforts. The company's flagship product PX-Enterprise was updated to version 2.0 in December 2018, providing new capabilities to help organizations migrate container storage with PX-Motion and manage data with PX-Central.

        In a video interview with eWEEK, Rao provides insight into the latest features in his company's cloud native storage platform and where the technology is headed.

      • The Linux Foundation brings order to the edge
        The new umbrella organisation is tasked with establishing "an open, interoperable framework for edge computing, irrespective of hardware, silicon, cloud or operating system".

        In its announcement, the foundation noted that far greater harmonisation of the anticipated 20 billion edge devices likely to have been deployed by 2020 would be required for the full potential of the Internet of things (IOT) to be achieved.

        Edge computing enables connected devices to process data where it is created (at "the edge" of the network), reducing latency and providing an alternative to sending data to a centralised cloud or data centre for processing.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Linux DRM Gets CRTC Background Color Property For Memory Bandwidth Savings
        The Linux kernel's Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) code getting a "CRTC background color" property value may not seem exciting, but it can mean video memory bandwidth savings and thus better performance or power savings.

        Intel developers have been working on this DRM CRTC background color proeprty and getting it supported by their "i915" DRM driver. The basis for this work has been for Google with Chrome OS but can be relevant to others as well. This new property is for use by display controllers that can be programmed to use a non-black color for pixels not covered by a display plane, basically untouched areas of what is to be presented on the display. Rather than needing to render say a plain colored background, this DRM CRTC background color property could be set to the desired color and the compositor could just deal with smaller planes for displaying the areas of the screen with something more to display.

      • Virgl Gallium3D Inching Closer To OpenGL 4.4, Crosses Off ARB_query_buffer_object
        Fresh on the Mesa 19.1 development cycle, the Virgl Gallium3D driver that is used as part of OpenGL acceleration for KVM guests with VirtIO-GPU is seeing some improvements.

        First up, Virgl now supports ARB_query_buffer_object. Making this more exciting is that was one of three extensions left blocking Virgl from seeing OpenGL 4.4 support. Currently Virgl is at GL 4.3 but now just needs to take care of ARB_buffer_storage and ARB_clear_texture before it will be able to cross the GL 4.4 milestone. And then for GL 4.5, it will have to handle ARB_clip_control and KHR_robustness.
      • Gallium3D's Mesa State Tracker Sees Shaders Ported From TGSI To NIR For Capable Drivers
        Kenneth Graunke of Intel's Open-Source Technology Center team is the developer who has been leading the charge for the past year on developing the Intel "Iris" Gallium3D driver that eventually should succeed their "i965" classic Mesa driver for Broadwell hardware and newer. Today he issued a pull request for some improvements to Gallium3D's Mesa state tracker itself.

        With the new Intel Gallium3D driver, it's leveraging Intel's existing and mature NIR compiler support that is also used by their ANV Vulkan driver, among other shared code with this new OpenGL driver effort. NIR is also the intermediate representation that's beginning to be used by RadeonSI Gallium3D too in order for getting to OpenGL 4.6, Freedreno and VC4 drivers already make extensive use of NIR, and there is also work ongoing for having Nouveau use NIR. The use of NIR is in place of Gallium3D's long-standing TGSI intermediate representation, which is still used throughout the Gallium3D components in Mesa.

      • A Second Round Of AMDGPU Feature Updates Ready For Linux 5.1
        Last week AMD submitted their initial batch of feature changes slated for Linux 5.1 with their AMDGPU DRM graphics driver. Today that's been complemented by a second pull request of new material to come with this next version of the Linux kernel.

        This week's pull request is primarily about fixing bugs and includes an SR-IOV fix, a PCI Express fix for the new Vega 20 graphics processors, and a few various DC/display fixes.

      • AMD Prepping Compute Shader Support For Video Compositor Rendering
        AMD's Linux graphics deriver developers are preparing a set of Mesa patches that allow for compute shaders to be used for the video compositor render process within Gallium3D's video layer code.

        This compute shader video compositor render support is within the common Gallium3D code but obviously written with AMD's RadeonSI driver in mind. Activating this compute shader support requires setting the CS_COMPOSITOR_render=true environment variable.

      • AMDVLK Driver Updated With Environment Variable To Enable Experimental Extensions
        AMD normally just does one code drop per week to their open-source "AMDVLK" Linux Vulkan driver code-base but now today marks the second time this week being greeted by new code. This latest release, v-2019.Q1.5, should provide for some fun weekend testing by Linux gamers preferring this driver over Mesa's RADV.

        Earlier this week saw the AMDVLK 2019.Q1.4 build with Vega 20 support as well as Raven 2 support. There were also some DXX fixes/adjustments, more VK_EXT_transform_feedback code being merged, and other changes.

      • Weston Adds Pixman Renderer Config Option
        In making it easier to persistently enable Weston's Pixman rendering code, the next Weston release offers up a configuration file option for flipping it on.

        The Pixman renderer for Wayland's Weston compositor is primarily used as a fall-back in the case the OpenGL (ES) renderer isn't working for one reason or another, but should you want to use this Pixman software-based rendering, it can now be enabled with the Weston configuration by adding use-pixman=true to the core section. Weston has long supported a --use-pixman switch when launching the compositor, but this option makes it easier should you want it to be persistent, etc.

      • Intel's Linux 5.1 Graphics Driver Will Have Fastboot By Default, More Icelake Bits
        Intel's open-source Linux graphics driver team has sent out another feature batch of changes for queuing in DRM-Next ahead of the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle.

        Already on the plate for Linux 5.1 as it pertains to the Intel Direct Rendering Manager / Kernel Mode-Setting (DRM/KMS) driver is more Icelake additions/fixes, frame-buffer compression for 5K displays with Gen10 Cannonlake and newer, new Icelake PCI IDs, and other low-level code improvements.

      • Mesa Now Supports S3TC Texture Compression With sRGB Color Components
        Since the notorious S3TC patent expired at the end of 2017, this common texture compression implementation for OpenGL has been supported by mainline Mesa. It's now been extended to also support sRGB non-linear color components.

    • Benchmarks

      • Ubuntu vs. Debian vs. openSUSE On The POWER9 Raptor Talos II
        While we frequently compare the performance of many x86_64 Linux distributions, we haven't done one under IBM POWER9 since getting our hands on the Raptor Computing Systems' Talos II back in November. It's been very interesting to benchmark this libre hardware that's high performance with having 44 cores / 176 threads at 3.80GHz. But how much more performance can be tapped by using other Linux distributions? Here's a look with some of the current POWER9 Linux distribution options.

      • Initial Hands-On & Benchmarking With The Dell XPS 9380 Pre-Loaded With Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
        Dell recently announced the XPS 9380 Developer Edition laptop as a minor refinement over the 9370: there's now Intel Whiskey Lake processors with minor performance boosts and the web camera is better positioned, while for the "Developer Edition" Sputnik models it means Ubuntu 18.04 LTS rather than Ubuntu 16.04 on the former model or Microsoft Windows 10. The testing so far of the Dell XPS 9380 Developer Edition has been going well and I will have my full benchmark review out soon, but for this weekend are some preliminary data points.

        In the next week or two will be the full Dell XPS 9380 Linux review on Phoronix primarily looking at its performance compared to the previous Dell XPS 9370 and an assortment of older laptops going back to the Sandy Bridge days, including performance-per-Watt and other metrics. There will also be a Linux distribution comparison with the Dell XPS 9380 if Ubuntu isn't your thing.

  • Applications

    • Terminalizer – Record Your Linux Terminal and Generate Animated GIF
      Terminalizer is a free, open source, simple, highly customizable and cross-platform program to record your Linux terminal session and generate animated gif images or share a web player.

      It comes with custom: window frames, fonts, colors, styles with CSS; supports watermark; allows you to edit frames and adjust delays before rendering. It also supports rendering of images with texts on them as opposed to capturing your screen which offers better quality.

    • OpenVPN 3 Linux Client Moving Closer To Release As A Big Update
      While many are looking forward to the day when WireGuard support is mainlined within the Linux kernel and declared as stable and widely supported as a next-gen secure VPN tunnel, for those making use of OpenVPN currently, the OpenVPN 3 Linux client has been taking shape as a big step forward on the OpenVPN front.

    • Shortwave – GTK3 internet radio software
      I recently explored the virtues of odio, a cross-platform radio streaming software that pulls 20,000 stations from a community database, Sadly, odio is not released under an open source license, although its developer is considering reviewing the position.

      If you’ve a strong commitment to using open source software, is there a good alternative to odio? Step forward Shortwave, a quirky name for software that streams radio stations over the net. Like odio, Shortwave uses the community database.

      Shortwave was previously known as Gradio. Shortwave is its latest reincarnation. Whereas Gradio was written in the Vala programming language, Shortwave is a rewrite in the Rust programming language.

    • 10 Best Team Viewer Alternatives for Linux in 2019
      In a recent article, I covered The Best Open Source Software in 2018 (Users’ Choice). Today, I’m covering the best remote desktop access clients for Linux.

      TeamViewer is proprietary multi-platform software that enables users to control computers remotely and enjoy other features like desktop sharing, web conferencing, file transfer, and online meetings.

      In the true spirit of open source, there are a thousand and one similar software options that are just as good, thus, here is my list of the 10 best TeamViewer alternatives of 2019 for Linux users.

    • Flameshot is an Amazing Screenshot Tool
      If you are someone who depends on saving screenshots a lot in your work, then you would find the default screenshoot tools on Linux (Such as GNOME Screenshot, Kscreenshot..) very limited to your own daily needs. Those tools do not come with any features other than just taking a screenshot for some parts of the screen. Luckily, there’s a tool called Flameshot to solve this issue.

      Flameshot is a cross-platform, free and open-source tool to take screenshots with many built-in features to save you time. The main feature you would like in it is that it allows you directly to edit the screenshot you took; You can add blur effects, texts, shapes & arrows with all the colors you want just directly after you take it. This doesn’t happen in a new window, but rather on the desktop where you tool the picture itself.

    • Kiwi TCMS 6.4
      We're happy to announce Kiwi TCMS version 6.5! This is a minor security, improvement and bug-fix update that includes new versions of Django and other dependencies, removes some database fields, includes backend API updates and fixes several bugs.

    • 10 Cool Command Line Tools For Your Linux Terminal
      In this article, we will share a number of cool command-line programs that you can use in a Linux terminal. By the end of this article, you will learn about some free, open source, and exciting, text-based tools to help you do more with boredom on the Command line.

    • 7 Useful Alternatives to the Top Utility
      The top utility will need little introduction to seasoned Linux users. top is a small utility that offers a dynamic real-time view of a running system. It allows users to monitor the processes that are running on a system. top has two main sections, with the first showing general system information such as the amount of time the system has been up, load averages, the number of running and sleeping tasks, as well as information on memory and swap usage. The second main section displays an ordered list of processes and their process ID number, the user who owns the process, the amount of resources the process is consuming (processor and memory), as well as the running time of that process. Some versions of top offer extensive customization of the display, such as choice of columns or sorting method.

      top is a very popular utility. It helps with system administration by identifying users and processes that are hogging the system. It is also useful for non-system administrators, helping to track and kill errant processes. However, top is showing its age and there are a bunch of utilities that offer a more feature-laden alternative. The purpose of this article is to identify alternatives to top that offer more control in managing processes on a running system.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Valve Publishes Initial Steam Linux Figures For 2019
        Steam's Linux marketshare ended 2018 at around 0.82% for the month of December, which has been rising in recent months following Valve's roll-out of Steam Play for allowing Windows games to run on Linux with the Steam client using their Wine-based Proton and DXVK.
      • CrossCode is an Awesome 16-bit Sci-Fi RPG Game
        What starts off as an obvious sci-fi 16-bit 2D action RPG quickly turns into a JRPG inspired pseudo-MMO open-world puzzle platformer. Though at first glance this sounds like a jumbled mess, CrossCode manages to bundle all of its influences into a seamless gaming experience that feels nothing shy of excellent.

      • The massive 0.5 release of Lutris is out with a revamped UI, GOG support and tons more
        Regular readers will know by now how much I've enjoyed using Lutris to bring together my game library across Steam, GOG and more. It just recently put out the big update!

        There's something so satisfying about having all games on your system, under one roof regardless of where you purchased them. It's the anti-launcher of launchers and it's slick.

      • Depraved, a survival city-builder with a 'Wild West' theme now has Linux support
        Here's a recent arrival I seemed to miss somehow. Depraved from developer Evil Bite, a city-builder with survival features and a 'Wild West' theme is now on Linux.

      • FlowScape, an app to let you paint some gorgeous nature scenes now supports Linux
        This is a rather interesting one, it's not exactly a game but it piqued my curiosity for how relaxing it looks.

        It's called FlowScape, it allows you to paint landscapes with various animals, trees, rocks and all sorts with high resolution models and the end result is insane. It also gives you the ability to mess with the lighting, camera and loads more.

      • Lutris 0.5 Released With Much Improved GTK User Interface, GOG Support
        For those using the Lutris open-source gaming platform that aims to enhance the experience of managing games and better integration from Wine to Steam games, the huge 0.5 release is now available for upgrades.

      • New stable Steam client update is out opening the door a little wider for Steam Play on Linux
        Valve have pushed out their recent beta updates to the Steam client for everyone now, this does include the option to force Steam Play on shortcuts you've added for games outside of Steam.

        Additionally, this release also includes the addition of gnutls 3 to the Steam Runtime, fixing network connectivity issues in many Steam Play titles
      • Create the animation character on the maze
        Today we are going to create the animated enemy for our new pygame project. We are going to edit the enemy manager class and the game manager class then we are going to create an enemy sprite class and an enemy object class which will serve as the original sprite container just like the previous background object class does. Alright, let us get the thing going.
      • A new Humble Monthly is up with Cultist Simulator and more
        Humble Monthly, the curated selection of games put out each month from Humble Bundle is out again with early unlock games.

        This month we have Cultist Simulator which does support Linux and it's an extremely unique experience, one our contributor Scaine wrote about before.

        On top of that, the other two early unlock games are EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 4.1 The Shadow of New Despair and Warhammer: Vermintide II Collector's Edition although they're not supported on Linux they may work to some degree with Steam Play.

        When the month is up, they give you more games to total around 9 or 10 usually.

      • Sunless Skies is officially out and it's truly an awesome experience
        It's no secret that I love everything about outer space, I call myself a space nerd quite often and Sunless Skies feels like it was made for me. Note: My copy was provided by GOG.

        Sure, it's not exactly futuristic warp-speed science, but instead taking place in a retro-future where you literally blast through space inside a steam-powered locomotive. As outrageous as that sounds, it's actually quite brilliant.

      • Steel Rats, a mental-looking 2.5D motorbike combat action game is coming to Linux
        Steel Rats looks like really quite unique and ridiculous experience and it's heading to Linux this month. Developed by Tate Multimedia, the same folks behind Urban Trial Freestyle.

        Back in December last year I noticed it popping up on SteamDB but the developer wasn't commenting at all on it. Just today. that changed as they posted on Steam directly that a Linux release has been scheduled for February 20th!

      • The first Unity 2019.1 beta is out with Vulkan improvements, Linux editor improvements and more
        The people over at Unity have put out the first beta for the first major release of the year and there's tons of new and improved bits for game devs and Linux gamers.

        Firstly, they're depreciating support for 32bit builds of games on Linux, so if you're one of the 0.17% you really will need to go 64bit eventually.

      • Sounds like a lot of changes are on the way for Valve's Artifact
        Thanks to the great work from Tyler McVicker of Valve News Network, we've learned that a lot of changes seem to be on the way for Valve's card game Artifact.

        Honestly, the changes sound absolutely massive, far bigger than I expected Valve to be doing and it sounds like (if most of it is true) that it could seriously change the game for the better and give it the resurgence it needs. As I wrote about recently, Artifact has been bleeding players like mad and it's still continuing with it reaching new lows.

      • Space shooter 'Disputed Space' arrives on Linux offering up intense 3D action
        ShilohGames, developer of the free multiplayer space shooter Allspace which released recently has now ported over their previous space shooter Disputed Space to Linux.

        Always nice to see a developer port their previous games, it's not enough just to have the "latest and greatest" of course.

      • Super Versus, a multiplayer action superhero game is coming to Linux
        Ever wanted to be a superhero? I'm sure it's a dream we've all had at some point in our lives. Super Versus, looks like it will let you do that.

        It seems to be a free to play game, with community server hosting support along with some kind of premium option for cosmetics. Sounds like the initial release may be a little on the basic side, as they say they're planning to include "matchmaking, competitive ranks, official servers, team based modes and player inventory for the full game". The free version will have casual play and community server support, with premium for matchmaking and ranked modes.

      • Wand Wars, a fast-paced magical sports game supports Linux and had a big update recently
        Here's a magical action game we somehow completely missed reporting on at all. Wand Wars, released back in 2016 and it's had Linux support since release. It's still getting fresh content years later too.

        Back in December, developer Moonradish gave it a fresh coat of paint with the Spellstorm update adding in a brand new single-player campaign, two new music tracks, two new game modes, three new battle arenas, new character skins and a brand new character. That's a pretty huge update to be doing for a game multiple years after release!

  • Distributions

    • Endless OS Functionality Controls Simplify Computing
      The endless OS offers many computing options. It is easy to use. It is not a Linux solution for sophisticated users, however.

      The developers designed this distro to fulfill the demands of underserved users in the developing world. Most of the users live in places where access to information is restricted and computers are expensive.

      However, this unique Linux distro with its EOS desktop can have endless uses for schools, church groups and business settings. Endless OS also can be a frustration-free computing platform for students and non tech-savvy users.

    • Top 5 Linux Distributions for New Users
      Linux has come a long way from its original offering. But, no matter how often you hear how easy Linux is now, there are still skeptics. To back up this claim, the desktop must be simple enough for those unfamiliar with Linux to be able to make use of it. And, the truth is that plenty of desktop distributions make this a reality.

    • New Releases

      • LibreELEC (Leia) 9.0.0 RELEASE
        LibreELEC 9.0 (Leia) has finally arrived after a long gestation period. Based upon Kodi v18.0, the Final 9.0 release contains many changes and refinements to user experience and a complete overhaul of the underlying OS core to improve stability and extend hardware support. Kodi v18 also brings new features like Kodi Retroplayer and DRM support that (equipped with an appropriate add-on) allows Kodi to unofficially stream content from services like Netflix and Amazon.

      • LibreELEC 9.0 Released - Linux Distribution Built Around Kodi 18.0
        With Kodi 18.0 having been released earlier this week, the LibreELEC project is out with their 9.0 release as a lightweight Linux distribution built around this HTPC/multimedia software.

        LibreELEC 9.0 integrates Kodi 18.0 while having improvements to its underlying OS and better hardware support. LibreELEC 9.0 also improves security by allowing SSH passwords to be easily changed for the OS and shipping default iptables firewall configurations for home/public networks.

      • 4MLinux 27.2 released.
        This is a minor (point) release in the 4MLinux STABLE channel, which comes with the Linux kernel 4.14.94. The 4MLinux Server now includes Apache 2.4.37, MariaDB 10.3.12, and PHP 7.2.14 (see this post for more details).

        You can update your 4MLinux by executing the "zk update" command in your terminal (fully automatic process).

      • SystemRescueCd 6.0.0

      • SwagArch GNU/Linux 19.02

    • Fedora

      • Hubert Figuiere: Music, Flathub and Qt
        I have started reading recently about music theory and such, with the purpose to try to learn music (again). This lead me to look at music software, and what we have on Linux.

        I found a tutorial by Ted Felix on Linux and MIDI

        I quickly realised that trying these apps on my Dell XPS 13 was really an adventure, mostly because of HiDPI (the high DPI screen that the PS 13 has). Lot of the applications found on Fedora, by default, don't support high DPI and a thus quasi impossible to use out of the box. Some of it is fixable easily, some of it with a bit more effort and some, we need to try harder.
      • Fedora Classrooms: Silverblue and Badge Design
        Fedora Silverblue is a variant of Fedora Workstation that is composed and delivered using ostree technology. It uses some of the same RPMs found in Fedora Workstation but delivers them in a way that produces an “immutable host” for the end user. This provides atomic upgrades for end users and allows users to move to a fully containerized environment using traditional containers and flatpaks.

      • PHPUnit 8.0
      • PHP version 7.2.15RC1 and 7.3.2RC1

      • i915.fastboot=1 is now enabled in Rawhide / F30 for Skylake and newer
        i've just landed a big milestone for the Flicker Free Boot work I'm doing for Fedors 30. Starting with todays rawhide kernel build, version 5.0.0-0.rc4.git3.1, the fastboot option for the i915 Intel display driver is enabled by default on systems with a Skylake CPU/iGPU and newer, as well as on Valleyview and Cherryview (Bay- and Cherry-Trail) systems.

      • Fedora 30 Flips On Intel Graphics Fastboot By Default To Enhance The Boot Experience
        While Intel is finally poised to enable Fastboot by default for recent generations of their Iris/HD/UHD Graphics hardware, which could happen as soon as Linux 5.1, for now Fedora is comfortable enough enabling the support by default on their own.

        Just like the upstream aim, Fedora is enabling the Intel DRM/KMS driver's Fastboot feature by default for Skylake hardware and newer as well as Valley View and Cherry Trail Atom hardware. Other generations of Intel users or those on previous Fedora releases (and other Linux distributions) can use i915.fastboot=1 to manually enable this functionality, which aims to avoid useless mode-sets during the hardware initialization process in order to provide a smoother looking Linux boot process.

      • FPgM report: 2019-05
      • Fedora 29 : The Piskel application.

    • Debian Family

      • Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities January 2019

      • Help test initial support for Secure Boot
        The Debian Installer team is happy to report that the Buster Alpha 5 release of the installer includes some initial support for UEFI Secure Boot (SB) in Debian's installation media.

        This support is not yet complete, and we would like to request some help! Please read on for more context and instructions to help us get better coverage and support.

      • Debian Installer Buster Alpha 5 Has Initial UEFI Secure Boot Support
        The fifth alpha of the Debian Installer for the upcoming Debian 10.0 "Buster" release is now available for testing. What makes this new release particularly important to test is that it features the initial UEFI Secure Boot support.

        Debian 9 "Stretch" didn't get UEFI Secure Boot support in time while Debian developers have been working to ensure this year's release, Debian 10.0 Buster, will support this security standard found in PC hardware of recent years. The Secure Boot support isn't complete in this Debian Installer Buster Alpha 5 release, but it's getting close and in need of more widespread testing. Debian Buster will default to installing the signed packages on x86_64 hardware.

      • Help the Java Team distribute your project!
        There is a vast array of great free software projects written in Java. All sorts of large systems that we all rely on every day are built upon the Apache Foundation libraries. Large companies like Google and IBM put out standard libraries that so many other projects use. Unfortunately, the standard practice for distributing Java code makes it a lot of work to integrate them into Debian.

        The Debian Java Team's work is generally under-appreciated, so we are getting the word out here. The Java Team has to consistently fight the Java standard practice of bundling all deps into a single JAR. This means there is no shared security updates, each dev has to update every dependency themselves in that model. That works great for large companies with staff devoted to doing that.

      • Derivatives

        • Privacy-focused Linux distro Tails 3.12 now available for download with many critical security bug fixes
          We are living in a very confusing world these days. Computers and the internet were supposed to be our saviors -- a portal to all the knowledge of the world. While that is still largely true, computers have also eroded our privacy through a slow campaign of conditioning humans to accept more and more encroachment by companies into their lives. Facebook and Google, for instance, have recently stirred up much controversy by spying on users with nefarious apps -- more than usual. Both of those billion dollar companies dangled money in front of its users, enticing these people to hand over full access to their lives. Worst of all, teen children were targeted too.

          With all of that said, I can totally understand people being suspicious and cautious of technology. Hell, even Windows 10 is spying on users with its hardcore telemetry. Thankfully, there are ways to access the internet while minimizing attacks on your privacy. One great option is Tails -- a Linux-based operating system that can be run from a flash drive or DVD. It is an invaluable tool to safeguard yourself -- especially for those in countries where there isn't free speech.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • 4 Stunning Icon Themes for Your Linux Desktop
            We spotlight 4 stunning new Linux icon themes that will look great on any desktop, Ubuntu or otherwise.

            Although the Suru icon theme now ships as Ubuntu’s default icon set, and although GNOME designers are busy working on a major icon revamp of their own, third-party icon themes still have their place.

            After all, one size doesn’t fit all; plenty of Linux users prefer to curate and customise the look of their desktop themselves.

          • The Best Weather Apps for Ubuntu & Linux Mint
            I obsessively check the weather forecast wherever I happen to be, and using a desktop weather app saves me time and effort while doing this.

            It’s delightfully easy to find out the local weather for today, tomorrow and/or next week from the comfort of the Linux desktop, without needing to open a web browser.

            And with snow flurries sweeping across Europe, the UK and the USA in recent weeks, chances are you’re checking the weather more than usual, too.

            Below is a selection of the best weather apps available to install on Linux. All are free and readily available.

          • Full Circle Magazine: Full Circle Weekly News #119

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint 19.2 could come with new boot and splash screens
              Clem Lefebvre, head of the Linux Mint project, has posted his usual monthly update about the state of the distribution and the things that are being worked on ready for Linux Mint 19.2, due in June. Lefebvre stated that the next cycle will focus on artwork, performance, and splitting Cinnamon to run in different processes.


              Lefebvre also said that one member of the team is looking at splitting Cinnamon into multiple processes by working out how to have applets run in their own process and render objects remotely. This “very ambitious” project is currently in research and development and they hope to build a successful prototype soon.

              These tasks are being done on the back of income the project received during December. The project received 675 donations totaling $22,803, making it the most the project has ever received in a single month.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Google and Sony Pictures Imageworks release OpenCue, LF Edge organization launches, and more news
    In this edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at the Google and Sony Pictures Imageworks releasing OpenCue, The Linux Foundation launching LF Edge, six tips for jumpstarting open educational resources initiatives, and more.

  • Open source in the enterprise presents a two-edged sword [Ed: Some FUD here. To Beth Pariseau's credit, she does not call proprietary software "enterprise" or "commercial"; instead she accepts that FOSS is equally suitable for large corporations, too]

    Open source in the mainstream enterprise is a powerful trend, and nobody wants to go back to the bad old days of proprietary software. But not every enterprise is prepared for a DIY approach that uses upstream code.


    Even Bloomberg sometimes looks to commercial open source vendors for a leg up on open source tools, depending on how new they are, and their long-term importance to the company, Fleming said. In the early days of Hadoop, for example, Bloomberg worked with vendors such as Hortonworks and Cloudera to stabilize its infrastructure for the big data processing platform.

    It will lean on other vendors like Percona for help with utilities such as Metrictank that it doesn't plan to modify or enhance internally, and when in doubt, it will seek consultations with open source community developers who work for commercial vendors, he said.

    Most mainstream companies, meanwhile, seek a middle ground between pure upstream open source software and completely proprietary products that is serviced by vendors that use a business model called open core.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Google Chrome 72 for Android Improves Privacy with Updated Incognito Mode
        Google released today the Chrome 72 mobile web browser for Android devices ahead of the desktop platforms (Linux, Mac, and Windows), an update that improves privacy and security. If you're a fan of the Google Chrome web browser and you use it on your Android smartphone or tablet, you should know that it's been updated to version 72.0.3626.76, a new stable release adding stability and performance improvements, as the company noted in the brief release announcement.

        To tackle various security and privacy issues that users have reported since previous updates, Google decided to update the built-in Incognito Mode of the Chrome web browser by making the media player controls and notifications incognito as well, which means that they're now invisible to the naked eye.

      • Chrome is right to remove the webRequest extension API
        …but the proposed declarativeNetRequest API isn’t a good replacement. So where does that leave us?

        Headline writers have had their fun over the last week playing on people’s mistrust of Google’s motivations and their governance of the Chromium web browser project. Despite the headlines: Google is not about to kill ad-blocking extensions in Chrome.

    • Mozilla

      • 10 years working for Mozilla
        10 years ago, today I started working for Mozillamessaging. I was using my own computer until fosdem 2009 during which Davida and I ended up a MediaMarkt in Brussels to buy my Mac (I needed a mac in order to be able to test Linux, Windows and MacOS), so I could properly work as the Thunderbird QA lead. When Mozilla phased out Thunderbird, I asked to join the IT team - my sneaky plan was to manage email but server side. I ended up in the SRE team that got renamed MOC. I've been contributing since probably 1999 (reporting bugs because mozilla wasn't available on my platform of choice). I've changed projects numerous time, The suite -> Camino -> Thunderbird -> IT. I've had 5 bosses. and used bugzilla probably more than what's good for my sanity.

      • Daniel Stenberg: I’m on team wolfSSL
        Publicly announcing me leaving Mozilla turned out a great ego-boost.

        I took some time off to really reflect and contemplate on what I wanted from my next career step. What would the right next move be?

        I love working on open source. Internet protocols, and transfers and doing libraries written in C are things considered pure fun for me. Can I get all that and yet keep working from home, not sacrifice my wage and perhaps integrate working on curl better in my day to day job?

        I talked to different companies. Very interesting companies too, where I have friends and people who like me and who really wanted to get me working for them, but in the end there was one offer with a setup that stood out. One offer for which basically all check marks in my wish-list were checked.

      • [Old] Firefox UX: Bias and Hiring: How We Hire UX Researchers
        This year, the Firefox User Research team is planning to add two new researchers to our group. The job posting went live last month, and after just a few weeks of accepting applications, we had over 900 people apply.

        Current members of the Firefox User Research Team fielded dozens of messages from prospective applicants during this time, most asking for informational meetings to discuss the open role. We decided as a team to decline these requests across the board because we did not have the bandwidth for the number of meetings requested, and more importantly we have spent a significant amount of time this year working on minimizing bias in our hiring process.

        We felt that meeting with candidates outside of the formal hiring process would give unfair advantage to some candidates and undermine our de-biasing work. At the same time, in alignment with Mozilla’s values and to build on Mozilla’s diversity and inclusion disclosures from earlier this year, we realized there was an opportunity to be more transparent about our hiring process for the benefit of future job applicants and teams inside and outside Mozilla thinking about how they can minimize bias in their own hiring.

      • Mozilla Firefox 65 Brings better Image and Video Compression
        Enhanced tracking protection for a better control of your privacy while browsing websites with a tracking cookies. 3 options to control the level of blocking cookies and trackers on websites “Standard, Strict and Custom”.

        Mozilla Firefox 65 allows you to change the user interface language without using additional addon or making a fresh install of Firefox with the required language.

      • February’s featured extensions

      • New Release: Tor Browser 8.0.5
        Tor Browser 8.0.5 is now available from the Tor Browser Project page and also from our distribution directory.

        This release features important security updates to Firefox.

        This new release updates Firefox to 60.5.0esr and Tor to the first stable release in the 0.3.5 series,

      • Qt 5.12.1 Is Now Available, Tor Browser 8.0.5 and Tails 3.12 Both Released with Important Security Fixes, Virt2real Launches StereoPi and Chrome Update for Android
        Tor Browser 8.0.5 was released this week. This release includes important security updates to Firefox and also updates Tor to the first stable release in the 0.3.5 series. NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere also were updated to their latest versions. You can view the full changelog here and download from here.

      • Firefox 65 takes a long time to close & high CPU usage
        Well, well, I've encountered a new, interesting and - ultimately - annoying problem. On one of my Windows machines, I upgraded Firefox to version 65. Then I noticed that the close sequence for the browser takes a very long time. Previously, this would be a very short thing - 1-2 seconds max. Now, it was taking a whole minute and eating one core worth of CPU. So I decided to dig into this issue more deeply and figure out whether this is something in my own setup or a fresh issue in Firefox.

        As always, the Internet wasn't very helpful. I had the usual slew of recommendations - update drivers, refresh this, refresh that. The worst kind of suggestions that completely ignore the problem or the reasons why it manifested. After all, if you don't understand the issue, making changes only masks the whole thing in the long run. To that end, I set about doing this the right way. Follow me.

  • SUSE

    • Cast your votes for sessions at the first Open Infrastructure Summit
      Being the first Open Infrastructure Summit, there is a big mix of technologies being talked about, ranging from OpenvSwitch, to Ceph, to OpenStack, to Kubernetes and much, much more. With 565 submitted sessions from a truly global range of speakers to choose from, make sure to grab your preferred beverage and give yourself plenty of time to review and choose the sessions that you’d like to see in Denver.

    • February 7th: The SUSE Academic Program partners with GroupLink and the Technology Transfer Partners (TTP) on academic webinar

    • Ingress Controllers: Getting In and Getting It Right
      The SUSE CaaS Platform team recently released a new feature that is available to all subscribers using version 3: an ingress controller. It is a valuable part of Kubernetes networking, especially as clusters grow in terms of node count and especially application count.

    • Quickly deploy Kubernetes on OpenStack with SUSE
      If you’ve tried to deploy a Kubernetes test cluster or a full-blown production environment, you know how trying it can be.

    • The Cost of a Do-It-Yourself Transformation
    • My First 24 Hours With openSUSE Tumbleweed
      My understanding is that elementary OS and openSUSE Tumbleweed couldn't be more different. The former is designed to be lean, minimalistic and beginner-friendly, while the latter has a wealth of software bundled in (its 2x larger ISO download size makes that obvious), allows users to choose multiple desktop environments during the installation and can be heavily customized.


      By default, I don't expect to have issues with Linux OS installers. The ones I've reviewed -- such as Deepin and Pop!_OS -- have been attractive, intuitive affairs. For those of you who haven't tried Linux in years, they're incredibly simple compared their past iterations.

      The standard graphical installer for openSUSE Tumbleweed, however, threw me a curveball.

      Advancing through initial options like network setup, region, packages and desktop environment was straightforward. But then as the install process began I was met with puzzling "Wrong Digest" messages.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 6.2 RC3 is ready for testing
      The LibreOffice Quality Assurance ( QA ) Team is happy to announce LibreOffice 6.2 RC3 is ready for testing!

      LibreOffice 6.2 will be released as final in a week from now and LibreOffice 6.2 RC3 represents the last pre-release before the final release since the development of version 6.2 started in mid May, 2018. See the release plan for more information. You can find the list of bugs fixed in this pre-release here and the list of new features included in LibreOffice 6.2 in the release notes.

      LibreOffice 6.2 RC3 is already available for downloaded in this link, for Linux, MacOS and Windows.

  • Funding

    • Christopher Allan Webber: I've been awarded the Samsung Stack Zero Grant
      This should fund my next couple of years of work on full time advancement of the fediverse.

      You may remember that I've talked about Spritely before. In fact I am finally in launch-mode... I am currently sitting in a wizard's tower at a hackathon, getting out the first release of Golem, a Spritely artifact.

  • BSD and Haiku

    • Haiku monthly activity report, January 2019
      waddlesplash spent a full week doing a major overhaul of the FreeBSD compatibility layer to port iflib, FreeBSD’s new ethernet driver subsystem. (The ipro1000 driver from FreeBSD 12 uses it now, so it had to be done sooner or later.) As a side effect of this work, PCI device probing and attaching for all FreeBSD-ported drivers is significantly faster and less error-prone (this probably trimmed ~half a second, and perhaps even more, off of boot time on all machines), and paves the way for eventual USB support.

      After overhauling the compat layer itself, waddlesplash finished porting ethernet and then WiFi drivers from FreeBSD 12. Thanks to the refactor, he rewrote the initialization code in the WiFi layer during this effort, which seems to have resulted in all “spontaneous WiFi disconnects” or “no networks shown” tickets tested so far to be reported as fixed! So, if you were experiencing those errors and haven’t retested, please do.

    • Haiku OS Ports More Networking Drivers From FreeBSD, Other Kernel Progress
      The Haiku open-source operating system project inspired by BeOS is out with their newest monthly report on the happenings.

      Following the long-awaited Haiku R1 beta release a few months ago, the Haiku developers remain as motivated as ever for advancing this long-standing operating system effort.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Open source cloud databases battle software 'strip mining'

      "It is important to contribute things back, and licensing should be maintained in a way that people can use the software to create something bigger," he said. "But swinging the pendulum to the direction where licenses are changed to the degree that no cloud provider can offer it as a service -- that, too, becomes an issue," he said.

  • Programming/Development

    • Using ES modules as a modern baseline for progressive enhancement
      It’s pretty commonplace today to write JavaScript using ES2015 (or ES6), and then to transpile that code to ES5 in a build step, using something like Babel. Transpiling enables us to write code using the latest ECMAScript syntax and features, but then compiles it in a backward compatible way so that it works with older browsers. The downside to this is that transpiling can also lead to increased bundle sizes if you’re not careful, and for browsers that already support ES2015 features, you’re potentially shipping a lot of redundant code. Modern browsers need neither the transpiled code, nor the polyfills that can get bundled along with it.

      Before we get into the details of this post, I’ll start by emphasizing that depending on your project and its target audience, transpiling and bundling your JavaScript may be the exact right thing to do still. Browser segmentation and page load times are key metrics to measure. However, the with technologies like HTTP/2 and support for ES modules landing in all major browsers, we now have other options on the table. There is a new opportunity to build progressively enhanced websites using modern ES2015 features, but without as much of the bloat and complicated build steps we’ve become accustomed to.

    • Tryton News: Newsletter February 2019

    • Teaching Python as a Corporate Trainer - Matt Harrison
      But the bulk of the conversation is about corporate training, with Brian playing the role of someone considering starting a corporate training role, and asking Matt, an experienced expert in training, how to start and where to go from there.

    • hashin 0.14.5 and canonical pip hashes

    • Qt 5.12.1 Released
      I am pleased to announce that Qt 5.12.1 is released today. The first patch release in the Qt 5.12 LTS series provides a large number of bug fixes and other improvements.

      Compared to Qt 5.12.0, the new Qt 5.12.1 contains nearly 300 bug fixes. For details of the most important changes, please check the Change files of Qt 5.12.1.

    • Qt 5.12.1 LTS Released With Around 300 Bug Fixes
      Qt 5.12 was released in early December as the latest Long-Term Support release for the Qt5 tool-kit. Out today is the first point release that contains hundreds of fixes.

      Qt 5.12.1 LTS has nearly three-hundred bug fixes. The fixes in this point release range from animated GIFs not rendering correctly to Wayland client flickering when running with NVIDIA graphics. But there are a ton of fixes all over the place with this first 5.12 LTS update. A complete list of the fixes can be found here.

    • Qt Design Studio 1.1 Beta Released - Now Includes Linux Packages
      Qt Design Studio, the solution for rapidly prototyping and developing complex user-interfaces with the Qt5 tool-kit while being a bridge between designers and developers, has reached its public beta release for the inbound Qt Design Studio 1.1.

      Qt Design Studio 1.1 Beta comes with blessed Linux packages after they were missed out on last year with the big 1.0 release. Qt Design Studio 1.1 also features improvements to its Photoshop Bridge (now supports merging), support for more JavaScript functions with the editing, various timeline fixes, documentation additions, and other improvements.
    • Qt Design Studio 1.1 Beta released
      Qt Design Studio is a UI design and development tool that enables designers and developers to rapidly prototype and develop complex UIs.

      Qt Design Studio is used by both designers and developers and that makes collaboration between the two a lot simpler and more streamlined.

    • Why Warren Buffett would invest in PHP (and you should too)

    • Top tech skills are scarce in South Africa
      According to Careers24 the top 10 in demand IT skills are:

      Statistical Analysis and Data Mining rank globally at two, and first in SA.

      Java development ranks second in South Africa, however does not appear on the global top 10 list.

      Network and information security is ranked third locally and sixth globally.

      Mobile development is fourth locally.

      Perl/Python and Ruby rank at five in SA and don’t feature on the global list.

      User Interface design is in high demand in SA and globally, ranking sixth in South Africa.

    • API/REST testing like Chuck Norris with pytest play using YAML

    • How DNS works: a beginner's guide

    • PyPy Winter Sprint Feb 4-9 in Düsseldorf

    • Format thousands in Python
      tl;dr; Usee f"{number:,}" to thousands format an integer to a string.

    • Python 101: Episode #44 – Creating an Installer with Inno Setup

    • PyData NYC 2018: End-to-End Data Science Without Leaving the GPU

    • What’s New in Mallard 1.1, Part 2
      We’ve just released Mallard 1.1. Let’s take a look at what’s new. All of these features are already supported in tools like Yelp and Pintail.

    • NeuroFedora update: 2019 week 5

    • GCC To Begin Implementing MMX Intrinsics With SSE Instructions
      While current-generation Intel/AMD CPUs are still supporting the MMX SIMD instruction set from two decades ago, a set of GCC compiler patches are pending to begin implementing MMX intrinsics using SSE instructions.

      Intel open-source compiler toolchain expert H.J. Lu sent out a set of 46 patches for GCC that implement MMX intrinsics with SSE instructions instead. Of course, in modern code-bases hopefully you are utilizing modern versions of AVX.
    • Meson's new logo: a design process
      From the very beginning it was decided that the logo's shape should be based on the Reuleaux triangle. The overall shape is smooth and pleasant, yet mathematically precise. In spite of its simplicity it can be used for surprisingly complex things. Perhaps the best known example is that if you have a drill bit shaped like a Reuleaux triangle, it can be used to create a rectangular hole. Those who have knowledge about compiler toolchains know that these sort of gymnastics are exactly what a build system needs to do.

      There were tens of different designs that tried to turn this basic idea into a logo. In practice it meant sitting in front of Inkscape and trying different things. These attempts included such things as combining the Reuleaux triangle with other shapes such as circles and triangles, as well as various attempts to build a stylished "M" letter. None of them really clicked until one day I put a smaller triangle upside down inside the other. Something about that shape was immediately captivating.

    • Python Class Decorator - Part 1 - simple without configuration arguments.


  • Twitter Is Blocking Services That Sell Fake Followers
    Twitter wants to make the platform spam free, and in a bid to do so, the social media company has started cracking down on services that offer paid services to gain followers.

    Twitter has cut off API access to three such companies that are famous for helping users increase their number of followers using automated bots.

  • The Banner of Death!
    I guess that says a lot about how all the campaigns to preserve the social network fared...

  • Google Employees Seem To Have Lost Confidence In Google
    Google has been a company people would love to be a part of. However, a recent survey by the company throws light at a different picture, hinting at the trust issues that Google’s employees have in the company.

    According to a report by The Bloomberg, a recently conducted survey by Google called Googlegeist suggests that when questioned about the confidence the employees have in CEO Sundar Pichai, 74% responded yes, which has dipped from 92% of last year’s survey.

  • More Google Employees Are Losing Faith in Their CEO's Vision
    Alphabet Inc.’s Google became the most-profitable internet company by recruiting talented technologists and inspiring them enough to keep them around. That advantage may be slipping as some workers increasingly doubt the leadership and vision of Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, according to recent results from an employee survey.

    The annual internal poll, known as Googlegeist, asked workers whether Pichai’s vision of what the company can achieve inspires them. In response, 78 percent indicated yes, down 10 percentage points from the previous year.

    Another question asked if employees have confidence in Pichai and his management team to effectively lead Google in the future. Positive responses represented 74 percent of the total, an 18 point decline from a year earlier.

  • Science

    • Millionaire dilettantes' "education reform" have failed, but teacher-driven, evidence-supported education works miracles

      The commonalities in all of Gabor's success stories are "a respect for democratic processes and participatory improvement, a high regard for teachers, clear strategies with buy-in from all stake-holders, and accountability frameworks that include room to innovate. They also feature robust leadership and strong teacher voice. Their success underscores the importance of equitable funding and suggests that problems like income inequality are far more detrimental to education that the usual suspects, like bad teachers."

    • Millionaire-Driven Education Reform Has Failed. Here’s What Works.

      But Gabor has good news, too. While dilettante corporate reformers were making headlines with their quick-and-dirty education schemes, some far-sighted educators, active citizens, and imaginative thinkers across the nation have been swimming against the tide of the top-down, millionaire-driven reform movement with approaches to learning that are not only much more democratic, but remarkably effective and better attuned to the needs of 21st century students.

      They’ve enjoyed less attention than their market-oriented counterparts, but they’ve gotten something better: results.

    • Trump Supports ‘Bible Literacy’ Classes in Public Schools
      At least six states have introduced “Bible literacy” bills that would allow schools to teach the Bible, a move that some critics say may violate the separation of church and state — but it has at least one big fan: Donald Trump.

      President Trump, whose knowledge of the Bible is shaky at best, gave the idea a resounding thumbs-up via Twitter, ensuring that an already fraught discussion would get even more charged.

      First, some context. This is not about religious instruction or school prayer. In theory, ”Bible literacy” means that if schools wish to do so, they could teach students about the Bible as a historical document.

      In fact, some schools already discuss religious texts in the context of world religions classes or other settings where they’re relevant. For example, when studying the medieval European church in history, it can help to crack open a copy of the Good Book to see what people are talking about.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Media Badly Botching the Medicare For All Debate
      The 2020 presidential campaign will surely wind up being horrifying in many ways. But the good news is that at the moment, it’s featuring a genuine debate about a profoundly consequential policy question.

      The bad news is that media are already screwing it up, no less than when they cheered for the Iraq War in 2003 or gave minimal attention to Donald Trump’s spectacular history of personal corruption in 2016.

      Fortunately, correcting the mistake is easy, if we’re willing to give a minute or two of thought to some rudimentary math and logic. I speak of the question of universal health coverage, particularly in the form of Medicare For All (in its multiple variations).

      Before we proceed, there’s a number I want you to remember: $50 trillion. Keep that in the back of your head.

      Right now, this debate is being framed in part as a disagreement between a bunch of Democrats peddling pie-in-the-sky notions on one side, and more hard-headed and realistic critics (including but not limited to Republicans) asking the tough questions about affordability on the other. That framing is completely and utterly wrong, and even journalists of good faith are falling into its trap.

    • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Team Up to Lower Prescription Drug Prices
      US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has said, "If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them.”

      US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has said we need to fix markets because giant drug companies are lining “their pockets at the expense of American families.”

      Sanders introduced three bills in January 2019 to lower prescription drug prices. The bills are for importation price limits in the U.S. based on what companies charge in other countries, and Medicare negotiation. Warren co-sponsored each of these bills.

      In December 2018, Warren introduced a bill for the federal government to manufacture prescription drugs. Her bill didn’t get any co-sponsors, probably because of the timing. The Congressional term was almost over, and it’s impossible to co-sponsor a bill from a previous term. But Sanders supports Warren’s pharmaceutical manufacturing bill and he will co-sponsor her bill when she re-introduces it, says Warren Gunnels, his policy director.

      Sanders’ importation bill is S.97 The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, which would "allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import...from Canada and other major countries.” In 2007, similar legislation passed the Senate 63 to 28. Sanders noted at the time that millions of “Americans were going across the Canadian border to purchase safe and affordable medicine. The American people want action.”

    • Sherrod Brown: Medicare for All Not 'Practical.' Progressives: 'OK. Thank You, Next.'
      While not a 2020 presidential candidate yet, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) broke from the pack of announced and expected Democrats on Friday by coming out against Medicare for All—characterizing a system that would cover everybody and leave nobody as not "practical"—and was greeted by a widespread reaction of "Thank you, Next" and "Adios" from progressives no longer willing to entertain half-measures when it comes to solving the nation's healthcare crisis or bolstering the private insurance industry.

      "I know most of the Democratic primary candidates are all talking about Medicare for all. I think instead we should do Medicare at 55," Brown said during a question and answer session at the Chamber of Commerce in Clear Lake, Iowa. Brown said that reducing the age or letting people over 55 buy into the existing Medicare system early would have a better chance of getting through Congress.

    • Feds secretly ship plutonium to Nevada to meet South Carolina court order

      On Wednesday, DOE lawyer Bruce Diamond wrote (PDF) that the plutonium had already been moved, rendering Nevada's request for injunction moot. "In order to provide security for its shipments of these kinds of materials, DOE normally will not release information about the status of the shipment(s) until sometime after the shipping 'campaign' is concluded," Diamond wrote.

    • WHO Governance Questioned As It Adds World Health Assembly Agenda Item On Biodiversity
      The World Health Organization today admitted to an unusual procedure to set up a debate on the health implications of a UN treaty on sharing of benefits from genetic resources. The new agenda item proposed by the WHO director general was accepted by the WHO Board today, but with member states questioning the governance of the move.

    • Current R&D Causes High Prices In Drugs; New Model Needed To Make Drugs More Affordable, Speakers Say
      Speakers at the meeting have suggested ideas and proposals in hope to make drugs more affordable and accessible for patients, with many talking about more involvement by the public sector in research and development.

      They were discussing at a side meeting of Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) 2019, which is an annual international conference focusing on policy-related health issues, as said on its website. The theme of this year’s conference is “The Political Economy of NCDs: A Whole of Society Approach”. NCDs stands for non-communicable diseases, which includes issues like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease.

      PMAC 2019 says on its website of this year’s general objective as “to identify major bottlenecks, root causes and propose solutions at national and global level to accelerate implementation of NCD prevention and control.”

      A panel at the conference held on 30 January was entitled, “Research & development of NCD medicines: how can affordability be built into the business model?” The event was moderated by Suerie Moon of the Graduate Institute Global Health Centre in Geneva.

    • Switzerland Receives Request For Compulsory Licence On Breast Cancer Drug
      Swiss health activist group Public Eye yesterday requested the Swiss government to declare a compulsory licence for a Roche breast cancer treatment which the group says is unaffordable.

      According to Public Eye [pdf – in French], Swiss federal intellectual property law includes the possibility of compulsory licences. The group prepared a compulsory licence file for Perjeta, (chemical name pertuzumab), a Roche blockbuster, and is asking the Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset to forward it to the Swiss patent court.

    • Senators Demand Federal Limits for Toxic Chemicals in Drinking Water Amid Reports of 'Unconscionable' Inaction by Trump's EPA
      The chemicals in question are PFOA and PFOS, which belong to a group called PFAS. Politico reported Tuesday that Wheeler had signed off on an unreleased plan that would leave the pair off the list of materials regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

      The EPA's Office of Water Assistant Administrator David Ross on Tuesday issued what one journalist described as a "non-denial denial" (Ross claimed that "any information that speculates what is included in the plan is premature") while public health advocates decried the reported move as unsurprising but also "absolutely unconscionable."

      In the letter (pdf) spearheaded by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), federal lawmakers call for "immediate actions to protect the public from contamination" and warn that "EPA's inaction would be a major setback to states and affected communities."

    • Medicare for All Won’t Kill Health Insurance Industry
      Let the scaremongering begin.

      Pundits and politicians who object to all Americans having access to health care are out in full force spreading misinformation they hope will stop the nascent push to pass some form of Medicare for All.

      Besides complaints that Medicare for All will cost too much and result in higher taxes (factors which haven’t stopped every other industrialized nation on the Earth from implementing universal health care plans), Medicare for All opponents, like Starbucks former CEO and potential third-party spoiler Howard Shultz, say the plan will cost millions of jobs by wiping out the private health insurance market.

      Democrats like Kamala Harris “say we should abolish the insurance industry as a way to go forward on healthcare, that alone would wipe out millions of jobs and that is a kind of extreme policy I would not agree with,” Schultz said on The View.

      Hang on there, Skippy. Medicare for All would not “abolish the insurance industry.”

      Today, health insurance companies rake in millions of dollars selling supplemental plans to Medicare recipients. And if Medicare for All were to pass they would continue to peddle their supplemental plans and continue to rake in millions.

      If you are a senior on Medicare, you are all too familiar with those slick health insurance agents who cold call your phone every evening hoping to scare you into buying supplemental health insurance, and warning you about the catastrophic medical expenses you will incur if you get sick or become hospitalized and only have Medicare coverage.

    • “Doubling Down”: With Private Care Push, Trump’s VA Bucks Lawmakers and Some Veterans Groups
      When Congress passed a bill last year to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs, lawmakers said they were getting rid of arbitrary rules for when the government would pay for veterans to see private doctors.

      Under the old program, veterans could go to the private sector if they would have to wait 30 days or travel 40 miles for care in the VA. Lawmakers and veterans groups, including conservatives, criticized those rules as arbitrary. The new law, known as the Mission Act, was supposed to let doctors and patients decide whether to use private sector based on individualized health needs.

      On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed new rules, known as access standards, to automatically make veterans eligible for private care. Instead of 30 days, it’s 20 days for primary care or 28 days for specialty care. Instead of 40 miles, it’s a 30-minute drive for primary care or a 60-minute drive for specialty care.

      The announcement appeared to do little to settle the debate over whether the VA’s rules are arbitrary.

      “Twenty days is just as arbitrary as 30 days,” Bob Wallace, the executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the largest veterans service organizations, said in a statement.

    • Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity
      Researchers who work on GMO crops are developing special “artificial diet systems”. The stated purpose of these new diets is to standardise the testing of the Cry toxins, often used in GMO crops, for their effects on non-target species. But a paper published last month in the journal Toxins implies a very different interpretation of their purpose. The new diets contain hidden ingredients that can mask Cry toxicity and allow them to pass undetected through toxicity tests on beneficial species like lacewings (Hilbeck et al., 2018). Thus the new diets will benefit GMO crop developers by letting new ones come to market quicker and more reliably. Tests conducted with the new diets are even being used to cast doubt on previous findings of ecotoxicological harm.

    • A “Bittersweet” Moment: Court Says VA Was Wrong in Denying Vietnam Veterans Benefits
      Tens of thousands of Navy veterans didn’t set foot in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but spent their time on ships patrolling the waters surrounding the country. And for decades, that distinction — exactly where they put their feet — made all the difference.

      Veterans with “boots on the ground” were eligible for benefits if they had an illness connected to exposure to the toxic chemical Agent Orange, which was sprayed as a defoliant during the war. Veterans on ships in inland waters, such as rivers, also could get benefits. But those who were on ships farther away weren’t compensated, even if they had the same illnesses and believed they had the same exposure. The chemicals could have washed into the sea, where Navy ships were distilling water for their own uses — like showering, washing clothes and making food.

      That is poised to change as a result of a court ruling this week.

      The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in a 9-2 decision, ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs was wrong to deny benefits to those dubbed “Blue Water” Navy veterans. Previous court opinions had backed the VA. This could affect up to 90,000 people who served.

      In 2015 and 2016, ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot wrote about the struggle of the Blue Water Navy veterans, as well as other Vietnam veterans and their families trying to get benefits they feel they are owed. In light of this week’s court ruling, we checked back with some of the Blue Water veterans we featured in our stories to hear what the decision means to them.

    • Supreme Court Halts Louisiana Abortion Clinic Law for Now
      The Supreme Court is temporarily keeping a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics on hold.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • UAE buys its way toward supremacy in Gulf cyberwar, using US and Israeli experts

      Citing documents reviewed by Reuters and eight individuals who claimed to have worked as US contractors supporting the operation (referred to as Project Raven), the report claims that Baltimore-based CyberPoint and the UAE-based firm DarkMatter—ostensibly hired to help NESA build a threat monitoring and defensive capability similar to the National Security Agency/Central Security Service National Threat Operations Center (NTOC)—also had a secret task of providing NESA with an offensive cyber capability. Some of the US citizens employed by CyberPoint and later by DarkMatter were former NSA analysts who worked at NTOC or, in some cases, NSA's Tailored Access Operations unit.

    • The US Is Orchestrating a Coup in Venezuela
      From engineering coups in Chile and Guatemala, to choreographing a troop landing at the Bay of Pigs intended to establish an exile government in Cuba, to training Latin American strongmen at the School of the Americas in torture techniques to control their people, the United States has meddled, interfered, intervened and undermined the democracies it claims to protect.

      Now, Vice President Mike Pence, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and the infamous Elliott Abrams are working with opposition groups in Venezuela to carry out a coup d’état.

      In 2002, the George W. Bush administration, through the CIA, aided and abetted an attempted coup, according to attorney Eva Golinger, an award-winning author and journalist. Golinger, a close confidante of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, obtained evidence of US intervention from multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, which she discusses in her new book, Confidante of ‘Tyrants’: The Inside Story of the American Woman Trusted By the US’s Biggest Enemies.

      There is a major difference, however, between the 2002 coup attempt and the Trump administration’s current effort to change the regime in Venezuela, Golinger says. She told Truthout that unlike the situation in 2002, “when the Bush administration worked behind the scenes to back a coup d’état against Chávez with multimillion-dollar funding and political support to the opposition, the Trump administration is now pursuing regime change in Venezuela in plain sight.”

    • Russia to Pull Plug on Nuclear Arms Pact After U.S. Does Same
      Following in the footsteps of the U.S., Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty but will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does so, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.

      U.S. President Donald Trump accused Moscow on Friday of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s new land-based cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.

      Moscow has strongly denied any breaches and accused Washington of making false accusations in order to justify its pullout.

    • 'Yiiiiikes': John Bolton Threatens to Send Venezuela's Maduro to Offshore US Prison at Guantánamo
      National Security Adviser John Bolton—the neoconservative who's played a key role in the Trump administration's effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government—suggested on Friday that President Nicolás Maduro could find himself locked away in the U.S. military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba if he does not soon step aside.

      Bolton—who has repeatedly threatened U.S. military action to force out Maduro—made the threat in a "crazy" radio interview (mp3) with right-wing commentator Hugh Hewitt about President Donald Trump's broader policy toward Venezuela, including the administration's endorsement of self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaidó, and sanctions imposed via executive order against the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).

    • Disarmament, Not Low-Yield Nukes
      Seven-plus decades ago, as humanity was ensnarled in a monstrous world war, its instinct to win — to dominate others above all else — achieved ultimate manifestation: the capacity to annihilate all life on Planet Earth.

      Nuclear weapons are, you might say, the logical outcome of the 10,000-year journey of civilization: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.’”

      And so we have. And now we’re stuck with ourselves, as are all other forms of life.

      When the issue is nukes, and what to do with them, I think the first mistake we make is to put them into too narrow of a context, within which they seem “necessary” (because others have them) and “usable” (just in case, you know, a really evil country or terrorist organization starts threatening us) and there’s no larger sense of how to be alive and what survival actually means.

    • What Bernie Sanders Could Learn From Venezuela
      Bernie Sanders, we hear, is interested in running for President in 2020. Bernie has once again shot himself in the foot before the starter’s gun goes off. Sanders best known Trump-like statement was calling Venezuelan revolutionary President Hugo Chavez “a dead communist dictator.” Now Sanders, while bucking the establishment on regime change in Venezuela, remains woefully uninformed about neoliberalism’s effects on a global level, and therefore cannot be taken seriously as an agent of radical change. Sanders released a statement on Venezuela that had nothing of substance in relationship to the 1%, neoliberalism, neocolonialism or any of the driving forces of a clear political crisis in the country. Instead, Sanders merely echoed right-wing talking points on Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, and then, almost as an aside, said the U.S. intervening in Latin America, well, it ends badly.

      And perhaps, one could argue, that a non-intervention response, no matter how you get there, is good enough, especially considering the political spectrum of the United States establishment, which has assassination lists coming from its Nobel Peace Price winners. But Bernie’s failure to understand global politics and the hopelessness of his own party (Democrats), leads one to believe that any revolution he will bring will be half-baked, and easily squashed, as it was in 2016.

      Simply being against intervention is not good enough for another reason: the Venezuelan people are in an economic crisis and it is important to understand why. So far, the United States has not intervened militarily, and yet, our policy in Venezuela has still been deadly, something Sanders failed to acknowledge in his statement on Venezuela.

      Anyone interested in the well-being of Venezuelans does have to admit that for one reason or another, the Maduro government has failed to provide for the masses in the ways that the Chavez government did for so many years. Jorge Martin, when speaking to Chuck Mertz, said while he was certainly a Chavez supporter, he was open to criticism of Maduro. His criticism, unlike the U.S. corporate media, came from a left perspective. He argued that Maduro’s downfall came because he made concessions to the free market opposition. This opposition has only sabotaged the economy, despite Maduro’s willingness to play ball, according to Martin. It is similar to the U.S. where centrism, while much lauded as a virtue, will always be sabotaged by the right. If you give these bastards an inch, they will take a mile. Martin instead argues that the entire economy must be owned by the state. Half measures with the capitalists simply leaves them too much power, and as a result, they will destroy you for trying.


      This is why socialism must be an international venture. As long as neocolonialism remains in place, there will be no sustainable model for socialism. The economies are too interconnected, and without a clear advantage in resources, socialist countries can simply be sanctioned out of the competition. Left to rely upon exports to rich countries, poor countries only hold power as long as rich countries are willing to buy. Too much power in the hands of the people means not enough profits and projects for the rich. Therefore socialism becomes a problem, and socialist governments will be punished. As a result, socialist countries will become poor and rich countries will proclaim: socialism doesn’t work! When in reality, capitalism is what made the people hungry, socialism is what made the people dangerous. But there is sadly an inevitable shelf life to socialism as long as the world powers remain capitalist, the rich remain powerful, and the poor remain dependent. For socialism to succeed in the long term, there must be a global revolution.

      When the United States calls for intervention based on the issues of democracy and human rights, we fail to acknowledge our own role in the current crisis. If we should be intervening in anything, it should be the IMF, the World Bank and other institutions of global capital that rig the economy against working people, especially in the global south. This would go a long way to curbing the human suffering in Venezuela.

      A blind allegiance to the Nicholas Maduro would fail to cut to the heart of the issue. A more honest assessment would admit that building a prosperous economy for the masses under neocolonialism is a near impossibility, and that Maduro’s concessions to neoliberalism is a predictable, if not inevitable consequence of this structure. It is clear that many Venezuelans want Maduro gone, but they are wise enough to know that if this regime change is facilitated by the United States and other Western actors, a change will only cement these dynamics under the guise of a free and fair market.

    • Sanctions of Mass Destruction: America’s War on Venezuela
      American economic sanctions have been the worst crime against humanity since World War Two. America’s economic sanctions have killed more innocent people than all of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons ever used in the history of mankind.

      The fact that for America the issue in Venezuela is oil, not democracy, will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves on the planet.

      America seeks control of Venezuela because it sits atop the strategic intersection of the Caribbean, South and Central American worlds. Control of the nation, has always been a remarkably effective way to project power into these three regions and beyond.

      From the first moment Hugo Chavez took office, the United States has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist movement by using sanctions, coup attempts, and funding the opposition parties. After all, there is nothing more undemocratic than a coup d’état.

      United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, recommended, just a few days ago, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as a possible crime against humanity perpetrated by America.

    • Russia’s Proposal for North Korean Denuclearization: Will It Survive John Bolton?
      The Trump administration is looking askance at what may be a legitimate Russian effort to break the current disarmament deadlock between the United States and North Korea. According to The Washington Post, Russia made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall to advance negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Moscow offered North Korea a nuclear power plant in return for the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Russia would operate the nuclear plant and transfer all byproducts and waste back to Russia so that North Korea could not exploit the plant to build nuclear weapons.

      The idea of trading off a nuclear power plant for a dismantling of nuclear weaponry is not a new one. President Bill Clinton negotiated an arms control agreement with North Korea in 1994, promising Pyongyang two light-water reactors in return for a nuclear freeze. Construction on the site for the reactors began in the 1990s, but the Pentagon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission blocked delivery of the reactors. As a result, North Korea eventually walked away from the agreement in the first years of the Bush administration.

      In any event, U.S. officials are already dismissing the Russian idea as mere opportunism. The United States blocked previous Russian efforts to play a role in the denuclearization process, particularly during the George W. Bush administration when John Bolton was undersecretary of state for arms control. As the current national security adviser, Bolton can be expected to block any role for Russia in the disarmament scheme. This is counterproductive!

    • How Star Wars Came to Alaska
      The Kodiak Launch Complex was marketed to Alaskans as one of the nation’s first commercial space ports. Many promises were made to lure public support: High-paying, year-round jobs. Better roads. A fancy cultural center. New schools with real astronauts helping out in the classrooms. Peace and prosperity.

      The whole multibillion-dollar project, located on Narrow Cape, a remote tip of Kodiak Island 250 miles west of Anchorage, was supposed to be run by a state-chartered outfit called the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation. In 1996, the state and the feds turned over 3,500 acres of public land for the project, which would house two launching pads, a space vehicle assembly plant, a radar station, a command center and other support facilities. Its backers claimed that a new age of commercial space traffic was dawning, and that Kodiak Island was one of the world’s best locations for “launching telecommunications, remote sensing, and space science payloads” into orbit.

      Local skeptics weren’t thrilled at the prospect of their wilderness redoubt being transformed into an Alaskan Cape Canaveral. After all, Kodiak was already one of Alaska’s most popular tourist destinations, with tens of thousands of people coming to fish for salmon and halibut, hike the wilderness, photograph the great grizzlies and view one of the few thriving populations of gray whales in the Pacific–people who might think twice about visiting with missiles screaming overhead. Others worried their villages might be vulnerable to misfires and toxic fallout. Some wondered how Kodiak, one of the most remote islands in North America, could possibly be the epicenter of a profitable commercial enterprise. There were suspicions that something a bit more nefarious might be in the offing.

    • Makers of Nuclear Weapons Only Winners, Warn Critics, as Trump Ditches INF Treaty
      "There's a reason that kids today don't do duck-and-cover drills in schools and that nobody has bomb shelters in their backyards anymore," declared Merkley, the bill's lead sponsor. "This era of stability is put at great risk by President Trump's decision to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty."

      "Blowing up the treaty risks the proliferation of nuclear-capable systems by Russia, threatening Europe and jeopardizing decades of bipartisan efforts to reduce nuclear dangers with Russia," he warned. "There is no doubt that that Russia is violating the INF Treaty, but the right path forward is to work to bring them back into compliance, not free them to produce more nuclear weapons."

      Under the legislation, "no funds may be appropriated or otherwise made available for the procurement, flight testing, or deployment of a United States shorter- or intermediate-range ground launched ballistic or cruise missile system with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers until the secretary of defense, in concurrence with the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence, submits a report and offers a briefing to the appropriate committees of Congress" that both meet seven specific conditions detailed in the bill.

    • Sorting Through the Lies about Venezuela
      Challenging United States hegemony is never an easy course. A county need not be socialist — it is enough to either voice aspirations toward socialism, or merely demonstrate a pattern of not doing as Washington dictates.

      So here we go again, this time with Venezuela. Ironically for a country that the corporate media insistently claims has been ruled by two “dictators” (remember that Hugo Chávez was routinely denounced in the same ways that Nicolás Maduro is today) it would be difficult to find a country with more opportunities for grassroots democracy and for everyday people to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and neighborhoods. There has been backtracking on some of this, and there are legitimate complaints about the top-down manner in which the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is run. The U.S. government is in no position to point fingers, however, given its history in Latin America and the widespread voter suppression that is a regular feature of U.S. elections.

      It is also preposterous to assert that “socialism has failed” in Venezuela, when 70 percent of the country’s economy is in private hands, the country is completely integrated into the world capitalist system and it is (overly) dependent on a commodity with a price that wildly fluctuates on capitalist markets. Venezuela is a capitalist country that does far more than most to ameliorate the conditions of capitalism and in which socialism remains an aspiration. If something has “failed,” it is capitalism. Leaving much of the economy in the hands of capitalists leaves them with the ability to sabotage an economy, a lesson learned in painful fashion during the 1980s in Sandinista Nicaragua.

      Before delving into the significant problems of Venezuela, largely due to the economic war being waged against it by the U.S. government and the economic sabotage within by Venezuela’s industrialists and other business interests, it is worthwhile to briefly examine some of the democratic institutions that have been created since the Bolivarian Revolution took root in 1998.

    • Voting Against McConnell Amendment, Sanders Says 'American People Do Not Want Endless War'
      While slamming Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan without coordinating with allies as "reckless," the Vermont senator said in a statement explaining his no vote that the "American people do not want endless war" and urged Congress to use its constitutional authority to bring perpetual conflicts to a close.

      "American troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly 18 years, the longest war in American history. Our troops have been in Syria since 2015 under what I believe are very questionable legal authorities," Sanders declared. "The American people do not want endless war. It is the job of Congress to responsibly end these military interventions and bring our troops home, not to come up with more reasons to continue them, as this amendment does. That is why I voted against it."

      "President Trump's abrupt announcement last month that he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan was typical of his reckless approach—an approach that left our international partners blindsided and questioning U.S. leadership," the Vermont senator continued. "Congress must play a role, consistent with its constitutional authority over war, in developing a troop withdrawal plan that is coordinated with our allies, that continues to provide humanitarian aid, and that supports political settlements in these countries."

    • “The Worst Option is War”: US Intervention in Venezuela Will Only Deepen the Country’s Crisis
      The Trump administrating is currently working to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the name of freedom and democracy. Yet Washington’s efforts will only lead to bloodshed and a worsening of the country’s crisis and polarization.

      Just take a look at who is leading the coup efforts from Washington.

      US national security advisor John Bolton has been pounding the war drums against Venezuela since the US recognized Juan Guiadó as self-declared interim president of the country last week.

      At a news conference on Monday, Bolton raised eyebrows with a notepad he was holding that said “5,000 troops to Colombia.” While this may or may not signal that the US is seeking to invade Venezuela from its neighboring country, it does highlight the implications of the Trump White House keeping “all options on the table” when it comes to Venezuela.

      Bolton is no stranger to violent, intractable regime change. Back in the lead up to the Iraq War, he was a key figure who helped dupe the public into believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The result was one of the most catastrophic and far-reaching conflicts in modern history.

      Meanwhile, Elliot Abrams has been tapped as a special envoy to handle the current US involvement in Venezuela. Abrams is an infamous hawk who oversaw horrific massacres in El Salvador in the 1980s and led and covered up the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan.

    • Elliott Abrams: A Human Rights Horror Show in Three Acts
      Last Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Elliott Abrams would once again be returning to government, this time as President Donald Trump’s special envoy to help “fully restore democracy and prosperity” to Venezuela. Abrams, 71, is best known for abetting dictators and genocide in Latin America and for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Ronald Reagan administration, as well as for his ardent support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and for green-lighting a failed coup in Venezuela while serving in the George W. Bush administration. He is as reviled by countless Latin Americans as he is revered among neocons who pine for a more muscular US role in the hemisphere and beyond. What follows is an overview of the human rights horror show that has been Abrams’ government career, which now spans three presidential administrations over four decades.

      Act I: Dictators, Death Squads and Drug Dealers

      During the last decade of the Cold War, the Reagan administration staunchly supported right-wing military dictatorships throughout Latin America. The US was also instrumental in the creation and training of these regimes’ military officers, troops and security forces, some of whom committed assassinations, massacres and even genocidal violence with tacit, and sometimes open, American backing. The Reagan administration also covertly — and illegally — supported the brutal Contra rebels as they waged a terrorist war against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. This was the state of affairs at the State Department when Abrams was hired in 1981, first as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs and then as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.

      No Reagan administration official worked harder to subvert human rights in the Americas than Elliott Abrams. After the Atlacatl Battalion, an elite Salvadoran army unit created at the US Army School of the Americas, carried out a series of horrific massacres including the wholesale slaughter of more than 900 villagers at El Mozote in December 1981, Abrams praised the murderous battalion’s “professionalism” while attacking reports of casualty figures and the journalists who reported them. He also whitewashed Contra atrocities as well as those of the genocidal regime of General Efrían Ríos Montt in Guatemala, the Argentinian military junta — which wasstealing and selling the babies of its victims at the time — and other pro-US, anti-communist regimes.

    • Challenging The Liberal Case For Trump Administration’s Coup In Venezuela
      In an analysis published by POLITICO Magazine, Frida Ghitis, a contributing columnist for and the Washington Post, defended Democrats who support President Donald Trump’s policy of intervention in Venezuela.

      To the extent that Ghitis’ arguments represent the best case that Democrats and the wider liberal establishment can make for backing a coup attempt in Venezuela, the case she put forward is worth challenging thoroughly.

      Trump administration officials met with Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido as early as December, when he snuck out of the country and traveled to Washington, D.C. They planned to recognized Guaido as president after he declared himself the country’s new leader on January 23.

      The announcement was followed by sanctions, further diplomatic efforts to isolate President Nicolas Maduro’s government, and a pledge of $20 million in “humanitarian aid” from the Trump administration.

      Appeals were made to the Venezuela military by Trump officials to abandon Maduro and help the opposition mount their coup. The administration appointed Elliott Abrams, a former Reagan Administration official who has a history of supporting death squads in El Salvador, to be a special envoy to Venezuela. Military defectors apparently have urged Trump to arm them.

      Top Democrats and Republicans in Congress largely support the Trump administration’s regime change operation. Most Western media outlets uncritically amplify the message of the opposition. There aren’t many columns at prominent U.S. media outlets, which make the case against recognizing Guaido as the country’s legitimate president

    • Trump Pulls Out of Key Weapons Pact, Blames Russia
      The Trump administration said Friday it is freeing itself from the constraints of a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia and will begin withdrawing from the pact on Saturday.

      President Donald Trump blamed the Russians for the demise of the Cold War-era pact, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

      “For too long,” Trump said in a written statement issued by the White House, Russia has violated the treaty “with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.”

      The INF treaty, signed in 1987, has been a centerpiece of superpower arms control since the Cold War. Some analysts worry its demise could fuel a new arms race.

      Trump said that on Saturday, the U.S. will “suspend its obligations” under the treaty, meaning it will be freed from its constraints, including the testing and deployment of missiles banned by the pact. At the same time, the U.S. will begin the process of withdrawing from the treaty, which will be effective in six months, he said.

    • The Blood of Venezuelan Children for Oil as Collateral Damage.

    • Trump Venezuela Coup will End Badly for US
      Rick Sanchez, an anchor for Russia’s RT-America, reported last week of “Signs that the US attempt to change-out presidents in Venezuela may be falling flat.” He was speaking about the in-plain-sight US coup attempt unfolding on the northern coast of South America against the elected president of Venezuela. Lucas Koerner, a reporter with Venezuela Analysis, told RT there was “an eerie calm” in Caracas. “Life continues as normal,” he said. Juan Guaido, the man out-of-nowhere the Trump administration anointed as “the legitimate president of Venezuela” first appeared on a Wednesday, then was not seen in public until Friday. Koerner emphasized the complexities: President Nicolas Maduro is, indeed, not very popular among the Venezuelan people, but Donald Trump and the United States, given its history in Latin America, is even more unpopular. A recent poll revealed that 70% of Venezuelans disapprove of the opposition-controlled National Assembly that elected a 35-year-old US-educated nobody its president. It has been reported that Guaido was never even a full-fledged member of the legislative body; he was an alternative deputy. The reason for his ascendancy to be Venezuela’s “legitimate president” is simple, according to Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan writer with the investigative publication Mision Verdad: Guaido is a handsome young man with no problematic background, which makes him sellable to a US market. He’s the classic expendable puppet.

      Guaido was an energetic young activist seen in many anti-Chavez and anti-Maduro demonstrations, such as the violent demonstrations called guarimbas or violent fortresses. “Around 43 were killed during the 2014 guarimbas,” according to Gray Zone writers Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal. “Three years later, they erupted again, causing mass destruction of public infrastructure, the murder of government supporters, and the deaths of 126 people, many of whom were Chavistas.” There’s even an online image of what appears to be the new “legitimate president of Venezuela” dropping his pants in a demonstration with other men in a common youthful gesture of disrespect. (The hairline in the photo, a rear view, seems to be his hairline.) The point is, US mainstream media entities like The New York Times (which I often defend to my leftist friends) NEVER cover or factor in this kind of planned, violent opposition. As someone put it, the problem in Venezuela is not socialism — it’s sabotage. It’s gone on for years and even included a failed coup. If these kinds of insurrectionary actions happened in the United States, people would be gassed and gunned down in the streets by police and the 82nd Airborne. All this is covered thoroughly in a Cohen/Blumenthal article in Gray Zone called “The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader”.

    • Terrorism is a “Small Price to Pay” for World Domination
      There’s a simple formula which is almost verboten in Western mainstream media and political discourse: our violent foreign policies elicit violent responses. We call the violence of others “terrorism” and our own violence “humanitarian intervention,” “self-defense,” “maintaining the rules-based order,” and so on. I say that this formula is “almost” never discussed because occasional references can be found and compiled into a cohesive narrative that demonstrates, consistently, that protecting the general public from terrorism is a low priority compared to asserting imperial control–or “full spectrum dominance” as the Pentagon calls it–over the entire world, “to protect U.S. interests,” by which they mean corporate interests, “and investment.”

      As I document in Manufacturing Terrorism (2018, Clairview Books) experts predict an increase in terrorism, as nations assert their dominance over others.

      If the UK leaves the European Union, it risks a hard border between Ireland (which is part of the EU) and Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK). By effectively rejecting the Good Friday Agreement by putting a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event of Brexit, the Brexiteers are risking a resurgence of Irish Republican Army terrorism. Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, recently said that attacks, apparently by Republicans, portend a grim future. “I can remember when it was thoroughly unpleasant to go through the border and now, if we go back to that, it cuts off the increasing links between Northern Ireland and the Republic which are an important part of the message of the peace process.”

      Turning to the US, Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, recently reaffirmed the formula: “Terrorism remains a persistent threat and in some ways is positioned to increase in 2019.” Coats goes on to cite the wars in Iraq and Syria (omitting the US-British involvement) as “generat[ing] a large pool of skilled and battle-hardened fighters.” Coats goes on to note (omitting the flattening of Mosul by US-British bombers): “While ISIS is nearing territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group has returned to its guerilla-warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks.” Still, as one US Special Forces Operations officer put it just a few years ago: occasional terrorist attacks in the US and Europe are “a small price to pay for being a superpower.”

    • Venezuela, the United States and Hypocrisy
      United States hypocrisy, thy name is legion.

      The number of examples of this are truly stunning, and this writer has commented on them more than once. He will take this opportunity to shine his spotlight on yet another one that is currently prominent in the news.

      In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro was elected president, in an election generally thought to have been fair. He is, horror of horrors, a leftist, much to the chagrin of that mighty moral arbiter of world values, the U.S. So what did President Donald Trump and his minions do, which was followed quickly by many other world leaders who march in lock-step with the U.S? They recognized his opponent, one Juan Guaido, as the president of Venezuela.

      This brings up so many questions, that one almost hesitates to count them. But we will ask just one:

      What right does the U.S. have to determine who is the leader of any other nation on the planet?

      Let us consider a hypothetical situation. We will ask the reader to think back to the U.S. presidential election of November, 2016, when the county was faced with a choice between a vile, corporate-owned elitist candidate, and one that was even, incredibly, worse. The hapless voters selected the former, who won the popular vote by about 3,000,000 votes, yet the bizarre Electoral College installed the latter in the White House.

    • The Chain of Command is Clear. Must Guaidó Go From Hero to Martyr?
      The chain of command is clear: the Washington hawks rule, while Juan Guaidó and accomplices of the Lima Group go along, ready to share in the Venezuelan spoils. A deadly attack by social networks and hegemonic media is in progress aimed at creating a collective fantasy all about liberating a subjugated people.

      It calls for mounting street actions that show off “patriots” willing to do anything to expel the “tyrant.” A story is being built so that the European Union and Great Britain decide to support the usurper Guaidó and also so that that the conniving Group of Lima can reach concrete agreements when it meets on February 4. Although diplomatic failures are predictable, the United States needs to mobilize various actors in each regional and international space.

      Now the United States is moving forward with a fait accompliand wants to enlarge a consensus in favor of taking the next economic, political and military steps. Is the United States moving toward setting Russia against China? Is it moving against Citgo, that company belonging to PDVSA, once owned by Venezuela, but whose shares, almost half of them, are now owned by Russia?

      “We are waiting for them, we are waiting for the thugs, the mercenaries, and for those seeking to enter Venezuela,” said Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defense. “This is a siege. There’s a script. It’s the format they applied in Libya and we see the same actions rolling out now, one after the other,” he added.

    • I Declare Myself President of the United States of America
      I, Garry Leech, declare myself president of the United States of America. There I did it. I am now the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. “By what right?” you ask. By the right of the new democratic political process recently implemented in Venezuela and endorsed by the US government. This is how I am restoring democracy in the United States. In the same manner that the new self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, with the backing of the US government, is restoring democracy in Venezuela: through the ouster of a democratically elected leader.

      Now I realize that most US Americans have never heard of me, but only one in four Venezuelans had heard of Guaidó before he declared himself president of Venezuela on January 22nd. And you might argue that I have never run for national office in the United States. But that also didn’t stop Guaidó. Finally, you might declare that such a move on my part is unconstitutional. And you’d be correct. But that also didn’t prevent Guaidó from declaring himself president. Nor did it stop the United States, Canada and a handful of other imperialist nations from recognizing him. Apparently, democracy in the 21st century doesn’t require abiding by constitutions; nor does it require elections. And so, following the precedent established by Guaidó and his foreign backers, I unilaterally declare myself president of the United States as part of this new democratic order.

      One thing that Guaidó does have going for him that I don’t at this point is foreign recognition of his self-declared presidency. But I intend to fix that by working covertly with the governments of Russia and China, as Guaidó did with the US government prior to his self-appointment, in order to obtain their support for my presidency. Once again, following the Venezuelan precedent, getting recognition from such powerful nations will mean that my presidency will be legitimate.
    • Overthrowing Democratic Governments Is Practically an American Tradition
      COMMENTS President George H.W. Bush, right, shakes hands with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. (Wikimedia Commons) On September 15, 1970, U.S. President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger authorized the U.S. government to do everything possible to undermine the incoming government of the socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Nixon and Kissinger, according to the notes kept by CIA Director Richard Helms, wanted to “make the economy scream” in Chile; they were “not concerned [about the] risks involved.” War was acceptable to them as long as Allende’s government was removed from power. The CIA started Project FUBELT, with $10 million as a first installment to begin the covert destabilization of the country.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • 'Whistleblower' in White House security clearance office gets suspended

      Kline was the subject of an NBC News article last week that revealed he had approved Kushner's top-secret clearance after it was rejected by two career White House security specialists. The pair had made the decision to deny Kushner the clearance after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

    • Internal US Gov’t Document Outlines Program of ‘Economic Warfare’ on Venezuela
      Venezuela has suffered from an economic crisis in recent years, and while the US government and corporate media outlets have blamed this hardship solely on the ruling socialist party, internal US government documents acknowledge that Washington has been using what it clearly describes as “financial weapons” to wage “economic warfare” on the oil-rich South American nation.

      The quiet admission confirms what Caracas’ government has said for years: The United States is waging an economic war on Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves.

      Crippling sanctions imposed by the Donald Trump administration have bled Venezuela of billions of dollars.

      The first United Nations rapporteur to visit the nation in two decades, legal expert Alfred de Zayas, told The Independent that the devastating international sanctions on Venezuela are illegal and could potentially be a crime against humanity.

      Professor Steve Ellner, a leading scholar of Venezuela’s politics who has lived and taught in the country for decades, explained in an interview on Moderate Rebels that the sanctions have economically isolated Caracas: “The fear of retaliation on the part of the Trump administration has pressured the world economic community to lay off the Venezuelan economy. This amounts practically to a blockade of Venezuela.”

      In early 2019, the Trump administration dug the knife deeper. On January 23, the US government initiated a political coup in Venezuela by recognizing the unelected right-wing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as supposed “interim president.”

      Guaidó, who was unknown to a staggering 81 percent of Venezuelans according to a January poll, has tried to usurp the legitimate government of President Nicolás Maduro, who was re-elected in a 2018 presidential election that was voluntarily boycotted by the US-backed opposition.

      This ongoing coup attempt is the culmination of a two-decade long US destabilization campaign aimed at shattering Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Caracas has long described this campaign as one of economic warfare. And internal US government documents show that’s exactly what it is.


      WikiLeaks drew particular attention to a segment of the publication entitled “Financial Instrument of U.S. National Power and Unconventional Warfare.” This section outlines how the US government, in its own words, uses “financial weapons” to wage “economic warfare” against foreign governments that try to pursue an independent path.

    • Wikileaks releases details of Pope Francis's intervention in Knights of Malta condom controversy… sparking rumours Julian Assange's organisation is set to reveal Vatican secrets
      Private letters written by Pope Francis to a papal envoy over the use of condoms in aid missions to Africa to prevent sexually transmitted diseases have been published online.

      A medieval order called the Knights of Malta, founded in the 11th century during the crusades, supported handing out prophylactics to help stop the spread of HIV-AIDS.

      This was directly in contravention of the Catholic church's teachings on contraception.

      Prince and Grand Master of the Order, Matthew Festing, was adamant that Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, should be held responsible and dismissed him in January 2017.

    • Wikileaks says founder Julian Assange 'cannot hope to receive fair trial' after a judge refuses to unseal potential charges against him in the US
      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “cannot hope to receive a fair trial” in the US after a judge refused to make supposed criminal charges against him public, according to the organisation.

      Free press advocates had sought to unseal charges after a federal prosecutor inadvertently typed a reference to "the fact that Assange has been charged" in an unrelated case last year.


      "The administration is playing a double game that seeks to build political cover for Assange's arrest without giving the public, the press and Mr Assange the facts necessary to resist it.

    • Press Group Loses Bid to Unseal DOJ Assange Records
      Refusing to unseal court documents related to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a federal judge told a press freedom group vying for the records Wednesday to wait until prosecutors confirm Assange’s indictment.

    • Australian diplomats visit Assange, told of 'deteriorating health'
      Australian diplomats have reportedly visited Julian Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London to hear firsthand about what his lawyer says is his “deteriorating health”.

      Greg Barns, an Australian lawyer and adviser to Assange and WikiLeaks, revealed the visit had taken place.

      He said he and his colleagues will now directly appeal to Foreign Minister Marise Payne to petition the UK government to let Assange leave the embassy for urgent medical care without being arrested.

    • Judge in Assange unsealing case: Reporters group can’t force U.S. to confirm criminal charges
      On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria agreed with the RCFP about the importance of the public’s right to access judicial records, which she called “an indispensable feature of the American justice system.” She agreed with the committee’s technical argument that the public has a presumptive First Amendment right to access charging documents before a defendant is arrested.

      But Judge Brinkema ruled that the RCFP’s motion to unseal Assange case files is premature because we really don’t know for sure whether Assange has been charged. Federal prosecutors from the Alexandria U.S. Attorney’s office have acknowledged that the Kokayi filing erroneously contained references to Assange but in its opposition to the RCFP unsealing petition, the government refused to confirm that Julian Assange has been charged. In light of that refusal, Judge Brinkema said, “the Committee's evidentiary amalgam of an obviously erroneous filing in an unrelated case, public speculation, news stories and anonymous statements by government officials does not supply a level of certainty comparable to that afforded by official acknowledgment.”

    • Judge refuses to unseal Assange charges
      A federal judge in the US has rejected a request to unseal criminal charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that were mistakenly revealed in another case.

    • Judge refuses to force government to reveal if Julian Assange has been charged
    • Judge Denies Request To Unseal Criminal Charges Against Julian Assange
    • Judge refuses to unseal criminal charges against Assange
    • A Judge Won't Force The Government To Reveal If Julian Assange Has Been Charged With A Crime
    • Judge won’t unseal criminal case against Julian Assange
    • Judge refuses to unseal criminal charges against Assange
    • WikiLeaks Seeks to Unseal all Assange Indictments
    • Assange takes legal action to force Trump administration to reveal charges against him
    • WikiLeaks sues to unseal any charges against founder Assange
    • Press Can't Force Government to Disclose Whether Julian Assange Has Been Charged With a Crime, Judge Rules
    • Judge rules documents about possible Julian Assange charges to remain under seal
    • Push for US to reveal Assange charges

    • Assange takes legal action against US
      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced Jan. 23, that he is launching a legal challenge against the United States government.

    • Only Massive Publicity in US and UK Will Change Things for Julian Assange - Prof
      I'm not very optimistic because there's a huge cultural arrogance by the Americans which the British show as well. British justice is full of cultural arrogance that they know best, that they have a blank check to do what they like.

    • Rally to demand the Australian government acts to free Julian Assange!
      The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), calls on workers, students and all those who defend the democratic right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, to endorse, promote and participate in our demonstrations in Sydney on March 3, and in Melbourne on March 10. These rallies will demand that the Australian government takes immediate action to secure the freedom of WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Snow, Roads, Birds and Plows: Scenes From the Catskills
      Shrugging off what’s called cabin fever, I depart, slowly, to test my car and traction on the roadway. I follow the country road along the Beaverkill River to town.

      A mile out, I notice something unusual—cars standing in front of each of two neighbors’ houses. I regularly pass these houses. I know that their owners aren’t here during winter months. And with several inches of snow already on the ground, I’m wondering: Why are they here at all? (A blizzard is forecast.)

      Not suspicious; just curious.

      As I drive on, this curiosity leads to fantasy. They’ve come simply to enjoy a day of softly falling snow. Having lived here year-round when the children were young, they’re recalling the enchantment of fresh snow, how they frolicked at night in the fluffy heaps, flakes still descending on them. After the children sleep, she and her husband walked together under a bright midnight sky.

      The stillness of fresh snowfall is unsurpassed. Early morning is glorious… before the plows arrive. Gentle whiteness obliterates flaws on the fields– all that debris flung down by November winds. Through today’s leafless trees, they’ll see a whole new landscape; hopefully they’ll sight the great bald eagles, identify their nests as well.

    • Food shocks increase as world warms
      More than ever, the world’s ways of keeping hunger at bay are taking a pounding as food shocks become more frequent. Potatoes are being baked in heat waves. Corn is being parched by drought. Fruit is being bitten by frost.

      And a long-term study suggests that for the world’s farmers and graziers, fishing crews and fish farmers, things will get worse as the world warms. Australian and US scientists report in the journal Nature Sustainability that they examined the incidence of what they call “food shocks” across 134 nations over a period of 53 years.

      They found that some regions and some kinds of farming have suffered worse than others; that food production is vulnerable to volatile climate and weather changes; and that the dangers are increasing with time.

      The researchers looked at cases of dramatic crop failure, harvest loss and fishing fleet failures between 1961 and 2013, as recorded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and other sources, and then mapped shock frequency and co-occurrence.

      In their database of 741 available time-series of food production, they found 226 cases of food shock: dramatic interruption of supply.

    • Democrats Killed the Green New Deal
      Environmental activists received a reality check when newly empowered Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed aside demands for an environmental economic transition program— a Green New Deal, in favor of reviving a toothless committee to ‘study’ the problem. A transition program is needed to mitigate the economic dislocations that will result from resolving the multiple environmental crises currently underway.

      The move by Democrats virtually guarantees that the political support needed to move such a transition forward will be undermined by the day-to-day needs of the economically precarious majority. Recent evidence in this direction comes from the French gilets jaunes (yellow vests) whose rebellion allegedly began in response to an environmental gasoline tax. The rebellion was opportunistically framed as against environmental resolution rather than who pays for it.

      Four decades of neoliberal economic policies have exacerbated class tensions as well as environmental destruction leaving a large ‘precariat’ that neither can, nor should, pay for environmental resolution. Given the distribution of the spoils, it is more than reasonable to force the cleanup costs on those who (1) caused the problem and (2) benefited from its creation. In this sense, a government funded program of resolution is the best the rich could hope for.

    • The Polar Vortex Is Climate Disruption in Action
      At least 20 people have died and vast swaths of the US Midwest and Northeast have come to a standstill because of a frigid blast of sub-zero temperatures. Another Arctic vortex has struck.

      A polar vortex is a large expanse of swirling, cold air that is usually located in the polar regions. However, during winter, and now more frequently due to human-caused climate disruption, the vortex expands and moves southward, bringing the Arctic temperatures with it.

      Studies have shown that a warming Arctic is shifting the jet stream, and playing a critical role in the changes that are causing the polar vortex to become more common in the US.

      In addition to deaths, the record low temperatures have resulted in many frostbite patients flocking to hospitals, the grounding of more than 1,600 flights in the Chicago area alone, and the US Postal Service ceasing mail delivery at times in certain areas.

    • CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years
      Around the world, atypical climate change grows increasingly threatening to all life on the planet, principally because of excessive CO2 emissions. Paradoxically, this is happening on the heels of the Paris 2015 climate accord among nations of the world.

      But, didn’t almost all of the countries of the world pledge to cut back greenhouse gas emissions?

      Oh yes, they did, but CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year. Ever since Paris 2015 nothing positive has happened to halt global warming, almost nothing!

      Granted, it’s true that renewable installations, especially in China, are hot items but so is fossil fuel usage, which had its largest increase in seven years in 2018. Ya gotta wonder: Where’s Waldo/Paris2015?

      By all appearances, pledges to reduce greenhouse gases at Paris 2015 are fatigued because the climate system is staggering and sending early warning signs of rapid deterioration of key ecosystems that support life, which, in large measure, is caused by ever-increasing bursts of CO2 emissions.

      On January 25, 2019, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK issued a dismal CO2 forecast: “Faster CO2 Rise Expected in 2019.”

      “During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.”

      As of today, 4 years since Paris 2015, CO2 is supposed to be plateauing or leveling, flattish, not roaring ahead in a 62-year ascendency to new record highs as it continues to ratchet up. Something’s horribly amiss about the pledges by countries to reduce CO2 emissions in order to minimize the risks of climate change/global warming. Those pledges are going backwards, falling into a deep black abyss.

      Indeed, part of the problem is a function of the failure of natural carbon sinks to draw down CO2 like years past. This problem (gulp-gulp) is a double negative whammy as natural carbon sinks, like tropical rainforests (think the Amazon) and sweeping meadows with tall swaying grasses (think the Russian Steppes), keep humanity humming along in a Goldilocks planet, not too hot, not to cold, but maybe coming to an abrupt end, which implies too much climate stress with subsequent human warfare over depleting food supplies.

    • European Colonizers' Genocide of 56 Million Native Americans So Devastating "It Literally Cooled the Planet"
      The mass genocide of the Native American people by European colonizers during the 15th and 16th centuries—in which an estimated 56 million indigenous people, or 90 percent of the population, were wiped out by violence and disease—was so complete and devastating, new research shows, that it triggered a planetary cooling.

      According to scientists at the University College London,the Europeans' mass killing of natives in the Caribbean and the Americas led to the populations' agricultural systems to go untended, leading to an overgrowth of vegetation all over the region. So many new trees and plants grew over a total area of about 55 million hectares, that the vegetation absorbed significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and caused the planet to cool down.

      This period was marked by a drop in global temperatures by .15 degrees Celsius (or .27 degrees Fahrenheit), disrupting agriculture around the world and leading to several famines in Europe.

    • On the Birth of Global Green Consciousness
      What would the founding fathers of sociology (Marx, Weber, Durkheim) have made of the current global growth of Green consciousness?

      Although we can never know for sure, Marx might have said that the forces of production had reached a point where their further growth and their continued domination of nature required either a revolution in the relations of production or at the very least a partial revolution in those same forces of production.

      Arguably the current Green movement pleads for both: the further development of green technology and the reorganization of the distribution and production of goods/services/wages.

      Following Marx, we could say that it is no coincidence that as capitalism reached over-saturated global dimensions (especially after the fall of Totalitarian Socialism), a global awareness of the contradictions of that system (most acutely in the form of climate change and income inequality) grew in importance. The ideology and practice of commodification reaches its Golgotha in climate catastrophe.

      In a sense, today’s Green movement can be seen, if not necessarily as a class based movement, than as the formation of a significant global grouping sharing a collective consciousness concerning their aims and origins. They have become a social group for itself (für sich) and thus are more than ready to enact social change and even perhaps engage in revolutionary praxis.

    • Bolsonaro’s Plan to Plunder the Amazon
      The rise of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has put the environment and human rights in peril. His promises to open the Amazon for business could result in huge deforestation and the release of vast greenhouse-gas emissions. His threats to slash fundamental environmental and indigenous rights standards that help keep the Amazon standing are a threat to climate stability.

      Mr. Bolsonaro, however, wouldn’t be the only one to blame for devastating the Amazon. Companies that accept his invitation to reap profit from Amazon destruction, and the financial institutions that provide the capital, will also bear great responsibility. And those poised to benefit from Mr. Bolsonaro’s reckless policies include American companies and financial institutions.

      Two of the largest publicly traded agribusiness firms operating in the Brazilian Amazon — Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge — are American-based companies. Agribusiness, in particular soy and beef production, is a leading driver of forest loss and human-rights abuses in the Brazilian Amazon, and A.D.M. and Bunge are two of the largest soy traders in Brazil. As producers seek more and more land for growing crops and grazing cattle, they push ever deeper into the Amazon. According to a report published in 2014, an estimated 90 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is due to agribusiness activities.

      Where would these powerful agribusiness companies get the capital they need to bulldoze deeper into the Amazon, if they should take Mr. Bolsonaro up on his offer to eliminate environmental protections?

      This means they have the potential to exert pressure on the very companies that could either moderate or enable Mr. Bolsonaro’s threats to the future of the Amazon — and the climate. Many Americans, in turn, have a direct relationship with those asset managers, since those firms manage many pension funds and retirement accounts.

    • "Frosty the Slowman": Climate Scientists Reveling in This Daily Show Segment Ripping Trump's Stupidity
      Climate scientists gave a round of applause Thursday night to a segment on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" that quickly—and with an appropriate level of frustration—showed the ignorance of President Donald Trump's continued confusion over the difference between climate and weather.

      "President Frosty the Slowman" is the only one who doesn't seem to understand the difference, said correspondent Ronny Chieng. Holding a chart depicting the planet's increasing average land and ocean temperatures, Chieng said, "It doesn't matter if it's sometimes cold in Cincinnati because the line keeps going the f--k up."

    • Climate Misinformation Researchers Throw Support Behind California Communities Suing Fossil Fuel Companies
      Just in case fossil fuel companies had forgotten when and how much they knew about the impacts their products have had on the climate, a reminder came at them in court this week.

      On January 29, six researchers studying climate misinformation filed one of eight friend-of-the-court briefs in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the California communities suing fossil fuel companies for climate damages.

      The dozens of companies, which include a variety of oil, gas, and coal producers and refiners, such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Peabody, are trying to get the cases moved from state to federal court, where similar climate liability lawsuits from San Francisco, Oakland, and New York City have not fared so well. The Court of Appeals is lumping together six suits from California counties and cities while deciding where they should be tried.

      Some of the top academics examining fossil fuel companies’ actions and communications around climate change were involved in filing the brief, which rather concisely summarizes the major take-aways from their research in its table of contents.

    • Extreme Cold in Northern U.S. Leaves More Than 2 Dozen Dead
      The dangerous cold and heavy snow that hobbled the northern U.S. this week has retreated, but not before exacting a human toll: more than two dozen weather-related deaths in eight states and hundreds of injuries, including frostbite, broken bones, heart attacks and carbon monoxide poisoning.

      In Illinois alone, hospitals reported more than 220 cases of frostbite and hypothermia since Tuesday, when the polar vortex moved in and overnight temperatures plunged to minus 30 (minus 34 Celsius) or lower — with wind chills of minus 50 (minus 45 Celsius) or worse in some areas.

      Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis normally sees around 30 frostbite patients in an entire winter. It admitted 18 in the past week, spokeswoman Christine Hill said Friday.

    • National Parks Rush to Clean Up Toppled Trees, Trash After Shutdown
      National park visitors cut new trails in sensitive soil. They pried open gates while no one was watching. They found bathrooms locked, so they went outside. One off-roader even mowed down an iconic twisted-limbed Joshua tree in California.

      During the 35-day government shutdown, some visitors to parks and other protected areas nationwide left behind messes and repairs that National Park Service officials are scrambling to clean up and repair as they brace for the possibility of another closure ahead of the busy Presidents Day weekend this month.

    • BP Backs Shareholder Call to Align its Strategy With Paris Climate Goals
      BP will back a shareholder push for it to begin reporting on how its strategy fits with the Paris Agreement’s goals, the British oil and gas major said on Friday.

      The Climate Action 100+ group of more than 300 investors, who hold around $32 trillion in assets, plan to present the shareholder resolution at BP’s annual general meeting in May. The resolution would require BP to set out a business strategy that it considers, “in good faith,” to be in line with the Paris goals to limit global temperature rise to well below 2€°C, and aim for 1.5€°C.

      The company would also have to evaluate whether each new material capital investment is consistent with the climate agreement. And it would have to set out its anticipated levels of investment in oil, gas, and other energy technologies, its goals for reducing operational greenhouse gas emissions, the estimated carbon intensity of its energy products, and how its targets are linked to executive pay.

    • Corporate Front Group, American Council on Science and Health, Smears List of Its Enemies as "Deniers for Hire"
      The industry front group American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has created a clunky new website containing an intriguing list of its enemies.

      You may find a few folks you know vilified there. was created in 2016, according to a proxy-cloaked WHOIS listing. The site was funded by ACSH and edited by Cameron English, who currently works for the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP). GLP is another industry front group, run by chemical company PR agent Jon Entine, who has long partnered with ACSH to defend the agrochemical industry. Entine blogs frequently on the ACSH site.

      The "deniers" site hyperbolically states as its goal "to expose and neutralize anti-science activist threats to humanity" and features profiles of those who have been thorns in the side of the chemical industry and related groups: scientists, journalists, lawyers, policy experts, and non-profits. Among the "threats to humanity" is New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eric Lipton.

    • Indigenous Struggle Is Key to a Green New Deal
      NEWLY INAUGURATED Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez made headlines with her bold proposal for a Green New Deal.

      The plan is an aggressive proposal to be off fossil fuels by 2030. A Green New Deal of this scale would require mass mobilization and demands to resist current fossil fuel projects while demanding a new future.

      One of the points in Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is calling for the protection of Indigenous nations and communities.

      Indigenous people have been on the front lines of extractive policies in the U.S. and Canada, while also being frontline resisters. Two years ago, we witnessed the inspirational struggle at Standing Rock calling to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

      Indigenous resistance is attempting to push back increased attacks on Indigenous lands by both Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the service of fossil-fuel energy projects.

    • Freezing Inmates Desperate for Heat at Federal Detention Center in Brooklyn
      More than a thousand people incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., say they have been locked in freezing cells for a week. Activists and inmates’ family members gathered outside the federal facility on Saturday to demand humane conditions.

      A power outage has left the jail’s more than 1,600 inmates to endure this week’s brutal cold snap without light or heat. Because they are also without computers, inmates have been unable to contact loved ones, renew medical prescriptions or email attorneys for help. Jail cells do not have electrical power, according to federal defender Deirdre von Dornum, who visited the facility on Friday night. Inmates are also not being let into common areas.

      “In the past hour I have gotten 11 calls,” said Rachel Bass, a paralegal with the Federal Defenders of New York. She said people were experiencing congestion. “People are frantic. They’re really, really scared. They don’t have extra blankets. They don’t have access to the commissary to buy an extra sweatshirt.” (There was not enough electricity for the commissary to be open.)

  • Finance

    • Antidotes to Brutal Capitalism? Some Hidden in Plain Sight
      In our capitalist economy, business enterprise is controlled by capitalists, of course, and structured to bring highest return to shareholders. We’re all supposed to love this set-up because competition among companies gives us ever cooler products and always better deals. Right?

      But, wait a minute…where is the competition?

      Over just the last 15 years, mergers have proliferated so quickly that in twelve major industries just two companies now control more than half the market. Economists warn us this level of concentration kills competition — not to mention bringing with it an erosion of wages, as monopoly weakens competition for workers too.

    • A wealth tax could raise trillions — and save our democracy
      Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has jolted the body politic with a bold proposal to tax the concentrated wealth of the richest 75,000 households in the United States. It’s about time someone took up this mantle.

      Warren’s proposal would levy an annual 2 percent tax on wealth over $50 million, with the rate rising to 3 percent on wealth over $1 billion. Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man in the country, would pay $4.1 billion under the new tax.

      The United States has a proud tradition of breaking up concentrated wealth. The first federal progressive income and estate taxes date from the first Gilded Age, over a century ago. That’s when President Theodore Roosevelt observed, “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy.”

      The wealth tax that Warren proposes would raise substantial revenue — by one estimate almost $3 trillion in the next decade. This would be a substantial boost for spending on green infrastructure, affordable higher education, and other investments that could expand opportunity.

    • The Wealthy Are Victims of Their Own Propaganda
      Ocasio-Cortez first mentioned the 70 percent rate in response to a question from CNN’s Anderson Cooper about how she proposes to pay for programs like a Green New Deal that could cost trillions of dollars. Higher tax rates, she suggested, might be one part of the answer.

      Then Warren released a video explaining that her “ultra-millionaire tax” could raise nearly $3 trillion over 10 years, money that she says could be used to pay for programs like universal child care, a Green New Deal and student-debt forgiveness.

      Oh, I forgot to mention, my friend is wealthy enough to get hit by both.

      I’ve argued elsewhere that we can pay for a Green New Deal and that the obsession with finding a dollar of new “revenue” to offset every new dollar of spending is the wrong way to approach the federal budgeting process. My views belong to the macroeconomic school of thought known as Modern Monetary Theory — MMT, for short.

    • Stop being a slave to the chart. The easiest way to track your Bitcoin profits.
      We often find ourselves checking the bitcoin price multiple times a day, waiting for the next peak or valley. We all want to make some profit from the market volatility.

      Often times this becomes distracting and time consuming, but not anymore. We will be building a script which automatically checks the price at your favorite exchange, compares it to your starting price and notifies you of the profit you are making.

    • EU Drops Corporate Sovereignty For Internal Bilateral Agreements, But Top Court Adviser Says It Can Be Used In CETA
      As Techdirt noted last September, corporate sovereignty -- the ability of companies to sue entire countries for allegedly lost profits -- has been on the wane recently. One important factor within the EU was a decision earlier last year by the region's top court that investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) -- the official name for corporate sovereignty -- could not be used for investment deals within the EU. The reasoning was that ISDS courts represented a legal system outside EU law, which was not permitted when dealing with internal EU matters. As a direct consequence of that ruling, the Member States of the EU have just issued a declaration on the legal consequences (pdf). Essentially, these are that all bilateral investment treaties between Member States will be cancelled, and that corporate sovereignty claims can no longer be brought over internal EU matters.

      However, that leaves an important question: what about trade deals between the EU and non-EU nations -- can they include ISDS chapters? In order to settle this issue, Belgium asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) whether the corporate sovereignty chapter of CETA, the trade deal between the EU and Canada, was compatible with EU law. As well as clarifying the situation for CETA, this would also provide definitive guidance on the legality of ISDS in past and future trade deals.
    • The Toxic Legacy of Environmental Neoliberalism
      At December’s Katowice Climate Change Conference, Polish President Andrzej Duda proudly opened the proceedings by declaring that coal “does not contradict the protection of the climate and the progress of climate protection.”

      This bizarre and ecologically immoral statement, and the conference’s general embrace of coal, comes from a country whose history deserves greater attention, especially since it echoes so much of the world’s present situation — and possibly our future.

      Since joining the European Union in 2004, the Polish state has doggedly pursued the neoliberal policies of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. The “free” market and finance were liberated from state intervention on behalf of the commons and the environment. Limitless economic growth and hyperconsumerism became a mantra. State industries and services were privatized. The economy boomed, and according to Western trade analysts, Polish consumers “are used to doing their shopping seven days a week and at any time of day or night.”

      However, this recent history can make it easy to forget that Poles lived under communism for 44 years until 1989. This was an era mostly marked by economic recessions, severe consumer shortages and an absolute condemnation of capitalism. For better or worse, citizens accepted their meager material conditions with stoic resignation, and a few embraced a minimalist lifestyle. Simply put, Polish culture was not driven by mass consumption and materialism. Those were unattainable.

      But at the same time, Polish Marxists in the immediate aftermath of a destructive World War were convinced that communism would quickly usher in a proletarian utopia of progress and plenty. Steel mills, aluminum smelting facilities, shipyards and cement plants were constructed in an initial spasm of modernizing dynamism. Forests were cleared, wetlands were drained and the countryside was electrified. An infrastructure of railroads and roads was built and a mostly rural population became rapidly urbanized. Poland experienced tangible progress. Like other Soviet satellites, Poland demonstrated to its citizens that Marxism could deliver material wealth.
    • Despite Backlash, Teacher Strikes Are Spreading Across Country
      Teachers in Colorado, Virginia and Oakland, California, were newly emboldened this week as they watched teachers in Los Angeles return to their classrooms after a successful six-day strike with an increase in pay and support staff. Now, they too are making their demands for fully funded schools known, with some moving closer a strike of their own.

      The LA strike has reverberated strongly in northern California, where educators face many of the same issues, including ballooning class sizes and meager support staff. The Oakland Education Association, whose members have been without a contract since July 2017, began a four-day strike authorization vote Tuesday. The last of the union’s 3,000 members will vote today, and an authorization could lead to Oakland teachers’ first strike since 2010. The authorization votes come on the heels of hundreds of Oakland teachers calling out sick January 18 in a wildcat “sickout” action to rally and march for school funding.

    • Wall Street, Banks and Angry Citizens
      A major question remains unanswered when it comes to the state of Main Street, not just here but across the planet. If the global economy really is booming, as many politicians claim, why are leaders and their parties around the world continuing to get booted out of office in such a sweeping fashion?

      One obvious answer: the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat. In other words, the good times have left out so many people, like those struggling to keep even a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts to cover an emergency or the 80% of American workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

      In today’s global economy, financial security is increasingly the property of the 1%. No surprise, then, that, as a sense of economic instability continued to grow over the past decade, angst turned to anger, a transition that — from the U.S. to the Philippines, Hungary to Brazil, Poland to Mexico — has provoked a plethora of voter upheavals. In the process, a 1930s-style brew of rising nationalism and blaming the “other” — whether that other was an immigrant, a religious group, a country, or the rest of the world — emerged.

      This phenomenon offered a series of Trumpian figures, including of course The Donald himself, an opening to ride a wave of “populism” to the heights of the political system. That the backgrounds and records of none of them — whether you’re talking about Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte, or Jair Bolsonaro (among others) — reflected the daily concerns of the “common people,” as the classic definition of populism might have it, hardly mattered. Even a billionaire could, it turned out, exploit economic insecurity effectively and use it to rise to ultimate power.

      Ironically, as that American master at evoking the fears of apprentices everywhere showed, to assume the highest office in the land was only to begin a process of creating yet more fear and insecurity. Trump’s trade wars, for instance, have typically infused the world with increased anxiety and distrust toward the U.S., even as they thwarted the ability of domestic business leaders and ordinary people to plan for the future. Meanwhile, just under the surface of the reputed good times, the damage to that future only intensified. In other words, the groundwork has already been laid for what could be a frightening transformation, both domestically and globally.

    • Will Iran Sanctions Herald the Fall of the Imperial Dollar?
      When the Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018 and announced it would reimpose sanctions against Iran, the European Union (EU) declared its commitment to preserving the agreement and finding ways for its companies to circumvent U.S. sanctions. Now, eight months later, the Europeans finally announced the creation of INSTEX (Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges) as an alternative payment system so that European firms can do business with Iran. This mechanism might be too little and too late to salvage the Iran nuclear deal but it marks a milestone in an inevitable transition of epic proportions: the end of the global hegemony of the dollar.

      INSTEX is a complicated mechanism registered in France and headed by a German banker, with shareholders from the three European countries that were signatories to the Iran nuclear deal: France, Germany and the UK. It will initially be used for non-sanctionable trade, such as medicine, food and medical devices, and is also likely to only attract smaller businesses, not large companies with significant exposure to U.S. markets.It has had an 8-month difficult birth because no one country wanted to claim maternity rights for fear of a U.S. backlash. Indeed, the U.S. threatened to devour it before it was born.

      While other countries use economic sanctions as weapons in international disputes, the U.S. is the only country that imposes secondary sanctions on third country citizens and institutions. The U.S. government uses the role of the dollar as an international reserve currency and the central role of U.S. banks and institutions in the international financial system to present third country firms with an insidious either/or choice: cut off business ties with Iran (or Russia, North Korea, Turkey, etc.), or lose far more lucrative business with the U.S. and risk financial penalties in U.S. courts. For most companies, the choice is clear.

      The Iranian economy has been devastated as dozens of European companies have abandoned trade deals and investments that had resumed following the signing of the nuclear accord.

    • Trump’s Brilliant Strategy to Dismember U.S. Dollar Hegemony
      The end of America’s unchallenged global economic dominance has arrived sooner than expected, thanks to the very same Neocons who gave the world the Iraq, Syria and the dirty wars in Latin America. Just as the Vietnam War drove the United States off gold by 1971, its violent regime change warfare against Venezuela and Syria – and threatening other countries with sanctions if they do not join this crusade – is driving European and other nations to create their alternative financial institutions.

      This break has been building for quite some time, and was bound to occur. But who would have thought that Donald Trump would become the catalytic agent? No left-wing party, no socialist, anarchist or foreign nationalist leader anywhere in the world could have achieved what he is doing to break up the American Empire.

      The Deep State is reacting with shock at how this right-wing real estate grifter has been able to drive other countries to defend themselves by dismantling the U.S.-centered world order. To rub it in, he is using Bush and Reagan-era Neocon arsonists, John Bolton and now Elliott Abrams, to fan the flames in Venezuela. It is almost like a black political comedy. The world of international diplomacy is being turned inside-out. A world where there is no longer even a pretense that we might adhere to international norms, let alone laws or treaties.

      The Neocons who Trump has appointed are accomplishing what seemed unthinkable not long ago: Driving China and Russia together – the great nightmare of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. They also are driving Germany and other European countries into the Eurasian orbit, the “Heartland” nightmare of Halford Mackinder a century ago.

    • Economy Adds 304,000 Jobs in January, Employment Rate Hits New High for Recovery
      There are, however, sharp difference across sectors. Pay increases have been sharpest in the lowest-paying sectors, with retail wages up 4.9 percent and restaurant wages up 3.9 percent over the last year. Manufacturing, by contrast, has seen very weak wage growth, with the average hourly wage up just 1.4 percent over the last year.

    • Anthropologist Debunks Bill Gates' BS Narrative That Free-Market Capitalism Has Solved Crisis of Global Poverty
      Anthropologist and author Jason Hickel swiftly disabused readers of a narrative offered by Microsoft founder Bill Gates this week, rejecting the billionaire's statement on Twitter that "people underestimate just how much life has improved over the last two centuries."

      The idea that the free-market capitalism has grown while solving the crisis of extreme poverty around the world may be tempting for some to embrace, Hickel wrote in the Guardian—but it is "completely wrong."

      Ahead of his appearance at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Gates shared an infographic on Twitter claiming to show that extreme global poverty has plummeted since 1820, with 94 percent living in poverty 200 years ago compared with just 10 percent today.

    • The Curious Case of a Kentucky Cybersecurity Contract
      In the months after the 2016 elections, state election administrators spent millions of dollars investigating and addressing the cyber intrusions that had penetrated voting systems in dozens of states. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes emerged as one of the loudest voices calling for improvements.

      In February 2017, at an elections conference dominated by talk of cybersecurity, Grimes claimed to have found the perfect answer to the threat: A small company called CyberScout, which she said would comb through Kentucky’s voting systems, identify its vulnerabilities to hacking and propose solutions.

      Three days later, Assistant Secretary of State Lindsay Hughes Thurston submitted paperwork to give the company a no-bid two-year contract with the State Board of Elections, or SBE, for $150,000 a year. She did not inform the SBE — the agency that oversees the state’s voting systems — that she was doing so.

    • What Minnesota Can Teach America About Avoiding Future Government Shutdowns
      The US government shutdown is over for now and Trump and the Senate Republicans lost in the court of public opinion. Trump has temper-tantrumed another government shutdown if he does not get his wall and Republican senators are apoplectic at th is prospect, fearing partisan loss of their chamber come 2020 if that happens. What should they do and, more importantly, what should the American government do to prevent a future shutdown? The answer is simple–learn from the state of Minnesota and do what it did not–enact into law an automatic continuing resolution to prevent future shutdowns.

      With one shutdown over and the next looming the real focus now should be on the causes and consequences of the shutdown and how to prevent a future one. Technically the government shuts down when there is no legal authorization to spend money. There is a simple way to prevent shutdowns whether in three weeks or the future and it is the same solution I have argued for in Minnesota for the past 15 years–pass a law enabling an automatic continuing resolution to continue funding the government in the event that no budget agreement or normal continuing resolution are adopted.

      Minnesotans know a lot about government shutdowns. We have had three since 2001–more than any government in the US, if not the world. What we have learned about what causes and ends them might tell Americans something about why the US shutdown occurred and what it will take to prevent future ones.

      Minnesota is a microcosm of the US. It once enjoyed a pristine image political image. Touted in the 1970s with then governor Wendell Anderson on the cover of Time Magazine as the state that works, the reality is that Minnesota has become a partisanly divided state that has impacted the performance of its state government. Minnesota is the only state with split partisan control of the legislature. Similar to the federal government which has a budget process and deadlines, Minnesota has one too.

      Yet since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the state has more often than not missed statutory deadlines, resulting in government closures and court fights. In 2001 with Democrats in control of the Senate, Republicans in the House, and Independence Party Governor Jesse Ventura, the state started its new fiscal year without a budget but was saved from a shutdown with a last minute deal. With a similar partisan legislative split in 2005 and Republican Tim Pawlenty as governor, there was a partial shutdown of nine days, and in 2011 with Republicans controlling both houses of the legislature and Democrat Mark Dayton as governor, there was a 20-day partial shutdown. In each case, state courts intervened to order essential governmental functions to be funded, and the shutdowns ended when public pressure and political self-interest drove leaders to compromise. It also did not hurt that the inability to issue beer licenses added to the public pressure.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Another Billionaire Presidential Candidate Who Doesn’t Get It
      Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz just announced he may run for president as an independent centrist candidate in 2020.

      I have some concerns about billionaires, however well-intentioned, running the country.

      For one thing, people generally pay a lot of attention to those who have more than them, but they are less aware of those who have less. A billionaire with “just” a private jet will compare himself to an even richer billionaire with their own private island. They don’t have any idea what life is really like for a single parent raising two kids while working and attending night classes.

      Social psychologists find that people usually believe they are responsible for their successes, but blame their failures on external factors like bad luck or a sluggish economy. They also extend the same benefit of the doubt to people within their own group.

      When looking at people in other groups, they are less generous. Then they tend to blame people for their own failures.

      As a result, the rich generally believe that worked hard for everything they had — but many think the poor are probably poor because they’re lazy. In reality, all people’s fates are due to both their own talents and efforts and their circumstances.

      Think about Donald Trump. He was born to a wealthy and well-connected real estate mogul in New York. His father gave him millions, sent him to elite schools, trained him in the business, and introduced him to the powerful people whose help he needed to succeed.

      Would Donald Trump gone anywhere in business if he were born to your parents? Very unlikely. But could you have done even better than Trump in business if you were born to his parents? It’s definitely possible.

      Trump, no doubt, believes his success is solely due to his own work and “genius,” but it’s undeniable that the circumstances he was born into played a role.

      The same of true for those with less extraordinary privilege.

    • Why Billionaires Make Horrible Candidates and Presidents
      Billionaires are pretty damn sure they know what’s best for you. No more taxes on the rich and none of that Medicare for All is what’s best for you, according to two billionaires toying with seeking the presidency.

      Or, maybe, that’s what’s best for them.

      One of those billionaires, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, called Medicare for All un-American. Actually, what is un-American is the fact that America is the only first-world country that fails to provide universal health insurance.

      Schultz and Michael Bloomberg, the other billionaire who thinks he should be president, revealed themselves as out-of-touch, private-jet-riding, multi-mansion-owning, gold-leaf-latte-sippers by condemning lawmakers who have proposed raising taxes on the nation’s most obscenely rich.
    • Online Voting Revolution Coming to 2020 for Dems—Starting in Iowa, Biggest Changes to Nomination Process in 50 Years
      Iowa’s Democratic Party is leaning toward offering party members the option of participating in their 2020 presidential caucuses via internet and telephone balloting. However, recent experiences of Republican state parties elsewhere with online voting suggest that Iowa faces formidable challenges to make this work in 2020.

      I’ve reported on these developments in a series of articles for the Independent Media Institute’s Voting Booth project, underscoring the uphill effort that must be mounted by Iowa’s Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee if 2020’s opening presidential nominating contest is not to be marred by frustrated participants.

      By mid-February, the Iowa party is expected to issue its blueprint to allow registered Democrats who are not physically present at the state’s 1,679 caucus sites to remotely participate. That plan, which will be used to seek bids from voting technology firms to create and implement, comes in response to the Democratic National Committee’s 2020 Delegate Selection Rules. (Unlike primaries, which are run by the government, party caucuses are privately managed affairs—hence the reliance on contractors.)
    • The Capitalist Adults Are in the Room
      Two Sunday mornings ago, sitting in an apartment equipped with cable television, I happened upon a CNN broadcast called “State of the Union,” hosted by the perpetual scowler Jake Tapper.

      I figured I’d better look at a show with such a solemn and important title.

      The federal government had only been open for less than 48 hours after its record-setting five-week shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers were waiting for back pay after weeks of scrambling to meet basic expenses.

      The FBI had just engaged in a high-profile military-style raid on the home of a top Donald Trump associate and adviser, Roger Stone.

      Washington was leading an international effort to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela.

      Meteorologists were predicting a record deep-freeze across the upper Midwest.

      There was a lot going on in “the Union.” I decided to watch.
    • The Border Story Our Leaders Don’t Want You to Hear
      Life, replete with its ups and downs, goes on in U.S. and Mexican border communities, despite the political calamity unfolding all around them. “Calamity” is the word author Octavio Solis chooses to describe the refugee crisis that those in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, are all too aware of at a time when child detention centers are being erected by the current administration within view of a once “sleepy town.” Solis’ recent book, “Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border,” does not solely center on this tragedy, but rather is filled with stories and poetry that highlight the resilience of people living on both sides of the Río Grande, as well as the common themes of human life that knows no borders, be they natural or man-made.

      In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” the author and playwright tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer how the community he comes from “never had to deal with a border until it was declared that in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, around 1848, designating the Rio Grande as the border between the U.S. and Mexico.”

      “We’ve always been here,” Solis says. “Humans, like the buffalo, like birds, like butterflies, are a migratory animal. We move all the time. And for centuries, we moved freely without borders, up and down this continent and into the next continent, and over rivers and streams and territories.”

      Mexicans, Americans and Mexican-Americans are still living today with the consequences of the 19th-century political decision that resulted in devastation and separation of families, friends and even ecosystems. Under the Trump administration, the same issues have taken on a new urgency, as policies such as family separation and an extreme crackdown on undocumented migrants living in the U.S. take a traumatic toll on communities across the nation.
    • Calling for Nation to Turn 'Common Pain' Into 'Common Purpose,' Cory Booker Is Running for President
      Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced his candidacy for U.S. president on Friday morning, signing the official papers, launching a new website, and sharing his first campaign ad online.

    • The CIA Then and Now: Old Wine in New Bottles
      The Nazis had a name for their propaganda and mind-control operations: weltanschauungskrieg– “world view warfare.” As good students, they had learned many tricks of the trade from their American teachers, including Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who had honed his propagandistic skills for the United States during World War I and had subsequently started the public relations industry in New York City, an industry whose raison d’ȇtre from the start was to serve the interests of the elites in manipulating the public mind.

      In 1941, U.S. Intelligence translated weltanschauungskriegas “psychological warfare,” a phrase that fails to grasp the full dimensions of the growing power and penetration of U.S. propaganda, then and now. Of course, the American propaganda apparatus was just then getting started on an enterprise that has become the epitome of successful world view warfare programs, a colossal beast whose tentacles have spread to every corner of the globe and whose fabrications have nestled deep within the psyches of many hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world. And true to form in this circle game of friends helping friends, this propaganda program was ably assisted after WW II by all the Nazis secreted into the U.S. (“Operation Paperclip”) by Allen Dulles and his henchmen in the OSS and then the CIA to make sure the U.S. had operatives to carry on the Nazi legacy (see David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, The CIA, and The Rise of America’s Secret Government, an extraordinary book that will make your skin crawl with disgust).

      This went along quite smoothly until some people started to question the Warren Commission’s JFK assassination story. The CIA then went on the offensive in 1967 and put out the word to all its people in the agency and throughout the media and academia to use the phrase “conspiracy theory” to ridicule these skeptics, which they have done up until the present day. This secret document – CIA Dispatch 1035-960– was a propaganda success for many decades, marginalizing those researchers and writers who were uncovering the truth about not just President Kennedy’s murder by the national security state, but those of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. Today, the tide is turning on this score, as recently more and more Americans are fed up with the lies and are demanding that the truth be told. Even the Washington Postis noting this, and it is a wave of opposition that will only grow.

    • The Denier-in-Chief: Trump and the Legitimation of False Consciousness
      “I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession,” Pres. Trump Tweeted on January 25th following his signing a bill ending the 35-day U.S. government shut-down. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

      Trump then went on, warning the nation like a little kid stamping his feet: “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.” As if waking from a trance, he exclaimed, “We will have great security.”

      Freud understood denial as a psychological process of rejection, a defense mechanism. Denial is one of a number of defenses the “ego” uses against internal feelings perceived as unacceptable. The primary unacceptable feelings involve sexual or aggressive desires, especially desires directed by a child toward its parents. Self-consciousness employs denial to avoid recognizing its own truth and can function throughout a person’s entire life.

      When a person is presented with an unacceptable fact, s/he will insist that it is not true despite the evidence. Such a belief is as – in the postmodern world – a person still believing the world is flat. Or, as the popular expression goes, “Da-Nile is not only a river in Egypt.”

      Everyone has their own Da-Nile. Trump is president and denier-in-chief. He probably looks in a mirror and sees not an overweight, out-of-shape aging hustler but a fit, sexy, macho man embodying his full masculine potency.

    • A Liberal Elite Still Luring Us Towards the Abyss
      A group of 30 respected intellectuals, writers and historians has published a manifesto bewailing the imminent collapse of Europe and its supposed Enlightenment values of liberalism and rationalism. The idea of Europe, they warn, “is falling apart before our eyes”, as Britain prepares for Brexit and “populist and nationalist” parties look poised to make sweeping gains in elections across the continent.

      The short manifesto has been published in the liberal elite’s European house journals, newspapers such as the Guardian. “We must now fight for the idea of Europe or perish beneath the waves of populism,” their document reads. Failure means “resentment, hatred and their cortege of sad passions will surround and submerge us.”

      Unless the tide can be turned, elections across the European Union will be “the most calamitous that we have ever known: victory for the wreckers; disgrace for those who still believe in the legacy of Erasmus, Dante, Goethe, and Comenius; disdain for intelligence and culture; explosions of xenophobia and antisemitism; disaster”.

      The manifesto was penned by Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher and devotee of Alexis de Tocqueville, a theorist of classical liberalism. Its signatories include novelists Ian McEwan, Milan Kundera and Salman Rushdie, the historian Simon Shama, and Nobel prize laureates Svetlana Alexievitch, Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk and Elfriede Jelinek.
    • US Enemies and the Lawless ‘Rule of Law’
      For weeks of front-end news, a China-Canada rift has gripped Canada. The story-line is endlessly repeated and runs like this: “Experts from both sides of the border agree that imprisonment of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is strictly abiding by the rule of law, and China cannot or does not want to understand how the rule of law works”.

      The unifying plot is that Canada must continue to hold the CFO of China’s world-leading telecommunications giant in detention on behalf of a US extradition warrant to uphold the rule of law as sacred.

      That it is an extra-territorial demand for no offense committed under Canada or international law is not reported. That the offense alleged is against a unilateral US embargo of Iran by its export controls to which Canada is not a party is deleted across the media and all official statements. Anyone who does not join into this ruling story or connects the covered-up facts of its story-line is drowned out and removed from the public eye, including Canada’s own senior statesman and well-liked ambassador to China.

      In general, any revealing questions are silenced. All the legal parameters of the case dissolve instead into the empty slogan ‘rule of law’. Background editors of what can be spoken on the public stage ensure at every level that no diversion is allowed.

    • Trump Is the Only Real Anchor Baby in America
      Donald Trump is the real anchor baby in America – childish yet so outsized and unwieldy that he doesn’t hold the ship of state upright and in position like a good anchor should but causes it to sink like a stone.

      Watching him over the last week or so, listening to the anti-immigration rant he delivered in the Rose Garden when he caved and ended his crippling government shutdown, reading his relentless, hallucinatory blitzkrieg of a Twitter feed… each is continuing evidence of what we already, sadly, know too well: that this is a blustering fool so out of touch with reality, so ignorant of facts and lashing out when that ignorance is challenged, that his continued presence as president feels intolerable.

    • Bernie’s Plutocracy Prevention Act
      The Republicans can’t control their baser greed impulse, as revealed in their latest move to abolish the federal estate tax, our nation’s only levy on the inherited wealth of the super-rich.

      But what we really need is a bold intervention to break up growing dynasties of wealth and power.

      Congress should jump on board an improved estate tax introduced yesterday by Senator Bernie Sanders, that would levy a top rate of 77 percent on inheritances over $1 billion. Sanders bill, The For 99.8% Act (pdf), would also plug up loopholes and ban trusts that wealthy families use to hide and perpetuate wealth dynasties.

      “The 400 wealthiest billionaires on the Forbes 400 list today own as much wealth as the bottom 64 percent of the US population combined… And they are clearly using this wealth and power to rig the rules further in their favor.”

      The estate tax, established by Congress a century ago to put a brake on the build-up of concentrated wealth and power, is paid only by a miniscule sliver of billionaires and multi-millionaires. At the time, Theodore Roosevelt supported the estate tax as a protection against the “tyranny of plutocracy.”

    • Who Needs Elections? Ask the US About the Government Your Country Should Have
      Would anybody reading this article want to appoint him/herself as prime minister of Canada in front of a friendly crowd? All you need to say is that you don’t recognize the elected prime minister as legitimate.

      I asked that question to a crowd at a rally organized to affirm the sovereignty of Venezuela a few days ago in Vancouver. No one came forward. Instead, people laughed, and for a good reason. The notion of such an occurrence is ridiculous. But think again. It just happened in Caracas, Venezuela last January 23 with the assent of the government of Canada.

      An unknown Juan Guaidó of the Venezuelan opposition party Voluntad Popular appointed himself interim president of Venezuela in front of a multitude without fulfilling a single requirement of the democratic process. Process that may involve registered political parties and a political campaign; and it should definitely have a free and secret ballot with all constitutional guarantees approved by a duly established national electoral institution, leading to an election and the public inauguration of the winning candidate.

      A few political analysts have wondered about this event and its implications. Michel Chossudovky of Global Research called this a “dangerous precedent” and wrote “The position of speaker of the National Assembly held by Juan Guaidó (from a constitutional standpoint) is in some regards comparable to that of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and the leader of the majority party which is currently held by Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

      Nancy Pelosi is second in line to the US presidential line of succession, after Vice President Mike Pence. (25th Amendment of Constitution and 3 USC 19, a section of the U.S. Code, established as part of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947).”

      Then Chossudovsky concludes, “Trump’s endorsement of Venezuela’s speaker of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó is tantamount to stating that Nancy Pelosi could legitimately from one day to the next replace Trump as interim president of the US. A pretty grim prospect for the Donald.”

    • The Same Media That Opposed Democracy in South Africa Now Warn Against It in Israel/Palestine
      Richard Neely wrote in the New York Times (9/20/81), “Whites are not just potentially at war against nonwhites — everyone is potentially at war against everyone else,” suggesting the inevitable demise of Asians in South Africa under a one person, one vote system.

      When apartheid reigned in South Africa, Western media commentary frequently suggested that if a one person, one vote system were adopted, black South Africans would massacre whites, oppress them or force them to flee. The same line of thinking can today be found in media discussions of Israel/Palestine, with warnings that Israelis and Palestinians sharing a single, democratic country would lead to Palestinians slaughtering Jewish people or driving them out. Such analyses reveal the racist assumption that black people and Arabs are too prone to irrational violence to be trusted with democracy.

      A New York Times (9/20/81) article by Richard Neely said that, if the United States pressured South Africa to adopt a one person, one vote system, America might be “helping to precipitate a race war of all against all.” That Neely’s primary concern was violence carried out by black people was clear when his article went on to say that...

    • Ocasio-Cortez Raises Over $100,000 in Just Four Days Following Anonymous 2020 Primary Threat
      After The Hill reported that some of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) fellow House Democrats were already working to recruit a primary challenger to her 2020 campaign—just four weeks into her first term—the congresswoman sought to find out whether her supporters planned to back her in the next election. They responded with a clear "yes."

      Just four days after the plan was reported, Ocasio-Cortez's re-election campaign had raised more than $105,000 after a brief fundraising effort, to be added to the $400,000 she had on hand after the 2018 election.

      "It was a good opportunity for us to see what the base was willing to do and if they were going to stand by her in the event of a primary challenge," Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez's communications director, told the Huffington Post. "It was a resounding: 'Yes, they will.'"

      The congresswoman, who does not accept corporate donations and raised $1.2 million in small individual contributions in 2018, posted ads on Instagram and Facebook this week telling her supporters that some Democrats "don't like that we're shaking things up in D.C."

    • Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey Launches 2020 Bid
      U.S. Sen. Cory Booker on Friday declared his bid for the presidency in 2020 with a sweeping call to unite a deeply polarized nation around a “common sense of purpose.”

      The New Jersey Democrat, who is the second black candidate in a primary field that’s already historically diverse, delivered his message of unity amid an era marked by bitter political division. He announced his run on the first day of Black History Month, underscoring his consequential status as America’s potential second black president after Barack Obama.

    • 'Good Chance,' Says Trump, I'll Declare National Emergency Declaration to Build Wall
      President Donald Trump on Friday told reporters in the White House there's a "good chance" he will end up declaring a national emergency as a way to make an end run around Congressional funding authority even though legal experts have warned such an attempt would be constitutionally dubious.

      "I think there's a good chance we'll have to do that," said of the emergency declaration. Regarding ongoing negotiations in Congress to avoid another costly government shutdown, with a deadline in two weeks, Trump said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "should be ashamed" for refusing to give the Republicans the funding for the wall he has demanded.

      Trump additionally claimed that many Democrats agree with him on the need for a wall and are "dying" to say so, but just "can't say it" out loud because of fear.

    • Congress, Don’t Give DHS Unrestricted Authority to Build a 'Smart Wall'
      What Congress must do to ensure that border technology doesn’t trample on the rights of border communities. On Thursday, House Democrats unveiled their proposal for a $55 billion Department of Homeland Security budget. The proposal includes some strong provisions — including no funding for a border wall, no new Border Patrol agents, and a requirement for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to cut its detention of immigrants and phase out the jailing of immigrant families. But there are also a number of troubling elements, chief among them is reportedly $400 million dollars for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to invest in additional border technology, likely in an effort to build what many legislators have dubbed as the “smart wall.” This funding does not even include the additional money in the proposal for technology devoted to ports of entry, biometrics, and other immigration enforcement efforts.

      Let’s be clear: With CBP already getting an all-time high of $196 million dollars for border security procurement and development alone, legislators should be looking for ways to cut funding and rein in ICE and CBP’s ability to carry out the Trump administration’s excessive and draconian enforcement efforts. They should certainly not be rewarding the agency with additional technology funding.

    • Establishment Democrats Are Trying to Unseat Ocasio-Cortez
      Democrats are already trying to unseat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

      Scott Wong at The Hill first reported that at least one House Democrat is trying to recruit someone from the Bronx or Queens to run against Ocasio-Cortez in a primary to make her a “one-term congresswoman.” The report exposes the unwillingness of established Democrats to share power with a younger generation seeking to seed more radical and diverse voices in Congress.

      The unnamed congressmember portrayed the move as a punitive measure, latching onto the idea that Ocasio-Cortez snatched the House seat away from incumbent Joe Crowley and the party machine. “You’ve got numerous council people and state legislators who’ve been waiting 20 years for that seat,” the congressmember said. “I’m sure they can find numerous people who want that seat in that district.”

      Already three potential opposition candidates have made it clear that they would not seek a primary challenge against Ocasio-Cortez, with one commenting that the plan was just gossip. Whether or not Democrats have made efforts behind the scenes, it’s clear they’re still nursing the sting of a shock defeat.

      It’s the latest effort designed to weaken Ocasio-Cortez’s momentum, portraying her as a rogue agent weakening the party. The effort also reflects the establishment’s larger fear of Justice Democrats, the group battling political inertia by backing progressive primary candidates, including Ocasio-Cortez. Pundits have also remarked on the potential for these new progressive lawmakers to form a “Tea Party of the left” — a foil for the House Freedom Caucus, the Republican bloc of ultra-conservative representatives who have forcefully driven the GOP to the right.

    • Warren First 2020 Contender Open to Killing Senate Filibuster Rule in Order to Pass Visionary Agenda
      While many declared and likely Democratic presidential candidates have expressed enthusiastic support for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, and other ambitious progressive policies, 2020 hopefuls have not yet committed to eliminating the archaic filibuster rule in the Senate that—if left intact—would make these priorities virtually impossible to pass.

    • 'Socialism Surging in Iowa' Giving Cold Feet to Centrist Democrats Contemplating 2020 Run: Report
      Amid warnings within progressive circles that the "moderate Democrat" remains a serious obstacle to the kind of transformative change many rank-and-file party members and voters in general say they want, new reporting by Axios on Saturday shows that it might be the centrists who are getting cold feet as they register just how hungry the electorate has become for policy solutions like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, tuition-free higher education, and taxation that targets the nation's wealthiest.

      Citing informed sources, Axios reports that both "Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, each of whom were virtual locks to run, are having serious second thoughts after watching Democrats embrace "Medicare for All," big tax increases and the Green New Deal. Joe Biden, who still wants to run, is being advised to delay any plans to see how this lurch to the left plays out. If Biden runs, look for Bloomberg and McAuliffe to bow out."

    • Beware the Moderate Democrat
      The "moderate."

      Such a soothing political word. It conjures up a reasonable, considerate person who seeks the middle ground between ideological extremists: Works well with others, crosses the aisle to make good policy, knows how to win incremental change rather than issuing jarring proclamations that jump too far ahead of the electorate. A moderate is pragmatic, gets things done and doesn't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

      Oh, in these troubled times, aren't such moderates—beloved as they are by right-wingers like Bret Stephens—desperately needed?

      Get ready to hear more and more of that from mainstream media pundits as the Democratic Party moves more towards the kind of progressive populism put forward by the Sanders/AOC wing of the party. We'll be asked by centrist journalists to take a careful look at more reasonable moderates like Gillibrand, McAuliffe, Bloomberg, Biden, Booker, Landrieu and many more (e.g. "Is There Room in 2020 for a Centrist Democrat?" and "The Loneliness of a Moderate Democrat").

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Terrorist Content Online: The Return of the Upload Filter

      I have written a draft opinion for the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection on the regulation to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online, which I hope the European Parliament’s lead negotiator on the proposal, Dan Dalton, will take into account. My explicit goal is to safeguard our freedoms while narrowing the focus of the regulation. Even more so, as earlier this mandate we passed a terrorism directive that has only just taken effect. Before passing new sweeping legislation, let us evaluate and learn from the recent past.

    • Books under police lens to prevent hurting of religious sentiment

      "Surveillance team of Bangla Academy and police detectives will remain active. If any such book is found in a stall, proper action will be taken against them," he said in a briefing after inspecting the security measures of the Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan on Thursday, a day before the beginning of the Amar Ekushey Book Fair.

    • Josh Ruebner on BDS Boycott Bans, Shankar Narayan on Face Surveillance
      Boycotts are not only a constitutionally protected form of speech, they are a social tool with which citizens, often reduced to their role as consumers, try to use that role to reflect their values—about the treatment of farmworkers or an apartheid government. That speech and that tool are under attack right now, but not in general; current moves in Congress and some states only concern themselves with penalizing boycotts aimed at territories illegally occupied by Israel. We’ll hear about so-called “anti-BDS” laws, and their context, from Josh Ruebner, policy director at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Did Apple Really Ban Facebook and Google’s Apps? Why?
      Facebook stepped around this problem by distributing the app outside the App Store. Sideloading an app on iPhone normally isn’t easy or straightforward to the average person, but Facebook had an advantage here. As a large company, Apple granted a special certificate allowing distribution of apps outside of Apple’s App Store. The primary purpose of this process is for testing future apps (internal betas) and corporate-access apps (such as a corporate-only social network, or a company restaurant menu system).

    • Google Screenwise: An Unwise Trade of All Your Privacy for Cash
      Imagine this: an enormous tech company is tracking what you do on your phone, even when you’re not using any of its services, down to the specific images that you see. It’s also tracking all of your network traffic, because you’re installing one of its specially-designed routers. And even though some of that traffic is encrypted, it can still know what websites you visit, due to how DNS resolution works. Oh, it’s also recording audio from a custom-microphone that’s placed near your TV, and analyzing what it hears.

      It’s an always-on panopticon. In exchange for your privacy (and the privacy of any guests who may be using your Internet connection, or talking near your television), you receive a gift card for a whopping $20.

      No, we’re not talking about Facebook—we’ve already detailed the frightening consequences of Facebook’s sneaky, privacy-invading and security-breaking “user research” program. This is Google’s “ScreenWise Meter,” another “research program” that, much like Facebook’s, caused an upheaval this week when it was exposed.

      In order to spy on iOS users, Facebook took advantage of Apple’s enterprise application program to get around Apple’s strict app distribution rules. When news of this Facebook program hit earlier this week, Google scrambled to pull the plug on its own “user research” application, which was taking advantage of the same Apple program. Apple quickly revoked both organizations’ Enterprise Certificates, shutting down all of Facebook’s and Google’s internal iOS applications and tooling, leaving the two giants in disarray.

    • Canada's Bell Tried To Have VPNs Banned During NAFTA Negotiations
      Countries around the world continue to wage a not particularly subtle war on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and encryption. In Russia, the government has all but banned the use of VPNs by layering all manner of obnoxious restrictions and caveats on VPN operators. The goal, as we've seen in China and countless other countries, is to ban VPN use without making it explicitly clear you're banning VPN use. The deeper goal is always the same: less privacy and online freedom for users who use such tools to dodge surveillance or other, even dumber government policies.

      Of course there's plenty of companies eager to see VPN use banned as well, whether it's the entertainment industry hoping to thwart piracy, or broadcasters trying to hinder those looking to dance around geographical viewing restrictions. Lost in the hysteria is usually the fact that VPNs are just another security tool with a myriad of purposes, most of which aren't remotely nefarious and shouldn't be treated as such.

      Apparently, you can count Canadian telecom incumbent Bell among the companies hoping to ban VPN use. Anja Karadeglija, the editor of paywalled telecom news outlet the Wire Report, obtained documents this week highlighting how Bell had been pushing Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for a VPN ban to be included in NAFTA negotiations.

    • Response to IAB statement
      The IAB proceed on a misunderstanding of the law and the facts. The complaints have detailed widespread and significant breaches of the data protection regime, in the initial complaints as submitted by our legal team, Ravi Naik of ITN Solicitors with the assistance of a leading QC. Those initial complaints from Sept 2018 have been built on with the further material served on 28 January 2018, Data Protection Day.

      Furthermore, the IAB proceed on the basis of an overly restrictive interpretation of how a data controller is defined. Much like Google tried to avoid liability for search before the ECJ, IAB cannot seek to avoid accountability for their own system.

      The facts make clear that IAB are a liable controller. IAB defines the structure of the OpenRTB system. Both the IAB and Google structures could – and should – be remedied to have due regard to the rights of data subject. Whether the structure is so remedied is within the IAB and Google’s control.

    • 1,66,000 Aadhaar Numbers Leaked By Indian State Government
      As part of a security error, over one lakh Aadhaar numbers were leaked by the government of the Indian state of Jharkhand.

      According to a report by TechCrunch, the web system which was responsible for marking the attendance of the government employees in Jharkhand was left without any security measures since 2014.

    • Indian state government leaks thousands of Aadhaar numbers
      A lapse in security has led to the leaking of over a hundred thousand Aadhaar numbers, TechCrunch can reveal.

      One of the web systems used to record attendance of government workers for the Indian state of Jharkhand was left exposed and without a password as far back as 2014, allowing anyone access to names, job titles, and partial phone numbers on 166,000 workers as of the time of writing.

      But the photo on each record page used the file name as that worker’s Aadhaar number, a confidential 12-digit number assigned to each Indian citizen as part of the country’s national identity and biometric database.

      The data leak isn’t a direct breach of the central database run by Aadhaar’s regulator, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), but represents another lapse in responsibility from the authority charged with protecting its data.

      Aadhaar numbers aren’t strictly secret but are treated similarly to Social Security numbers. Anyone of the 1.23 billion Indian citizens enrolled in Aadhaar — more than 90 percent of the population — can use their unique number or their thumbprint to verify their identity in order to enroll in state services, like voting, welfare or financial assistance. Aadhaar users can even use their Aadhaar identity to open a bank account, get a SIM card, call an Uber, buy something on Amazon, or rent an Airbnb.
    • Quitting Facebook For A Month Makes People Happier: Study
      You have probably met people or heard of them who claim they are feeling better after quitting social media platform. But does it really help?

      Participants were regularly asked to log their mood through text messages with the researchers, who also verified that the subjects actually kept their accounts inactive.

    • What We Should Learn From “Facebook Research”
      Once again, Facebook has broken the trust of its users—this time, through reportedly paying people to give up their privacy by installing an application that sucks up huge amounts of sensitive data, and explicitly sidestepping Apple's Enterprise Developer program rules. In doing so, the company has repeated several of the privacy-abusive practices that it’s been chastised for before. This underscores just how little the company has learned from a year of user complaints, privacy group criticisms, and Congressional hearings, and it emphasizes the need for legislators to pass new laws to protect the public.

      The backstory: In 2013, Facebook began offering a “secure” VPN app, Onavo Protect, as a way for users to supposedly protect their web activity from prying eyes. But Facebook simultaneously used Onavo to collect data from its users about their usage of competitors like Twitter. Last year, Apple banned Onavo from its App Store for violating its Terms of Service. Facebook then released a very similar program, now dubbed variously “Project Atlas” and “Facebook Research.” It used Apple’s enterprise app system, intended only for distributing internal corporate apps to employees, to continue offering the app to iOS users. When the news broke this week, Apple shut down the app and threw Facebook into some chaos when it (briefly) booted the company from its Developer Enterprise program altogether.

      Facebook wasn’t the only company sidestepping Apple’s Enterprise Developer TOS to enable a highly invasive “market research” program. As TechCrunch reported, Google has been running a similar program for some time, using many of the same techniques as Facebook in addition to its own unique surveillance methods.

      This is the latest in a long line of abusive behavior that has cost Facebook its users’ trust. But this time, Facebook went further than it has before, and instructed the app’s users to configure their device in a way that undermined their basic security.

    • Apple, Facebook spat is over, for now—iOS certificate access restored

    • Apple and Facebook make peace so Facebook employees can start using internal iOS apps again

      Apple had revoked Facebook's certificate on Tuesday after TechCrunch reported that the social media company had used the certificate for an app that collected data on the smartphone usage of opted-in users. Apple said that use was in breech of the companies' agreements. Later, Apple revoked Google's enterprise certificate for similar reasons.

    • The Chinese technology helping New York police keep a closer eye on the United States’ biggest city

      The surveillance tools are identical to those used in Sky Net in China, the largest video surveillance system on Earth, Chinese government research institutes and a company involved in the project said.

    • Facebook Hires Up Three of Its Biggest Privacy Critics

      In December, Facebook hired Nathan White away from the digital rights nonprofit Access Now, and put him in the role of privacy policy manager. On Tuesday of this week, lawyers Nate Cardozo, of the privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Robyn Greene, of New America's Open Technology Institute, announced they also are going in-house at Facebook. Cardozo will be the privacy policy manager of WhatsApp, while Greene will be Facebook's new privacy policy manager for law enforcement and data protection.

    • Facebook’s Shares Surge as Advertisers Ignore Scandals [Ed: "fake headline; here is the cause," iophk told me.]
    • Facebook's Catch-22

      John Herrman's How Secrecy Fuels Facebook Paranoia takes the long way round to come to a very simple conclusion. My shorter version of Herrman's conclusion is this. In order to make money Facebook needs to:

      1. Convince advertisers that it is an effective means of manipulating the behavior of the mass of the population.

      2. Avoid regulation by convincing governments that it is not an effective means of manipulating the behavior of the mass of the population.

      The dilemma is even worse because among the advertisers Facebook needs to believe in its effectiveness are individual politicians and political parties, both big advertisers! This Catch-22 is the source of Facebook's continuing PR problems, listed by Ryan Mac. Follow me below the fold for details.

    • How Facebook went from friend to frenemy

      Despite widespread calls to #DeleteFacebook in 2018, most users have maintained their profiles. Why? Because abstaining from Facebook means giving up a network that has social currency and value. The site boasts 2.2 billion users, nearly 30 percent of the global population. As members of Congress recently pointed out, Facebook has few market competitors, meaning it serves as a primary, if not the only, way for large groups to connect. It holds users together (or sometimes hostage) by maintaining relationships with all their friends.

    • Facebook Loses Its Major Fact-Checking Partner Snopes After 2 Yrs
      The famous fact-checking organization, Snopes has announced the end of its partnership with Facebook where it undertook the job of curbing misinformation and fake news on the platform.

      Facebook has ramped up its effort since the 2016 US presidential election where Russia’s social media influence came into focus — to stop the spreading of false information on the social media platform.

    • A Message to Our Community Regarding the Facebook Fact-Checking Partnership

      Facebook endeavored at the end of 2016 to work with various fact-checking organizations (including in order to help curb the spread of misinformation on their platform. After contributing to that effort for two years, we want to inform our readership that has elected not to renew our partnership with Facebook.

    • Encryption law: definition of a computer is rather broad, say academics

      The debate over the Federal Government's recently passed encryption law is dead serious for the most part, but Melbourne University academics Dr Chris Culnane and Associate Professor Vanessa Teague found something to laugh at in the way the legislation has defined the word "computer".

    • Palantir Slashes Its Own Stock Price in a Bid to Boost Morale

    • How much privacy should children have from their own parents?

      Tampa Bay Monitoring offers two models designed to be worn on the ankle. The buddi Insight is “lightweight, accurate, waterproof, and provides instant alerts and evidence in the event of tampering, removal, loss of communication and entering or leaving set geographic zones.” The ReliAlert XC for High Risk Teens “is tamper proof and even if your teenager tries to take it off, you will be alerted immediately. An optional, hardened steel encased security cuff for high-risk teens.”

    • Your TV Is Now a Computer, but Not in a Good Way

      The problem began mysteriously. I switched on my Samsung Smart TV to watch the Warriors game, and after about 20 seconds, the CBS News app switched itself on for a few seconds in a small rectangle in the upper left corner. Then my TV crashed, which is a thing TVs can do now, and the screen went dark.


      Finally, I turned to the consumer micro-solidarity available in the support forums. Based on the outraged responses of other Samsung TV owners, the issue began sometime in September. No one knows how to fix it. And because of a deal that Samsung struck with app makers, you can’t delete the app from your own TV.

    • Man fined €£90 for public order offences after dodging facial recognition

      The Metropolitan Police had previously put out a statement saying that "anyone who declines to be scanned will not necessarily be viewed as suspicious." It looks like the word "necessarily" is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting in that sentence.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • How to protect humans in a fully automated society

    • Church of England attacks 'irresponsible' social media companies amid claims of children being harmed

      “They should stop wringing their hands and saying it’s all too complex. I am not technologically minded but I don’t believe it’s impossible to develop algorithms that could tackle these issues,” said Rt Rev Treweek, the first female diocesan bishop in the history of the Church of England.

    • Falsified request to be targeted by lawsuit submitted on Navalny’s behalf
      St. Petersburg authorities brought an administrative lawsuit against the organizers of the “He’s Not Our Tsar” protest that took place in May 2018. Today, a petition ostensibly written by the opposition politician Alexey Navalny asked for Navalny himself to be listed as one of the lawsuit’s defendants.

      The original defendants in the case are Denis Mikhailov, the coordinator of Navalny’s local headquarters in St. Petersburg, and Bogdan Litvin, the press secretary of the “Vesna” (“Spring”) reform movement. Prosecutors said the “He’s Not Our Tsar” protest caused 11 million rubles (almost $170,000) in damage to the city’s landscaping and greenery.

      The petition submitted in Navalny’s name claimed that he initiated the protest on a nationwide level and that Mikhailov was following his orders. It argued, “My political movement is based on the principle of ‘one for all and all for one.’ When the Putin regime puts pressure on one of my subordinates […] I can’t stay on the sidelines, and I am prepared to take the cost of any damage done upon myself.”

    • Deportation Is an Emergency. Here’s One Coalition’s Way of Fighting It.
      Supporting immigrant communities impacted by deportation involves much more than the provision of legal resources. Though legal resources are essential in combating deportation, the range of needs is vast, requiring dedication, networking, and plenty of creativity from advocacy organizations.

      I sat down with Margaret Harner and Maria Ibarra-Frayre, volunteer organizers and leaders at the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) — an organization based in Washtenaw County, Michigan, with which I also volunteer — to talk about the broader work of supporting communities facing the threat of deportation.

      WICIR is a volunteer-led organization created to support undocumented immigrants facing possible detention and deportation during immigration-related emergencies. It monitors ICE activity to better document the long-lasting impact of immigration enforcement in Washtenaw County. It also seeks to educate allied communities and shape local governmental policies to empower and protect immigrant community members. Since its beginnings in 2008, WICIR has received over 875 calls from individuals asking for help. The organization has trained dozens of volunteers who function as “urgent responders” who assist immigrants in navigating the complicated and harsh immigration processes.

    • SNAP Can Cover Full Benefits Through March, But Participants Face Big Gaps Between February and March Benefits
      Under the continuing resolution (CR) that provided the funding to reopen the government for three weeks, SNAP (food stamps) now is fully funded at least through March, even if the government shuts down again on February 15. Millions of families, however, face a longer-than-usual gap between their February and March benefits because the Agriculture Department worked with states to issue February benefits early during the shutdown, and that could further strain household budgets, the emergency food network, and other community resources.

      The new CR, like the prior CR that expired in December, funds SNAP for the month that begins within 30 days of the CR’s expiration. With the CR that expired in December, that month was January. Under the new CR that expires in February, that month is March.

      Presumably, the Administration could use the authority it used to pay February SNAP benefits early to pay April benefits early — in this case, by March 17 — though it hasn’t said it would. Along with SNAP’s $3 billion contingency reserve, that would likely ensure that SNAP could provide full benefits through April. Benefits for May and later months, however, likely would be at risk if the government shuts down again in mid-February.

      For many households, the measures that the Administration and states took to protect SNAP in February have created a much longer period between SNAP benefits than the usual 28- to 31-day cycle, as we’ve explained. That’s because states issued February benefits at least ten days earlier than usual and most states stagger their issuance of SNAP benefits throughout much of the month, with some households regularly receiving their benefits in the latter part of the month.

    • Ending the American Tragedy of Mass Incarceration
      Nearly one in a 100 adult Americans is behind bars. That means approximately 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the United States. The U.S. has more people imprisoned than India and China combined, and the U.S. per capita incarceration rate is eight and five times higher than Germany and Australia, respectively. Norway and Los Angeles have about the same population, yet Norway has roughly 3,000 people incarcerated, while Los Angeles has 50,000.

      These are some of the background facts offered by Greg Berman, director, and Julian Adler, director of policy and research, of the New York–based Center for Court Innovation, in their cogent book, “Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration.” While concern about mass incarceration has been increasing and various state, municipal, and nongovernmental programs promote imprisonment alternatives, Berman and Adler underscore that judges, prosecutors, and police officers generally have a constrained array of choices for the accused. Stiff 1990s and 2000s sentencing laws are still in place that also incline prosecutors to charge defendants with felonies. The result is that “[t]he United States locks up more of its citizens than any other country on earth.” Moreover, Berman and Adler stress that undue jailings and prison terms are “accelerants of human misery” because individuals are often traumatized while incarcerated and become entrenched with distrust for the halls of justice. “If you are poor or mentally ill or struggling to keep your family together, when you enter, the chances are that all of these conditions will be markedly worse when you come out,” Berman and Adler write.

    • Trust Nothing
      I want to try to tie together several societal and cultural trends that have been developing beneath the surface (or at least beneath the surface most of the time) for several years. One thing that the Trump presidency seems undeniably to embody is a kind of seismic shift into open fascism — a shift that is global in nature. This is not to suggest that Trump is anything other than a continuation of what came before, but that the very forces that brought the Donald to the Presidency have also made visible the tendencies toward fascism globally.

      This is the age of marketing. Only that age began forty years ago, more or less, so this is now the age of hyper marketing or ultra marketing. And that all topics and concerns, literally everything, from education to policing to surveillance to nuclear disarmament, to green or ecological concerns, to politics (sic) to gender and race are all in service to further a total indoctrination of the populace (meaning mostly, but not exclusively the West) and a way to protect capital and solidify the power of the ruling elite. And perhaps it’s not exactly to protect Capital so much as to set the stage for a post capitalist new feudalism.

      The global landscape now features in Brazil (5th most populous country on earth) a new openly fascist president in Jair Bolsonaro. This is a man who openly admires Hitler, and suggests he’d kill a son if he found out he was gay. Not to mention his adoration of Israel and bromance with Bibi Netanyahu. (contradiction you say?.. on the surface yes, but perhaps not if one examines all this more closely). Bolsonaro wants to sell off the rain forest, and has all but issued a mass death warrant to indigenous tribes and activists protesting the denuding of the Amazon basin. In India, the second most populous nation on earth, Modi has defined himself and his party the BJP as a nativist neo fascist authoritarianism.

    • ICE Partners Again With a Sheriff It Once Severed Ties With Because of Racial Profiling
      Sheriff Terry Johnson is known for racial profiling. He just secured $2.8 million in taxpayer funding to do ICE’s bidding. Whether it’s Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, or Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Trump administration has a real knack for empowering and absolving people who push discriminatory law enforcement and immigration policy. Now there’s another name to add to that list: Sheriff Terry Johnson of Alamance County in North Carolina. Six years after the federal government severed ties with Sheriff Johnson for his office’s discriminatory policing of Latinx residents, Uncle Sam and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office are partners once again.

      In 2012, the U.S. Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Johnson, which sprang from the department’s two-year investigation into his office. In its complaint, the Justice Department alleged a widespread pattern of racial profiling that systematically and unlawfully targeted Latinx residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, and seizures since at least 2007. Witnesses even told federal investigators that Johnson in 2007 yelled “bring me some Mexicans” while pounding his fists on a table during a staff meeting.

      Although a federal judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit filed against Sheriff Johnson, the office's egregious civil rights abuses were exposed. In response, Immigration and Customs Enforcement terminated its 287(g) agreement — a program that authorizes local deputies to perform functions of federal immigration agents — with Johnson and stripped him and his deputies of the authority to investigate potential immigration violations by individuals detained in the county jail.

      But that was then and this is now.

    • Transforming the Dream into Reality
      This past week witnessed two significant and connected events. We remembered and celebrated the visionary champion of civil rights, social and economic justice and nuclear disarmament, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at the outset and finished the week with the unveiling of the Nuclear Doomsday Clock. Dr. King realized the interconnectedness of these issues and that you could not have one without each of the others.

      This week our government is reopening as our Progressive Caucus prepares to do the people’s work proposing a “Green New Deal,” building a carbon-free economy while providing social and economic justice to workers in this new economy. Yet, as Dr. King acknowledged in 1959, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and white, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?” There is no racial, social, economic or environmental justice as long as this threat exists.
    • Saint Eric Dolphy
      This tone poem is both an expression of the sorrow and anger felt by so many Black Americans living in apartheid USA.
    • The High Human Cost of Liberal Resentment
      Liberal America is now running not on spirit, not on “can-do” energy and enterprise, but, like the Trumpites they abhor, on the negative motivation of resentment. Everyone is resentful. Among liberals, there is a pretense of a spirit of brotherhood, or justice, but it is strictly limited to defense of a wronged group of ‘third person,’ minority, others. Their causes don’t radiate from “looking into their own souls,” but from “bleeding heart” identification with the group of wronged people. The MeToo movement, as politicized and circus-zed by media, does more to deepen resentments than to espouse an ennobling hunger for justice. Not being based, as in the example nobly set by Martin Luther King, Jr., in the spirit of love big enough to both forgive and to stand strong against injustice, it feels divisive rather than healing. MeToo exacerbates America’s sickness rather than treating it in any kind of health-restoring way.

      A friend and customer, Clare, reported to me recently the news that the new director of a local citizens action organization left her husband because “he was abusive.” She said this matter-of-factly. On my end, anger arose so instantly, mystifyingly and “unreasonably,” that I concluded it must be unjustified and held my tongue. A few minutes later, in a slightly different context, she said it again. This time I lost my neutrality and blurted out: “My training as a minister taught me it is not possible to know the truth of a relationship having heard just one side.” Though I felt silly deferring to a professional authority I no longer profess, as a strategy, the suggestion of the idea of fair play allowed me – a writer, not a debater – to get my foot in the door. I reminded Clare of her words to me just a few days earlier when she had refused to judge a friend, a recovering alcoholic who recently lost her sobriety. Might not this marital crisis, with a young child involved, be another such misfortune best for the community to delay judgment on?

    • Steve King: the View From His District
      Communities like mine are dying.

      Steve King, the congressman who supposedly represents us in the Fourth District of Iowa, should be fighting for us in Washington. Yet he stays mostly silent about this crisis.

      Instead, King spouts racist rants about immigrants (whom he compares to livestock) and the electrified wall he wants to build to keep them out.

      But what about opportunities for our young people? Family farms? Our polluted water? About this and more, Steve King says — and does — nothing.

      The community where I live used to be vibrant — now we struggle.

    • Jackboots in the Morning
      The American Police State does not discriminate.

      Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

      We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.

      For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.

    • Why Did Socialism Fail?
      By the middle of the 20th century, it appeared that Karl Marx’s conviction that socialism was destined to replace capitalism was becoming reality. In 1956, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev was so confident that history was on his side, he boasted that socialism would soon bury capitalism.[1] Most of the Eurasian land mass was governed by communist parties that claimed to be building socialism. U.S. propaganda films depicted maps of a malignant red menace spreading around the world.

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

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

      In hindsight, with the heavy ideological fog of the Cold War behind us, it is obvious that the state-run industrial systems that both sides mislabeled socialist or communist were never working class governed democracies. So actually, socialism didn’t fail—it never existed. But that doesn’t explain why the powerful state-run industrial societies of the USSR, Eastern Europe, and China—that everyone falsely branded socialist—failed to thrive and eventually reentered the world capitalist system.

    • “Do We as a Society Have a Right to Kill?”: Chinonye Chukwu’s Film “Clemency” Examines Death Penalty
      As the state of Texas this week carried out the nation’s first execution of the year, we look at “Clemency,” a new film starring Alfre Woodard that examines the death penalty from the perspective of those who have to carry out executions as well as the condemned. Woodard portrays prison warden Bernadine Williams as she prepares to oversee what would be her 12th execution as warden in the aftermath of one that was horribly botched. As her life seems to unravel, Williams, for the first time, grapples with what it means to be part of a system of state-sanctioned murder, as the execution date for Anthony Woods, played by Aldis Hodge, gets closer. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. We speak with Nigerian-American writer-director Chinonye Chukwu, who says she was inspired to take on the subject after the execution of Troy Anthony Davis, who was put to death by the state of Georgia on September 21, 2011. Davis’s execution was carried out despite major doubts about evidence used to convict him of killing police officer Mark MacPhail, and his death helped fuel the national movement to abolish the death penalty.

    • Court: Qualified Immunity Protects District Attorney Who Lied To State Legislators About A Wrongfully-Convicted Man
      Qualified immunity has taken the court system as far away from justice as any one doctrine can. Rights can be freely abused so long as the abuser does it in a novel way or can mumble something about "feared for my safety" while under oath. For the most part, it just sucks to be an average citizen whose rights have been violated. Unless you can show a court held this specific violation -- under very specific circumstances -- to be unlawful, you're stuck with zero recourse for obvious wrong perpetrated by the government.

      It's not just abusive cops that benefit from qualified immunity. It's also vindictive district attorneys, like the one in a recent case [PDF] reviewed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A man falsely accused of kidnapping and rape spent seven years in prison for a crime he didn't commit before being exonerated by a DNA test. The results of this test were given to district attorney Spencer Lawton, who confirmed the results. The conviction was vacated and the state wisely decided not to take another prosecutorial pass at the falsely accused man.

    • A Modern-Day Lynching?: “Always in Season” Looks at 2014 Hanging in NC & Legacy of Racial Terrorism
      As we mark the beginning of Black History Month, we look at “Always in Season,” a disturbing new documentary that examines lynching in the United States both past and present. It interviews Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which built the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery to remember the more than 4,000 African Americans lynched in the United States. It also looks closely at the case of Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old African-American high school student who, on August 29, 2014, was found hanging from two belts attached to a wooden swing set in a largely white trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina. At the time of his death, Lacy was dating an older white woman. Local authorities quickly determined his death to be a suicide, but Lacy’s family and local civil rights activists feared authorities may have been covering up a lynching. We speak with Lacy’s mother, Claudia Lacy, and Jacqueline Olive, the director of “Always in Season.”

    • Cherokee Nation Welcomes Warren's Apology for 'Confusion' and 'Harm' Caused by DNA Test Rollout
      "We are encouraged by this dialogue and understanding that being a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen is rooted in centuries of culture and laws not through DNA tests," Cherokee Nation spokesperson Julie Hubbard told The Intercept, which first reported on Warren's apology. "We are encouraged by her action and hope that the slurs and mockery of tribal citizens and Indian history and heritage will now come to an end."

      The Cherokee Nation reacted with outrage to Warren's decision in October to release a six-minute video detailing her DNA test results, which were aimed at demonstrating her claim to Cherokee and Delaware tribal heritage in response to Trump's repeated racist taunts and name-calling.

      While the Massachusetts senator—who is reportedly set to make her 2020 presidential bid official Feb. 9—has never claimed tribal membership, the Cherokee Nation said in a statement at the time that Warren's DNA test rollout "undermin[ed] tribal interests."

      "Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation," said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr.

    • Opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovksy talks Putin, Navalny, Prigozhin, and more five years after his release from prison
      Five years ago, on December 23, 2013, Vladimir Putin signed a decree exonerating Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who led the YUKOS oil company and was once the richest man in Russia. By that time, Khodorkovsky had spent more than 10 years in prison on charges of financial crimes. On the day of his release, Khodorkovsky left for Berlin, and he has not returned to Russia since. He has spent the last few years living in London with his family and staying involved in politics, education, and the media. Meduza special correspondent Ilya Zhegulev spoke with Khodorkovsky about what has changed in the five years he’s spent on the outside. He spoke about his successes, mistakes, friends, and enemies and about who is to blame for the murder of three Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic.
    • Racist Photo Prompts Candidates to Address Issue
      Democratic presidential hopefuls are getting their first major test on how they will address racial tensions that have polarized American life.

      A racist photo tied to Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from his days in medical school has prompted them to deal with the question.

      Nearly every major declared and potential Democratic candidate called for Northam’s resignation after the disclosure of the yearbook photo, which shows one person in blackface and another hooded in white Klan regalia.

      Their reactions came before Northam said during a news conference Saturday that he was not in the photo on his page of the 1984 yearbook.

      A prominent Democratic strategist, Symone Sanders, says candidates already face challenges explaining their own records on racially fraught matters and now must deal with the Northam issue.

    • For Display of 'Uninhibited Racism,' Demand Grows for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's Immediate Resignation
      Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing intensifying demands for his resignation from all sides on Saturday after a photo from his medical school days surfaced on Friday exposed "uninhibited" racist behavior from his past.

      While the image shows one person in blackface standing next to another individual in a Ku Klux Klan uniform, Northam on Friday apologized for the photo but did not divulge which of the two people might be him nor tender his resignation. "I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust," Northam said.

      But racial justice groups, civil rights leaders, and fellow Democrats are among those saying that an apology won't be enough and that Northam should step aside immediately.
    • Virginia Governor Apologizes for Racist Photo, Says He Won’t Resign
      Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized on Friday for a racist photo in which he appeared more than 30 years ago, but said he did not intend to heed calls to resign from both Republicans and prominent fellow Democrats, including several presidential hopefuls.

      The yearbook images were first published Friday by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics. The Virginian-Pilot later obtained a copy from Eastern Virginia Medical School, which Northam attended. The photo shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in a full Ku Klux Klan robe.

      An Associated Press reporter saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at the medical school.

      In his first apology, issued in a written statement Friday night, Northam called the costume he wore “clearly racist and offensive,” but he didn’t say which one he had worn.

      He later issued a video statement saying he was “deeply sorry” but still committed to serving the “remainder of my term.”

    • Delineation of Concrete Measures
      Armed insurgency and counter insurgency in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Jammu and Kashmir scorched the landscape, blighting educational and economic opportunities. Despite their active role in political mobilization of 1931, the Quit Kashmir movement (anti-monarchical movement) of 1946, and the fierce nationalism of 1947, terror made women revert from the public to the private realm. But there are some compelling examples of Kashmiri women working through the discourse of victimhood to construct their identities as survivors.

      Can women step out of their ascribed gender roles, once again, to significantly impact socio-political developments in J & K? Can the political and social exigencies of the women of J & K be addressed in more nuanced and purposeful ways?

      I would propose an intra-Kashmir women’s conference, organized in collaboration with the Women’s Studies programs at the Universities of Kashmir, Jammu, and Muzaffarabad. Women delegates from both sides of the LOC could participate in the conference to productively discuss concrete methods of rehabilitating victims of violence, either state-sponsored or militancy-related. Women from Indian- and Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir could discuss the socioeconomic hardships, psychological neuroses and political marginalization caused by dislocation, dispossession, and disenfranchisement. Delegates at the conference would then seek mobilization of women for effective change in political and social structures. They would endorse diplomacy and peaceful negotiations in order to further the India–Pakistan peace process; withdrawal of forces from both sides of the LOC; decommissioning of militants; rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to rebuild the syncretic fabric of Kashmiri society; and rehabilitation of detainees. Some of the strategies delineated at the conference may seem utopian, but it would highlight the ability to imagine confidence-building measures that grapple with normative structures and underscore the decisive role that women can play in raising consciousness, not just at the individual but at the collective level as well, giving the marginalized a vision with which to redefine life’s constituting parameters.

      Historically, cultural, societal, and market constraints have denied women access to information about the outside world. But the sort of advocacy concretized by the intra-Kashmir women’s conference could overturn the historical seclusion of women and provide them with routes to make forays into mainstream cultural and socioeconomic institutions.
    • A Bad Month for the LGBTQ Community
      January was a bad month for the LGBTQ community. First it was Mississippi that made a brief appearance in the United States Supreme Court. Then it was Karen Pence, the vice-president’s wife, who made an appearance in the media. And, finally, the armed services made a brief appearance in the United States Supreme Court.

      It began with news on January 8, 2019, when a majority of the United States Supreme Court declined to get involved in a lawsuit challenging a law passed by the Mississippi legislature in 2016. In that year the legislature said, among other things, that it was alright for state employees and private businesses to refuse services to members of the LGBTQ community. The Mississippi legislature had received word from the God in whom they believe, that members of the LGBTQ community displeased Him notwithstanding the fact that He had participated in their creation. In order to know what their God thought, it was, of course, necessary for His thoughts to be filtered through the minds of His is self-appointed spokespersons in the Mississippi legislature who were responsible for passing the legislation in question. Those who objected to the law thought that for Mississippi legislators to be considered the vessels into which God would pour anti-LBGTQ venom, was highly suspicious, if not completely incredible. The Supreme Court was not so troubled. It declined to delve into the complex question presented, and permitted the law to stand.

    • A ‘Smart’ Border Wall Is Just as Racist as a Physical Barrier
      The government shutdown is over at last, thanks to Democrats who brokered a deal to keep Trump happy and get America back to work. That deal didn’t include even one penny for a physical wall along the border, as demanded by numerous constituents — but it did contain what’s being billed as funding for a “smart wall.”

      Democrats figure that since they can’t reason with the president, they’ll match his $5.7 billion figure with a funding bill that enhances “border security,” but doesn’t contribute to building an actual wall.

      If you’re wondering what the heck a “smart wall” is, you’re not alone. Most people don’t really understand what the term means — and that’s by design from both sides of the wall.

      While a “smart wall” isn’t a physical barrier, it’s every bit as racist, unproductive and horrific as a physical wall. The concept draws on the apparatus of the security state to normalize the militarization of the border with 21st century technology.
    • Fractured Far Right Escalates Harassment Against Left in Portland
      On the evening of January 17, members of the far-right groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer surrounded a small house-turned-office on the busy East Burnside Street in Portland, Oregon.

      The building houses a rotating door of nonprofits and community organizations, each renting small office space, anchored by the Portland Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). It also houses the Portland branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), whose massively growing membership has made the group a major player in just about every social movement in the city.

      The DSA’s high-profile activism in the city has made it a target of both far-right groups. In particular, Haley Adams, an “internet celebrity” allied with the Proud Boys, decided to organize the group to retaliate against the DSA after DSA members denied her entry to their Queer Caucus meeting on January 10 because of her threats and racist remarks against leftists.

      Adams is known for her aggressive targeting of leftist groups at protests and for bringing the so-called “#HimToo” movement to Portland, where she alleges that there are a large number of men falsely accused of sexual assault. (The statistics on sexual assault reporting, however, do not support her allegations.)

      While Adams said she was at Portland DSA headquarters on January 17 to discuss her effort to recall Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, DSA and IWW organizers say that this is the latest attempt by the far right to disingenuously stoke discord in front of a popular social media livestream.

    • Detainee on Hunger Strike Details Force-Feeding
      Three times a day, a 22-year-old Indian man on a hunger strike says, he is dragged from his cell in a Texas immigration detention center, his feet scraping the floor as he goes. He’s put on a bed where he says his arms and legs are strapped down and a group of people force-feed him by pouring liquid into tubes pushed through his nose.

      The man is among a group of nine detainees in the El Paso facility who immigration officials acknowledged Friday are being hydrated and fed against their will under court orders. That’s up from six men who were being fed through nasal tubes Wednesday when The Associated Press first reported on the force-feeding.
    • Why Costa Rica Tops the Happiness Index
      A child growing up in the Costa Rican countryside is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and biodiverse landscapes in the world. The government of this tiny Central American country aims to keep it that way. But preserving this land of tropical rainforests isn’t Costa Rica’s only accomplishment. The government ensures all citizens have access to health care and education, and the country actively promotes peace around the world. So when the New Economics Foundation released its second Happy Planet Index, a ranking of countries based on their environmental impact and the health and happiness of their citizens, the No. 1 spot went to Costa Rica, population 4 million.

      The United States’ ranking: No. 114. [Update: As of 2016, the U.S. rank was 108.]

      What can our neighbor to the south teach us about happiness, longevity, and environmental sustainability?

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • This Hearing May Decide the Future of Net Neutrality

      The suit raises two main questions: whether the FCC broke the law by failing to consider evidence that went against its allegedly foregone conclusion that it should overturn the Obama-era rules, and whether it was legal for the FCC to stop considering broadband [Interent] a telecommunications service, like telephone calls, and instead consider it an "information service" like Google or Facebook.

    • What we learned from net neutrality’s big day in court

      The petitioners in the case argued that the FCC’s repeal was unlawful in several ways. The FCC failed in its analysis of the internet service market, failed to consider public safety, should not have blocked states from passing their own net neutrality rules, and erred in its determination of what a telecommunications service is, they said.

    • Charter slashes network spending by $2B, but makes up for it by charging its customers more

    • Charter will spend less on cable network in 2019 but charge customers more

      Despite the expected decrease in costs, Charter raised prices throughout its 41-state cable territory in November. The price hikes affect both broadband and cable TV service and could amount to $91 extra per year for individual customers who buy both.

    • Net neutrality court case preview: Did FCC mess up by redefining broadband?

      The Obama-era net neutrality rules, which were upheld in court in 2016, relied on the FCC's Title II authority over telecommunications services. When it eliminated the net neutrality rules, Pai's FCC argued that broadband is not a telecommunications service and that it should be treated instead as a lightly regulated information service.

    • Bogus Net Neutrality Comments Linked To Trumpland
      As we mentioned last October, there's several state AGs now investigating who was behind those bogus comments that flooded the FCC's website during its controversial net neutrality repeal. Millions of those fake comments used the identities of dead or otherwise oblivious people, and were posted by a bot pulling from a hacked database of some kind. The goal appears to have been to flood the zone with bullshit, undermining trust in the public's only chance to comment on what may just be the least-popular tech policy decision in modern internet history (though SOPA/PIPA got pretty damn close).

    • Pai Is No Jedi
      The FCC chairman's rationale for ending Net Neutrality in 2017 was that existing Title II rules had supposedly shackled the forces of the marketplace, “deter[ing] the massive infrastructure investment that we need.” If the rules were allowed to stand, he said, we’d “pay the price in terms of less innovation.”

      In an ill-advised effort to make his point for the online masses, Pai starred in a video dressed as a Star Wars Jedi, brandishing a lightsaber against evil internet-user safeguards.

      But his wizardry isn’t working, and none of his claims from 2017 have turned out to be true.

    • Net Neutrality’s Day in Court
      The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard the case of Mozilla v. FCC today to determine whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is allowed to repeal its net neutrality rules and abandon its authority over the broadband industry. The case delved into many different legal and technical issues that reveal the extent the FCC is willing to stretch to abandon the Open Internet. On one side sat public interest advocates, local governments, and Internet companies large and small. On the other, the FCC’s legal team was joined by lawyers from the large ISPs arguing in favor of one of the most unpopular decisions in Internet policy history.

    • With 'Nothing Less Than Fate of the Internet' at Stake, Federal Court Told Why FCC's Attack on Net Neutrality So Dangerous
      Advocates of net neutrality had their eyes on a federal court on Friday, where the showdown over the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) repeal of the Obama-era open internet protections continued.

      At the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, oral arguments in Mozilla v. FCC were heard. In that suit, which The Verge frames as "one of the most important cases in internet law history," technology and advocacy groups joined by over 20 state attorneys general challenge the FCC's 2017 gutting of net neutrality.

      "The appeals court judges today heard in full detail just how awful a job the Trump FCC did," said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press.

    • In Court FCC Offers Discredited Defense of Net Neutrality Repeal

  • DRM

    • Hollywood's Kinder, Gentler DRM Didn't Even Last A Decade... And Is Still Screwing Over Movie Fans
      Stop me if you've heard this one before: the legacy entertainment industry embraces a "new" DRM that it insists will change everything, and everyone will love it. And then, because of various reasons, they kill it off and people get screwed. Yeah, it's happened over and over and over and over and over and over again. It's one of the points we've raised from the very beginning on this site: buying into DRM means that you are relying on a company to continue to let you have access to the content you legally purchased a license to, and there's no requirement that they have to continue giving you access.

      And here we go again, with Ultraviolet. If you don't recall, we first wrote about Ultraviolet in 2010, when most of the major movie studios (notable exception: Disney) stepped up to support what they tried to pitch as a kindler, gentler DRM that wouldn't be so damn annoying. Of course, from the beginning it basically sucked and the studios started trying to give away bad movies to get people to sign up. And then, a few years later, they tried giving away more movies. The only other time in the last decade we mentioned Ultraviolet was that time that it pissed off the backers of a super successful Kickstarter project by making it difficult for thousands of people to watch the movie they'd backed.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • WesternGeco L.L.C. v. ION Geophysical Corp. (Fed. Cir. 2019)
      Last June, the Supreme Court determined that $93.4 million in lost foreign profits awarded to WesternGeco L.L.C. for infringement under 35 U.S.C. ۤ 271(f)(2) was a permissible domestic application of 35 U.S.C. ۤ 284, and the Court therefore reversed the Federal Circuit's reversal of the award of lost profits damages and remanded the case (see "WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp. (2018)"). Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit decided, given the intervening invalidation of four of the five asserted patent claims by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board, to remand the case back to the District Court for further proceedings on the lost profits award.

      The dispute between the parties began when WesternGeco filed suit against ION Geophysical Corp. for infringement of claims 18, 19, and 23 of U.S. Patent No. 7,293,520; claim 15 of U.S. Patent No. 7,162,967; claim 15 of U.S. Patent No. 7,080,607; and claim 14 of U.S. Patent No. 6,691,038. The patents relate to marine seismic surveys for discovering oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor. Both WesternGeco and ION manufacture devices for steering streamers in marine seismic surveys; WesternGeco does not sell its device, but uses it to perform surveys abroad, and ION does not perform surveys, but sells its device to customers who perform surveys abroad. At trial, ION was found to have infringed the asserted claims under 35 U.S.C. ۤۤ 271(f)(1) and (2), and WesternGeco was awarded a reasonable royalty of $12.5 million and lost profits of $93.4 million. The lost profits damages were based on the loss of ten surveys abroad, which WesternGeco argued it would have won but for ION's sales to WesternGeco's competitors.

    • Twitter Gets Video-Posting Patent Axed At PTAB
      Twitter has convinced the Patent Trial and Appeal Board that all claims of a patent covering the posting of video content on social media websites are obvious because of a combination...

    • Qualcomm’s Patent Scheme Is On Its Heels
      The FTC v. Qualcomm case, in which the FTC is arguing that Qualcomm’s licensing practices represent illegal anti-competitive conduct, has been submitted to Judge Koh. The FTC—having already won one major victory, with Judge Koh issuing summary judgment that Qualcomm has been violating its obligations for years—put forth a compelling case that Qualcomm has engaged in a pattern of conduct that had the effect of taxing its competitors. (Qualcomm’s reason for violating this obligation, per a discussion with the IRS? It was “humongously more lucrative” to ignore the obligation.)

      During the trial, Qualcomm repeatedly made assertions about how it operated—whether claiming it didn’t threaten to stop selling chips to companies who chose not to license its patents or claiming that no one in the industry obtains chipset-level licenses, even though Qualcomm requires them when it’s the licensee—that the FTC rebutted with documentary evidence. Qualcomm’s case—centering on the argument that the FTC had failed to show any competitive harm—lacked impact, given that the FTC showed via industry witnesses and expert testimony that Qualcomm’s practices had harmed competitors like Intel by delaying their ability to gain a foothold in the market and had allowed Qualcomm to continue charging the same percentage rate, even as their share of the technology contributed to the standards declined over time.

      While we won’t know Judge Koh’s ruling for some time—even a judge with a track record of working as quickly as Judge Koh does will take some time to digest the evidence and arguments in a case of this scale—we do have a hint. More than a year and a half ago, Judge Koh denied Qualcomm’s motion to dismiss the case. She based her decision on certain factual claims.

      None of those claims has been rebutted by Qualcomm during the course of the trial. All remain true.

    • Self-Harm: Company’s own 102(e) prior art Cancels the Patent
      This decision involves parallel appeals from (1) a district court siding with the accused infringer on noninfringement grounds; and (2) a PTAB IPR decision siding with the patentee confirming patentability. On appeal, the accused infringer won on several grounds, but it appears that at least some of the claims will be found both infringed and valid.

      In this post, I focus on the PTAB decision and self-harming prior art.

    • Slowly changing Japan's IP dispute resolution system
      However, I have seen a difference of opinion between SMEs and large enterprises, a conservative court, and also surprisingly witnessed the tension between JPO and industry groups of large enterprises, at the advisory committee. So, we are in no situation to expect impressive outcomes immediately. On January 25, the government published a report on the discussion thus far among its members to invite public opinion.

    • Trademarks

      • The Greatest Trick The NFL Ever Pulled Is Convincing The World It Holds Trademark Rights That Don't Exist
        It's nearly my birthday again, which of course can mean only one thing: we have to write up a post trying to explain to people that the NFL is completely full of shit in what it thinks its trademark on "Super Bowl" allows it to restrict. This has been something of an annual series for us, since the NFL really enjoys pulling out legal threats to bully businesses and churches over using factual phrases that do not in any way represent actual trademark infringement. The NFL certainly can restrict who claims to endorse the Super Bowl, or who can vaguely indicate some affiliation with the NFL or an NFL team, but the league instead likes to pretend that nobody can factually state that there is a thing called a Super Bowl and that it occurs at this time of year.

        The output of this game of make believe is the world being a dumber, more cynical place. Businesses everywhere use euphemisms for the Super Bowl, such as "the big game." Everyone knows what the euphemism means, yet the NFL usually lets this kind of thing slide. This myth about what is and is not infringement has in part been perpetuated by non-Techdirt media outlets that parrot the NFL's claims, or at least warn everyone that the NFL is litigious. Which... thanks.

    • Copyrights

      • Gaming Like It's 1923: The Entries Are In
        At the beginning of the year, we launched our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1923, with a one-month time limit — and now the entries are in! We figured we'd get a dozen entries, maybe two, but we're with a bunch of last minute entries slipping in under the deadline, we're thrilled to say we've got 35 games based on works that entered the public domain this year.

      • UK IPO calls for evidence on 2014 copyright regulations
        Earlier this week, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published a call for evidence on the implementation of new copyright regulations introduced in 2014 (see here for the call in full). The UK IPO invites stakeholders affected by these changes to come forward and submit evidence of their experience (see below the exhaustive list of themes included in the review). If you fall in within this category, you have until 10 April 2019 to let your voice be heard!
      • Exploiting arrangements of traditional (gospel or folk) music in South Africa
        Last year, there was wide media coverage of infighting within South Africa’s sole music collecting society, the Southern Africa Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO). Several issues were subjects of agitation within SAMRO and between SAMRO and some of its members. There were disagreements over the issue of rules regarding full membership qualification, SAMRO’s investment in a Dubai ‘Ponzi’ scheme, the construction of SAMRO House and SAMRO’s royalty distribution rules.
      • Thinking out loud on composers, craftsmanship and copycats
        In any creative industry, common patterns emerge and are used broadly – that goes for knitting, cooking, as well as music. For copyright to make sense you must acknowledge that most creative makings are also part of a tradition, and you have to “subtract” that tradition and see what is left before making claims of infringement. If not, the result would be either stifling of cultural expression or loss of legitimacy for the legislative protection of creative works in the eyes of the public. Either scenario would be a tragedy.

        Another aspect of these cases points to some interesting consequences of the peculiarities of US law in this field. In most countries, there is a distinct difference between the different categories of protection granted for composers and performing artists, respectively. The musicians exercise a craft, which is certainly worthy of protection, but it has been granted under related rights without protection against imitation. Composers, on the other hand, enjoy protection against imitation to the extent that it affects the work as such, rather than the style or tradition that it follows. The present cases bring to mind the question whether the “feel” of the various recordings, that can be played to the jury, originates from the composer of the work of from the performance of it. Many modern musicians work from a sheet of paper indicating the lyrics and the harmonies and perhaps, but far from always, the melody line. Everything else on the recording is added by the musicians, typically under the guidance of the producer. Outside of the US, such additions will, at least to a large extent, be considered ‘musicians’ craft’ and not be protectable at all. If it really were considered protected in the US, harmful as it would be, it might be worthwhile examining who would then be the owner of those rights, because they may very well have been, say, absorbed by the contracts between the musicians and the phonogram producing company. In many ways, that would be an even worse outcome than just the over-stretching of copyright. It could more or less make phonogram-producing companies like Motown legal monopolists in their respective genres.
      • US Newspapers Now Salivating Over Bringing A Google Snippet Tax Stateside
        These are not "the same intellectual property protections as songwriters and producers." News already has the same "intellectual property protections as songwriters and producers." It's called copyright and it applies to news as well as songs. The issue is that what's happening here is entirely different. Google and Facebook pay for hosting music. They're not hosting news (other than in very minor ways where news orgs choose to host on their platforms for specific purposes). Instead, Google and Facebook are sending people off to the news sites themselves, which should be a better deal, because then you have those people on your own damn site where you can offer all sorts of other things -- some of which might even make the publishers some money. Or, build a loyal fan base who won't need to go through those dastardly platforms in the future.

        And, yes, it's blatantly misleading to claim that the EU's ridiculous Article 11 is the EU "replicating some of these safeguards for journalism." Hell, this is close to journalistic malpractice from a guy who pretends to represent journalism. Remember, we already know what happens with an Article 11 type setup: it didn't magically lead to the big platforms paying news publishers, and it actually did significant harm to news publishers, in particular the smaller ones.
      • German Court determines the limits of private copying
        ZEEZEE’s business model depends on the interpretation of this exception, and the service may have to make dramatic changes or shut down, if the new decision is confirmed by the FCJ (it is currently unknown if ZEEZEE has chosen to appeal the decision). ZEEZEE offers a subscription that enables users to add songs to a “wish list”. According to ZEEZEE, this activates an automatic process which first searches hundreds of web radios for the requested title, then records the song and stores the copy into the user’s online “locker”, from where it can later be downloaded, only by this specific user.

        The plaintiff in this case did not believe that the service operates this way, but instead alleged that the company keeps “master copies” of the songs on its servers and enables users to access these copies after they were requested. To substantiate this claim, the plaintiff demonstrated that a number of test downloads always produced the complete songs from beginning to end and never had any ads or voice-over announcements, suggesting that they were not recorded from web-radios. Furthermore, on several occasions the plaintiff had obtained MP3s with identical hash-values (= identical files), even though the songs were requested from different user accounts at different times. According to the plaintiff, this would be technically impossible to obtain identical files when recording a song from a web radio on different occasions.

      • University Buys 14.4 Petabyte Bandwidth to Boost ‘Anonymous’ Torrent Client

        The Tribler lab at Delft University of Technology has sold part of its Bitcoin stash to purchase bandwidth for its anonymous torrent client. The bandwidth will be managed by swarms of intelligent bots which can buy new exit-point servers, if required. Users themselves can also join in by "mining" bandwidth tokens.

      • Spotify reportedly in “advanced stages” of acquiring podcast company for $230M

        Recode and the Wall Street Journal each reported a Gimlet bid from Spotify in the neighborhood of "over $200 million." That number was later clarified by Hot Pod newsletter author Nick Quah to be closer to $230 million. All three reports point out that the deal has not been completed.

      • Spotify is in talks to buy Gimlet for more than $200 million. That’s a big deal for the podcasting world.

        Spotify, which has been trying to branch out of the streaming music business, is getting ready to make its first big move into podcasting: It plans to pay more than $200 million to buy Gimlet Media, the startup behind popular shows like Reply All.

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