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Links 28/2/2019: KStars 3.1.0, Fedora IoT Docs Go Live, Devuan Developer Gathering

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  • Forget Windows Use Linux – A Distro Designed to Work with Android
    Over a year ago, we published a list of the Top 10 Open Source Distros You Haven’t Heard About, and while we also had good suggestions in the comments but the subject of our article today was nowhere in our radar. It goes by the name of FWUL which, interestingly, stands for Forget Windows, Use Linux.

    FWUL (Forget Windows Use Linux) is a lightweight open-source Operating System based on Arch Linux that started as an initiative to create a smooth Android-like User Experience for desktop users who had issues with Microsoft Windows.

    The same FWUL has an interesting name for an Operating System is the same way it has an interesting back story. The developer always pointed users to Linux whenever the complained about their issues with Windows because he believed that most of them were fixable in Linux.

    However, popular distros like Ubuntu and Linux Mint didn’t include everything Android users need. For example, Ubuntu users still need to enter commands to install some apps, flashing Android phones requires the installation of certain drivers, etc.

  • Desktop

    • Linux Voice Introduction
      Linux comes with lots of tools, but the community gravitates to a much smaller constellation of preferred applications. For word processing, most users turn to LibreOffice, although several other word processing tools populate the repositories of the top Linux distros. For a web browser, most users turn to Firefox or Chrome. Gimp is the king of raster (bitmap) graphics tools for the Linux space, with Krita as a leading alternative, but is there more to the story? And shouldn't we, reporters and chroniclers of the Linux space, reach wider across the landscape to bring you the alternatives? This month, we take a look at Pixelitor, a free graphics editor that might not be as multi-featured as Gimp, but that's good news for users who have a more minimalist bent.

    • FOSSPicks
      If you enjoy writing and editing words, there are many, many different options that can help you do the job. But if you enjoy writing and editing music, there aren't that many options at all. And if writing music should involve ledger lines, semibreves, and demisemihemidemisemiquavers, there are even fewer options. There's LilyPond, which is both a standalone notation editor and part of the Rosegarden MIDI sequencer, and there's this, MuseScore, a more ambitious attempt to unseat behemoth proprietary applications like Sibelius and Finale. MuseScore v3.0 is a milestone release and the result of almost four years work by its developers and community. And since MusicScore is open source, it's the community that really sets this application apart, because there's a huge online library of user-submitted and commercial scores that you can access with an account and download directly into the application, without shedding a single tear of inspiration. There are hundreds of high quality scores you can download, from Bach to bagpipes, with licenses varying from personal use to commercial modification, and opening a downloaded score is one of the best reasons to install MuseScore.

    • Chrome OS 74 adds support for backing up the Linux container
      Chrome OS version 74 has been reported on in the past, but if you're running this version then you can now back up and restore the Linux container it uses.

    • Chrome OS 74 brings much-needed audio support to Linux apps
      Spotted in the most recent Dev builds by About Chromebooks, the virtual machine responsible for Chrome OS’s Linux apps is now able to pass audio to Chrome OS proper. Under the hood, this is handled by PulseAudio, a well-known Linux sound system which is capable of transmitting audio data over a network.

      If you’ve never installed Linux apps support before on your Chromebook, it should work after initial install from the newest Chrome OS 74 Dev build. Otherwise, the Chromium team has provided some simple instructions of commands to be run to enable audio.

    • Windows 10 Updates Are Still A Confusing Mess, And This One Image Proves It
      A new way of looking at how Windows 10 Updates behave may just melt your brain.


      I'll leave you with this webcomic by Brandon Bradshaw about how Linux updates your PC...

  • Server

    • Red Hat Launches New Certification Program to Support the Future of Telecommunications Innovations
      Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), the world's leading provider of open source solutions, today announced a new training and certification program emphasizing the next-generation of telecommunications innovation. The Red Hat Certified Architect Program in Telco Cloud focuses on the skills that telecommunications engineers need to build network functions virtualization (NFV) clouds, critical technologies that can help drive advanced services like 5G. Used by Rakuten Mobile Network, Inc., as part of their collaboration with Red Hat in building a fully virtualized core-to-edge NFV cloud, the program is designed to help Red Hat Certified Engineers and Red Hat Certified Architects gain the knowledge needed to effectively use virtualized and cloud-native functions in building telecommunications infrastructure and services.
    • Open Outlook: Middleware (part 2)
      Beginning in the pre-virtualization era when software was architected as coarse-grained, "monolithic" compiled binaries installed on an operating system running on a physical server, middleware mostly consisted of standard libraries that were combined with custom code into the monolith at the moment of compilation. A later innovation was the "application server" approach, where foundational middleware functionality such as clustering, database connectivity, and transaction support was packaged into an independently installable and runnable unit onto which the custom application code was subsequently deployed. In addition, some middleware functionality was packaged into units such as data grids, rules engines, and service busses that ran independently and were called as "services". So you had three basic ways to incorporate middleware into an application: include libraries in the deployment element, deploy the element to an application server that provided additional capabilities, and call out to surrounding services for even more capabilities.

    • MariaDB Boosts Security and Backup Features With Enterprise Database Server
      Open source database vendor announces its biggest release yet as it pushes forward into the enterprise.

      MariaDB announced its new Enterprise Server platform on Feb. 26, providing organization that rely on the database platform with increased quality and security alongside high-end features.

      Among the new features in MariaDB Enterprise Server are data-at-rest encryption and enhanced data backup. Improved quality assurance and security hardnening are also core areas of focus for the product.

    • KDE Participating in Google Summer of Code 2019, MariaDB Releasing New Open-Source MariaDB Enterprise Server, CentOS Celebrates 15th Birthday, Cmd Is a New Security Tool for Linux and Red Hat Announces Red Hat Certified Architect Program in Telco Cloud
      MariaDB announced it is releasing a new version of its MySQL-compatible database management system called MariaDB Enterprise Server 10.4. ZDNet reports that "This new business server comes with more powerful and fine-grained auditing, faster, highly reliable backups for large databases, and end-to-end encryption for all data at rest in MariaDB clusters." The MariaDB Enterprise Server will be available in the second quarter of this year and will be fully open source.

      CentOS is celebrating its 15th birthday. As part of its birthday celebrations, the CentOS blog wants to talk with those who "were involved in the early days, as well as some that have joined later on, to talk about how and why people get involved in this project". If you're interested in telling your story, contact for an interview.

    • Happy birthday, CentOS!
      15 years ago, the CentOS project started up in order to fill a gap left by a change in the way that Red Hat decided to market their product.

      Many of the people that were involved in those early days are still involved today, although in different capacities than they were then. Over they years, their involvement has changed, due to their own changing job responsibilities, as well as the shifting technological landscape.

    • CentOS 6 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Get Important Kernel Security Update
      An important kernel security update has been released for the CentOS 6 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 operating system series to address a recently discovered vulnerability and other bugs.

      Marked by the Red Hat Product Security team as having an "Important" security impact, the new kernel security update contains a fix for a race condition vulnerability affecting the raw MIDI kernel driver that could lead to a double-free or double realloc, as well as a fix for a bug that caused apps compiled with GCC 4.4.7 to trigger a segmentation fault.

      This kernel update removes a 64k limit check in the page fault handler in applications compiled with GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) version 4.4.7, ensuring the smooth running of these applications without triggering a segmentation fault. However, Red Hat noted that fact that removing the limit check has no impact on the integrity of the kernel itself.

    • Is UNIX dead? [Ed: No, IDG is dead. So it's coming up with provocative and false headlines, preceding that question mark that lets them make excuses when blasted for it.]

    • VMware offers pure open-source Kubernetes, no chaser
      Unless you've been hiding under a rock in the IT world, you know Kubernetes, the container orchestration program of choice, is hotter than hot. Everyone's using it, adding on to it, offering it as a service, the list goes on and on. But VMware wants you to know that, if all you want is Kubernetes without all the fancy trimmings, well, it can give you that, too, with VMware Essential PKS.

      PKS includes upstream Kubernetes; reference architectures to inform design decisions; and expert support to proactively guide you through upgrades or maintenance and help you troubleshoot it if you need a hand. That's all. That's it.

    • OpenShift Partner Reference Architectures
      Red Hat’s Partners play a key role in developing customer relationships, understanding customer needs, and providing comprehensive joint solutions. As customers use Red Hat technologies to help solve increasingly complex business issues, partners provide reliable guidance, technical information, and even engineered integrations to assist customers in making sound technology decisions.

      For this post, the focus is on partners that are helping to showcase their technology paired with the OpenShift platform. Whether this is technology from our system vendor partners, independent software vendors (ISVs), or cloud service providers, we are including a library of reference architectures here. Reference Architectures combine partner technology with Red Hat technology to formulate a best-practices design and to simplify the process for creating a stable, highly-available, and repeatable environment on which to run your applications on OpenShift.

    • Using sidecars to analyze and debug network traffic in OpenShift and Kubernetes pods
      In the world of distributed computing, containers, and microservices, a lot of the interactions and communication between services is done via RESTful APIs. While developing these APIs and interactions between services, I often have the need to debug the communication between services, especially when things don’t seem to work as expected.

      Before the world of containers, I would simply deploy my services on my local machine, start up Wireshark, execute my tests, and analyze the HTTP communication between my services. This for me has always been an easy and effective way to quickly analyze communication problems in my software. However, this method of debugging does not work well in a containerized world.

    • Kubernetes Warms Up to IPv6
      There’s a finite number of public IPv4 addresses and the IPv6 address space was specified to solve this problem some 20 years ago, long before Kubernetes was conceived of. But because it was originally developed inside Google and it’s only relatively recently that cloud services like Google and AWS have started to support IPv6 at all, Kubernetes started out with only IPv4 support.

      That’s a problem for organizations that are already committed to using IPv6, perhaps for IoT devices where there are simply too many IP addresses required. “IoT customers have devices and edge devices deployed everywhere using IPv6,” notes Khaled (Kal) Henidak, Microsoft principal software engineer who works on container services for Azure and co-ordinates Microsoft’s upstream contributions to Kubernetes.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Full Circle Magazine: Full Circle Weekly News #123

    • FLOSS Weekly 519: Aion
      Matthew Spoke is the founder of Aion, a world-leading blockchain protocol designed to solve the most prevalent challenges limiting blockchains mainstream adoption: scalability, interoperability and governance. Matt serves as CEO of the Aion Foundation. Prior to his current role, Matt founded Deloitte's first blockchain team, Rubix. Matt is an active and founding board member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and a founding director of the Blockchain Technology Coalition of Canada.

    • GeelRant #350 - Milestones, Monuments and Merriment
      The guys talks about the importance of breaking long-term goals into short-term milestones, celebrating big victories, and having fun along your financial journey.

    • Proper Pi Pedigree | LINUX Unplugged 290
      We head to the Raspberry Pi corner and pick the very best open source home automation system.

      Plus some great news for Gnome users, OBS studio has a new funding model, and a nostalgic chat with our study buddy Kenny.

      Special Guests: Alex Kretzschmar, Brent Gervais, and Martin Wimpress.

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 797

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.20.13
      I'm announcing the release of the 4.20.13 kernel.

      All users of the 4.20 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at: git:// linux-4.20.y and can be browsed at the normal git web browser:
    • Linux 4.19.26
    • Linux 4.14.104
    • Linux 4.9.161

    • A Number Of Additional Graphics Drawing Tablets To Be Supported By Linux 5.1
      For those interested in using graphics drawing tablets on Linux, a number of devices will now be supported with the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle.

      A number of updates are pending to the "uclogic" HID driver for supporting various UC-Logic graphics tablet devices. This work for Linux 5.1 includes supporting a new version of the company's device protocol and going on to add support for the Ugee 2150, Ugee M540, XP-Pen Star G540, XP-Pen Star G640, XP-Pen Deco 01, and Ugee G5.

    • Looking At Why Linux 5.0 Is Running Slower For Apache & PostgreSQL On Some Systems
      Last week I reported on some slowdowns when running on the Linux 5.0 development kernel for both Intel and AMD systems. As a few days passed and the regression didn't seem to be figured out and addressed by upstream, and several inquiries from Phoronix readers, I spent some time looking at some of the slowdowns encountered when running on this bleeding-edge code.

      The slowdowns when encountered so far on a few different systems were some of the most sizable regressions since the Linux 4.14 to 4.15 transition when Spectre and Meltdown mitigations began rolling out. But with the 5.0 regressions, they haven't been across the board and range from a few percent to about 10% or so.

    • Making ATA updates just work

      The fwupd project has supported updating the microcode on ATA devices for about a month, and StarLabs is shipping firmware on the LVFS already. More are coming, but as part of the end-to-end testing with various deliberately-unnamed storage vendors we hit a thorny issue.

      Most drives require the firmware updater to use the so-called 0xE mode, more helpfully called ATA_SUBCMD_MICROCODE_DOWNLOAD_CHUNKS in fwupd. This command transfers chunks of firmware to the device, and then the ATA hardware waits for a COMRESET before switching to the new firmware version. On most drives you can also use 0x3 mode which downloads the chunks and switches to the new firmware straight away using ATA RESET. As in, your drive currently providing your root filesystem disconnects from your running system and then reconnects with the new firmware version running.

    • The case of the supersized shebang
      Regressions are an unavoidable side effect of software development; the kernel is no different in that regard. The 5.0 kernel introduced a change in the handling of the "#!" (or "shebang") lines used to indicate which interpreter should handle an executable text file. The problem has been duly fixed, but the incident shows how easy it can be to introduce unexpected problems and highlights some areas where the kernel's development process does not work as well as we might like. By longstanding Unix convention, an attempt to execute a file that does not have a recognized binary format will result in that file being passed to an interpreter. By default, the interpreter is a shell, which will interpret the file as a shell script. If, however, the file starts with the characters "#!", the remainder of the first line will be treated as the name of the interpreter to use (and possibly arguments to be passed to that interpreter). This mechanism allows programs written in almost any interpreted language to be executed directly; the user need never know which interpreter is actually doing the work behind the scenes.

    • Per-vector software-interrupt masking
      Software interrupts (or "softirqs") are one of the oldest deferred-execution mechanisms in the kernel, and that age shows at times. Some developers have been occasionally heard to mutter about removing them, but softirqs are too deeply embedded into how the kernel works to be easily ripped out; most developers just leave them alone. So the recent per-vector softirq masking patch set from Frederic Weisbecker is noteworthy as an exception to that rule. Weisbecker is not getting rid of softirqs, but he is trying to reduce their impact and improve their latency. Hardware interrupts are the means by which the hardware can gain a CPU's attention to signal the completion of an I/O operation or some other situation of interest. When an interrupt is raised, the currently running code is (usually) preempted and an interrupt handler within the kernel is executed. A cardinal rule for interrupt handlers is that they must execute quickly, since they interfere with the other work the CPU is meant to be doing. That usually implies that an interrupt handler will do little more than acknowledge the interrupt to the hardware and set aside enough information to allow the real processing work to be done in a lower-priority mode.

      The kernel offers a number of deferred-execution mechanisms through which that work can eventually be done. In current kernels, the most commonly used of those is workqueues, which can be used to queue a function call to be run in kernel-thread context at some later time. Another is tasklets, which execute at a higher priority than workqueues; adding new tasklet users tends to be mildly discouraged for reasons we'll get to. Other kernel subsystems might use timers or dedicated kernel threads to get their deferred work done.

    • Linux Foundation

      • New Elisa Project Focuses on Linux In Safety-Critical Systems
        The project is called Elisa, for "Enabling Linux in Safety Applications," and it's aim is to create a shared set of tools and processes for building Linux-based systems that will operate without surprises in situations where failure could cause injury, loss of life, or result in significant property or environmental damage.

        These days computers are being used to perform a long and growing list of tasks that can have serious consequences if something goes wrong. This includes light rail systems where the trains often drive themselves, robotic devices, medical devices, and smart factories where potentially dangerous tasks are directed by single board computers spitting out X's and O's.

    • Graphics Stack

      • CUDA 10.1 Released With Performance Improvements, Lightweight GEMM Library
        As the first point release since last year's CUDA 10.0 release, CUDA 10.1 is now available with a new GEMM library and various performance optimizations.

      • AMDGPU FreeSync Has A Last Minute Fix To Help Prevent Stuttering For Linux 5.0
        One of the major end-user features of the new Linux 5.0 kernel that is due to be released this weekend is support for FreeSync / Variable Rate Refresh on AMD Radeon GPUs via the mainline AMDGPU driver. There's a last minute fix requested to help prevent stuttering with this long-awaited feature for Linux gamers.

        The AMDGPU FreeSync support has largely been in great shape when using the Linux 5.0 mainline kernel now and the latest user-space bits. In the next few days I should hopefully have the time to do a recap of the state and other details to help Linux gamers in making use of this functionality designed to address tearing and stuttering during the rendering of games and other supported applications.

      • Lima DRM Driver Strikes Version Two For Mali 400/450 Open-Source Support
        While the Mali 400/450 series era hardware is now 7~11 years old, the revived Lima DRM driver is still being pursued for mainlining in the Linux kernel to offer up open-source support for these once popular Arm graphics generations.

        Independent developer Qiang Yu is still working on the Lima DRM driver where Luc Verhaegen left it off several years ago. Qiang Yu believes the code is now ready for mainlining in the Linux kernel while in user-space he has also been nursing a Lima Mesa driver into shape. The Mali 400/450 series hardware is capable of OpenGL ES 2.0.

      • Gallium3D's OpenCL "Clover" Begins Seeing New Activity Land For Mesa 19.1
        The first real commits to Gallium3D's Clover OpenCL state tracker in several months were landed on Tuesday for Mesa 19.1. These new commits are part of the Red Hat led effort on improving the open-source OpenCL support with a focus on getting the Nouveau open-source NVIDIA driver compute stack up and running.

        The commits landing on Tuesday were primarily led by independent Nouveau developer Pierre Moreau who's work has become of interest to Red Hat with the work being done by Karol Herbst and others on bringing up Nouveau OpenCL compute support atop Clover.

      • The Intel-Developed Vulkan Overlay Layer Picks Up New Features, Dump FPS To File
        It was just one week ago that developers from the Intel Open-Source Technology Center contributed their new Vulkan Overlay later to Mesa 19.1 for providing various performance metrics/statistics of use to application/driver developers. This Vulkan overlay continues being improved upon as well as making it more applicable to gamers/enthusiasts.

    • Benchmarks

      • The Performance Impact Of GCC CPU Tuning On The Linux Kernel's Performance
        Last week there was the patch being proposed for the mainline Linux kernel that has long been carried by Gentoo's kernel to provide CPU optimization options, which were quickly shot-down by upstream maintainers, there were many requests to benchmark said patches... Here are dozens of performance figures looking at the performance impact of these optimizations for AMD Zen (znver1), Skylake, and Skylake X (Skylake-AVX512) compared to a stock mainline kernel build on several different systems.

        The main patch proposed offers up Kconfig options so at build time users can select their CPU microarchitecture from old AMD Barcelona and Bobcat systems through Znver1 and then on the Intel side from Nehalem through Icelake and Cannonlake generations. Depending upon the CPU generation selected, the kernel would be built with the respective "-march=" compiler flag for optimizing the generated instructions for that particular generation of x86_64 processors. This functionality has long been an option for Gentoo users building their own kernel to cater their own build for their particular CPU in use, but over the years hasn't been accepted upstream. The patch is quite simple with really GCC doing all of the actual work for the optimizations of the generated kernel binary.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Google Summer of Code 2019
        The KDE Community is happy to announce that we have been selected to participate in Google Summer of Code. This will be our our 14th year of mentoring students.

        Attention students: If you are a student who would like to work with KDE this summer you can apply to SoC, find more info on the KDE GSoC wiki page. Please note that your project proposal will need to link to some commits to the KDE codebase, so get started now fixing some bugs! If you are wondering what you can work on, also check out our ideas page.

      • KStars v3.1.0 is released!
        I'm glad to announce KStars first release of 2019: v3.1.0 for MacOS, Linux, and Windows. This release focuses on improvements to stability & performance of KStars. In 3.0.0, we introduced quite a few features which resulted in a few regressions that we worked hard to iron out in this release.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Some challenges for GNOME online accounts
        The cynical among us might be tempted to think that an announcement from the GNOME project about the removal of a feature — a relatively unused feature at that — would be an unremarkable event. In practice, though, Debarshi Ray's announcement that the GNOME Online Accounts (GOA) subsystem would no longer support the "documents" access point touched off a lengthy discussion within the project itself. The resulting discussion revealed a few significant problems with GOA and, indeed, with the concept of online-account management in any sort of open-source umbrella project like GNOME.

        GOA is meant to provide a single sign on system integrating GNOME applications with web-based services. Any application that, for example, wants to access files stored in Google Drive would ordinarily have to ask the user for credentials and log into Drive separately, which gets tiresome for users running a lot of applications. By routing this access through GOA, the GNOME developers hope to simplify the process of using those services. GOA includes a number of different "integration points" for different types of services, including files, email, calendars, contacts, and more.

        The "documents" point was used by the Documents application, which is meant to help users manage their documents. It has suffered, though, from a lack of both users and developers and lacks basic features; Michael Catanzaro described it as "basically just 'bad evince'". That certainly restricts its prospects for success; as Ray put it: "it doesn't stand any chance of adoption unless it can open files like /usr/bin/evince". Documents has duly been removed from the core set of GNOME applications. Since it was the only core application using the "documents" integration point, that point is now being removed.

  • Distributions

    • 7 of The Best Linux Distros in 2019
      If you’re fresh to this whole Linux business, then it’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed if you’re migrating over from Windows or Mac OS. For that reason, you may want to start simple, and Linux Mint is just what you need.

      Mint comes packed with much of the software you need to get straight back into your workflow, such as LibreOffice and some decent onboard media software. You have a choice of four main desktop environments, with Cinnamon being the most Windows-like with its pseudo-Start menu (though MATE remains a popular choice too). It’s pretty light resource-wise, too, loading faster and using less memory than the all-popular Ubuntu.

      Mint is always in sync with the latest Ubuntu LTS releases, meaning you don’t need to worry about being left vulnerable during zero-day scares or malware outbreaks (well, no more so than the Ubuntu crew anyway).

      Keeping this in mind, some people might also recommend Ubuntu or Elementary OS, but we will stick with Linux Mint.

    • Sparky news 2019/02
      The 2nd monthly report of 2019 of the Sparky project

    • New Releases

      • Embedded Linux OS LibreELEC 9.0.1 Is Out with Kodi 18.1 and Linux Kernel 4.19.23
        The development team behind the LibreELEC open-source and Linux-based operating system for embedded devices released the first maintenance update in the latest LibreELEC 9.0 "Leia" series.

        Released earlier this month, the LibreELEC 9.0 "Leia" series is based on the latest Kodi 18 "Leia" open-source and cross-platform media center software, which adds numerous new features and enhancements like retro gaming support, DRM support for streaming content from sites like Netflix or Amazon Prime, and much more.

        LibreELEC 9.0.1 is here today as the first point release a.k.a. maintenance update to the LibreELEC 9.0 "Leia" series, updating the Kodi media center to version 18.1 and the Linux kernel to version 4.19.23 for better hardware support. Furthermore, it improves support for TBS 5520SE tuning and Zotac remotes.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Fedora

      • Fedora IoT Docs are Live
        Design ideas: My focus was on technical content. The basic layout is dictated by the Fedora Docs project but a bit of design work on the welcome page and the addition of any IoT specific logos would be nice. Also, there are a few screenshots that could use a pointer or box to highlight the area described in the text.

        Verify links for downloads and upgrades: The working group now has regular updated images available in a CDN and the next downloadable image is in progress along with the final version of the landing page for downloads. Once the update and release schedule process is smoothed out, the documentation needs to be verified.

        Get ready for F30: When Fedora 30 is ready, the site will need some Release Notes and the User Guide will need some updates to cover new features. You can submit suggestions as iot-docs issues in pagure.

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Systemd-Free Debian "Devuan" Planning Their First Developer Gathering This Spring
          For fans of Devuan, the downstream of Debian focused on "init system independence" or just "Debian without systemd", their first-ever conference is happening in just over one month.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 Coming to Ubuntu Phones on March 6th with More Improvements
            Yes, we're talking about Ubuntu Touch OTA-8, the next major update for devices running the Ubuntu Touch mobile operating system, which promises several improvements to make your Ubuntu Phone experience more reliable. The Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 update comes one and a half months after the Ubuntu Touch OTA-7 release.

            Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 is slated for release next week, on March 6th, 2019, but before it hits the streets the UBports community needs your help to test drive the pre-release builds and report any issues you may encounter to ensure the quality of the final release for everyone. Details on how to test Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 are available below.

          • Ubuntu: The End of an Era?

            Today we will look at Ubuntu 19.04 daily build and ask this question: Is the era of Ubuntu over? This will be an interesting discussion talking about the pros and cons of the next releases rollout.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Lite 4.4 Slated for Release on April 1st, Based on Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS
              Based on the Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system, Linux Lite 4.4 will be released in a month from the moment of writing and promises to offer users an up-to-date live and installation media that also brings various minor changes to artwork with an updated Papirus icon theme and to software selection with the addition of the Sound Juicer CD ripper app.

              However, the biggest change of this new development cycle for Linux Lite is the move from Beta releases to RC (Release Candidate) releases to match the build quality of pre-release images much better. The RC build number will be displayed on the default wallpaper, login screen, and boot splash screen, which will be removed in the final release.

            • Linux Lite 4.4 RC1 Run Through
              In this video, we look at Linux Lite 4.4 RC1.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • 3 open source behavior-driven development tools
    Behavior-driven development (BDD) seems very easy. Tests are written in an easily readable format that allows for feedback from product owners, business sponsors, and developers. Those tests are living documentation for your team, so you don't need requirements. The tools are easy to use and allow you to automate your test suite. Reports are generated with each test run to document every step and show you where tests are failing.

    Quick recap: Easily readable! Living documentation! Automation! Reports! What could go wrong, and why isn't everybody doing this?

  • A Brief History of FOSS Practices
    The origins of FOSS goes back to the 1950s. When hardware was purchased, there used to be no additional charges for bundled software and the source code would also be available in order to fix possible bugs in the software.

    It was actually a common Practice back then for users with the freedom to customize the code.

    At that time, mostly academicians and researchers in the industry were the collaborators to develop such software.

    The term Open Source was not there yet. Instead, the term that was popular at that time was “Public Domain Software”. As of today, ideologically, both are very much different in nature even though they may sound similar.

  • Events

    • Alexandru BăluÈ›: FOSDEM impressions
      Earlier this month I got to FOSDEM in Brussels for the first time. Below is how I remember it. Overall it has been great.

      I quickly learned to look for a different room when there was a queue at the door. But this once I decided to wait in queue, hoping somebody would get out so I can enter. I and the person in front of me got close to the door, but unfortunately we did not get in. Luckily the next speaker and his colleague were also waiting, so we got a 1-1 (or more accurately 2 on 2) on quantum computing. That was quite cool.

      I was hoping to talk more with the GNOME devs, about Pitivi and things. At the GNOME stand it might have been possible, but it was not ideal. The stand table was between two others and it was pretty crowded. I think with some small space between the stands people would be able to get in front of them, to talk with the interested people, which would be nicer. These discussions over-the-table are not very inspiring.

      It was much better for KDE who had their stand at the end of the row, and also space between their table and the neighbor table to fit a person demoing stuff. Speaking of which, I stumbled upon the Kdenlive demo, seems the team also cares about stability, like we do.

    • 10 reasons not to attend Red Hat Summit
      Red Hat Summit 2019 is just a few months away, and we talk a lot about reasons that you might want to attend. But, in the interests of balance, we have also compiled a few reasons you might not want to attend Summit. After all, somebody has to stay home and mind the cats.

    • LibreOffice Asia Conference 2019, Tokyo: Call for Papers is open
      Call for Papers for LibreOffice Asia Conference 2019, held at the Nihonbashi Tokyo Tower (at Cyboze, Inc., Tokyo Office) on May 25th (Sat) and 26th (Sun), is now open.

      LibreOffice Asia Conference will be the first event gathering LibreOffice users, advocates and contributors (not only development, but also localization, PR/marketing, documentation, quality assurance, … etc.) from different countries in Asia, to exchange and share experiences and knowledge.

      During the conference, we will discuss LibreOffice related business such as supporting and training, migrating to LibreOffice and the ODF true standard format, developing, and any other community activity in Asia. In addition, we will have guests from the core team at The Document Foundation, which is a charitable foundation and the home of LibreOffice.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Google Chrome/Chromium Begins Landing POWER PPC64LE Patches
        Raptor Computing Systems spent a lot of time last year working on Chrome's PPC64LE support to enable Google's web browser to run on the latest IBM POWER processors. Google was sitting on these patches without any action for months but finally they are beginning to be accepted upstream.

        It's been a bit odd with the PPC64LE support for Chrome/Chromium taking so long with Google being a founding member of the OpenPOWER Foundation and also reportedly using some POWER9 CPUs within their data centers. But after this long and drawn out process, progress is finally being made on getting Raptor's patches upstreamed.

    • Mozilla and Mycroft

      • Mozilla Addons Blog: Design and create themes for Firefox
        Last September, we announced the next major evolution in themes for Firefox. With the adoption of static themes, you can now go beyond customizing the header of the browser and easily modify the appearance of the browser’s tabs and toolbar, and choose to distribute your theme publicly or keep it private for your own personal use. If you would like to learn about how to take advantage of these new features or are looking for an updated tutorial on how to create themes, you have come to the right place!

      • Mozilla To Add Windows Hello Support In Firefox 66

      • Mozilla Thunderbird 60.5.2 Now Available on Linux, Windows, and macOS
        Mozilla has recently released a new update for its Thunderbird email client on all supported platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.

        With this new release, Thunderbird reaches version 60.5.2, and although the bigger changes take place on Windows, all users are recommended to update as soon as possible.

        First and foremost, there’s one important refinement for Windows users. The Thunderbird team at Mozilla explains that in the previous builds of the email client, the application could crash when users tried to send an email to a specific recipient.
      • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #41
        Welcome to episode 41 of WebRender’s newsletter.

        WebRender is a GPU based 2D rendering engine for web written in Rust, currently powering Mozilla’s research web browser Servo and on its way to becoming Firefox‘s rendering engine.

        Today’s highlights are two big performance improvements by Kvark and Sotaro. I’ll let you follow the links below if you are interested in the technical details. I think that Sotaro’s fix illustrates well the importance of progressively rolling out this type of project a hardware/OS configuration at a time, giving us the time and opportunity to observe and address each configuration’s strengths and quirks.

      • Sharing our Common Voices – Mozilla releases the largest to-date public domain transcribed voice dataset
        Mozilla crowdsources the largest dataset of human voices available for use, including 18 different languages, adding up to almost 1,400 hours of recorded voice data from more than 42,000 contributors.

        From the onset, our vision for Common Voice has been to build the world’s most diverse voice dataset, optimized for building voice technologies. We also made a promise of openness: we would make the high quality, transcribed voice data that was collected publicly available to startups, researchers, and anyone interested in voice-enabled technologies.

        Today, we’re excited to share our first multi-language dataset with 18 languages represented, including English, French, German and Mandarin Chinese (Traditional), but also for example Welsh and Kabyle. Altogether, the new dataset includes approximately 1,400 hours of voice clips from more than 42,000 people.

      • Securing privacy with Mycroft, an Open AI voice assistant
        Voice-assisted technologies are extremely popular; already there are 2.5 billion such devices in use and that's expected to triple to 8 billion by 2023. This growth appears to be unstoppable—despite the privacy and security vulnerabilities in mainstream voice-assisted technology.

        One of these is the "open-window" vulnerability where, for example, a malicious person walks by an open window and shouts, "Hey, unlock the door!" and gains access to the house. Researchers have also identified thousands of false-positive wake words for Alexa and Google, potential attack vectors to inject malicious commands. Some people bring up the risk of subsonic commands injected over TV. Amazon may already be using frequency manipulations to keep Alexa from activating during its commercials. And, as with any web-connected computer device, there's the potential for backdoors and other common vulnerabilities.

  • Databases

    • Scaling PostgreSQL with Kubernetes Operators
      Crunchy Data's open source Crunchy PostgreSQL Operator is an Operator for PostgreSQL that is used in many production environments. It provides a simple yet powerful command-line interface that lets users deploy their own database-as-a-service system on any Kubernetes-enabled platform.

      For example, with the pgo create command, which is used to provision a database, you can set up a distributed, high-availability PostgreSQL cluster with full disaster recovery support along with a database monitoring sidecar powered by pgMonitor. In other words, in lieu of a complicated multi-step process or having to write your own scripts, you can create the type of PostgreSQL system required for production from a single command.

      While this may seem to be overkill if you are managing a handful of database clusters, the value of an Operator scales significantly if you need to support hundreds or thousands of different clusters. Having a standardized set of commands with the ability to flexibly deploy clusters for different workloads both eases the administration burden and provides more options for how a team can develop and deploy workloads into production.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice and the Google Summer of Code 2019
      Google Summer of Code (GSoC) an international annual program that has taken place every year since 2005 – and the LibreOffice Project has been involved since 2010. In GSoC, Google awards stipends to students who successfully complete coding tasks for free and open source software projects over the summer.

      This year, LibreOffice is taking part again! So if you’re a student, know some C++ and want to get involved with a well-known open source project (and get some financial support from Google too), join in! Proposals will be accepted starting on March 25, but in the meantime you can view a list of ideas for inspiration.


    • Free Software’s Radical Past
      Something is absurd about the idea that free and open source software (FOSS) is apolitical. How could a movement that changes the way software is produced and alters conventional notions about the rights of users not be political in the broadest sense? Admittedly, though, FOSS in 2019 seems less political than it used to be.

      Still, the idea remains widespread. Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman, for example, researched the Debian project, in the past one of the most radical FOSS communities, yet describes FOSS as a whole as “politically agnostic.” Similarly, many programmers would insist that what matters is the technology. Nor is it difficult to find left and right wingers working together in FOSS although not always harmoniously.

      The reasons for believing FOSS to be apolitical are not hard to find. For one thing, the foundations that govern many larger projects are often registered charities, and need to be cautious about political involvement so as not to lose their tax-free status. For another, after being condemned by Microsoft as “communism,” few FOSS participants were willing to declare any open political stance. That is especially true in the United States, where, decades after the cold war, coming out as a socialist has only started to become acceptable in the last year or two. Under some circumstances, keeping your head down and coding was only sensible.

      Moreover, how political free software appears depends very much on the communities with which you interact. To give an obvious example, The Apache Foundation with its permissive licenses is far less political than the GNU Project, with its advocacy of copyleft licenses and its connection to the Free Software Foundation.

      When examined, the idea that FOSS is apolitical is one of those generalizing half-truths — it contains bits of insights, but in the end is incomplete. While never the major focus of free software, political activism remains close to the heart of the movement. Sometimes, this activism is only a generalized and often naive mistrust of corporations and the profit motive, but frequently it has been more influenced by radical thought than most people –even participants — believe.

    • GNU Debugger GDB 8.3 Is On Approach With Many Improvements
      The code for the GNU Debugger "GDB" was branched overnight ahead of the upcoming v8.3 release. This release adds for compilation and injection of C++ code, RISC-V improvements, terminal styling capabilities, and a lot more.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Why CLAs aren't good for open source
      Few legal topics in open source are as controversial as contributor license agreements (CLAs). Unless you count the special historical case of the Fedora Project Contributor Agreement (which I've always seen as an un-CLA), or, like Karl Fogel, you classify the DCO as a type of CLA, today Red Hat makes no use of CLAs for the projects it maintains.

      It wasn't always so. Red Hat's earliest projects followed the traditional practice I've called "inbound=outbound," in which contributions to a project are simply provided under the project's open source license with no execution of an external, non-FOSS contract required. But in the early 2000s, Red Hat began experimenting with the use of contributor agreements. Fedora started requiring contributors to sign a CLA based on the widely adapted Apache ICLA, while a Free Software Foundation-derived copyright assignment agreement and a pair of bespoke CLAs were inherited from the Cygnus and JBoss acquisitions, respectively. We even took a few steps towards adopting an Apache-style CLA across the rapidly growing set of Red Hat-led projects.

    • Let your engineers choose the license: A guide
      Imagine you are working for a company that will be starting a new open source community project. Great! You have taken a positive first step to give back and enable a virtuous cycle of innovation that the open source community-based development model provides.

      But what about choosing an open source license for your project? You ask your manager for guidance, and she provides some perspective but quickly realizes that there is no formal company policy or guidelines. As any wise manager would do, she asks you to develop formal corporate guidelines for choosing an open source license for such projects.

      Simple, right? You may be surprised to learn some unexpected challenges. This article will describe some of the complexities you may encounter and some perspective based on my recent experience with a similar project at Red Hat.

      It may be useful to quickly review some of the more common forms of open source licensing. Open source licenses may be generally placed into two main buckets, copyleft and permissive.

    • MariaDB CEO accuses large cloud vendors of strip-mining open source
      At MariaDB Corp's user and developer conference MariaDB OpenWorks in Manhattan's Financial District, MariaDB CEO Michael Howard pulled no punches at his company's rivals: Big cloud, especially Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Oracle. Howard opened with saying big proprietary cloud were "strip-mining open-source technologies and companies," he continued on the attack from there.

      "These companies, he continued, "You know they are -- are really abusing the license and abusing privilege, not giving back to the community." The MariaDB database management system (DBMS), started as a MySQL fork. Today, with its heart still licensed under the GPLv2, Senjeeve Mohan, a Gartner Research Director, called MariaDB "the gold standard for enterprise open-source DBMSs."

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Today's Context Demands Use of OER
        This movement is the most exciting thing to happen to higher ed in my lifetime. It brings together the humanity, respect for students (and instructors!) and impetus to make a positive change in students’ lives from thinkers like bell hooks, Paulo Freire and John Dewey with the technological know-how and thirst for openness, access and justice of Seymour Papert, Richard M. Stallman and Aaron Swartz.

        There is no point in my parodying the eloquence of the expositors of open pedagogy cited above -- please go read them right now, if you haven’t yet. But one thing I can do is add a small point I haven’t see those authors emphasize, in the spirit (following Green) of exploring what motivates faculty. One thing that faculty members love (perhaps particularly at primarily research institutions, where they may be worried about something with enormous impact on pedagogy but which will require a large investment of their time) is their academic freedom.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • New Part Day: The STM32 That Runs Linux
        irst, that Linux support. The STM32MP157C was mainlined into Linux last summer, and there is support for Android. So yes, this chip can run Linux. There is an optional 3D GPU in this family, a MIPI-DSI controller, support for HDMI-CEC, USB 2.0, and 10/100M or Gigabit Ethernet. This brings us the inevitable question of whether you can build a Raspberry Pi clone with these parts. Maybe, champ, but if you’re asking that question it’s probably not you that’s going to build one. It looks as if this chip is designed for phones, set-top boxes, and smart TVs. That doesn’t preclude a single board computer, but the biggest problem there is maintaining software support anyway.

        The chip family in question all come with dual ARM Cortex-A7 processors running at a nominal 650MHz. There’s also a Cortex-M4 running at 209MHz, and the ST literature suggests that engineers are already running Linux on the A7 and an RTOS on the M4. This chip will need external memory, but DDR3 / DDR3L / LPDDR2 / LPDDR3 are supported.

      • Kano Computer Kit – Build Your Own Computer [Ed: Seems like an ad rather than an article from FOSS Mint]
        Kano Computer Kit is a collection of items that you can use to build your own computer for learning to code, playing with art, games, light, music, motion, etc.

        It includes over 100 step-by-step challenges that make for an interesting creating and learning experience as you work with various computer components including the much-loved Raspberry Pi.

        Kano Computer Kit PCs are Chrome OS-like and are as good as any other simple PC because you can use it to browse the Internet, create beats with Google Song Maker, make animations with Scratch, draw with Tux Paint, use WhatsApp, Gmail, etc.

  • Programming/Development

    • Traditional Face Detection With Python
      Computer vision is an exciting and growing field. There are tons of interesting problems to solve! One of them is face detection: the ability of a computer to recognize that a photograph contains a human face, and tell you where it is located. In this article, you’ll learn about face detection with Python.

      To detect any object in an image, it is necessary to understand how images are represented inside a computer, and how that objects differs visually from any other object.

      Once that is done, the process of scanning an image and looking for those visual cues needs to be automated and optimized. All these steps come together to form a fast and reliable computer vision algorithm.

    • PyCharm 2018.3.5
      We’ve release a minor update to PyCharm 2018.3, you can now download PyCharm 2018.3.5 from our website.

    • Introduction to the Python Pathlib Module

    • Coding in Python 10 - Comments and Style
    • Coding in Python 11 - Functions

    • Coding in Python 12 - Local vs Global Variables

    • GStreamer 1.15.2 unstable development release
      The GStreamer team is pleased to announce the second development release in the unstable 1.15 release series.

      The unstable 1.15 release series adds new features on top of the current stable 1.16 series and is part of the API and ABI-stable 1.x release series of the GStreamer multimedia framework.

      The unstable 1.15 release series is for testing and development purposes in the lead-up to the stable 1.16 series which is scheduled for release in a few weeks time. Any newly-added API can still change until that point, although it is rare for that to happen.

    • This Week in Rust 275

    • scikit-survival 0.7 released
      This is a long overdue maintenance release of scikit-survival 0.7 that adds compatibility with Python 3.7 and scikit-learn 0.20. For a complete list of changes see the release notes.
    • Review of Igalia's Web Platform activities (H2 2018)
      As mentioned in the previous report, Igalia has proposed and developed the specification for BigInt, enabling math on arbitrary-sized integers in JavaScript. We’ve continued to land patches for BigInt support in SpiderMonkey and JSC. For the latter, you can watch this video demonstrating the current support. Currently, these two support are under a preference flag but we hope to make it enable by default after we are done polishing the implementations. We also added support for BigInt to several Node.js APIs (e.g. fs.Stat or process.hrtime.bigint).

      Regarding “object-oriented” features, we submitted patches private and public instance fields support to JSC and they are pending review. At the same time, we are working on private methods for V8

      We contributed other nice features to V8 such as a spec change for template strings and iterator protocol, support for Object.fromEntries, Symbol.prototype.description, miscellaneous optimizations.

    • Zack's Kernel News
      For a long time, the Linux kernel would only compile with the GNU C Compiler (GCC). Now, several compilers can do it, but each compiler has its own way of doing things, offering various extensions to the C language and optimizing code in different ways. The question of which compiler features to depend on can have an effect on whether other compilers can keep supporting Linux.

      Recently, Matthew Wilcox suggested using the -fplan9-extensions GCC option to handle some implicit type conversions. This way, a particular cyclic memory allocation could be made to embed a needed reference instead of requiring it to be passed explicitly to the function. If the code used the Plan 9 extensions, the functions would not need to be tweaked to accept the additional input.

    • AMD Zen 2 "znver2" Support Lands In LLVM Clang 9.0
      While it didn't make it in time for the soon to be released LLVM 8.0, the latest LLVM/Clang 9.0 development code has just added support for the Zen 2 "znver2" processors.

      Back in October is when AMD published the Znver2 compiler patch for GCC that builds atop the existing Zen "znver1" support while adding in the new instructions of Cache Line Write Back (CLWB), Read Processor ID (RDPID), and Write Back and Do Not Invalidate Cache (WBNOINVD). It was the first-cut support and still leveraged the same cost tables and scheduler data from the current-generation Zen processors. That support was quickly merged, making it for the upcoming GCC 9.1 stable compiler release, so that when these next-generation processors hit it will be possible to use -march=znver2 for generating optimized code for these 7nm AMD CPUs.

    • Rust build scripts vs. Meson
      One of the pain points in trying to make Meson work with Rust and Cargo is Cargo's use of build scripts, i.e. the that many Rust programs use for doing things before the main build. This post is about my exploration of what does.

      Thanks to Nirbheek Chauhan for his comments and additions to a draft of this article!

      TL;DR: is pretty ad-hoc and somewhat primitive, when compared to Meson's very nice, high-level patterns for build-time things.

      I have the intuition that giving names to the things that are usually done in scripts, and creating abstractions for them, can make it easier later to implement those abstractions in terms of Meson. Maybe we can eliminate in most cases? Maybe Cargo can acquire higher-level concepts that plug well to Meson?

    • Talk Python to Me: #201 Choosing JupyterHub and Python over MATLAB

    • Planar graph layout, Pandemic

    • 9 resources for data science projects

    • AMDGPU LLVM Backend Seeing A Number Of Fixes In Recent Days
      If you habitually use the latest open-source graphics drivers, you may want to pull down the latest LLVM code from SVN/Git as there has been a number of fixes to the AMDGPU back-end in recent days.

      For those that haven't upgraded in a while or perhaps still on the LLVM 8 code-base, the latest LLVM 9 development code has been seeing a number of AMDGPU commits during the second half of February. There's been enabling of function calls by default that fixes some crashes, other crash fixes, implementing various features, enabling the DPP combiner pass by default, and other bits.

    • PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 6
      A variable viewer for our native Jupyter Notebook support, an interpreter indicator in the status bar, and more. Try the PyCharm 2019.1 EAP now, you can download the latest version on our website.

    • Include the currency name into the forex application
      Hello and welcome back to this new python forex application project. In the previous chapter, we have successfully retrieved the name and the id pair for all the conbase supported currencies, and in this chapter, we will use that information to add the currency name beside each currency id when we are comparing that currency to the USD. Below is the modify version of this program.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Experiments, growth engineering, and exposing company secrets through your API: Part 1

      This is the first part of a two part series on modern testing infrastructure and methodologies. Part 2 will focus on an analysis of these companies’ testing habits - how often they introduce new tests, the methodology and thought process behind their tests, and any other information we may be able to glean from their testing configurations.

    • AV1 Image File Format v1.0 Finalized
      The AV1 Image File Format (AVIF) appears solid now with it having been promoted to version 1.0.0.

      The AV1 Image File Format (AVIF) is the specification for storing images and image sequences (animated images) compressed via AV1 in the HEIF High-Efficiency Image File Format. AV1, of course, being the promising royalty-free video coding format competing with the likes of HEVC/H.265. This is to AV1 as the WebP image format is to VP9/WebM.

      The AV1 Image File Format continues making inroads and being worked on by the likes of Netflix and Microsoft, among other tech companies. Back in December, Netflix began publishing sample AVIF sample images here.


  • USB 3.2 Is Here To Make Things More Confusing For Everyone
    But with the introduction of USB 3.2, things have become even more confusing.

    The USB standards body has now rebranded 5Gb/s devices as “USB 3.2 Gen 1,” 10Gb/s devices as “USB 3.2 Gen 2” and the latest standard offering 20Gb/s speed has been dubbed “USB 3.2 Gen 2×2” because two 10Gb/s connections run parallelly in the wire.

  • IRC vs IRL: How to run a good IRC meeting
    There's an art to running a meeting in any format. Many people have learned to run in-person or telephone meetings, but Internet Relay Chat (IRC) meetings have unique characteristics that differ from "in real life" (IRL) meetings. This article will share the advantages and disadvantages of the IRC format as well as tips that will help you lead IRC meetings more effectively.

    Why IRC? Despite the wealth of real-time chat options available today, IRC remains a cornerstone of open source projects. If your project uses another communication method, don't worry. Most of this advice works for any synchronous text chat mechanism, perhaps with a few tweaks here and there.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • EPA knows this pesticide is dangerous, so why did it reverse the ban?

      In 2016, with over 30 years of data, the Obama administration ordered a ban on chlorpyrifos. But under the Trump administration, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed that decision. Last August, a court ordered the EPA to finalize a ban by early October. Prior to that deadline, the EPA filed its appeal allowing the continued use of a pesticide its own scientists said was too dangerous for children and endangered species to be exposed to.

      Simultaneously, the head of the Office of Children’s Health Protection whose office published a report on the adverse effects of chlorpyrifos was put on leave, the chief of EPA’s research office was replaced with a Koch industry engineer, and plans to eliminate the Office of the Science Advisor were announced — an apparent “scorched earth” approach to silence internal efforts to conduct and report sound science.

    • Girl died after FGM procedure, medics say

      “The postmortem was conducted following a directive from the family. We can confirm that the girl was circumcised. The wound was infected by bacteria which caused severe pneumonia. Specifically, she died from Cardiorespiratory arrest due to severe pneumonia and sepsis as a result of an infected type two FGM wound,” Dr Kariuki said.

    • Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from opioid overdoses

      Drugs now kill about 70,000 Americans every year—more than car crashes or guns (both 39,000), more than AIDS did at the height of its epidemic (42,000), and more than all the American soldiers killed in the entire Vietnam war (58,000). In 2017 about 47,600 of those deaths were caused by opioid overdose—a fivefold increase since 2000. Only 32% of those opioid deaths involved prescription pills; the rest were from illegal heroin and fentanyl (see chart 1). But three out of four heroin users first became addicted to pills.

    • Flint water crisis claims its youngest Legionnaires’ victim to date

      The funeral for one of the youngest victims of Legionnaires’ disease was held Sunday in Flint, Michigan. Jassmine McBride, only 30 years old, contracted the deadly lung disease at the height of the Flint water crisis in 2014. Her death brings the total to 13 people who have died from it. The disease infected at least 90 people.

    • What we know: Investigations into Michigan State, Catholic Church, Flint water

      Finally, Nessel said prosecutions related to the Flint water crisis will no longer be handled by private contract.

    • Alec Baldwin spotted in Michigan filming documentary on the Flint Water Crisis

    • Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy will take over Flint water cases

      Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud announced that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy and her office, at the request of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, will be working in tandem with Hammoud to investigate and prosecute the Flint criminal cases.

    • Neglected today, ancient ponds could help overcome water shortage

      According to local agriculture officer Shahzad Mumtaz, keeping these ponds filled with sufficient rainwater also benefits the groundwater table in nearby areas. In addition, these ponds have a positive influence on the weather, curtailing severe hot weather and allowing plantations nearby to flourish.

      Mr Mumtaz noted that since these ponds have fallen out of use, a large number of town residents have faced an acute water shortage. Meanwhile the nearby Nata village overcame a water shortage by building a pond; in the past, they would fetch water from other localities.

    • Patents Under Debate As Pharma Executives Face US Senate Committee
      Executives of seven large pharmaceutical companies faced questioning yesterday from the United States Senate Finance Committee over high drug prices in the US, especially compared with other developed countries. One issue that came under the microscope was patents.
    • Harris: 'Medicare for all' is not socialism

      Medicare for all has become a sort of progressive litmus test among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, and is a marker of where many Democrats are pushing for their party and the country to go.

    • Warren rolls out universal child care proposal

      Warren's child care plan is the latest proposal from a Democratic candidate that's focused on helping young children and working parents. Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) reintroduced her bill to create a federal paid family leave program. That legislation is co-sponsored by Warren and a number of presidential candidates.

      Under Warren's proposal, the federal government would partner with local governments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and others to create a network of options for child care, such as day care centers, preschools and in-home child care options. The options would be available to every family, and providers would have to meet national standards.

    • Investigators open second criminal case following dysentery outbreak at schools catered by Prigozhin-linked business
      Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee has opened a second criminal case in response to an outbreak of dysentery in Moscow caused by contaminated food supplied to local schools, according to the news agency Interfax. A source says the new investigation was launched after 67 teachers and students at seven different schools in the city’s Eastern Administrative Okrug suddenly fell ill. The victims consumed meals prepared from food supplied by the “Vito-1” company. An inspection reportedly found that the business violates multiple sanitary regulations.

    • I’m a Journalist. Apparently, I’m Also One of America’s “Top Doctors.”
      My eyes narrowed when the woman on the voice message told me to call about my “Top Doctor” award.

      They needed to “make sure everything’s accurate” before they sent me my plaque, she said.

      It was a titillating irony. I don’t have a medical degree, and I’m not a physician. But I am an investigative journalist who specializes in health care. So I leaned forward in my seat with some anticipation when I returned the call last year. I spoke to a cheerful saleswoman named Anne at a company on New York’s Long Island that hands out the Top Doctor Awards. For some reason, she believed I was a physician and, even better, worthy of one of their awards. Puzzled and amused, I took notes.

      I asked how I had been selected. My peers had nominated me, she said buoyantly, and my patients had reviewed me. I must be a “leading physician,” she said.

      At this point, of course, it’d be tempting to dismiss the call, and the award, as ridiculous. But I knew such awards are the perfect dovetail of doctors’ egos and patients’ desperate need to find a good physician. Many patients assume that the awards are backed by rigorous vetting and standards to ensure only the “best” doctors are recognized. Hospitals and physicians lend credibility to the facade by hanging the awards in their offices and promoting them on their websites.

    • We Can't Afford to Keep Our Failing Healthcare System. But We Absolutely Can Afford Medicare for All
      America’s healthcare system is a national disgrace.

      By almost every relevant metric, our system is the worst or nearly the worst among all rich countries. We are the only wealthy country to permit tens of millions to go uninsured. Far more people in the United States report skipping care because of cost issues than other rich countries. Our infant mortality rate is atrocious, and our life expectancy trails other wealthy nations and is actually dropping.

      There’s no excuse for any of this in such a rich nation. We can solve all of these problems—expanding coverage, eliminating underinsurance and co-pays, and improving health care and health outcomes—by improving Medicare and expanding it cover all Americans.
    • Our Revolution Celebrates Medicare For All Act of 2019
    • Because 'GoFundMe Becoming One of the Most Popular Insurance Plans' in US, Jayapal Introduces Medicare for All Bill
      Surrounded by fellow co-sponsors and scores of supporters, Rep. Pramila Jayapal officially introduced the 'Medicare for All Act of 2019' on Tuesday, arguing that the nation's for-profit system has failed its people and the time for a more affordable and universal healthcare system is now.

      "Every day too many Americans are sick and dying because they can't afford insulin or cancer treatments, and that is even as the price of prescription drugs is soaring and the price of insurance premiums is going up by double digits overnight," Jayapal declared during introductory remarks outside the U.S. Capitol Building.

      "Americans are filled with worry – foreclosing on homes, cutting their pills at the kitchen table in half to tried to make them stretch out longer, and not going to the doctor unless it's an emergency," she continued. "Two-thirds of bankruptcies in the United States of America are because of medical issues. And GoFundMe is becoming one of the most popular insurance plans in the country."

      And so, she asked, "Why is it that other major countries can guarantee universal health care for half—literally half—the cost of what the United States spends, and yet we can't do it?"
    • Vowing to Fight 'Until We Win,' Advocates Plan Nationwide Mobilization to Pass Medicare for All
      With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and more than 100 other House Democrats standing behind sweeping new Medicare for All legislation, advocates on Wednesday immediately mobilized to pressure lawmakers to pass the bill.

      On Capitol Hill, leaders of National Nurses United unveiled their plan to initiate more than 1,500 local canvassing operations across the country to continue building grassroots momentum—tapping into the growing demand for Medicare for All among the public.

      "We will continue building our Medicare for All movement. Neighbor by neighbor. Conversation by conversation, as this bill moves forward," said NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo. "And in honor of those who paid the price in an unfixable, immoral system we will win Medicare for All."
    • Medicare For All Would Make The Program Far Better for Seniors
    • Jayapal's Medicare for All Bill 'Sets a New Standard' for Guaranteeing Healthcare as a Human Right: Analysis
      The Medicare for All Act of 2019 "sets a new standard for universally and equitably guaranteeing healthcare as a human right in the United States."

      That's according to a new comprehensive assessment (pdf) of the legislation released Wednesday by the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), a movement that focuses on rights related to health, housing, education, and work with dignity.

      After analyzing the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Wednesday amid a groundswell of public support and grassroots organizing, NESRI concluded the plan "is by far the strongest healthcare proposal being considered by Congress."

    • In 'Historic Vote,' Ohio City Residents Grant Lake Erie Legal Rights of a Person
      Tired of receiving notices warning that their drinking water may have been compromised and having little recourse to fight corporate polluters, voters in Toledo, Ohio on Tuesday approved a measure granting Lake Erie some of the same legal rights as a human being.

      Sixty-one percent of voters in Tuesday's special election voted in favor of Lake Erie's Bill of Rights, which allows residents to take legal action against entities that violate the lake's rights to "flourish and naturally evolve" without interference.

    • 'The Time for Medicare for All Has Come': Jayapal Unveils Visionary Bill to Remake US Healthcare System
      In a historic step toward replacing America's uniquely expensive and deadly for-profit healthcare system with a humane program that would leave no one behind, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Wednesday will officially introduce Medicare for All legislation that policy experts and advocates have praised as comprehensive, strong, and "battle-ready."

      "The state of our healthcare system is absolutely atrocious," Jayapal told reporters on the eve of the bill's release. "How is it possible that the United States, the richest country in the world, is the only major country that does not guarantee healthcare to our residents?"

    • Rural America Needs Medicare for All Now
      Rural America is facing a health care emergency – and Medicare for All is the answer.

      Hospitals in rural Iowa, where I live, are closing or teetering on the brink of closure at an alarming rate. Over a hundred have shut down since 2005, and hundreds more are on life support. In some counties, they no longer deliver babies.

      Long-term care facilities are vanishing all across rural America, or being bought up by large corporations who care more about profit than the care of our loved ones.

      I know firsthand – I’m a registered nurse, and a lifelong Iowan from the country. I’ve kept a close eye on where we’ve been with health care, and where we appear to be headed. The future does not look bright if we stay on our current failed path.

      Medicaid expansion was supposed to improve access to care. But the opposite happened in Iowa when we passed this in 2013, then handed the entire program over to private, for-profit Managed Care Organizations. What we got in return was less care, more services denied, facilities shuttered, and lives lost to corporate greed.

  • Security

    • B0r0nt0K Ransomware Threatens Linux Servers
      ew cryptovirus called "B0r0nt0K" has been putting Linux and possibly Windows Web servers at risk of encrypting all of the infected domain's files.

      The new ransomware threat and the ransom of 20 bitcoins (about US$75,000) first came to light last week, based on a post on Bleeping Computer's user forum.

      A client's website had all its files encrypted and renamed with the .rontok extension appended to them, the forum user indicated. The website was running on Ubuntu 16.04.

    • Security updates for Wednesday

    • 'Thunderclap' collection of hardware vulnerabilities affects Mac, Windows, Linux system
    • Thunderclap and Linux
      Thunderbolt security has been in the news recently: researches presented a set of new vulnerabilities involving Thunderbolt which they named Thunderclap1. The authors built a "fake" network card2) and performed various DMA attacks and were able to temper with memory regions that their network card should have no access to whatsoever. In some way this is not all that surprising because the foundation of Thunderbolt are PCIe tunnels to external hardware and one of the reasons that PCIe is fast is because it can do direct memory access (DMA).

      The current primary defense against DMA attacks for Thunderbolt 3 are the security levels: if enabled (the default on most systems) it gives the software the ability to decide on a per device level to allow or deny PCIe tunnels (and with that potentially access to the all the memory via DMA)3. While not protecting from DMA attacks per se it protects from some — maybe the most — prominent threat scenarios4: 1) somebody plugging that evil device into your computer while you are away or 2) you have to plug in a device into your computer that you don't trust, i.e. a projector at a conference. On GNU/Linux boltd will authorize a plugged-in device only if an admin user is logged in and the screen is unlocked. For untrusted environments the authorization by boltd can be disabled, i.e. when you go to a conference, via the GNOME settings panel. The toggle is called "Direct Access" (see screenshot below).

    • Capsule8 Expands Threat Detection Platform for PCI DSS

    • Security researcher warns of power company customers' passwords being stored in the clear, software provider responds with lawyer-letter

      The responses from SEDC general counsel Mark Cole split hairs over the security implications of storing unencryted passwords, insisting that because this was not prohibited by PCI-DSS, an industry regulation governing storage of customer billing information; and because logging in would not reveal billing information, there was no problem.

    • VFEmail
      As this issue goes to print, news is circulating about a catastrophic hack on the mail provider VFEmail. According to reports, two decades of saved data for all US users is lost – totally wiped out. Email providers are accustomed to getting attacked, and most of the attacks are stopped at the front door. Attackers sometimes get through, in which case, the most common scenario is that they encrypt some data and ask for a ransom. In this case, however, the attacker didn't seem to really want anything, other than a chance to go on a rampage and destroy all the data.

      No attempt was made to deliver ransom demands. The crime did not look like extortion or theft but resembled something more like ordinary vandalism. The attacker careened around the network, reformatting disks and destroying data. Mail servers, file servers, VM servers, database servers, and even backup servers were lost. Although vandalism tends to appear random, this attack seems to have been carefully planned. According to reports, the attacker needed multiple passwords to access all these servers and therefore must have been lurking and listening on the network for some time to acquire the necessary access information.

      I won't solve the mystery in the time it takes to write this column. Too much is unknown at this time. Was the attack from a disturbed loner who just wanted to destroy something? Was it a disgruntled customer or a former employee out for revenge? Was it an inside job? Another possible scenario is that the attacker was a customer with a secret who decided to destroy the evidence by destroying every account, rather than just deleting personal emails and risking leaving a trail.

      The VFEmail attack caught the imagination of the high tech press because it was just so weird. Nefarious as ransomware attacks might be, we are at least able to classify them as being somehow related to the quest for money (which we all secretly understand). A wanton attack of vengeance or vandalism scares us the way we are scared by a tornado or a madman with a knife. This attack underscores the dark reality that the Internet really is an unsafe place. Criminals and sociopaths from all over the world can ride a magic carpet to your front door, and the onus is on you to find the right kind of lock – and to continually change the lock as new techniques render old locks ineffective. It is actually profoundly strange that our whole economy and trillions of dollars in business interests are based on this model.

    • Linux Kernel Continues to Offer Mitigation for Spectre Mitigation

    • Open Source Voting
      Attempts by Russia to interfere with US elections have been headline news in the last year. But the problems with the election process in the United States goes deeper than the public generally realizes and includes obsolete, proprietary systems, a lack of funds for upgrades, and near monopolies on voting machines. As the 2020 US elections near, academics are working to provide solutions to these issues – and open source software and hardware are at the core of these solutions, together with modern interface design.

    • OpenShift Commons Briefing: State of Open Source Security Report Review with Liran Tal (Snyk) [Ed: Red Hat is entertaining anti-FOSS and Microsoft-connected FUDsters from Snyk]

    • When an internet emergency strikes
      Research shows that we spend more time on phones and computers than with friends. This means we’re putting out more and more information for hackers to grab. It’s better to be safe than sorry in an internet emergency, but how you prepare depends on the type of emergency you’re facing.

    • Critical WinRAR Flaw Found Actively Being Exploited
      A critical 19-year-old WinRAR vulnerability disclosed last week has now been spotted actively being exploited in a spam campaign spreading malware.

      The campaign, discovered by researchers with 360 Threat Intelligence Center, takes advantage of a path-traversal WinRAR vulnerability, which could allow bad actors to remotely execute malicious code on victims’ machines simply by persuading them to open a file.

    • WinRAR Flaw Being Actively Used To Load Malware In Windows PCs

    • GNOME Security Internship - The end?
      The first part regarding protecting the system from potentially unwanted new USB devices can be considered completed. Probably now it will requires just bug fixing and minor changes, if necessary. The required merge requests are up.

      The second part regarding limiting the number of usable keys for untrusted keyboards reached a working stage. However it’s still under evaluation which is the best way to achieve it, because even if with the current solution works it doesn’t mean that this is the desirable way to do it.

    • Supply Chain Security Talk [iophk: "warning for Microsoft event; maybe don't want to [attend] despite Bunnie presenting"]

      In the talk, I relay some of my personal trials authenticating my supply chains, then I go into the why of the supply chain attacks to establish some scenarios for evaluating different approaches. The talk attempts to broadly categorize the space of possible attacks, ranging from attacks that cost a penny and a few seconds to pull off to hundreds of thousands of dollars and months. Finally, I try to outline the depth of the supply chain attack surface, highlighting the overall TOCTOU (time of check, time of use) problem that is the supply chain.

    • Critical SHAREit Flaw Gives Attackers Full Access To Device Files
      Data sharing apps like SHAREit and Xender have transformed the way files are shared, since their release a few years ago. The apps transfer files over wifi which is much faster compared to sending files using Bluetooth.

    • High-Severity SHAREit App Flaws Open Files for the Taking
      SHAREit has fixed two flaws in its app that allow bad actors to authenticate their devices and steal files from a victim’s device.

      Two high-severity flaws in the SHAREit Android app allow an attacker to bypass the file transfer application’s device authentication mechanism – and ultimately download content and arbitrary files from the victim’s device, along with a raft of data such as Facebook tokens and cookies.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • ICJ requests the UK to rapidly end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago

      The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, gave yesterday its Advisory Opinion in favour of Mauritius regarding the Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. The Court has ruled the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country acceded to independence and that the United Kingdom is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.

    • Widow of Russian media entrepreneur says husband’s death may not have been caused by suicide
      Igor Malashenko, a major political figure in contemporary Russian history who founded the country’s first independent television station, died in Spain on February 25. Malashenko’s widow, Bozhena Rynska, wrote on Facebook that day that her husband had told her he did not plan to commit suicide approximately two months before. However, she added, he began expressing increased distress in November due to stress caused by “lawsuits and threats,” Interfax reported.

    • Popularity of #SayNoToWar Hashtag in India and Pakistan Indicates Appetite For Peace
      As India and Pakistan inch closer to war, the people of the two countries are making clear on social media that they're not on board, with the hashtag #SayNoToWar trending in both countries.

      Indians and Pakistanis are urging caution from their leaders as the situation inches closer to war, turning to Twitter to get the message out.

    • As India and Pakistan Issue Veiled Nuclear Threats, New Ceasefire Urged to Defuse Kashmir Conflict
    • Pakistan Says 2 Indian Warplanes Downed, 1 Pilot Captured
      Pakistan’s military said Wednesday it shot down two Indian warplanes in the disputed region of Kashmir and captured a pilot, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals to a level unseen in the last two decades.

      India acknowledged one of its air force planes was “lost” in skirmishes with Pakistan and that its pilot was “missing in action” on a chaotic day, which also saw mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier dividing the two sectors of Kashmir kill six civilians and wound several others. A helicopter crash in the region also killed six Indian air force officials and a civilian on the ground.

      Pakistan responded by shutting down its civilian airspace as Prime Minister Imran Khan called for negotiations with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, to ensure “better sense can prevail.”

    • Is war coming to South Asia?
      India and Pakistan are headed towards a potential military escalation in the wake of the February 14 attack in Pulwama carried out by Pakistan-based armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which killed over 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers.

      On February 26, the Indian military launched what it said were retaliatory air raids which allegedly destroyed a "terrorist" training camp in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan for its part also responded with air raids across the line of control (LoC) which separates Indian- from Pakistan-administered Kashmir and claims to have downed two Indian fighter jets.

      Military standoffs or escalations between India and Pakistan are not new, nor is the use of military means to settle scores. However, what sets this round of escalation apart is that this is the first time since the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war that the two countries attack targets deep within each other's territories.

      In the past, when India sent fighter jets to attack Pakistan (say during the Kargil war), it always made sure that the aircraft remained on its side of the LoC in Kashmir; Pakistan did so as well. Also, any cross-border attacks were always within Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a disputed territory, and not in Pakistan proper, as was the case with the September 2016 "surgical strike" in response to the Uri army camp attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

      While India's reasons to attack may have been partly influenced by the upcoming national elections in the country, with its counterstrike, Pakistan seeks to avoid embarrassment and to ensure that such attacks do not become routine in future. One side wants to create a new military normal, and the other side wants to desperately avoid that.

    • Navy Leaders Taken to Task by Lawmakers, Including One Who Was Grilling a Former Boss
      Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Tuesday expressed frustration to senior Navy leaders over the pace of reforms arising from two ship collisions in the Pacific that left 17 sailors dead.

      Rep. Elaine Luria, a newly elected Democrat from Virginia, asked at a hearing whether the Navy was moving quickly enough to deliver on promises made after the deaths of the sailors on board the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain in the summer of 2017.

      A former Navy commander, Luria displayed her insider knowledge of naval operations in rapid-fire questions to the admirals appearing before a House Armed Services Committee panel.

      Luria, who retired in 2017 after 20 years of service, had once served under one of those admirals, John Aquilino, current head of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

      “We continue to be incapable of properly manning, training and equipping our surface forces,” Luria said. “For nearly two decades, we prioritized efficiency over effectiveness.”

      Rep. Rob Wittman, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said he blamed Navy leadership for the deaths of the sailors on board the Fitzgerald and the McCain. Both destroyers were hit by slow-moving cargo ships.

      “It is apparent that senior leadership failed to put adequate systems in place to prevent these collisions,” said Wittman, who has closely tracked the accidents over the past 18 months. “If the appropriate reforms are not properly implemented, these problems and these deaths will continue.”

    • The Right May Finally Get Its War on Iran
      ohn Bolton has never made a secret of his burning desire to stoke a war between the United States and Iran. But Bolton is not the only one on Donald Trump’s national security team who dreams of such a military confrontation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has joined with Bolton in recent months to prepare a case for possible war with Iran.

      The tactics used by Pompeo and Bolton bear a strong resemblance to those pursued by Dick Cheney when he pushed for an attack on Iran from 2004 to 2007. Like Cheney, Pompeo and Bolton have sought to generate a phony crisis over Iranian “proxies” in Iraq, and have created the equivalent of a myth of an Iranian covert nuclear weapons program by conjuring up a nonexistent Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat.

      When the plan for unprecedented economic sanctions on Iran was unveiled in May 2018, along with Trump’s announcement that he was pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal—the administration denied that its objective was regime change. As Pompeo put it, Trump was “ready, willing and able to negotiate a new deal.”

      The Trump White House has taken advantage of Trump’s diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to sell the idea that he’s willing to negotiate a new relationship with Iran. In July, Trump said of the Iranians, “[A]t some point, they’re going to say ‘let’s make a deal.’ ”

      But the demands on Iran that accompany the administration’s pressure campaign belie the notion that its objective is to reach a new agreement. The key demands outlined by Pompeo on May 21, 2018, are clearly based on the policy agenda of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s an agenda for regime change and war, not a new deal with Iran.

      At the top of Pompeo’s list are demands that Iran end its support for Hezbollah, including its supply of ballistic missiles to the Lebanese Shiite organization, and the “halt [to] further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.”

    • Trump Threatens Venezuela, Revives Red Scare

    • Venezuelan vice president may visit Moscow as soon as this week
      On February 27, an anonymous source told Interfax that Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez may land in Moscow for an official visit by the end of this week. The previous week, Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Gil said that visits are a regular component of Russian-Venezuelan relations in the latter country’s current crisis and said Rodríguez may visit Moscow very soon.

    • The UK Lobbies Germany to Sell Arms to the Saudis
      It is not enough for the UK to routinely violate the sovereignty of other nations. To work hand in glove with the United States in suppressing popular movements and democracy all over the globe. Not content with having invaded half the world. Displaced populations via slavery and moved others onto plantation islands. Deporting an entire nation of Chagos islanders as recently as the 60s.

      To make it an art: to really cement the United Kingdom as the arsehole of the world it really has to go over and above the call of duty.

    • German court hands down prison sentence to pro-Kremlin TV pundit's nephew after he claimed in an interview that he fought with separatists in eastern Ukraine
      A court in Munich has convicted Sergey Kiselyov (the nephew of pro-Kremlin TV pundit Dmitry Kiselyov) of undergoing military training in St. Petersburg in August 2014 and planning to join separatist combat operations in eastern Ukraine, and sentenced him to two years and three months in prison. Sergey Kiselyov was found guilty of threatening state security and illegally possessing weapons — crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

      According to the Russian television network RTVI, the judge in the case said the prosecution failed to prove definitively that Kiselyov underwent training to fight in Ukraine, though the photographic and video evidence suggests as much. Kiselyov admits that he was waiting to be sent to the Donbass, but he denies any paramilitary training. Kiselyov says he did eventually go to eastern Ukraine, but he insists that he never killed anyone. If German officials later decide to prosecute him for direct combat operations, the case would go to federal court.

    • Bolsonaro, Trudeau, et al. Exterminators-in-Chief
      In Memory of Dave Vasey who knew first-hand about official callousness towards life in the small town of Walkerton where people died needlessly of water contamination. Dave dedicated his too short life to fighting against climate injustice, militarization, and the austerity state.

      I read the Canadian news today: “Pipeline expansion should be approved: regulator”

      Today the regulators ignorantly, negligently, criminally, and in contempt of life, yet again gave the go-ahead to money over incontestable science. Liberal democratic Canada is in league with Brazil’s military dictatorship and the Lima Group in overthrowing the Maduro government, and in deforesting the “lungs of the earth”. Theirs is a triple crime, of thrice proliferating greenhouse gas emissions at this time of the Earth’s sixth great extinction event. Venezuela is all about oil. The pipelines transport high emitting diluted bitumen from the tar sands and Bolsonaro aims to expand biofuel production (and criminalize the Landless Peasant Movement). These mega-projects involve deforestation of the boreal forest and the tropical Amazon rainforest, destroying the Earth’s major terrestrial carbon sink and amplifying the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Stone indictment presents no evidence of links between WikiLeaks and Trump campaign
      The indictment of right-wing political operative Roger Stone by special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller presented no evidence of “collusion” by WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange with either the Trump campaign or Russian intelligence, after more than 17 months of investigation.

      The indictment of Stone, dated January 24, 2019, is at the same time a damning indictment of all those in the political establishment and the media—particularly the Guardian and Washington Post—who have taken part in the slanderous attempt to tarnish WikiLeaks and Assange as “agents” of Russia and Trump.

      The Stone indictment revealed nothing that was not already known regarding WikiLeaks, which it called “Organization 1.” It has simply underscored that WikiLeaks is a media organization which exercised the legally protected rights of the press under the First Amendment and the Supreme Court decision in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case. A media organization is entitled to publish information in the public interest, even if the source obtained it illegally.

    • Australian media union complicit in the persecution of Julian Assange
      Amid growing calls for the freedom of Julian Assange, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which claims to be the peak union representing Australian journalists and media employees, has maintained a stoney silence on the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen. The union’s refusal to even mention Assange’s plight is all the more damning, given the growing support among independent journalists and principled defenders of democratic rights for Assange. The rallies called by the Socialist Equality Party in March, to demand that the Australian government end its collaboration with the US-led vendetta against the WikiLeaks founder, have been endorsed by world-renowned investigative journalist John Pilger, Pulitzer Prize-winning US journalist Chris Hedges, prominent human rights activist Professor Stuart Rees, acclaimed artist Roger Waters, the editors-in-chief of Disobedient Media and Consortium News, and Terry Hicks, the father of former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks.

    • SEP national secretary James Cogan calls for maximum participation in rallies to free Julian Assange
      In this video, James Cogan, national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party (Australia) appeals to workers, students and youth to attend forthcoming rallies in Sydney and Melbourne to demand freedom for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

      Cogan explains the connection between the fight for Assange and the struggle against escalating government attacks in every country against freedom of the press and other basic democratic rights.

    • Julian Assange issued with new Australian passport
      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted a new passport by his native Australia, marking what could be the clearing of a significant hurdle in his quest to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and return home. After lengthy discussions over whether Assange was subject to an arrest warrant for a “serious foreign offence,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed: “Mr Assange does have an Australian passport.”

      Confirmation was given at a Senate hearing on Thursday that Assange’s 2018 application for a new passport had been accepted. The WikiLeaks chief received his Australian passport in September 2018, news of which has only now been reported.

    • The Londoner: Julian Assange closer to a journey home
      Staff at the Ecuadorian Embassy have cause for celebration today with the news that they may finally be rid of their long-term house guest Julian Assange.

      The Australian government has confirmed that the WikiLeaks founder has a new Australian passport after years without one, and could now return to his home country.

      An official at Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade confirmed yesterday that “Mr Assange does have an Australian passport”. The timing is good: last year he said that he feared Ecuador was seeking to end his asylum. He has been holed up in the embassy in Knightsbridge since the day he walked in, breaking his UK bail conditions, in 2012.

    • Assange Reportedly Gets New Passport Despite Possible Arrest in UK
      The WikiLeaks founder's previous passport expired several years ago, as he has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in order to avoid arrest and extradition to the US. Assange applied for a new passport in 2018, but the approval process was stalled by legal proceedings against him in the UK for violating his bail conditions. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has received a new passport to replace an expired one after a lengthy approval process, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, citing the Consular and Crisis Management Division's first assistant secretary, Andrew Todd. The media outlet added that Assange had received a passport in September 2018, but remained unreported until recently.

    • Authorities confirm Assange's Australian passport was renewed last October

    • Attend March 10 Solidarity Vigil in London for Julian Assange

      The SEP (UK) calls on all defenders of civil liberties and democratic rights, all opponents of imperialist wars for regime change, to attend the March 10 vigil and make it known in your workplaces, campuses and schools.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Major Chinese Port Bans Australian Coal Imports, Report Says

      Dalian, Bayuquan, Panjin, Dandong and Beiliang harbors won’t permit Australian coal through customs, effective from the start of February, the port official said, and will cap overall coal imports for 2019 at 12 million metric tons, according to Reuters. The region imported about 13 million tons in 2017, about 7 percent of the country’s total.


      The ban appears to be the biggest escalation yet of simmering tensions between Australian coal exporters and Chinese importers. Chinese customs clearance of the coal shipments have been delayed by as long as 40 days, raising speculation China is targeting Australia at a time of strained relations between the two nations. The Australian dollar fell as much as 1.1 percent, the most in two weeks, to around 0.7068.

    • Kariba Dam power generation cut in half as water levels dip

    • Zambia Cuts Power From World's Biggest Man-Made Reservoir

      The dam has dropped to 43 percent of capacity from 85 percent in October, as inflows from the Zambezi River that feeds it dwindle. Flows at Victoria Falls about 120 kilometers (75 miles) upstream are less than half of what they were a year ago, and near a record low for this time of the year, according to data from the Zambezi River Authority, which manages the dam. Mines in Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, account for more than half of electricity demand and any shortages could cut output of the metal.

    • Canada's health organizations demand action to prevent catastrophic climate change

      The mental and physical health of Canadians is already being harmed by climate change. Last year, tens of thousands of Canadians had their lives, homes or jobs threatened by wildfires, power outages, tornadoes and floods; millions in western Canada were forced to breath toxic air pollution as wildfire smoke blanketed their communities for days or weeks at a time; and millions in central and eastern Canada suffered through searing heat for much of the summer.

    • Airlines pledged to buy carbon offsets to slow warming, but that’s not enough

      The Paris Agreement didn't set limits for carbon emissions from the aviation industry, but the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)—an agency of the United Nations that works with the aviation industry in 144 countries—attempted to take up that mantle. The ICAO agreed in 2016 that airlines would be required to buy carbon offsets for every ton of carbon that they emit over and above 2020 emissions projections.

      A letter published in Nature Climate Change today suggests that this requirement from the ICAO is not sufficient to mitigate the effects of the aviation industry's increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Instead, the authors of the letter say the ICAO needs to mandate that the credits that airlines buy meet a specific set of criteria, to ensure that the aviation industry is actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Striking study finds a climate tipping point in clouds

      The word "hysteresis" doesn't immediately seem threatening; it hints at a portmanteau of "history" and "thesis"—a dense read, perhaps, but those never killed anyone. But that's not what the word means. Hysteresis is a profound behavior some systems can display, crossing a sort of point-of-no-return. Dial things up just one notch, and you can push the system through a radical change. To get back to normal, you might have to dial it down five or six notches.

      Earth's climate system can provide examples. Take the conveyor-belt-like circulation of water in the Atlantic Ocean. Looking back at the past, you can see times that the circulation seems to have flipped into an alternate pattern regarding climatic consequences around the North Atlantic. Switching from one pattern to the other takes a significant nudge, but reversing it is hard—like driving up to the top of a ridge and rolling down into the next valley.

      A new study led by Caltech's Tapio Schneider may have identified a disturbing hysteresis in Earth's climate—a shift in cloud patterns in response to warming that could quickly heat the planet much further. If we were to continue emitting more and more greenhouse gas, we'd eventually end up running this experiment for real. (Let's not, please.)

    • A World Without Clouds

      Now, new findings reported today in the journal Nature Geoscience make the case that the effects of cloud loss are dramatic enough to explain ancient warming episodes like the PETM — and to precipitate future disaster. Climate physicists at the California Institute of Technology performed a state-of-the-art simulation of stratocumulus clouds, the low-lying, blankety kind that have by far the largest cooling effect on the planet. The simulation revealed a tipping point: a level of warming at which stratocumulus clouds break up altogether. The disappearance occurs when the concentration of CO2 in the simulated atmosphere reaches 1,200 parts per million — a level that fossil fuel burning could push us past in about a century, under “business-as-usual” emissions scenarios. In the simulation, when the tipping point is breached, Earth’s temperature soars 8 degrees Celsius, in addition to the 4 degrees of warming or more caused by the CO2 directly.

      Once clouds go away, the simulated climate “goes over a cliff,” said Kerry Emanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A leading authority on atmospheric physics, Emanuel called the new findings “very plausible,” though, as he noted, scientists must now make an effort to independently replicate the work.

      To imagine 12 degrees of warming, think of crocodiles swimming in the Arctic and of the scorched, mostly lifeless equatorial regions during the PETM. If carbon emissions aren’t curbed quickly enough and the tipping point is breached, “that would be truly devastating climate change,” said Caltech’s Tapio Schneider, who performed the new simulation with Colleen Kaul and Kyle Pressel.

    • Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming

      Stratocumulus clouds cover 20% of the low-latitude oceans and are especially prevalent in the subtropics. They cool the Earth by shading large portions of its surface from sunlight. However, as their dynamical scales are too small to be resolvable in global climate models, predictions of their response to greenhouse warming have remained uncertain. Here we report how stratocumulus decks respond to greenhouse warming in large-eddy simulations that explicitly resolve cloud dynamics in a representative subtropical region. In the simulations, stratocumulus decks become unstable and break up into scattered clouds when CO2 levels rise above 1,200 ppm. In addition to the warming from rising CO2 levels, this instability triggers a surface warming of about 8 K globally and 10 K in the subtropics. Once the stratocumulus decks have broken up, they only re-form once CO2 concentrations drop substantially below the level at which the instability first occurred. Climate transitions that arise from this instability may have contributed importantly to hothouse climates and abrupt climate changes in the geological past. Such transitions to a much warmer climate may also occur in the future if CO2 levels continue to rise.

    • Arctic Cauldron

      When the scientists examined samples of the gases, they found the chemical signature of a “geologic” origin. In other words, the methane venting from the lake seemed to be emerging not from the direct thawing of frozen Arctic soil, or permafrost, but rather from a reservoir of far older fossil fuels.

      If that were happening all over the Arctic, Walter Anthony figured — if fossil fuels that had been buried for millennia were now being exposed to the atmosphere — the planet could be in even deeper peril.

    • Temperatures in Northern Finland to soar 40 degrees in one day

      However at the same time a weather system will dump freezing rain across the country. According to Yle meteorologist Matti Huutonen, it is unusual for both phenomena to have such a large-scale effect. He added that there are no records to indicate the last time there was such a radical temperature change in a 24-hour period.

    • Lambeth Council accused of covering up air pollution crisis

      “Lambeth Labour is covering up a deadly air pollution crisis. The council is choking its citizens and putting lives at risk by leaving air pollution in one of Britain’s dirtiest streets unchecked. It is unforgivable that pollution levels aren’t being measured, with no temporary systems in place pending repair of the permanent system.

      “Greens in Lambeth have continuously raised this with the council and have been fobbed off every time. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, but we simply can’t tackle air pollution effectively if we fail to measure it. Lambeth Council must install a temporary air pollution monitor in Brixton Road immediately, and fix the permanent one as a matter of urgency.

      “There are basic steps Lambeth Council can take to clean up our air and make the borough a healthier place to live and work. As a start we need to see tougher measures on vehicle engine idling, an end to waste incineration, incentives for businesses to use environmentally friendly methods, and proper no-drop off zones around schools. Nationally we desperately need the Government to back a new Clean Air Act fit for the 21st century.”

    • Young forests use carbon most effectively
      For forests, it really does help to be young. British scientists who have identified the vital factor that shows what makes a forest a good carbon sink say young forests use carbon best and absorb it most efficiently.

      A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seems on the face of it to settle an old puzzle with an unsurprising answer. New and young forests make the most efficient and effective carbon sinks.

      Humans burn fossil fuels and emit vast quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The felling, burning and clearing of natural forest releases ever more carbon.

      But green plants absorb CO2 to make tissue and turn the gas into root and branch, leaf and bark, trunk and fruit. So scientists, led by Tom Pugh of the University of Birmingham in England, addressed the question: what kind of forest is best as a carbon sink?

    • Entergy Gas Plant Opponents Question Integrity of New Orleans City Council as It Gives Final Approval
      On February 21, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to uphold approval of Entergy’s proposed natural gas power plant, which faces a growing number of lawsuits, and passed a resolution to impose a $5 million fine on the company for its role in a paid-actors scandal.

      Before the vote, in nearly three hours of often emotional testimony mostly against the plant, many contended that the $5 million fine was not a sufficient punishment. This was in light of the council’s commissioned investigation, which concluded the company “knew or should have known” that a subcontractor was paying actors to support its proposed power plant at council meetings.

      Opponents called for the contentious project’s permitting process to start again, in the interest of fairness, and questioned the council’s integrity, given several members’ past ties to Entergy.

    • Carbon rise could cause cloud tipping point
      Climate scientists have confirmed a high-level hazard, a cloud tipping point, that could send global warming into a dramatic upwards spiral.

      If carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere become high enough, the clouds that shade and cool some of the tropical and subtropical oceans could become unstable and disperse. More radiation would slam into the ocean and the coasts, and surface temperatures could soar as high as 8€°C above the levels for most of human history.

      And this dramatic spike would be independent of any warming directly linked to the steady rise in carbon dioxide concentrations themselves, the scientists warn.

      In Paris in 2015, a total of 195 nations vowed to take steps to contain global warming to “well below” a maximum of 2€°C above the average before the start of the Industrial Revolution, powered by the exploitation of fossil fuels.

    • The Rigors of Organizing: On the Road with the German Climate Resistance
      Recently, press in the United States told the story of the great transition that the German Coal Commission announced. Benevolent governments like Germany are deciding to make a just transition away from coal and have even set an end date, 2038, for a long-term orderly transition to occur. The mainstream media is hailing this transition as a model for the rest of the world.

      There are two problems with this narrative. First, the current German plan renders it impossible for Germany to meet its goals under the Paris accords. Despite what the German governmental spin is, Germany’s proposed coal exit is well behind the 2030 exit of other European countries and includes a transition to fracked gas.

      Second, the narrative overlooks the fact of how pressure is exerted and change is made. In the case of Germany, a powerful people’s movement takes over coal mines, sits in trees and engages in mass disruption and civic disobedience in order to exert pressure on the system.

      Ende Gelände,which in English means “here and no further,” is a broad coalition that has spent the better part of four years playing a significant role in the German climate resistance. They have organized annual takeovers of a lignite coal mine. Last fall, Ende Gelände was part of a mass mobilization of 50,000 people who came to defend over 80 tree-sit occupations in the Hambach forest, which is regularly encroached upon to clear land for mining. Ende Gelände is less an organization than a broad-based coalition and a true movement, which comes out of the rich tradition of German anti-nuclear organizing, a regular set of European climate camps, and local resistance and “buergerliche (citizen’s) initiatives. Many different small organizations and affinity groups have comprised and undergirded the larger Ende Gelände mobilizations.

    • Turning Screws: China’s Australian Coal Ban
      Overly reliant economies are dangerously fragile things. As it takes two parties, often more, to play the game, the absence of interest, or its withdrawal by one, can spell doom. The Australian economy has been talked up – by Australian economists and those more inclined to look at policy through the wrong end of a drain pipe – as becoming more diverse and capable of withstanding shock. In truth, it remains a commodity driven entity, vulnerable to the shocks of demand. Think Australia, think of looting the earth.

      Such carefree, plundering optimism lays bare the jarring fact that Australia remains obsessively and maddeningly committed to King Coal. To coal, she pays tribute, runs errands and sponsors with conviction. And it is coal that keeps the country tied to hungry markets which, for the moment, see use for it. But such hunger is not indefinite. India and China, traditional destinations for Australia’s less than innovative dig it and export it approach, have made it clear that their lust for coal is temporary. The appetite is diminishing, despite occasional spikes. Renewables are peeking over the horizon, forming the briefing documents of energy and trade departments.

      To this comes another problem. Australia has been rather bullish of late towards the country that receives most of its earthly treasures. The People’s Republic of China has made it clear that it does not agree with the ambitiously aggressive line Canberra has taken on a range of fronts. There is the issue of blocking Chinese influence in the Pacific, notably through the provision of alternative cyber infrastructure whilst excluding Huawei in bids to secure 5G telecommunications contracts. There has been a campaign to combat purported Chinese influence on university campuses and claims of meddling in the political process. (Meddling by the US, by way of contrast, remains gloriously free to continue.)

      All of these acts have shown Beijing less Australia’s independence and sovereign will than its unqualified, traditional commitment to the United States, for which it remains undisputed, kowtowing deputy. What Washington dictates, Canberra disposes.

    • Budgeting for Black-Out in South Africa
      The African country with by far the most advanced infrastructure and largest energy supply increasingly appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in its economic, ecological and electricity systems.

    • Trump's Pick of Wealthy Climate Denier for UN Ambassador Decried as 'Slap in the Face' to Planet and Humanity
      Hauter said she is "disgusted but not surprised" by Trump's decision—which comes after the president's previous nominee, former State Department spokesperson and Fox News commentator Heather Nauert, withdrew her name from consideration—and added, "[A]t a time when the United States should be working harder than ever with the rest of the world to address our deepening climate crisis, to select an admitted climate denier to represent us before the U.N. is especially egregious."

      "We have little confidence that Ms. Craft will be a competent advocate for clean air, safe water, and adequate public health either here or abroad if her nomination is confirmed," Hauter concluded. "We strongly urge the Senate to reject Ms. Craft's nomination out of hand."

      Both Craft and her billionaire coal magnate husband are major donors to the Republican Party and Trump. According to the New York Times, "the couple donated more than $2 million to Mr. Trump's candidacy and inauguration."

      Craft, who is currently serving as U.S. ambassador to Canada, made headlines in 2017 after she said during an interview with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation that she respects "both sides" of climate science, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is driving global warming and threatening the future of the planet.

      "I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate," Craft declared. "I think that both sides have their own results from their studies and I appreciate and I respect both sides of the science."

    • How Do You Protect a Species You Can’t See?
      Lucy Keith-Diagne has spent years searching for African manatees in stretches of river the color of chocolate milk. The task is urgent. In the 21 countries where they are found, these manatees — relatives of the species found in Florida — are at risk of poaching, being caught in fishing nets and becoming isolated when dams sever their habitat.

      “I’ll be honest, I was a behavioral biologist when I started working in Africa, not a lab person,” says Keith-Diagne, executive director of the Senegal-based African Aquatic Conservation Fund. “But the manatee’s range in Africa is larger than the area of the United States. We need to figure out where they are sooner rather than later if we want to conserve this animal.”

    • Our Five Biggest Delusions About Climate Change
      The extreme weather of the last year has been so terrifying, and so very extreme, that it is tempting to look at the string of disasters around the world and think: Climate change is here. Certainly that’s what Jerry Brown meant when he described the wildfires ravaging California in the fall as “the new abnormal.”

      It will only get more so. We have already exited the environmental conditions that allowed the human animal to evolve in the first place, in an unplanned bet on just what we can endure. By the end of the century, if warming continues unabated, wildfires could burn 64 times as much land in California as they did last year, which was more than a million acres.

      But climate change isn’t binary, and this is one of the five major misapprehensions even engaged liberals have about warming. It’s not a question of whether it will happen or not, or whether it will be like the 2018 wildfire season or 64 times worse. Climate change is a function that will get worse over time as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gas.

      No matter how bad it gets, it will always be the case that the following decade could bring more suffering — or less. And believe it or not, the amount will always be up to us. Climate change may seem intimidatingly large, but the responsibility is entirely ours.

    • Battling for Big Oil: Manufacturing Trade Group Leads Assault on Climate Suits
      In its fight to stave off a wave of climate change-related lawsuits, the fossil fuel industry has found a vocal and unapologetic ally in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The 123-year old trade group represents a wide range of the nation’s manufacturing companies, but it has frequently gone to bat for select segments of its membership during major liability battles. Currently, it is Big Oil’s staunchest defender. The group has filed briefs defending oil companies in liability lawsuits, launched campaigns to discredit the communities filing them, and has worked to stop shareholders from pressing the oil companies to disclose climate risks. In these roles, NAM has put itself front and center in the effort to keep fossil fuel companies from being held liable for their role in climate change, and from paying for the related damages that will run in the hundreds of billions of dollars to communities across the country.

      “Taxpayer resources should not be used for baseless lawsuits that are designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians,” Lindsey de la Torre, executive director of NAM’s spinoff group, the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), said in a statement after Rhode Island filed one of the climate liability lawsuits last year. NAM launched MAP in 2017 as a response to the increasing number of climate liability suits.

    • 'Wouldn't Have Happened Without Our Movement': Climate Leaders Celebrate as McConnell Delays Cynical Green New Deal Vote
      Earlier this month, McConnell announced that he would hold a Senate vote on the newly introduced Green New Deal resolution as early as February 28, apparently believing that an up-or-down tally would expose and exacerbate divisions within the Democratic Party.

      But after climate leaders called McConnell's bluff and welcomed his push for a Green New Deal vote—believing that it would backfire on the GOP—the Senate Majority Leader said on Tuesday that he has pushed the vote back until before the August recess.

      In an email to supporters on Wednesday, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash attributed McConnell's decision to youth-led grassroots pressure, including the massive sit-ins and protests at the Kentucky senator's Washington, D.C. office earlier this week that led to dozens of arrests.

      "Make no mistake. That wouldn't have happened without our movement," Prakash wrote. "Two weeks ago, [McConnell] was excitedly telling the media about his plans. Now, he seems happy to let this vote be forgotten."

  • Finance

    • Facebook wants up to 30% of fan subscriptions vs Patreon’s 5%

      Facebook will drive a hard bargain with influencers and artists judging by the terms of service for the social network’s Patreon-like Fan Subscriptions feature that lets people pay a monthly fee for access to a creator’s exclusive content. The policy document attained by TechCrunch shows Facebook plans to take up to a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue minus fees, compared to 5 percent by Patreon, 30 percent by YouTube, which covers fees and 50 percent by Twitch.

    • Flat Broke, Black Voters Want More Than Just Another Black President
      Sen. Cory Booker’s announcement on February 1 that he is entering the 2020 presidential race brings the number of African-American Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to two, making the crowded primary field the “most diverse in history,” according to The New York Times.

      But while The New York Times, cable news and other liberal pundits exult in the White House bids of Booker and California’s junior U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, African Americans, ironically enough, have not uniformly mustered nearly as much enthusiasm for either candidate. “Cory Booker is running for president, y’all,” the popular African-American YouTube blogger Tim Black declared in a video hours after Booker’s announcement. “Who’s excited?” he asked mockingly with the sound of crickets chirping in the background.

      “Kamala Harris won’t get my black vote and she can kiss my black a$$!” reads the YouTube headline of a video released by the African-American blogger who bills herself as Mechee X on her Fly Nubian Queen channel.

      Black and Mechee X’s critiques are representative of the ennui and even hostility that characterizes African Americans’ response to the possibility of the nation’s second Black president, which is largely attributable to the fact that while we were distracted celebrating the first, someone walked into our homes and almost literally stole everything we own. Not since a severe financial downturn shuttered the Freedman’s Bank in 1874 have African Americans lost as much of our wealth as we did during Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Household wealth for the median Black family in the U.S. nosedived during the Obama administration, reaching roughly $3,600 in 2017, or about 2 percent of the $147,000 median net worth for an average white family, according to a study of Federal Reserve data compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies. More than a third of all African-American families have zero or negative wealth, while the typical Black family in Boston has a net worth of all of $8.

    • The Fed’s “Emergency Measures” Are Becoming the New Normal
      “Quantitative easing” was supposed to be an emergency measure. The Federal Reserve “eased” shrinkage in the money supply due to the 2008-09 credit crisis by pumping out trillions of dollars in new bank reserves. After the crisis, the presumption was that the Fed would “normalize” conditions by sopping up the excess reserves through “quantitative tightening” (QT) – raising interest rates and selling the securities it had bought with new reserves back into the market. The Fed relentlessly pushed on with quantitative tightening through 2018, despite a severe market correction in the fall. In December, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that QT would be on “autopilot,” meaning the Fed would continue to raise interest rates and to sell $50 billion monthly in securities until it hit its target. But the market protested loudly to this move, with the Nasdaq Composite Index dropping 22% from its late-summer high. Worse, defaults on consumer loans were rising. December 2018 was the first time in two years that all loan types and all major metropolitan statistical areas showed a higher default rate month-over-month. Consumer debt – including auto, student and credit card debt – is typically bundled and sold as asset-backed securities similar to the risky mortgage-backed securities that brought down the market in 2008 after the Fed had progressively raised interest rates.
    • The Key to the Brexit Backstory
      Partly, if not largely, because of failing to come to terms with its loss of a huge empire, the UK had been ramping up economic inequality since the late 1970s, reaching a point where the gap between rich and poor in Britain was wider than in any other European country.

      When India, and then most colonies in Africa, won their freedom, the British rich found themselves suddenly becoming much poorer. They blamed the trade unions and socialists in the 1970s. To try to maintain their position, from 1979 onwards they cut the pay of the poorest in a myriad of ways and vilified immigrants in the newspapers they owned or influenced, while managing to hold on to some of the pomp and ceremony that their imperial grandparents had enjoyed.

      Something had to break, and, in the end, it was a break with the EU — it was Brexit. It is true that Brexit was partly the language of the unheard — the masses cocking a snook at the demands of their overlords — and there were some who actually believed the propaganda that problems in health, housing, and education were due to immigrants, and some who really thought “their” country was being taken over by colonial and EU immigrants, by refugees from anywhere, or even by Islam. But there were many others who voted Leave out of hope. They just hoped for something better than what they had.

      The British had been distracted from the rise in inequality and the consequent poverty that grew with it by decades of innuendo and then outright propaganda suggesting that immigration was the main source of most of their woes. Without immigrants, they were told, there would be good jobs for all.

      Then they were told, at first in whispers, and later through tabloid headlines, that without immigrants their children could get into that good school, or the school they currently go to would not be so bad.

    • Charter Schools Exploit Lucrative Loophole That Would Be Easy to Close
      While critics charge that charter schools are siphoning money away from public schools, a more fundamental issue frequently flies under the radar: the questionable business practices that allow people who own and run charter schools to make large profits.

      Charter school supporters are reluctant to acknowledge, much less stop, these practices.

      Given that charter schools are growing rapidly — from 1 million students in 2006 to more than 3.1 million students attending approximately 7,000 charter schools now — shining a light on these practices can’t come too soon. The first challenge, however, is simply understanding the complex space in which charters operate — somewhere between public and private.

    • ‘It Was a Remarkably Successful Grassroots Campaign to Target Amazon’s Credibility’ - CounterSpin interview with Neil deMause on Amazon's retreat from New York
      Janine Jackson: By the time Amazon chose New York and Virginia for its second headquarters in November, a funny thing had happened: People had been heard to question, not just the value to a community of hosting an anti-union corporation known for worker exploitation and hawking facial recognition software to ICE, but the whole idea of cities competing with one another to attract companies with huge bundles of tax breaks and subsidies—in New York’s case, a reported $3 billion worth.

      When Amazon abruptly pulled the deal off the table on February 14, there were the anticipated grumbles about anti-corporate activists spoiling what would have been a great opportunity for jobs and growth and all things good. But there were also cheers, not only for standing up to Amazon‘s particular demands, but for challenging the idea of tax incentives and subsidies as a way to grow or govern healthy communities.

      Our next guest has been reporting these issues for years. Journalist Neil deMause reports for Gothamist. His most recent book is The Brooklyn Wars, but he’s also co-author, with Joanna Cagan, of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. He joins us now by phone from San Francisco. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Neil deMause.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • US Cyber Command attacked Russian [astroturfer] farm on Election Day 2018

      The United States Cyber Command launched an offensive campaign to silence one of Russia’s most notorious [astroturfing] operations on the day of the 2018 midterm elections, according to a new report by The Washington Post. The operation targeted the Internet Research Agency, a private company linked to the Kremlin and often used for disinformation campaigns.

    • How a Nigerian Presidential Candidate Hired a Trump Lobbyist and Ended Up in Trump’s Lobby
      This week, “Trump, Inc.” goes inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Located in the Old Post Office, the hotel is at the center of three lawsuits alleging President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause barring the president from taking gifts from foreign governments.

      We stayed the night. (Listen to our new episode about our visit.)

      Among the many prominent guests we saw: Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and his entourage. Nigeria’s elections were last weekend, and Abubakar was the main challenger to the incumbent president out of a crowded field of candidates. After a tightly contested race, he came in second.

      Abubakar’s visit is surprising for several reasons. He had been reportedly barred from the U.S. for nearly 10 years for his alleged involvement in corruption while he was Nigeria’s vice president. Perhaps you remember the $90,000 in cash that was found in Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson’s freezer back in 2005? That was allegedly a bribe for Abubakar.
    • The Ghosts of Chauncey Gardner and Francisco Franco at the Trials of the Catalan Independentists in Madrid
      Watching the trials of the Catalan independentists now taking place at Spain’s highest court in Madrid, I have been reminded again and again of a scene from Hal Ashby’s marvelous 1979 movie “Being There”.

      The protagonist of that film, Chauncey Gardner, played by Peter Sellers, is a fiftyish man who has never ventured outside the confines of his birth home, and whose entire understanding of society has been shaped by television viewing. When, upon the death of his father, this man-child is finally expelled from the dwelling, he roams the streets of Washington DC with his TV remote control unit in his hand. And when he comes across sights that disturb him, he points the device at the offending scene the hopes of “changing the channel” on the reality before him. Needless to say, his efforts at discharging his anxiety through this mechanism are fruitless.

      Each of the 10 Catalan politicians and 2 civil society leaders currently sitting in the dock in the Spanish capital are there for allegedly having committed some combination of the crimes of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. The Spanish prosecutors been relentless in their attempts to underscore a narrative of events that will support state’s allegations against these promotors of the October 1st 2017 referendum on self-determination and the Catalan declaration of independence issued 26 days later.

    • How'd the Cohen Hearing Go? That Depends on Your Filter Bubble

      On social media and on partisan sites, the conversation split into like-minded echo chambers, with each side parroting the talking points of their party’s members who were sitting in the hearing room. What emerged was a sort of cacophonous bizarro world that would have seemed implausible just a year ago: Conservative pundits and political operatives, including Trump’s own children, worked overtime to discredit a man who spent 10 years as a close confidante to Trump, and until last June, served as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Liberals, meanwhile, spent their 240 characters sticking up for and even applauding the humility of a man who’ll head to prison in May for, among other things, lying to Congress to defend Trump and making hush money payments on his behalf.

    • Read Michael Cohen’s Prepared Testimony in Its Entirety
      President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer is preparing to tell a House committee Wednesday that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and that he is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”

      Michael Cohen suggests in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press that Trump also implicitly told him to lie about a Moscow real estate project. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project, which he says Trump knew about as Cohen was negotiating with Russia during the election.

      Cohen says Trump did not directly tell him to lie, but that “he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing.”

      Cohen said that “in his way, he was telling me to lie.”

      In the testimony, Cohen apologizes for his actions and says “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.”
    • Legal Experts: Trump Loyalist Matt Gaetz Committed 'Witness Tampering' by Threatening Michael Cohen
      Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) "very clearly" committed witness tampering.

      That appeared to be the consensus view of legal experts and scholars on social media late Tuesday after the Florida Republican fired off a tweet accusing President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen of infidelity just hours before the latter was set to testify against his former boss in a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

      "Hey @MichaelCohen212—do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends?" asked Gaetz, a fervent Trump loyalist.
    • Chicago’s Election Signals Break from the Past — in Wards and at City Hall
      The scene hardly had the look of history being made. On an Election Day with low turnout, the voting booths stood empty. Outside, the surrounding blocks in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood were mostly quiet except for the sound of the bitterly cold wind.

      On a nearby corner, Maria Hadden, the challenger for alderman of the city’s 49th Ward, waited to greet voters. Finally, a compact man in a heavy coat approached. He proudly told Hadden he had lived in Rogers Park for 30 years and was going to vote for her. They shook gloved hands.

      In Hadden’s view, the race came down to whether residents felt their neighborhood would remain vibrant and affordable.

      “Will we keep our economic and racial diversity?” she said. “Is the current leadership able to maintain that, or do we need new leadership?”
    • History Made in Chicago as Lightfoot and Preckwinkle, Two Black Female Progressives, Advance to Mayoral Runoff
      Chicago is set to see its first black female mayor after a historic election on Tuesday prompted a runoff between Democrats Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, both self-styled progressives who emerged as the top candidates in a crowded field that included Bill Daley, a longtime politico with an infamous last name.

      The closely watched and competitive race, which even brought about a board game (pdf), kicked off last year in the deeply Democratic city after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel—widely loathed as a "neoliberal nightmare" whose "tenure in office wreaked on Chicago's communities of color"—announced he would not seek another term.

      As of late Wednesday morning, the unofficial results reported by the Chicago Tribune showed Lightfoot with 17.5 percent of the overall votes and Preckwinkle with 16 percent. Daley, who has conceded, ranked third among the 14 candidates. As no one received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle is scheduled for April 2.
    • House OKs Democrats’ Bill Blocking Trump Emergency on Wall
      House Democrats have ignored a veto threat and passed legislation that would stymie President Donald Trump’s bid for billions of extra dollars for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The move has escalated a clash over whether he has abused his powers to advance the signature pledge of his 2016 campaign.

      The House’s 245-182 vote Tuesday to block Trump’s national emergency declaration fell well below the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override what would be the first veto of Trump’s presidency. Thirteen Republican backed the Democrats’ measure as top Republicans worked to keep defections as low as possible, wanting to avoid a tally suggesting that Trump’s hold on lawmakers was weakening.

      The issue is now before the Republican-run Senate, where there already were enough GOP defections to edge the resolution to the brink of passage. Vice President Mike Pence used a lunch with Republican senators at the Capitol to try keeping them aboard, citing a crisis at the border, but there were no signs he had succeeded.
    • Michael Cohen and Donald Trump Are Exactly the Same Person
      From a strictly legal standpoint, we don’t know much more today than we did before Donald Trump’s disgraced, disbarred former attorney and bagman Michael Cohen began testifying before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday morning. An arrangement between Cohen and special counsel Robert Mueller precluded the witness from holding forth on what he might know about collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian agents. That agreement may not have even been necessary. “Questions have been raised about whether I know or have direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia,” said Cohen during his opening statement. “I do not.”

      That opening statement was freighted with enough salacious material to keep the corporate news media buzzing throughout the day, though little of it could be described as groundbreaking new information. According to Cohen, Trump was informed by Roger Stone in advance of the now-infamous WikiLeaks document dump. Cohen ticked off a list of deeply racist comments made by Trump over the years. He alleged Trump was fully aware of ongoing negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign and lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He recalled a conversation in which Trump noted that his son, Donald Trump Jr., “had the worst judgement of anyone in the world.”

      Donald Trump is a chisler, a racist, a liar and the father of useless children. Stop the presses. Cohen knows more about Trump’s dirty dealings than he revealed at the hearing on Wednesday — he said as much several times when asked directly — but refused to elaborate, pointing to the ongoing investigations by Mueller along with state and federal agencies in New York as his reason for remaining silent on those topics. What we heard about Trump on Wednesday was, by and large, already public information many times over.

      We didn’t learn much of anything new about Michael Cohen, either. Seated before the very Congress he had previously lied to under oath, Cohen was as contrite as could be even as he was relentlessly lambasted by committee Republicans. No one will ever call Cohen a good witness. His career, before and including his time with Trump, is scarred by serial associations with cretins of equally low character.
    • Michael Cohen’s Testimony Underscores Rifts Between Parties
    • North Carolinians Voted to End Cooperation With Trump’s Deportation Force. ICE Retaliated.
      The federal agency stepped up raids after sheriffs stopped notifying it about the immigration status of people arrested.

      President Trump’s Department of Homeland Security frequently claims to be motivated by a dedication to law and order, but its immigration enforcement tactics are often directly contrary to local communities’ legal and electoral choices.

      Recent raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in North Carolina were a failed attempt to achieve by force what was soundly rejected at the ballot box last November: Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. ICE targeted places and people based on democratic decisions North Carolina counties made about their policing resources and values, including upholding the Constitution.

    • To Disempower Lobbyists, Give Congressional Staff a Raise
      If we want to diminish the power of corporate lobbyists in Congress, one of the best but most overlooked ways to do so would be to give congressional staffers a raise.

      Over the weekend, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that her office was going to ensure a living wage for all her staffers by paying no one less than $52,000, which constitutes a living wage in Washington, D.C., for two adults, with one working. Part of making that a reality in Ocasio-Cortez’s office means capping her staff salaries at $80,000. Staff salaries are not fixed: in 2018, each office had an average of $1.36 million to spend on staff salaries and official office expenses — the actual number will vary based on factors like the cost of renting an office in the member of Congress’s district. While $1.36 million may sound like a lot, with multiple roles to fill in D.C. and in the district, it’s spent quickly. In addition to in-district office space, members need staff who can draft legislation to enact a member of Congress’s policy proposals; staff dedicated to all the various policy issues a member of Congress must vote on; constituent services staff to help people who live in the member’s district; a scheduler to handle the flood of meeting requests and help the member manage the demands on their time; communications staff; and more. As Ocasio-Cortez noted, some of these staffers helping to run the country make around $30,000 in a district where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment goes for over $2,000 a month.

      Low staff salaries and limited staff budgets don’t just mean that we aren’t investing in the people who help ensure we have a well-functioning government — they also empower corporate lobbyists. The revolving door is the most familiar problem: Someone working for a deep-pocketed trade association (the sort of association that represents industries like banking or telecom, and spends time crafting proposed legislation, compiling research and lobbying Congress) can make multiple times what they’d make as a congressional staffer, especially if they have lots of connections, even though they’re doing the same work. However, the impact of low staff salaries goes beyond the temptation for a staffer barely making ends meet in a very expensive city to cash out. After all, businesses now spend more money lobbying Congress than taxpayers do for all congressional staff. Why? Because when congressional offices are overwhelmed or understaffed, corporate lobbyists and employees of trade associations are eager to fill in the gaps and provide free labor.

    • A Conman, a Liar, and a Rigged System
      The testimony will most probably be best remembered for Cohen referring to the President as a “conman” and a “racist”. These are not new claims to be sure. However, hearing them backed up with such rich ancedotes as Trump getting pleasure out of underpaying or not paying for services or questioning whether black people could successfully lead countries in private conversation, reinforces an image of him as morally corrupt and ethically despicable. It is all to easy to hear this testimony and conclude that our democracy has reached new lows – where ideals and governance have been replaced by political grandstanding and scandal.

      Predictably, Cohen’s statements have been met with very different responses by Democrats and Republicans. For Democrats, he is a former liar turned truth teller, a patriotic turncoat who is starting to expose Trump’s misdoings in detail. For Republicans he is not to be trusted – a greedy, selfish, ambitious, charlatan who will say anything for his fifteen minutes of fame and lucrative prospective book deal. Where one stands is less an indication of Cohen’s veracity and more a referendum on one’s own political positions.

      Yet this partisan battle ignores the deeper questions that Cohen’s testimony should raise for all of us. Namely, how did such a conman successfully come to power? What does this say about the state of our political and economic system? Quoting the famous American journalist H.L. Mencken “‘Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” We could add to this famous insight, that knowing what the people want and get is often the key to understanding the system that they are ruled by.

    • When We're Dancing With The Angels
      The day-long testimony of Michael Cohen - "a loser with nothing to lose" who knows where the bodies are buried, and thus Trump's worst nightmare - gave us the sordid if cleansing spectacle of "a liar, lout, thug, bully, scumbag, and admitted criminal (testifying) about his former client and our liar, lout, thug, bully, scumbag and criminal in chief." Cohen, "a man trusted with the most unholy of unholies - the payouts, gag orders, and fetid details of his rotating stable of girlfriends, dalliances, hookups, and whatever the hell Trump and his pedophile pal Jeffrey Epstein had been up to," is of course not a crass aberration, but "a perfect exemplar of Trump’s world: corrupt and corrupting, venal and vicious...the true picture of (Trump's) 'best people.'”

      Watching Cohen's hang-dog, scathing appearance, where complicit Republicans were so frantic to trash him they failed to ask a single question about the mob boss at the center of it all, was like viewing a train wreck: It was both riveting - "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat." - and, as House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) noted, deeply painful. In his stirring closing statement, Cummings urged lawmakers to work to "get back to this democracy that we want and that we should be passing on to our children." "As a country, we are so much better than this," he said with rising emotion. "When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?" Watch.

    • Americans Should Fear Trump Apathy
      Figuring out what is and is not an emergency in Donald Trump‘s America is far from straightforward.

      On February 15, in order to get funds to build a wall along the southern border of the United States, Trump declared a “national emergency”. And he did this even though the situation at the border is in no meaningful sense getting worse, let alone deteriorating rapidly enough to constitute an “emergency”. In fact, border crossings are actually declining, and as commentators across the ideological spectrum noted, Trump’s own words make clear that there is no “national emergency”.

      The efforts to prevent Trump from using this “national emergency” to build his border wall came quickly. Sixteen states sued in opposition. A majority of the House of Representatives is prepared to begin a process to reverse the declaration. Several Senate Republicans either oppose, or have expressed “concern” over Trump’s declaration, which is actually more intra-party opposition than normal under Trump. Progressive civil society organisations such as MoveOn assembled 277 events in 48 states with at least 50,000 attendees three days after the announcement.

      And a strong majority of the population – including Independents – oppose the declaration and deny there is an emergency, even as that opposition is not dramatic enough to faze an already deeply unpopular President Trump.

      From those indicators, one might think that there is neither an emergency at the border nor in American politics – a president is pursuing an unwarranted power grab and his efforts are being met with considerable resistance.

      And yet the sunny picture of effective opposition masks some clear warning signs for those who worry about Trump’s emergency declaration specifically and his assault on American democracy more generally.

      To start, while Congressional Democrats and presidential candidates have taken clear and definite stands against the announcement, the very normalcy of their reactions presents a marked contrast from the reaction to, for example, Trump’s “Muslim ban” in January of 2017. At that time, large crowds and elected Democrats protested at airports and at rallies that drew enormous crowds despite cold temperatures and little to no time for organising.

    • Push, Push, Push: How Movements Succeed
      There's a sports cliche, often applied to political races, that devalues strong-but-losing contenders: "Close only counts in horseshoes," they snort.

      For building a progressive movement, however, candidates, staffers and volunteers who lose a vote but run good campaigns — especially in tough political terrain — are, in fact, winners. Their campaigns attract new activists; develop the skills, talents and knowledge of all participants; increase support for particular issues and values; build political organizations and networks; and plant the seeds of change for the next campaign, either for the same candidates or for others who think, "Hey, with a few twists, maybe I could win." In movement building, success requires constantly expanding the group.

      Bernie Sanders, for example, ran for office (and lost) four times before being elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981 (by only 10 votes!). But he didn't get there by himself. Over the years, a steadily growing coalition organized around the wild-haired maverick and grew in numbers and governing abilities. When Bernie became mayor, the coalition was able to implement a range of landmark progressive policies. More voters equals more progress, which equals more trust, which equals more voters. Repeat.

      Big populist issues matter in movement building. Let's take health care. If you have good insurance — as all corporate political and professional elites do — the quality of the U.S. health system is merely an intellectual issue. But if, like millions, your coverage is iffy to nonexistent, health care costs fall between a constant worry and a full-blown crisis. This glaring disparity cuts across all racial, ethnic, gender, religious and even partisan lines, so the demand for major reform unites a majority of voters. The candidates who did well last year did not offer vague proposals to "expand" Medicaid or "protect" Obamacare, but instead hammered a clarion call of "Medicare-for-All."

    • News agency tied to Russia's ‘troll factory’ says it was targeted in last November's ‘failed’ cyberattack by the U.S. military
      Federal News Agency (FAN) — a media outlet that journalists have tied to catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin and his infamous “troll factory” in St. Petersburg — confirms that the U.S. military targeted its servers in a cyberattack.

      According to FAN, a cyberattack on November 5, 2018, disabled two of its internal office server’s four hard drives, and also erased the data stored on servers the publication leases in Sweden and Estonia. FAN says it remained online despite the outages, calling the cyberattack a “complete failure.”

    • Cuba Adopts a New Socialist Constitution
      On February 24, 2019, the Cuban people overwhelmingly adopted a new constitution, as 84.4% of resident citizens voted in the constitutional referendum, with 86.8 % voting “Yes,” 9% “No,” 2.5% blank ballots, and 1.6% annulled.

      Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba has been striving to develop a socialist constitutional foundation. The evolving Cuban constitutionality includes: reformulations of liberal bourgeois concepts of political and civil rights, including the development of popular democracy; universal protection of social and economic rights; proclamation of the rights of nations to sovereignty and to control of their natural resources, in opposition to imperialism; and definition of the necessary role of the state in the protection of the rights of the people and the nation. Cuban socialist constitutionality has been developed on a foundation of extensive popular participation. And it has been developed with consciousness of its historic antecedents: The Constitution of Guáimaro of April 10, 1869, which created the Republic of Cuba in Arms; and the Constitution of 1940, an advanced and progressive constitution, not implemented by “democratic” governments and set aside by the Batista dictatorship.

      The revolutionary socialist constitutionality was announced on September 2, 1960, when the National General Assembly of the People of Cuba emitted the Declaration of Havana. It affirmed the right of peasants to the land and the rights of the people to a just wage, free education, and medical attention. And it declared full political, civil, and social rights for blacks, indigenous persons, and women. The National General Assembly of the People of Cuba was a mass meeting of one million, constituting 20% of the Cuban adult population. Along with the mass organizations of workers, peasants, students, women, and neighborhoods, the National General Assembly of the People was an early step in the development of “direct democracy.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Listen To CNN Correspondent’s McCarthyist Interview With Rania Khalek And Maffick Media’s Chief Operating Officer
      Facebook suspended the pages of In The Now, a Russia-backed project that produces videos that cover climate change, history, politics, and current events. They were led to censor content when CNN brought the pages to the social media company’s attention.


      “We have made a policy of pointing out in advance our funding connection to the Russian government to every employee, freelancer, contractor, or otherwise with whom we work,” Sparks shared.

      “CNN continued to pursue a conspiratorial narrative, seeking, and finding support from NATO member-based think tank the German Marshall Fund, ironically financed through a consortium of public-private entities led by government-owned German banking giant KfW,” Maffick Media detailed in their press release.

      “None of The German Marshall Fund’s financial backers are displayed on their own Facebook page,” Maffick Media added. “Nevertheless, CNN’s Drew Griffin interviewed recent intern with the U.S. State Department in Moscow, Bret Schafer, who assured for the camera, ‘Oh, they’re definitely state-funded. I mean, you can pull the German registration data,’ conveniently restating facts of which CNN had already been informed in writing by Maffick themselves.”

      It all served to help CNN engineer the “false impression that there was potentially a sensational new Russian secret, perhaps even one Facebook should fear,” that required the company to take action.

      Shadowproof previously covered CNN’s report, which was published on February 15. What is crucial is even O’Sullivan, one of the reporters who worked on the story, said Maffick Media wasn’t “necessarily really hiding their Russian ties.”

      “If you were to start Googling these pages, you could quickly work it back to see,” O’Sullivan added during an interview for CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

    • No Indian movie to be released in Pakistan: information minister

      In the wake of the Indian Air Force's (IAF) violation of the Line of Control (LoC), Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday said the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association has "boycotted Indian content" and that no Indian movie is to "be released in Pakistan".

      The information minister further said that he has "instructed Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) to act against made-in-India advertisements".

    • Zambia: Kambwili in Cells for Hateful Language Against Foreigner

      Mr Kambwili was arrested for allegedly expressing hateful words against a foreigner believed to be of Indian origin.

    • We met to discuss BBFC's voluntary age verification privacy scheme, but BBFC did not attend
      We invited all the AV providers we know about, and most importantly, the BBFC, at the start of February. BBFC are about to launch a voluntary privacy standard which some of the providers will sign up to. Unfortunately, BBFC have not committed to any public consultation about the scheme, relying instead on a commercial provider to draft the contents with providers, but without wider feedback from privacy experts and people who are concerned about users.

      We held the offices close to the BBFC’s offices in order that it would be convenient for them to send someone that might be able to discuss this with us. We have been asking for meetings with BBFC about the privacy issues in the new code since October 2018: but have not received any reply or acknowledgement of our requests, until this morning, when BBFC said they would be unable to attend today’s roundtable. This is very disappointing.

    • BBFC fails to explain its porn privacy scheme at meeting 300m from its office
      Following a roundtable meeting with Age Verification providers, the Open Rights Group (ORG) has demanded that the British Board for Film Classification (BBFC) meet with ORG to discuss their privacy scheme, which BBFC hope will protect some visitors to pornographic websites.

      Pornographic websites will soon have to verify the age of their website visitors, under the Digital Economy Act 2017. Late last year, BBFC added a voluntary privacy scheme to ensure that at least some of the age verification systems would be privacy protective. The Act, however, contains no powers which could make the scheme compulsory.

      BBFC have to date failed to explain if their Age Verification scheme will be consulted on publicly, and which company is being used to run the scheme.

      BBFC did not attend a roundtable with Age Verification providers and privacy experts organised by the Open Rights Group this morning, three hundred meters from BBFC’s offices.
    • New Russian bills on Internet speech may avoid automatically censoring users — as long as they censor themselves
      Two bills currently under consideration in Russia’s State Duma would introduce administrative penalties for those who share “unreliable information” or criticize the government online. The bills have already been approved after an initial reading and are expected to pass their second and third readings as well. On February 27, the chair of the Duma committee responsible for technology and communication bills, Leonid Levin, announced that new amendments were being added to both bills to give users the “right to make mistakes.”

    • Pissed Consumer Exposes New York Luxury Car Dealer's Use Of Bogus Notarized Letters To Remove Critical Reviews
      In order to remove a review, the reviewer has to send a notarized letter retracting the review -- one containing a sworn statement the review was inaccurate when it was posted. This helps prevent companies from impersonating users in order to remove their criticism.

      By spacing out these bogus letters, Luxsport went undetected for awhile, slowly cleaning up its review history at Pissed Consumer. But things changed last March. Another notarized letter arrived but was missing some of the required statements. Pissed Consumer spoke to the person who had written the review they now wanted removed… only to find out this person hadn't sent a notarized letter.

      This happened again in October. Another review was removed with a notarized letter. Shortly thereafter, Pissed Consumer was contacted by the reviewer wondering why their review had been removed.
    • Wherein The Copia Institute, Engine, And Reddit Tell The DC Circuit That FOSTA Is Unconstitutional
      Ever since SESTA was a gleam in the Senate’s eye we’ve been warning about the harmful effects it stood to have on online speech. The law that was finally birthed, FOSTA, has lived up to its terrifying billing. So last year EFF and its partners brought a lawsuit on behalf of several plaintiffs – online speakers, platforms, or both – to challenge its constitutionality. Unfortunately, and strangely, the district court dismissed the Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al v. U.S. case for lack of standing. It reached this decision despite the chilling effects that had already been observed and thanks to a very narrow read of the law that found precision and clarity in FOSTA's language where in reality there is none. The plaintiffs then appealed, and last week I filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Copia Institute, Engine, and Reddit in support of the appeal.

      The overarching point we made is that speech is chilled by fear. And FOSTA replaced the statutory protection platforms relied on to be able to confidently intermediate speech with the fear of it. Moreover, it didn't just cause platforms to have only a little bit of fear of only a little bit of legal risk: thanks to the vague and overbroad terms of the statutory language it stoked fear of nearly unlimited scope. And not just a fear of civil liability but now also criminal liability and liability subject to the disparate statutory interpretations of every state authority.

    • Be Careful What You Wish For: Demanding Platforms Delete Disinformation May Make It Harder To Understand What Happened

    • Antitrust Enforcement Needs to Evolve for the 21st Century
      Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the creation of a new task force to monitor competition in technology markets. Given the inadequacies of federal antitrust enforcement over the past generation, we welcome the new task force and reiterate our suggestions for how regulators can better protect technology markets and consumers.

      Citing the 2002 creation of a task force that reinvigorated antitrust scrutiny of mergers, and ongoing hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection, FTC Chairman Joe Simons said, “[I]t makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.” Bureau Director Bruce Hoffman noted that “[t]echnology markets, which are rapidly evolving and touch so many other sectors of the economy, raise distinct challenges for antitrust enforcement.”

      We could not agree more.

      Unfortunately, antitrust enforcement in the U.S. has become strangled in an outmoded economic doctrine that fails to recognize the realities of today’s Internet. We recently submitted comments to the FTC explaining a few key ways to strengthen antitrust enforcement and enable it to better protect competition, the marketplace, and consumer welfare.

    • Informal Internet Censorship: Nominet domain suspensions
      In December 2009, Nominet began to receive and act on bulk law enforcement requests to suspend the use of certain .uk domains believed to be involved in criminal activity. [1] At the request of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Nominet subsequently consulted about creating a formal procedure to use when acceding to these requests and provide for appeals and other safeguards. [2] Nominet’s consultations failed to reach consensus, with many participants including ORG arguing for law enforcement to seek injunctions to seize or suspend domains, not least because it became apparent that the procedure would be widely used once available. [3]

      As with any system of content removal at volume, mistakes will be made. These pose potential damage to individuals and businesses.

      Nominet formalised their policy in 2014. [4] It can suspend any domain that it believes is being used for criminal activity; in practice this means any domain it is notified about by a UK law enforcement agency.

      A domain may be regarded as property or intellectual property. It can certainly represent an asset with tradeable value well beyond the cost of registration fees.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The Microphones That May Be Hidden in Your Home
      The controversy around Google's Nest home-security devices shows that consumers never really know what their personal technology is capable of.

    • TikTok Slapped With 5.7 Million Fine For Collecting Data From Children
      f you’re from the Indian subcontinent, there are strong chances that you must have heard about TikTok app, which was formerly known as The app recently crossed 1 billion downloads on Google Play Store and App Store, out of which 250 million downloads are from India.

      A US-based industry self-regulatory group called Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) filed a complaint to FTC regarding TikTok’s data collection policies from users who are aged under 13. According to CARU, the app violates U.S. children’s privacy law by collecting the personal data of under age users without their parents’ consent.

    • Review of Secure, Privacy-Respecting Email Services
      I’ve been hosting my own email for several decades now. Even before I had access to a dedicated Internet link, I had email via dialup UUCP (and, before that, a FidoNet gateway).

      But self-hosting email is becoming increasingly difficult. The time required to maintain spam and virus filters, SPF/DKIM settings, etc. just grows. The importance of email also is increasing. Although my own email has been extremely reliable, it is still running on a single server somewhere and therefore I could stand to have a lot of trouble if it went down while I was unable to fix it

    • It’s Time for California to Guarantee “Privacy for All”
      Privacy is a right. It is past time for California to ensure that the companies using secretive practices to make money off of our personal information treat it that way.

      EFF has for years urged technology companies and legislators to do a better job at protecting the privacy of every person. We hoped the companies would realize the value meaningful privacy protections. Incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal and countless others proved otherwise.

      Californians last year took an important step in the right direction, by enacting the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). But much work remains to be done. “Privacy for All,” a bill introduced today by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, builds on the CCPA’s foundation. It promises to give everyone the rights, knowledge, and power to reclaim their own privacy.

    • EFF Supporting California’s Privacy For All Bill, Which Puts People, Not Tech Companies, in Control of Personal Data
      he Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is standing with Californians demanding more control over their personal data by supporting the Privacy For All bill, which requires tech companies to get their permission to share and use private information.

      “All eyes are on California, which has taken the lead nationwide in passing a historic consumer privacy bill at a time when people across the country are outraged by the privacy abuses they read about every day,” said EFF Legislative Counsel Ernesto Falcon. “Privacy For All improves on the existing privacy law so that consumers can control who gets access to their data and how the data is being used.”

      Privacy For All was introduced in Sacramento today by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks and has the support of a broad coalition of 14 consumer advocacy groups, including the ACLU, Common Sense Kids Action, Consumer Federation of America, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

    • Privacy, Mine: the Right of Individual Persons, Not of the Data
      We live in the age of surveillance marketing, where consumers’ privacy is being violated without their knowledge, consent or recourse. Data from and about consumers is collected en masse by ad-tech companies and traded for profit. But few consumers knew about it until things blow up like the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal. Most consumers think they are interacting with the sites they’re visiting or the apps (like Facebook) they’re using, but they aren't aware of the dozens of hidden ad-tech trackers that siphon their data off to other places or the aggressive data collection and cross-device tracking of apps. Not only are they not aware, they also definitely did not give consent to third parties to use, buy and sell their data. They wouldn’t even know who ABCTechCompany was anyway if it asked for consent.
    • 'We Are Here to Buy a Senator': Ahead of Data Privacy Hearing, Digital Rights Defenders Target Lavish Telecom-Backed Fundraiser
      The group protested a "lavish" telecom industry-backed fundraiser—with tickets that reportedly cost up to $5,000—for Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Sciences, and Transportation, ahead of a hearing about imposing federal data privacy protections.

      Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer expressed contempt for the fact that political action committees for AT&T and the trade group USTelecom scheduled the event to precede a Wednesday morning hearing on legislation "that could affect millions of people's basic rights and safety."

      "This type of corruption is seen as business as usual in Washington, D.C. but it's shameful and it ought to be illegal," she said.

      Gathered outside the pricey fundraiser at The Capital Grille on Tuesday, the digital rights defenders carried a big check from the "First Bank of Big Telecom" made out to Wicker, the committee chairman who has said he wants to impose federal privacy protections "without stifling innovation, investment, or competition." Echoing a larger banner, the check's memo line read, "We are here to buy one senator."

    • EU Law Enforcement Preps To Start Sharing Sensitive Data With A Number Of Human Rights Abusers
      When someone starts talking about terrorism and national security, all rational thought goes out the window. The EU will share data with Egypt, which recently made the news for executing nine people who claimed their "confessions" were tortured out of them.

      Turkey isn't much of an improvement, seeing how its government also likes to jail critics -- going so far as to use other countries' laws against foreigners to punish non-Turkish citizens for insulting the president.

      It's hard to see how all of the data being shared is relevant to multi-national terrorism investigations. In fact, much of what would be shared seems more like blackmail material than evidence tying people to terrorist groups or acts. Why else would the EU include data about targets' sex lives?

      In normal countries under normal circumstances, data about political and religious affiliations would be off limits, as would medical information and trade union memberships. This isn't a case of creeping totalitarianism. This is full-blown enabling of existing totalitarian states, weaponizing the massive amount of data European law enforcement agencies collect on investigation targets.

    • Inside the biometrics of those post-Brexit blue passports

      In 2018, Gemalto was selected to make the new passports, in a €£260 million contract that will run for 11-and-a-half years.

      The choice of a Franco-Dutch firm as the manufacturer ahead of a competing bid from British business De La Rue triggered accusations from the press and politicians that the government was being unpatriotic, despite the deal saving the public €£10 million per year.

    • Facebook’s new privacy tool is a gamble that could backfire on its ad business

      Back in May 2018, as the Silicon Valley social networking giant battled with the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company was building a "clear history' feature that would let users instruct the social network to delete its records of what websites it had visited and links it had clicked.

    • Facebook says it fired leaker for participating in conservative bias ‘stunt’

      The new report plays into longstanding conservative fears over bias on tech platforms, which have often been encouraged by President Trump. Those fears came to a head last year with a bizarre House Judiciary hearing on social media bias, which focused on Facebook’s alleged efforts to limit the network reach of the television personalities Diamond & Silk. In July, Twitter faced a similar panic over so-called “shadowbanning” of conservative accounts in the user search feature.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • This Film Tells the Real Story of the Green Book

      However, while the Oscars continue to stoke backlash towards regressive depictions of Jim Crow, a new documentary that premiered Monday evening on the Smithsonian Channel promises viewers a more accurate, beautiful, and terrible history of Victor Hugo Green’s Green Book. Blending archival footage with expert interviews, filmmaker and CUNY professor Yoruba Richen conjures both the freedom and terror black motorists felt driving across the United States in the mid-20th century.

    • Green Book Mapped Safe Route Through Era of Discrimination

      Scenes from the Oscar-nominated film Green Book depict post-World War II America as a land of wide prosperity, big cars, nation-spanning highways, and easy travel. But this was the Jim Crow era, before civil rights reforms, and discriminatory laws of the time made it challenging, even dangerous, for black motorists to move around the country. They simply weren’t welcome in most restaurants, hotels or other businesses.

      So, enterprising New York City mail carrier Victor Green began publishing a travel guide, listing businesses where black motorists were welcome. He called it The Negro Motorist Green Book. It was published annually, from 1936 until 1966. At first just listing restaurants, lodgings, night clubs, grocery stores and gas stations in the New York area, it gradually expanded to include as many as 10,000 sites in nearly every U.S. state and parts of Canada, Mexico and Bermuda.

    • Bethel Church’s Asylum Service Ends After 97 Day Marathon

      It’s unclear who originated the idea, but ultimately Bethel Church began to protect the Tamrazyans through an obscure Dutch law that prohibits police from interfering with an in-progress church service to make an arrest. Bethel Church recognized an opportunity, whereby on October 26th, 2018, Bethel’s pastors began to preach, and preach. Then preach even more.

    • From Badawi to Khashoggi: Freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia

      In the years following his arrest, Haidar fled to Canada with their three children. Since then, she has been meeting with world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking them to push for his release. Her efforts have cemented Badawi's image and the story of their family's plight as a symbol of how Saudi Arabia oppresses its people and criminalizes all forms of expression and dissent."It's not fair that our father is in prison. He hasn't killed anybody. He just created a blog," said one of Badawi's children in an online video that has garnered almost 800,000 views. Unfortunately, there has been little news on his current condition.

    • Town says it's 'taken action' after marshal's encounter with young journalist

      The Town of Patagonia says it has taken unspecified action after Marshal Joseph Patterson was video-recorded telling a pre-teen journalist that it was against the law for her to put his image on the internet during an interaction in which he also allegedly threatened to have the girl arrested and jailed.

      The video by Hilde Kate Lysiak, reporter/publisher of the website Orange Street News, was reportedly recorded at around 1:30 p.m. Monday while she was biking down Roadrunner Lane in Patagonia in pursuit of a news tip. In a story posted to the site, Lysiak wrote that Patterson stopped her and asked for ID, and she identified herself as a member of the media.

    • It’s Time to Make Sure Our Kids Are No Longer Bound, Shackled, or Locked Away When They’re at School
      Congress is finally holding a hearing on the use of restraints and seclusion in our schools. In 1998, teachers in West Virginia strapped a 4-year-old autistic girl with cerebral palsy to a wooden chair. Why? She was being “uncooperative” because she needed to use the bathroom. The girl suffered bruises and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

      In 2003, school officials in Michigan held a 15-year-old autistic boy in a face-down restraint for an hour after he had a seizure and lost control of his extremities. He died without receiving medical attention.

      These are just two of many barbaric stories from a 2009 Government Accountability Office report on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. “Restraint” involves using physical, mechanical, or chemical means to restrict a child’s ability to move their arms, legs, head, or body; and “seclusion” is the involuntarily confining of a child alone.

      In collecting hundreds of stories, the GAO report found that children with disabilities were most likely to face abusive or even fatal use of restraint and seclusion. Moreover, it found that there were no federal laws or regulations restricting the use of seclusion and restraints in public and private schools as well as widely divergent state laws. Similar reports from the National Disability Rights Network highlighted the harms of restraint and seclusion and urged the federal government and Congress to take action.

    • 'Fearless' Progressive Jumaane Williams Elected NYC's Public Advocate
      Jumaane Williams, a progressive activist, is New York City’s public advocate-elect.

      Williams, a city councilman from Brooklyn, won election as advocate with a plurality of votes on Tuesday, defeating 16 other candidates that included progressive journalist and activist Nomiki Konst and Queens councilman Eric Ulrich. Ulrich was the second place finisher, with 19 percent to Williams’s 33 percent.

      As advocate, Williams will have control over the office’s $3.5 million budget and the power to hold public hearings. Williams will be the only person of color in the top of city government—Mayor Bill De Blasio, acting public advocate Corey Johnson, and comptroller Scott M. Stringer are white men.

      The role of public advocate is seen as a stepping stone on the way to higher state office and the advocate replaces the mayor temporarily if the mayor leaves office early. De Blasio himself made the jump in 2013.

    • dream hampton on Making “Surviving R. Kelly” & the Grassroots Activists That Helped Bring Him Down
      R. Kelly was released from jail in Chicago on Monday, three days after he was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. The charges involve four women and girls, three of whom were under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged crimes. A judge set bail at a million dollars and forced the singer to surrender his passport. Almost immediately after he posted bond and pleaded not guilty on Monday, Kelly was spotted at a McDonald’s in downtown Chicago—a spot his accusers say he used to frequent to prey on young girls. Kelly has been accused of abuse, predatory behavior and pedophilia throughout his career but has avoided criminal conviction despite damning evidence and multiple witnesses. Last month, the explosive documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” thrust the case back into the spotlight. We speak with the documentary’s executive producer, dream hampton.

    • At Least 4,500 Abuse Complaints at Migrant Children Shelters
      Thousands of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment of migrant children in government-funded shelters were made over the past four years, including scores directed against adult staff members, according to federal data released Tuesday.

      The cases include allegations of inappropriate touching to staff members allegedly watching minors while they bathed and showing pornographic videos to minors. Some of the allegations included inappropriate conduct by minors in shelters against other minors, as well as by staff members.

      Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., released the Health and Human Services Department data amid a hearing on the Trump administration’s policy of family separations at the border. The data span both the Obama and Trump administrations, and were first reported by Axios.

      From October 2014 to July 2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of Health and Human Services, received 4,556 complaints, including allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and inappropriate behavior. Of those, the Justice Department received 1,303 more serious sex abuse complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff, officials said.

    • Cohen Hearing Shows How Trump’s Presidency Is Built on Racism
      Michael Cohen’s explosive testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee illuminated multiple issues. Many themes emerged during the hours-long public hearing on Capitol Hill featuring President Donald Trump’s former attorney, including cronyism, bribery, corruption, deception, greed and crime. But one of the enduring themes was racism—Trump’s racism in particular, and by extension, that of his colleagues in continuing to defend and protect him.

      Early in his opening remarks, Cohen said about the president, “He is a racist.” Later, he gave more detail, saying, “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ ” Giving actual examples of his personal interactions with Trump, Cohen explained, “In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.” He then gave a second example: “While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.”

      None of this is surprising to honest observers of the Trump presidency. Trump used discriminatory practices to build his real estate career. He took great pleasure for years in perpetuating the racist notion that President Obama was not a natural-born citizen. He jumped on the racist fears of a resentful white minority to scrape together an election win and then proceeded to feed the insatiable mob relentlessly with dehumanizing policies and rhetoric aimed at communities of color.

      So Cohen’s assertions of Trump’s racism were hardly shocking. They are perfectly consistent with many things the president has said and done prior to the election and during his presidency. But the Republican Party was having none of it. During Wednesday’s hearings, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) revealed a surprise guest—a black woman named Lynne Patton, who works at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and who is a friend of the Trump family.

      Meadows, whose aim was apparently to display Ms. Patton as a prop to undermine claims of Trump’s racism, said to Cohen, “You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism.” He added that, “As a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, [according to Patton] there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.” When asked, “How do you reconcile the two of those?” Cohen shot back, “As neither should I, as the son of a Holocaust survivor.”

    • Russian officials seize six children whose father says he’s being persecuted because he believes the USSR never collapsed
      Last September, Karelia’s Supreme Court took away the Kiselyovs’ children, after officials concluded that the married couple failed to provide adequate education and living conditions. Over the past several years, the family has been cited a dozen times for different violations. In response to the ruling, the Kiselyovs resorted to “evacuation.” The court then issued an arrest warrant for Lydia Kiselyova, who managed to evade the authorities until mid-January with her five children in tow. On January 17, police finally tracked her down in Moscow, where they pulled her off a bus and seized all the children, whose ages range from four to thirteen. They haven’t spoken to either of their parents since. Anatoly Kiselyov, Lydia’s husband and an activist with the “Union SSR” trade union, says he’s certain the loss of his children is punishment from the local authorities for his controversial political views.
    • California AG Says Journalist Broke The Law By Obtaining A List Of Convicted Officers Via A Public Records Request
      The UC Berkeley journalists asked for police misconduct documents from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training -- taking advantage of the state's new law that opens access to these long-hidden files -- and ended up with the entire list of law enforcement officers who have been convicted of crimes.

      This list of names is very definitely of public interest. The journalists are vetting the list to ensure they haven't misidentified any of the 12,000 officers on the list and have not published it in full. Still, they're being told by the man at the top of the law enforcement food chain they've broken the law simply by taking possession of a document handed to them by a state agency. He has ordered the documents destroyed. Good luck with enforcing that. If anything, AG Becerra's incursions on the First Amendment will help ensure the information is published once it's been vetted.
    • Police Investigating Themselves Leads to Predictable Results
      A deeper look at how police influence investigations into in-custody deaths, and what activists are trying to do to reform it. A discussion between Jacqueline Luqman, Stephen Janis, and Taya Graham

    • FBI, DA's Office Open Investigation Of Fatal Houston PD Drug Raid
      The Houston Police Department has a huge problem. A recent no-knock drug raid ended with two "suspects" killed and four officers wounded. The PD says no-knock entrances are safer for officers, not that you'd draw that conclusion from this raid.

      The problem the PD has is its drug warriors are dirty. The raid was predicated on a tip from a confidential informant who doesn't appear to exist. The warrant contained sworn statements about a heroin purchase that never happened and a large quantity of heroin packaged for sale that was not among the things seized from the dead couple's residence. The heroin central to the raid appears to have been taken from the console of an officer's squad car and run to the lab for some very unnecessary testing.

      Houston police officer Gerald Goines is the person behind this completely avoidable chain of events. After initially backing his officers, Police Chief Art Acevedo has reversed course in the face of contrary evidence he's unable to ignore. His initial defense of officers who participated in a drug raid that only turned up personal use amounts of cocaine and marijuana was perhaps understandable, given his position. But it went against the image he'd made for himself as a reformer -- someone who would clean up the department and repair its reputation.

      A leaked recording of Acevedo speaking to officers after the killing of an unarmed, mentally ill man seemed to make it clear there was zero tolerance for the usual cop bullshit. Acevedo criticized his officers for needlessly escalating interactions, bullying citizens for failing to show the respect officers feel is owed to them, and teaming up on post-incident paperwork to ensure most bad deeds went unpunished.

    • Torture Fans and War Criminals Determine US Foreign Policy
      Under normal circumstances, I would describe what I am experiencing as a “crisis of confidence” regarding the sudden eruption of serious foreign policy challenges facing the White House. Unfortunately, “normal circumstances” swelled up and died like a suicidal puffer fish more than two years ago. The U.S.’s current foreign policy varsity squad is comprised of torture advocate Mike Pompeo, the notoriously wrong John Bolton, his war criminal sidekick Elliott Abrams, the vacancy known as Mike Pence and, of course, Man Who Knows Everything He Will Ever Know Which Isn’t Much, Donald Trump.

      One must have at least a degree of confidence for a crisis to exist, or else it’s like trying to grow radishes on a runway. I have no confidence whatsoever in these men. Crisis? I think I’m just terrified. For all his serial horrors, Trump is well behind George W. Bush when it comes to racking up an international body count. A series of events have piled up in recent weeks, however, that could provide him an opportunity to catch up with dazzling speed.

      We begin in Vietnam, graveyard to millions murdered in what was the gold standard for illegal U.S. wars before the Bush family began and then escalated a 28-year-long killing spree in Iraq. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are meeting there this week to discuss nuclear disarmament and other matters, and a number of factors will be in play.

      The primary factor, of course, is Trump himself. It is hailing bricks at the White House right now, and the president is starved for the kind of fawning headlines he believes are his due. This desire could easily influence the sort of deal he may strike. A September summit between North and South Korea produced meaningful progress toward ending hostilities on the peninsula. Trump could bolster that progress or blow it all to pieces, depending on his mood. That mood is likely to be affected by today’s public testimony before Congress by former Trump attorney and bagman, Michael Cohen. This is not a comforting thought.

    • The Constitution Will Not Save Us From Trump’s “Emergency”
      Following President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to reallocate money for a border wall that Congress has refused to fund, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Republicans that “a Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well.” She suggested that a future Democratic president could enact gun control initiatives by calling a national emergency over gun violence. Other Democrats, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, have floated similar ideas about climate change. “So, the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans,” Pelosi cautioned, a sentiment since repeated by those of various political leanings.

      Republicans are not heeding the warning. Despite a few dissenting voices and much performative handwringing, most Republicans are falling in line behind the president. Though initially discouraging the president from issuing the decree, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now supports the move as well.

      This is no political miscalculation on their part. Congressional Republicans would not happily support the president’s usurpation of constitutional powers reserved for Congress were it not in their own interest. They understand the political calculus at play. While Pelosi is correct that future Democratic presidents can declare emergencies, the implication that they could just as easily bypass Congress isn’t true.

    • At the Southern Border, an Escape Room With No Exit
      In Tijuana, there are the refugees themselves, who come from such far-flung countries as Yemen, Ethiopia, Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, and who live in camps all over the city, places that bloom with hope and wither in despair, camps that exist one day and then vanish the next.

      This backdrop of humanity supports a bewildering array of refugee ecosystems. There are well-meaning volunteer organizations, and there are impenetrable state-run services. There is an underground network of “coyotes” to help refugees jump border fences, and there are aloof, nongovernmental organization workers with infuriating savior complexes. There are local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that create on-the-spot rules that contradict the directive given the day prior, and there are anti-immigrant groups within Mexico itself. There is aggressive suppression of journalists, and there is infighting among migrant factions.

    • Congress’s Cowardly “Emergency” Rebuke
      The fake “emergency” in question powers US president Donald Trump’s plan to divert money appropriated for other purposes to his pet “border wall” project (he used to swear up and down he’d find a way to make Mexico pay for the wall, but those days are clearly over).

      The resolution’s chances of passage by the US Senate are not quite as good, but the possibility exists.

      After which, there are the absolute certainties that first, Trump will veto the resolution and second, neither house of Congress will be able to drum up the votes needed to override that veto.

      Most news accounts mention that last part, but emphasize the notion that this Joint Resolution constitutes a damaging “rebuke” to the president.

      In fact, it’s just a cowardly way for Congress to avoid doing what it should do by pretending that it did “something,” then go back to business as usual while Trump proceeds merrily on his wall-obsessed way.

    • Keith Tharpe and the Death Penalty’s Racist Roots
      Recently, the appalling spectacle of a black man condemned by a Georgia jury, a jury that included a racist bigot, reentered the American consciousness; if you haven’t heard about this travesty of justice (yet), or, if you’ve forgotten its details, all you need to know about the Keith Tharpe case is: a now-deceased juror who sentenced Tharpe to death swore in an affidavit Tharpe was a “ni**er,” and further, “after studying the Bible,” he “wondered if black people even have souls.” Spared execution over these facts by a last-minute stay in September 2017, Tharpe’s case is, once again, back before the United States Supreme Court; the Court can grant a writ of certiorari, to consider the merits of Tharpe’s claim of racial bias, or, not.

      Predictably, opinion pieces urging the Justices to again intervene in Tharpe’s case – to call off this deplorable 21st-century-style lynching – have emerged from diverse corners, including: in a piece in Newsweek by conservative Republican attorney from Georgia, David Burge; from three bishops writing collectively in the Atlantic (urging, “The U.S. Supreme Court must intervene in [Tharpe’s] case to ensure that fairness is protected and justice is defended – before it’s too late. To do nothing would be tragic not only for Tharpe, but our collective dignity.”); the Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund; and, finally, at least in the current news cycle, Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy, who, in an olfactory-informed oped for the New York Times, argued Tharpe’s death sentence is hopelessly infected by “the stench of prejudice, not just a whiff.”

      This chorus of conscientious calls for the Supreme Court to act on Tharpe’s case – to prevent what retired Justice Anthony Kennedy termed in 2008 a “sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint” – is compelling. But, what’s equally important for all “woke” Americans to recognize about the Tharpe case, a fact I alluded to when writing about another death penalty case tainted by race: unacceptable racial bias is at the root of capital punishment; it is an ignominious bloody stain running deep, with terribly tragic results, in the frayed fabric of our country. Indeed, the history of the death penalty in America is hewn from the hell of slavery, subjugation and the suffering of black people.

    • The Battle Against the Racist in Chief Wages On
      Many dared hope, after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, that the United States could someday enter a “post-racial” era. The election eight years later of Donald Trump to the same office demonstrated, sadly, that the scourge of racism is alive and well in America. Trump’s profound racism was described by his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, when he testified before Congress Wednesday. Any attempt to heal the deep wounds of racism that scar this country must include a direct challenge to Donald Trump, our racist in chief.

      “I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Michael Cohen said early in his statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. He elaborated: “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘s***holes.’ In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘s***hole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.”

      Cohen continued: “While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

    • California rapper killed in car was shot by police about 25 times, lawyer says

      A young California man fatally shot by police after they found him unresponsive in his car with a gun in his lap was hit about 25 times — with bullets striking the center of his face and throat and blowing off part of his ear, a lawyer for his family said.

    • Policing Islamic schools to secure the state

      A security source, who asked not to be named, said the school had a history of providing accommodation to southern insurgents and the training programme it offered to the students was actually unarmed combat training. It is not clear what was offered in this case to the students who were deported.

    • Rage and puzzlement over Muslim woman in hijab chosen for Swedish municipality’s welcome sign

      The Al-rashideen mosque and its imam, Abu Raad, were involved in a scandal a few years ago, after the leading local newspaper Gefle Dagblad accused him of spreading radical Salafist ideas and collecting money for terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

      The editor-in-chef received death threats over the criticism. The man who issued the threats was sentenced to two months in jail.

      It was not immediately clear whether Hindi is still associated with the mosque.

      Gavle itself was the scene of a national scandal in Sweden two years ago, when six people were tried for the abduction and murder of 23-year-old Afghan man Ramin Sherzaj over an extramarital affair. Five received life sentences for the crime, while one got a 14-year jail term.

    • Sweden Prosecuting Pensioners, Welcoming ISIS [Ed: The far right portrays Swedish authorities as "pro-ISIS" as if merely not being racist or being against racism is the same as supporting ISIS]

      Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, Swedes only feel more and more insecure in their own country. Four out of 10 women are afraid to walk outside freely, according to the new National Safety Report, published by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande Rådet or Brå).

    • Swedish journalist shares film of cars on fire, claims Muslim extremism

    • School reforms and Islamisation letting Turkish children down

      Instead, teachers are forced to stick to syllabi that have become increasingly politicised. School textbooks have been found to contain sexist, nationalistic and religious material, said Yılancı. At the same time, the AKP’s conservative religious roots have had a great impact on the teaching of science: biology classes, which are now limited to two hours per week, have not included teaching the theory of evolution since 2017.

      While students are asking for English language and media literacy lessons as electives, teachers said the system was pushing them towards religious classes instead.

    • To Improve Migrant Integration: Germans Plan To Drop English For Turkish In Schools

      Keltek said: “Lots of children speak Turkish, Russian or Polish, for example. For many German children, it would be simpler if they learned these languages.”

    • How far will Pope Francis go in rooting out sexual abuse?

      As the scandal has spread across the world since the 1990s, the focus has shifted from the conduct of individual priests to the role of their superiors in ignoring or covering up their behaviour. Francis has reacted defensively. In 2016 he shelved a plan to create a special tribunal to try bishops accused of failing to take action against abuse. And last year he leapt to the defence of a Chilean bishop accused of hiding abuse, saying he was a victim of “calumny”—before regretting those words.

    • Detroit imam: ‘Jews killed prophets, amassed gold, headed brothels in Europe’

      Al-Sheraa is a graduate of the Najaf Hawza in Iraq. He emigrated to the United States and serves as the imam of the Al-Zahraa Islamic Center of Michigan. He also founded the Scholarly Najaf Hawza in Northern America–Michigan.

      Following are excerpts:

    • Islamic scholar says fighting Jews in Israel is a religious mandate

      The interview, which was aired on February 3rd and posted on YouTube with English translation by Middle East Media Research Institute earlier this week, shows Al-Farra telling the interviewee that, “When the time Allah gave runs out, fighting them will become mandatory” - and that time is now. “This applies to plundering the Jews who drove out our fathers and forefathers," he said. “Kill the polytheists wherever you may find them.”

    • LGBT Magazine Calls Trump 'Racist' For Telling Iran to Stop Killing and Jailing Gays

      Out Magazine, a pro-LGBT news publication that doubles as a gay advocacy platform, actually published a piece Wednesday claiming that it’s – stay with me here – “racist” for the Trump administration to pressure nations like Iran to decriminalize homosexuality.

      I’ll restate, for the record: an openly pro-gay magazine is calling Donald Trump racist for trying to get regimes that jail and kill people for being gay to stop jailing and killing people for being gay.

    • Is the Future of ISIS Female?

      And if by some measures, the rise of women as combatants represents a significant shift in a group notorious for its strict gender roles and misogyny — in the caliphate, men were supposed to fight, while women were supposed to stay home and raise as many children as possible — by other measures, the change is not as startling as it seems. The women once married to Islamic State militants who are now seeking to return to the West may claim to have simply been housewives, but from the beginnings of the group, some women were more radical than their husbands. One former fighter from Dagestan told me he knew of women insisting that their husband or sons join the terrorist group. He also knew of women who did not want to marry anyone other than front-line fighters because “they wanted to be a true mujahedeen family.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC Uses Cherry-Picked Stats To Justify Giving Consumers A Giant Middle Finger
      One of the fundamental cornerstones of disinformation and propaganda is repetition. As in, if you state something often enough, the idea gets lodged in the recipient's head and becomes truth by an act of sheer force and repetition. It's called the “illusory truth effect,” and it's been essential across most of the Trump administration as it attempts to convince the public that up is down, and black is white. Its been absolutely essential at the Trump FCC, where the agency has worked tirelessly to convince the nation's gullible that kissing the ass of the biggest telecom operators is intelligent policy.

      You'll of course recall that one of the FCC's key justifications for killing consumer protections like net neutrality is that the relatively modest rules stifled industry investment. Objective data from a litany of different sources has confirmed that's simply not true, including SEC filings, earnings reports, and the statements of countless industry CEOs. That hasn't stopped Ajit Pai, major telecom providers, or the litany of dollar-per-hollar consultants and think tankers employed to create the illusion of widespread support for sucking up to the nation's entrenched broadband monopolies.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Hikma Case Set for Supreme Court Consideration
      Although Hickma does a good job of nit-picking, the underlying reality is important — the Federal Circuit’s decision in Vanda is not easily reconciled with its Ariosa decision or the Supreme Court’s decision in Mayo v. Prometheus. And, the Federal Circuit and USPTO have effectively green-lighted patents on methods of treatment that would be ineligible if recharacterized as methods of diagnosis or creating a treatment plan.

    • Copyrights

      • Court Refuses To Allow Defendant In Copyright Trolling Case To Proceed, But Hints At Reform
        Over the course of the last year or so, coverage of copyright trolling stories turned up a common movie multiple times. That film was The Hitman's Bodyguard, and the outfits contracted to push for fees via settlement letters were both prolific and devious in trying to manipulate the settlement offer amounts to achieve the highest conversion rates. Whatever the level of intelligence that goes into these operations, however, there will almost always be a misfire, with a wrong target picked in the wrong court in such a way that makes the troll look like, well, a troll.

        Such appears to be the case when Bodyguard Productions went after Ernesto Mendoza in court, claiming that he downloaded the film via bittorrent. The problem with the case is that Mendoza is both very, very insistent on his innocence and also manages to cast about as sympathetic a figure as one might be able to find. Mendoza is in his 70s and has end-stage cancer. When Bodyguard Productions attempted to voluntarily dismiss the case when it became clear that Mendoza wasn't going to settle, he tried to push the court to force the case to go forward so that he could recover his legal expenses. Sadly, the court refused.
      • Dance dance dance: another episode in the Fortnite saga
        The US Copyright Office is reported in the NY Times (here) to have stated that the “Carlton dance” as popularised by the actor Alfonso Ribeiro, could not be copyrighted on the basis that it was “too simple”. Ribeiro was attempting to gain copyright in the dance move in parallel with the ongoing litigation against Epic Games.

        Readers will be well aware of the legal proceedings and the various issues covered in previous posts (here and here). This Kat thought that the recent news would be a purrfect opportunity to moonwalk readers through how the situation may have differed for Ribeiro if the “Carlton dance” had been subject to UK copyright.

      • Spotify Now Available in India, Apps Show Up on App Store, Google Play

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