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Links 7/3/2019: Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS , man-pages-5.00

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  • Tuxedo InfinityCube v9 Linux PC Review: Small Size, Big Possibilities
    The InfinityCube v9 has a small footprint (22 x 28 x 26 cm, not quite a cube!), making it ideal for several use-cases. It has the makings of an awesome living room PC (just add Steam Big Picture and Kodi), a developer / professional video workstation or a fantastic 1440p gaming rig. Or in the case of many users, all of the above.

    Despite its size, Tuxedo crams in some powerful components.

    The baseline unit starts at 831 Euros and includes a six-core Intel Core i5 8400, 8GB of RAM and a 250GB m.2 Samsung 860 EVO SSD. On the Linux OS side of things, you can have Tuxedo pre-install Ubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie or a few different flavors of openSUSE.

  • Desktop

    • [Older] Audio playback for Linux on Chromebooks arrives in latest Chrome OS 74 Dev Channel release
      Google released version 74.0.3713.0 to the Chrome OS 74 Dev Channel on Monday and there are over 500 mentions of “Crostini”, the project that brought Linux support to Chromebooks. I’m still poring through the changelog, but I immediately noticed a mention of audio support. I tested it, and after a few commands in the Terminal as well as a few reboots, I got it to work.

    • You’ll be able to resize your Linux drive space on Chromebooks, likely in Chrome OS 75
      I recently learned that when you enable Linux on a Chromebook using the Crostini function, Chrome OS allocates a maximum of 90 percent of your free disk space for the Linux container. On my Pixel Slate with 128 GB of local storage, that leaves me lots of room for Linux usage.

      Running a df -h command in my Linux terminal (shown above) shows that my container has plenty of potential room, also leaving enough space — so far — for my regular Chrome OS usage.

  • Server

    • The Days After ServerlessDays ATX
      I recently spent the day at Serverless Days in Austin, Texas, and it was interesting for a lot of reasons. The first was that it was in a movie theater. There was no running around to different conference halls — it was just sit in your big, comfy theater chair and enjoy the show. It was nice. There was no FOMO on the other talks — everything was very simple and singularly focused. Not to mention, this was not just any movie theater — this was none other than the Alamo Drafthouse Theater, which makes all other theaters relinquish their pride, as they could never compete with the comfort, the food, or the quirkiness that is the Alamo Drafthouse.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Dirty Home Directories | LINUX Unplugged 291
      We reveal all and look at the mess that is our home directories. How we keep them clean, back them up, and organize our most important files.

      Plus Gnome lands a long awaited feature, Firefox gets a bit more clever, and the big money being made on Open Source.

    • FLOSS Weekly 520: Magalix
      Magalix eliminates the complexity of balancing performance with infrastructure capacity, using AI. It is a low-touch service that makes infrastructure self-healing to deliver the maximum value.

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 798
    • Char/Misc Brings Habana Labs' Driver, Intel HDCP 2.2 Support
      In addition to the staging changes submitted on Tuesday for the Linux 5.1 kernel, Greg Kroah-Hartman also sent out pull requests on the various other trees he maintained.

      Over in the char/misc space is the usual smothering of random changes. Some of the changes worth pointing out are introducing a generic on-chip interconnect API and also the "misc/mei/hdcp" bits for enabling HDCP 2.2 support for Intel hardware. Back during the Linux 4.17 cycle is when Intel introduced their initial HDCP bits.

  • Kernel Space

    • Development statistics for the 5.0 kernel
      The announcement of the 5.0-rc7 kernel prepatch on February 17 signaled the imminent release of the final 5.0 kernel and the end of this development cycle. 5.0, as it turns out, brought in fewer changesets than its immediate predecessors, but it was still a busy cycle with a lot of developers participating. Read on for an overview of where the work came from in this release cycle.
    • Linux Kernel 5.0
      The first major release of Linux for the year 2019 was made available earlier this week, and with it came a new version number: 5.0. However, as Linus pointed out, while this version change might seem significant, Linux doesn't do feature-based releases, and "it doesn't mean anything more than that the 4.x numbers started getting big enough that I ran out of fingers and toes".

      As usual, Collabora was active in this latest release, with 9 developers authoring a total of 45 patches, 47 Signed-off-by tags and 9 Reviewed-by tags. Here's a look at some of the highlights...

    • Nine Collabora Developers Have Contributed 45 Patches to the Linux 5.0 Kernel
      Linux kernel 5.0 brings several goodies to the table, including FreeSync support in the AMDGPU open-source graphics driver for stutter-free viewing experience on AMD Radeon GPUs, support for swap files in the Btrfs file system, a new energy-aware scheduling feature for ARM big.LITTLE CPUs, and support for the Adiantum file system encryption in fscrypt for low power devices.

      Linux kernel 5.0 also introduces support for the binderfs file system to allow running of multiple Android instances, support for the Generic Receive Offload (GRO) feature in the UDP implementation, and much more. Collabora's developers managed to contribute a total of 45 patches during the development cycle of Linux kernel 5.0, as well as to sign-off-by tag 47 patches and reviewed-by tag 9 patches.

    • Xilinx Looking To Contribute Alveo FPGA Accelerator Drivers To The Linux Kernel
      The upcoming Linux hardware accelerator subsystem could get even bigger with Xilinx now wanting to mainline their FPGA accelerator drivers.

      Xilinx already has their Alveo FPGA kernel drivers as open-source as part of their Xilinx XRT Runtime while now they are hoping to get this support upstreamed in the Linux kernel.

    • Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ and Bitmain BM18xx Supported By Linux 5.1
      There is new Arm hardware to be supported by the Linux 5.1 kernel.

    • DRM Changes For Linux 5.1 Bring Intel Fastboot, Komeda Driver & Other Improvements
      These changes really shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering all of the major changes we've covered individually in recent weeks on Phoronix, but the Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) graphics/display driver changes have now been submitted for the Linux 5.1 kernel.

    • Memory-mapped I/O without mysterious macros
      Concurrency is hard even when the hardware's behavior is entirely deterministic; it gets harder in situations where operations can be reordered in seemingly random ways. In these cases, developers tend to reach for barriers as a way of enforcing ordering, but explicit barriers are tricky to use and are often not the best way to think about the problem. It is thus common to see explicit barriers removed as code matures. That now seems to be happening with an especially obscure type of barrier used with memory-mapped I/O (MMIO) operations. The core idea behind MMIO is that a peripheral device makes a set of registers available on the system's memory bus. The kernel can map those registers into its address space, then control the device by reading and writing those registers. I/O buses have often taken liberties with ordering when it comes to delivering operations to peripherals; that leads to rituals like performing an unneeded read from a PCI device's register space to force previous writes to be posted. But in some cases, the hardware can take things further and reorder operations arriving from different CPUs, even if the code performing those operations is strictly ordered. That, of course, can lead to a variety of amusing mixups.

      Fortunately, kernel developers tend not to be amused by such things, so they take steps to ensure that this type of reordering does not happen. Back in 2004, Jesse Barnes introduced a special sort of memory barrier operation called mmiowb(); its job was to ensure that all MMIO writes initiated prior to the barrier would be posted to the device before any writes initiated after the barrier. mmiowb() was duly adopted by developers whose code needs to run on the affected hardware; there are now several hundred call sites in the kernel.

    • Containers as kernel objects — again
      Linus Torvalds once famously said that there is no design behind the Linux kernel. That may be true, but there are still some guiding principles behind the evolution of the kernel; one of those, to date, has been that the kernel does not recognize "containers" as objects in their own right. Instead, the kernel provides the necessary low-level features, such as namespaces and control groups, to allow user space to create its own container abstraction. This refusal to dictate the nature of containers has led to a diverse variety of container models and a lot of experimentation. But that doesn't stop those who would still like to see the kernel recognize containers as first-class kernel-supported objects.

      One of those people is David Howells, who has posted a patch set designed to stir up this debate. It starts by defining a container as a kernel object that has a set of namespaces, a root directory, and a set of processes running inside it, one of which is deemed to be the "init" process.

    • Reimplementing printk()
      The venerable printk() function has been part of Linux since the very beginning, though it has undergone a fair number of changes along the way. Now, John Ogness is proposing to fundamentally rework printk() in order to get rid of handful of issues that currently plague it. The proposed code does this by adding yet another ring-buffer implementation to the kernel; this one is aimed at making printk() work better from hard-to-handle contexts. For a task that seems conceptually simple—printing messages to the console—printk() is actually a rather complex beast; that won't change if these patches are merged, though many of the problems with the current implementation will be removed.

      In the cover letter of his RFC patch set, Ogness lays out seven problems that he sees with the current printk() implementation. The buffer used by printk() is protected by a raw spinlock, which restricts the contexts from which the buffer can be accessed. Calling printk() from a non-maskable interrupt (NMI) or a recursive context, where something called from printk() also calls printk(), currently means that the logging of the message is deferred, which could cause the message to be lost. Printing to slow consoles can result in large latencies, a printk() call may end up taking unbounded time while other deferred messages are printed ahead of the one the caller actually wanted to print.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Voice Recognition API in Automotive Grade Linux
        Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), an open source project at the Linux Foundation developing a shared software platform for in-vehicle technology, today announced the latest release of the AGL platform, Unified Code Base (UCB) 7.0, which features open source voice recognition/speech APIs. AGL also welcomes five new members: BlackRidge Technology, Capgemini, Insignary, Nippon Seiki, and Total.

      • Hitachi Completes TÃœV SÃœD Certificate for FOSS Licenses Compliance
        The OpenChain Specification is the only standard for open source compliance in the supply chain. It is a document created by user companies for user companies, and it is uniquely suited for building trust between entities in procurement and M&A. The core precept of OpenChain is that any company in any market sector can quickly and effectively self-certify at no cost, providing a simple way to display their adoption of the key requirements for a quality open source compliance program. This approach provides the maximum flexibility balanced against ensuring fidelity.

        Of course some market sectors have different requirements and—in some cases—entities in a supply chain may prefer to follow a workflow with third-party, or audited, certification. The OpenChain standard is compatible with this approach too and we have been building relationships to support such third-party certification in key demographics like automotive.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Wayland 1.17 + Weston 6.0 Reach Beta
        Derek Foreman has announced the beta releases of Wayland 1.17 and Weston 6.0 with hopes of officially shipping these new releases this month.

        Marked as Wayland 1.16.92 and Weston 5.0.92, these beta releases come with just some basic fixes with the feature freeze being well past for this cycle.

      • mesa 19.0.0-rc7
        Hi list,

        I know we're a day late, but here is rc7. I had hoped that this could be our final release, but we still have 4 bugs blocking the release. I've followed up with the remaining bugs, but in the meantime here is another rc for your consumption.

      • Mesa 19.0-RC7 Released With Freedreno, Gallium Nine Fixes
        Mesa 19.0-RC7 was released on Wednesday rather than the official release due to four blocker bugs remaining, but this seventh weekly release candidate does have a number of fixes to offer.

        Mesa 19.0 is the first quarterly feature update for 2019. Mesa 19.0 brings many features and improvements over the current 18.3 stable series from selectively enabling RadeonSI NIR to supporting AMD FreeSync to other enhancements.

    • Benchmarks

      • AMDGPU vs. Radeon Kernel Driver Performance On Linux 5.0 For AMD GCN 1.0/1.1 GPUs
        seldom advertised experimental feature of the AMDGPU kernel driver has long been the GCN 1.0/1.1 graphics support. By default these Southern Islands and Sea Islands graphics processors default to the Radeon DRM driver, but with some kernel command lime parameters can use the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager driver. The AMDGPU code path is better maintained since it's used for all modern Radeon GPUs, using AMDGPU opens up Vulkan driver support, and possible performance benefits. It's a while since last testing the Radeon vs. AMDGPU driver performance for these original GCN graphics cards, so here are some fresh benchmarks using the Linux 5.0 kernel and Mesa 19.1-devel.

        GCN 1.0/1.1 support within AMDGPU remains experimental and there has been no communication by AMD developers in recent months over potentially defaulting to this driver in place of Radeon DRM. As GCN 1.0/1.1 graphics cards become increasingly less common, it raises our doubts whether a change-over will ever happen at least while these cards are still somewhat common among Linux users. In the end though the AMDGPU driver will be maintained longer with this kernel driver still in use and supported by today's latest Polaris and Vega graphics cards. Given the SMU activity for Vega 20 and appearing to also be for future GPUs, it looks like Navi will be extending the AMDGPU DRM driver once more.

  • Applications

    • 13 open source backup solutions
      Recently, we published a poll that asked readers to vote on their favorite open source backup solution. We offered six solutions recommended by our moderator community—Cronopete, Deja Dup, Rclone, Rdiff-backup, Restic, and Rsync—and invited readers to share other options in the comments. And you came through, offering 13 other solutions (so far) that we either hadn't considered or hadn't even heard of.

      By far the most popular suggestion was BorgBackup. It is a deduplicating backup solution that features compression and encryption. It is supported on Linux, MacOS, and BSD and has a BSD License.

    • man-pages-5.00 is released
      I've released man-pages-5.00. The release tarball is available on The browsable online pages can be found on The Git repository for man-pages is available on

      This release resulted from patches, bug reports, reviews, and comments from around 130 contributors. The release is rather larger than average, since it has been nearly a year since the last release. The release includes more than 600 commits that changed nearly 400 pages. In addition, 3 new manual pages were added.

    • ClusterShell – A Nifty Tool To Run Commands On Cluster Nodes In Parallel
      We had written two articles in the past to run commands on multiple remote server in parallel.

      These are Parallel SSH (PSSH) or Distributed Shell (DSH).

      Today also, we are going to discuss about the same kind of topic but it allows us to perform the same on cluster nodes as well.

      You may think, i can write a small shell script to archive this instead of installing these third party packages.

      Of course you are right and if you are going to run some commands in 10-15 remote systems then you don’t need to use this.

    • What's your favorite Linux terminal emulator?
      Most terminal emulators are graphical programs that run on any Linux graphical desktop environment, like KDE, Cinnamon, LXDE, GNOME, and others, and can emulate several different types of hardware terminals. There are many terminal emulators available for Linux. The first one, Xterm, was developed in 1984 by Thomas Dickey. Xterm is still maintained and packaged as part of many modern Linux distributions. Other popular terminal emulators include Konsole, Tilix, RXVT, GNOME terminal, Terminator, Xfce4-terminal, and LXTerminal; each has interesting features that appeal to specific groups of users. For example, some can open multiple tabs or terminals in a single window. Others have just the minimum set of features required and are typically used when small size and efficiency are called for.

      I use three terminal emulators consistently, switching between them depending on the features I need—or sometimes just because they are there. Sometimes I just want a change.

    • 14 Best Free Linux ERP Software
      Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) manages the information and functions of a business. It provides an integrated system by which the entire business can be managed. Not only does ERP improve the efficiency of an organisation it also serves to help the firm’s management make more informed decisions.

      Businesses constantly face a moving target. With globalization, competition from emerging countries, and technological improvements, organisations need to change. Traditional communication tools such as the facsimile have long been replaced by email. The internet has meant that information needs to be available at all hours of the day, not merely the working day. A modern business system needs to adapt accordingly. ERP software helps firms to rise to this challenge.

      ERP software is an integrated suite of applications which commonly cover areas such as distribution, accounting, inventory, invoicing, shipping, logistics and manufacturing. Such software is not only beneficial for large multinational organisations, as small and medium size enterprises can gain significant improvements in their efficiency by deploying ERP software.

      All of the software featured in this article is released under a freely distributable license. Some of the software applications have proprietary versions too, which add custom features and additional functionality.

      To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 14 high quality free Linux ERP software. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wishes to enhance their organisation’s efficiency.

    • Cockpit Project: Cockpit 189
      Cockpit is the modern Linux admin interface. We release regularly. Here are the release notes from version 189.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is the new FPS from 3D Realms, coming to Linux this Summer
        This is going to be awesome, 3D Realms along with KillPixel and 1C Entertainment have revealed WRATH: Aeon of Ruin their new retro-FPS. It's also releasing with Linux support and soon too.

        While Steam only lists Windows system requirements, if you hop on over to the official site there's a Linux "tux" icon to show it will support Linux and the press release sent out by 1C Entertainment has also confirmed this. Need more? Okay, how about the fancy trailer which also shows it:

      • The GOG Midweek Sale has some lovely Linux games included for cheap
        For those who prefer to buy their games from GOG for that DRM-free goodness, they have a Midweek Sale on with some good Linux games in it.

      • Spinnortality: crunching the numbers
        According to Steam I’ve sold 421 Mac copies and 202 Linux copies, out of the current total of 9000.. So almost all of my sales are for Windows copies. I suspect more copies were bought by Linux players but I’m not sure how to verify that; there doesn’t seem to be a “how many people downloaded the Linux version vs. Windows version” tool.

      • Nimbatus, the awesome space drone creation game now has Drone Racing in the latest update
        Nimbatus is a game I've been absolutely in love with from the first moment I touched it and Stray Fawn Studio only continue to impress me with the development of this Early Access title.

        Never heard of Nimbatus? You must be living under a very comfy rock. It's a ridiculously fun game, where you craft drones that you control directly or add a bunch of logic blocks to make them autonomous and then explore a destructible, procedurally generated galaxy.
      • Cyberpunk point & click adventure 'Born Punk' fully funded and heading to Linux
        Good news for fans of both Cyberpunk and Point & Click adventure games, as Born Punk has been fully funded on Kickstarter.

        The campaign just ended today, with over $48K Australian Dollars pledged from nearly 1K backers to help bring it to life. Thanks to some who pledged directly over PayPal, the final total combined was actually over $53K which means it will also get Polish, Italian and Portuguese translations.
      • The destruction-heavy twin-stick shooter 'Smith and Winston' updated with fun new content
        Smith and Winston, an incredibly stylish twin-stick shooter with destructible environments just recently had a rather large update.

        Update 6 was released yesterday with an aim to improve the spit and polish as Execution Unit work towards getting Smith and Winston finished. Since the game originally just dumped you into the thick of it, it left many people (myself included) wondering what the hell was going on. To help a little with that, there's now a sweet intro-video to at least give you a tiny glimpse into the background.

      • A new Steam Beta is up with Vulkan pipeline dumping and collection along with Steam Play improvements
        Valve just put out a new Steam Client Beta with some adjustments needed for Steam Play along with Vulkan pipeline dumping and more.

        First, they've taken another stab at fixing those pesky zero-byte updates that happen in the Linux Steam Client with Steam Play titles. Something that seemed fix but wasn't quite there with it sneaking in again in some situations. This is where Steam wants to download a zero-byte update for all your Windows games installed with Steam Play, a pretty big nuisance.

      • In the shoot 'em up ProtoCorgi, you're a cybernetic pup on a mission to save your owner
        Don't let the cute looks of it fool you, ProtoCorgi made with the free and open source Godot Engine is going to be a shoot 'em up to keep an eye on.

        In the style of some of the classics like R-Type and a great many others, it's a side-scroller so the screen slowly moves to the right as you destroy enemies and progress through.

        Developed by Kemono Games, this pup really does mean business and since it has a demo available for Linux I gave it a run. It feels great, looks good and the Linux demo seems to work very nicely. I'm really looking forward to seeing the full version of this one! Currently the Linux demo is only on, however the developer said it should be on Steam soon also.

      • Super Powered Battle Friends looks like a really fun platform fighter coming to Linux
        Offering up local and online play, the platform fighter (think like Super Smash Bros) Super Powered Battle Friends is coming to Linux.

      • The next major update for the MMO Albion Online named 'Oberon' is due March 20th
        Oberon is going to spice things up quite a bit for Albion Online, one of the few MMOs that actually has a supported Linux version.

        This is the sixth major post-release update for Albion Online, each of them improving the game in many ways. Like those that came before, Oberon will introduce some major new features to keep players happy.

        One of these features involves the Dungeons you can walk into through various points across the map, explore and take down NPCs. The problem is, they are currently quite boring. That should change, as the Oberon update will make these Dungeons procedurally generated lairs with hidden entrances. So not only do you have to find them, when you do they should be different each time which makes the world exploration and PvE in Albion Online a whole lot more interesting. The developers say they have the "potential to contain rare bosses and valuable loot".

      • The winning scene of the game
        Hello and welcome back, in this article we will create the winning scene for this pygame project. Basically, we have already created those winning scene mechanisms in the last project where the game’s winning scene will pop up when the player has concurred all the levels, the player can then press on the play button to restart the game again if he wants to.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDevelop 5.3.2 released
        recommended update for everyone currently using KDevelop 5.3.1.

        You can find the updated Windows 32- and 64 bit installers, the Linux AppImage, as well as the source code archives on our download page.

      • More on Headerbars: Rebuttals
        People pointed out that you can drag on the UI controls, or use the hidden Alt-drag shortcut. Other people questioned how useful it is to drag windows around anyway, preferring to maximize everything or use window tiling keyboard shortcuts. I will address these responses:

        “Just drag on the controls in the headerbar”

        First of all, dragging controls to drag the window isn’t very intuitive. What other controls outside the headerbar allow you to move the window when dragging on them? Sure, you can learn it, but this isn’t the same as a good user interface that re-uses familiarity with existing elements rather than making you learn new modes.

        Second, you can’t drag the window by dragging on controls that themselves implement draggable behaviors–such as tab bars, comboboxes, pop-up menus, and sliders. So those controls can’t be put on the headerbar without reducing the drag area and violating the “you can drag the window by dragging on the controls” rule. In the original post, I gave an example of Firefox’s horrendous CSD that puts draggable tabs in the headerbar, reducing the drag area for the window itself to almost nothing. Ensuring draggability by only using controls that are not themselves draggable reduces developer flexibility compared to a traditional titlebar. It’s just not a problem if you have a separate titlebar.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.32 Desktop Environment to Feature Fractional Scaling on Wayland
        Support for HiDPI monitors was available in GNOME for a while now, but it's limited to scaling windows by integral factors like 2, and most modern displays are between these DPI ranges. Fractional scaling will allow windows scaling by fractional values, such as 3/2 or 2/1.3333 to make them look better on HiDPI/4K displays.

        GNOME/Ubuntu developer Marco Trevisan reports on the fractional scaling feature for the GNOME 3.32 desktop environment, which was in the works for some years now, saying the relevant proposals have been prepared for implementation in the GNOME Shell and Mutter components for the upcoming GNOME 3.32 release next week.

  • Distributions

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • There’s no such thing as a bad question…especially when choosing your partners for your SAP project
        Growing up in the US education system, there was one thing drilled into me almost above all else: “There is no such thing as a bad question” and conversely, “the only bad question is the one not asked.” As with most things in life, asking questions and, specifically, asking the right questions can often be the difference in success or disappointment. Asking questions is such a fundamental step in every decision in our lives, whether it be related to our career or personal lives, that we almost take it for granted. Imagine trying to find a partner or a spouse without asking questions. In business, just in life, asking the right questions and, ultimately, finding the right partners can have long last lasting and not easily undone consequences both very, very good and well, not so good.

      • HOT Off the Presses, a RA for the Container Age!
        As a technology marketer, I build and come across a lot of marketing collateral. Out of the full spectrum, the ones that get downloaded and shared the most are case studies and reference architectures. The reason is simple, before you sign on to a pretty big technology commitment, you want to feel some assurance that others have done this, and there is a guaranteed “win” at the end. So I was very excited when technologists on our Dell Alliance team published our 1st SUSE CaaS Platform Reference Implementation on Dell EMC infrastructure.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 30 Wallpapers Available To Download
        Current Fedora release is 29 released last year, the next version Fedora 30 is scheduled to be released on 30, July. The new Fedora 30 wallpapers have been made available to download.

        For each new release, wallpapers are selected by the community through voting. A total number of 56 wallpapers were submitted out of which 16 have been voted in by 128 contributors.

      • NVIDIA's Binary Driver Now Works With Fedora Silverblue
        Fedora Silverblue (formerly known as Fedora Atomic Workstation) now has support for running with NVIDIA's binary graphics driver stack.

        Fedora Silverblue hasn't supported the NVIDIA Linux driver or binary kernel modules in general due to the system image being immutable, but Alexander Larsson of Red Hat has been extending Silverblue's functionality with a working akmods implementation whereby the modules are built on the rpm-ostree update command.

    • Debian Family

      • RInside 0.2.15
        A new release 0.2.15 of RInside arrived on CRAN and in Debian today. This marks the first release in almost two years, and it brings some build enhancements. RInside provides a set of convenience classes which facilitate embedding of R inside of C++ applications and programs, using the classes and functions provided by Rcpp.

        RInside is stressing the CRAN system a little in that it triggers a number of NOTE and WARNING messages. Some of these are par for the course as we get close to R internals not all of which are “officially” in the API. My continued thanks to the CRAN team for supporting the package.

        It has (once again!) been nearly two years since the last release, and a number of nice extensions, build robustifications (mostly for Windows) and fixes had been submitted over this period—see below for the three key pull requests. There are no new user-facing changes.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS released
            The Ubuntu team is happy to announce the release of Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS (Long-Term Support) for its Desktop and Server products, as well as other flavours of Ubuntu with long-term support.

            Unlike previous point releases, 14.04.6 is a security-targeted release for the purpose of providing updated installation media which protects new installations from the recently discovered APT vulnerability (USN-3863-1). Many other security updates for additional high-impact bugs are also included, with a focus on maintaining stability and compatibility with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

          • Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS Released
            Following the recent emergency release of Ubuntu 16.04.6 LTS to get out updated install media that addresses the recent APT security vulnerability and in the process other bug fixes too, Ubuntu 14.04.6 has now been released as a similar update.

            Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS is an unscheduled update to the aging Trusty Tahr but was warranted to get new install media that addresses the APT vulnerability. While in the process, the other updated SRU'ed packages were pulled in that also provide various other bug fixes compared to 14.04.5. This release does not ship a new hardware enablement stack or any other changes outside of these updated packages from the Trusty archive.

          • Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS (Trusty Tahr) Released with Patched APT Package Manager
            After last week's Ubuntu 16.04.6 LTS (Xenial Xerus) point release, Canonical now published the Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS (Trusty Tahr) point release to offer users a more secure installation media that contains a patched APT package manager against a security vulnerability affecting all Debian and Ubuntu-based operating systems, which could allow a remote attacker to install malicious packages.

            "Unlike previous point releases, 14.04.6 is a security-targeted release for the purpose of providing updated installation media which protects new installations from the recently discovered APT vulnerability (USN-3863-1). Many other security updates for additional high-impact bugs are also included, with a focus on maintaining stability and compatibility with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS," said Lukas Zemczak.

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 Release
            Ubuntu Touch is the privacy and freedom respecting mobile operating system by UBports. Today we are happy to announce the release of Ubuntu Touch OTA-8! OTA-8 is appearing as a staged rollout for all supported Ubuntu Touch devices over the next five days, completing on Sunday, March 10th. You can skip to How to get OTA-8 to get it right away if you're impatient, or read on to learn more about this release.

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 Released With Browser Improvements
            The UBports community that continues maintaining Ubuntu Touch has today released their OTA-8 update.

            Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 isn't a huge release but is primarily a maintenance update with various fixes and minor improvements to this Ubuntu Linux powered stack for smartphones/tablets. Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 most notably has Morph browser improvements, including a dark theme mode, which is currently experimental. OTA-8 also fixes Morph's displaying of browser error pages, restored support for showing favicons, and other fixes.

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 Released for Ubuntu Phones with Multiple Improvements
            A stability and bugfix release, the Ubuntu Touch OTA-8 update is here to add several improvements to the Morph Browser, among which we can mention support for the experimental system-wide dark theme, support for favicons in favorites, and support for apps to inject custom JavaScript into embedded Morph.Web views.

            Moreover, Morph Browser will now display a themed error page when the loading of pages fails, no longer fails to load the initial page of certain Web Apps, closes all tabs in a window before closing it to stop any media, supports custom user scripts for Web Apps, and correctly displays the keyboard for some screens.

          • Canonical Releases Linux Kernel Security Patch for Ubuntu 18.10, Update Now
            The Linux kernel security update addresses three vulnerabilities discovered by various security researchers in the upstream Linux kernel. These include a race condition (CVE-2019-6133) discovered by Jann Horn in Linux kernel's fork() system call, which could allow a local attacker to gain access to services caching authorizations.

            It also fixes an out of bounds write vulnerability (CVE-2018-16880) was discovered by Jason Wang in Linux kernel's vhost net driver, which could allow an attacker in a guest virtual machine to either execute arbitrary code in the host kernel or cause a denial of service (DoS) crashing the host system.

          • Why Ubuntu is Even More Awesome with 18.04.2

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Intel open-sources CVAT, a toolkit for data labeling

    To ease the burden on data annotators and data scientists alike, Intel is released a new program in open source — Computer Vision Annotation Tool (CVAT) — that’s built to speed up annotation of the video and image samples used to train computer vision algorithms.

  • Is Open Source Taking Over? [Ed: FUD article]

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Tor’s Anti-Fingerprinting Technique ‘Letterboxing’ Coming To Firefox 67
        Once again, Mozilla has taken a leaf out of Tor browser’s handbook with the introduction of user anti-fingerprinting technique in Firefox 67 which is scheduled for a release this year in May.

        Dubbed ‘Letterboxing,’ this method protects against window-size related fingerprinting which is used for profiling and tracking users.

      • Mozilla Reps Community: Rep of the Month – November 2018
        Currently he is an active Mozilla TechSpeaker and loves to evangelise about WebExtensions and Progressive Web Apps. He has been an inspiration to many and loves to keep working towards a better web. He has worked extensively on Rust and WebExtensions, conducting many informative sessions on these topics recently. Together with other Mozillians he also wrote “Building Browser Extension”.

      • James Bottomley: Using TPM Based Client Certificates on Firefox and Apache
        Firefox is somewhat hard to handle for SSL because it includes its own hand written mozilla secure sockets code, which has a toolkit quite unlike any other ssl toolkit1. In order to import a client certificate and key into firefox, you need to create a pkcs12 file containing them and import that into the “Your Certificates” box which is under Preferences > Privacy & Security > View Certificates

        Obviously, simply supplying a key file to firefox presents security issues because you’d like to prevent a clever hacker from gaining access to it and thus running off with your client certificate. Firefox achieves a modicum of security by doing all key operations over the PKCS#11 API via a software token, which should mean that even malicious javascript cannot gain access to your key but merely the signing API

        However, assuming you don’t quite trust this software separation, you need to store your client signing key in a secure vault like a TPM to make sure no web hacker can gain access to it. Various crypto system connectors, like the OpenSSL TPM2 and TPM2 engine, already exist but because Firefox uses its own crytographic code it can’t take advantage of them. In fact, the only external object the Firefox crypto code can use is a PKCS#11 module.

      • Mark Surman: Mozilla, AI and internet health: an update
        Last year the Mozilla team asked itself: what concrete improvements to the health of the internet do we want to tackle over the next 3–5 years?

        We looked at a number of different areas we could focus. Making the ad economy more ethical. Combating online harassment. Countering the rush to biometric everything. All worthy topics.

        As my colleague Ashley noted in her November blog post, we settled in the end on the topic of ‘better machine decision making’. This means we will focus a big part of our internet health movement building work on pushing the world of AI to be more human — and more humane.

  • LibreOffice

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Windows Calculator Goes Open Source [Ed Microsoft is now openwashing its surveillance in Vista 10]
    • Microsoft Open Sources Code Of Windows Calculator On GitHub
    • Microsoft makes Windows Calculator open source on GitHub [Ed: Releasing the proof is Windows is malware and spyware]

    • How To Install Ubuntu On Windows 10 In Simple Steps [Ed: Just a subset of it for Microsoft to control and spy on]
      Looking for a simple guide to install Ubuntu on a Windows 10 PC.

    • Get started with PowerShell Core on Linux [Ed: Next strategic step is making GNU/Linux just a subset of Microsoft Windows]

    • Spy Games: the NSA and GCHQ Offer Their Software to the Open Source Community [Ed: Trying to come across as less objectionable by openwashing]
      Spies worth their salt are generally expected to be good at keeping secrets. With dead drops, encryption, cyanide pills and the like, openly sharing useful information isn’t supposed to be a part of the job description.

      So it caught more than a few of us off guard when a couple years ago, some of the top spy agencies began contributing code to GitHub, making it available to the masses by open-sourcing some of their software.

      The National Security Agency, the American signals intelligence organization that is tasked with the majority of the cyber-snooping, has released two separate pages on GitHub. The first is the NSA's primary account on GitHub that has 17 listed repos, followed up by its more substantive “NSA Cybersecurity” page with its 31 repositories.

      Even though the NSA appears to have been posting some of its software as open source since 2017, presumably a result in part of the effort from the US government to make more of the code produced by the USG available to the public, the agency made news in early January when it announced plans to release a new product to the Open Source community.

    • The NSA Makes Ghidra, a Powerful Cybersecurity Tool, Open Source

      You can't use Ghidra to hack devices; it's instead a reverse engineering platform used to take "compiled," deployed software and "decompile" it. In other words, it transforms the ones and zeros that computers understand back into a human-readable structure, logic, and set of commands that reveals what the software you churn through it does. Reverse engineering is a crucial process for malware analysts and threat intelligence researchers, because it allows them to work backward from software they discover in the wild—like malware being used to carry out attacks—to understand how it works, what its capabilities are, and who wrote it or where it came from. Reverse engineering is also an important way for defenders to check their own code for weaknesses, and confirm that it works as intended.


    • GMP and assert()
      A report of a potential security problem in the GNU Multiple Precision Arithmetic (GMP) library was met with a mixed reaction, from skepticism to responses verging on hostility, but the report ultimately raised a question worth pondering. What role should assertions (i.e. calls to the POSIX assert() macro) play in error handling? An assertion that fails leads to a process exit, which may not be what a developer calling into a library expects. Unexpected behavior is, of course, one step on a path that can lead to security holes.


      He goes on to describe what happens when an assertion fails and how that can lead to sensitive information leaking. He also includes an example that uses the Nettle cryptographic library (which calls into GMP) to trigger an assertion, crash, and core dump. It turns out that the assertion is actually caused by a bug in Nettle that has since been fixed. Walton built Nettle and GMP with -DNDEBUG, which is meant to disable assert(). As noted above, that did not disable assert() in GMP, but did work for Nettle. However, that tickled a bug in one of the Nettle test cases, which caused the GMP assertion to fail. Discovering that led to some dismissive responses, but the larger point still stands: should applications expect libraries to abort()?

      Most in the thread argued that the danger of trying to continue past a failed assertion could be worse than the information leak. Security-sensitive programs should already be ensuring that no core dumps are produced and that any abort()-reporting services are disabled. In addition, as Vincent Lefèvre pointed out, there are plenty of other ways for a program to crash (e.g. segmentation fault) that could lead to the same information leak. So programs handling sensitive information need to be prepared for that in any case.

    • Introducing Valessio Brito, intern with the FSF tech team
      My name is Valessio Brito. I was born in Jacobina, a very small town in the warm northeastern region of Brazil. I got involved in free software when I was a teenager. I have been an activist and user in the free software movement for 19 years. I have had the opportunity to collaborate and participate in many projects and events in many schools and universities, primarily in Brazil, but also other countries such as South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, China and USA.

      I majored in Social Communication, with a specialization in free software development, and I am currently an ESL student at the Cambridge School. In 2005, I worked on the implementation of laboratories with Linux Terminal Server Project GNU/Linux systems as a digital inclusion initiative in more than 230 municipalities in the state of Bahia, in Brazil. Between 2009 and 2011, I worked at the Federal University of Bahia, teaching free software to public school teachers.

  • Programming/Development

    • Qt Creator 4.9 Beta2 released
      We are happy to announce the release of Qt Creator 4.9 Beta2!

      Please have a look at the blog post for the Beta for an overview of what is new in Qt Creator 4.9. Also see the change log for a more complete list of changes.

    • PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 7
      All-new direct Jupyter Notebook editing and running support, type checking on assignment, a new JavaScript debug console, and more features are already available in this week’s Early Access Program (EAP) version of PyCharm 2019.1. Download the EAP now.

    • Releasing Rustup 1.17.0
      Today marks the release of rustup version 1.17.0 which is both the first version of rustup which I have contributed code to, and also the first version which I was responsible for preparing the release of. I thought I ought to detail the experience, but first, a little background…

      At the end of last year, leading into this year, I made some plans which included an explicit statement to "give back" to the Rust community as I'd received a lot of help with, and enjoyment in, Rust from the community over the previous couple of years. I looked for ways I could contribute, including making a tiny wording PR against the compiler which I won't even bother linking here, but eventually I decided to try and help with the rust-lang/ repository and tried to tackle some of the issues therein.

    • Small Scale Scrum vs. Large Scale Scrum
      Following the publication of the Small Scale Scrum framework, we wanted to collect feedback on how teams in our target demographic (consultants, open source developers, and students) work and what they value. With this first opportunity to inspect, adapt, and help shape the next stage of Small Scale Scrum, we decided to create a survey to capture some data points and begin to validate some of our assumptions and hypotheses.

    • Introducing Quarkus: a next-generation Kubernetes native Java framework

    • OpenShift 4.0 Developer Preview on AWS is up and running

    • Getting rusage of child processes on python asyncio

    • Book Review: Serious Python

    • Revisiting PEP 394
      With the uptake of Python 3 (and the imminent end of life for Python 2.7), there is a question of which version of Python a user should get when they type "python" at the command line or have it as part of a shebang ("#!") line in a script. Back in 2011, PEP 394 ("The 'python' Command on Unix-Like Systems") was created as an informational PEP that relayed the recommendations of the Python core developers to Linux distributions and others in a similar position about which version to point python to. Now, Petr Viktorin, one of the authors of the PEP, would like to revisit those recommendations, which is something that is suggested in the PEP itself.

      Viktorin is concerned that the recommendations essentially require a distribution to include Python 2 if it wants to install a "python", in addition to explicit "python2" and/or "python3" commands. The current recommendations are that, if there is a python, it should point to the same place as python2, and that scripts which are compatible with both Python 2 and Python 3 may continue to use python on their shebang lines. That effectively means a distribution with shiny new Python 3 scripts (which also support Python 2) needs to ship Python 2, which is not what some distributions want.

      The main issue is that some distributions are supported for ten or more years, but Python 2, in the form of Python 2.7, will reach its end of life on January 1, 2020—just ten months away. That leaves those distributions with some tough choices. They can either break with PEP 394 by making the version invoked by python configurable, for example. Or they have to ship scripts that could happily work on Python 2 with shebang lines that will invoke Python 3 (e.g. #!/usr/bin/python3).

    • Is a number divisible?
      After we have wrapped up the previous Forex project we will go easy today by solving a simple question from Codewars and then I will talk about the future plan for this website at the end of this post.

      The question goes like this, we are given a number where we will need to create a method to determine whether that number is divisible by the two following numbers or not, if so then the method will return True or else it will return False.


  • 5 Ways Life Would Be Better if It Were Always Daylight Saving Time
    In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don't like it when Congress messes with their clocks.

    In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST – and a return to permanent standard time – would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never "spring forward" or "fall back."

  • Why Twitter Brings Out My Worst Self (and perhaps yours)
    As a full-time freelance writer – having transitioned from law practice at midlife, accursed with all the selfish, self-doubting sensibilities that kind of crisis entails – Twitter brings out my absolute worst self. With my insuppressible, hereditary, Type-A personality, coupled with my raging but not formally diagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder, when I click on that deceptively peaceful, blue Twitter-bird icon, I transition into a digital-age monster.

    I assume the same would be true for Facebook, Instagram, and all such forms of social media, but as Twitter is the only one of these soul-sapping hellscapes I’m on, this column concerns my Twitter peccadillos only – and, don’t take offense, I’m guessing perhaps some of yours, too. Caveat: this is not another one of those columns about how you, I, and all of us, really need to stop letting our smartphones consume us. Nor am I offering any pragmatic advice on how to use electronic devices less and more wisely, which really just means more intentionally.

    I joined Twitter and click on that bird-of-distraction daily, more than I’d like to admit, with the sole intention of sharing my writing – which these days focuses, with the rare exception, on abolishing the death penalty, criminal justice reform, and reggae – with the world. Very quickly, just as with a drug or gambling addiction, and despite my own self-protestations, I became hooked.

  • Science/'AI' Hype

    • Forty percent of ‘AI startups’ in Europe don’t actually use AI, claims report

      According to the survey from London venture capital firm MMC, 40 percent of European startups that are classified as AI companies don’t actually use artificial intelligence in a way that is “material” to their businesses. MMC studied some 2,830 AI startups in 13 EU countries to come to its conclusion, reviewing the “activities, focus, and funding” of each firm.

    • Uber escapes criminal charges for 2018 self-driving death in Arizona

      While Uber appears to be off the hook, Uber driver Rafael Vasquez could still face criminal charges. Dashcam video showed Vasquez repeatedly looking down at her lap in the final minutes before the crash—including five agonizing seconds just before her car struck Herzberg. Records obtained from Hulu suggest that Vazquez was streaming the television show The Voice just before the fatal crash.

    • Uber won’t be charged with fatal self-driving crash, says prosecutor

      Now, it’ll be up to Maricopa to determine whether Uber’s backup safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez, should be charged with a crime instead. According to Tempe police, she was watching The Voice on Hulu during most of her entire shift, right up until the time of the accident.

    • Uber found not criminally liable in last year’s self-driving car death

      Uber settled with Herzberg’s family on undisclosed terms a few weeks after the crash.

    • From the stars to the steppes: How Kazakhstan welcomes ISS astronauts back to Earth
      For the first time in Russia, images by the Irish photographer and two-time World Press Photo award winner Andrew McConnell will be displayed in a public exhibit. Re-entry is open in Moscow’s Museum of Cosmonautics until March 31. The foundation of the project is a set of photographs McConnell took in Kazakhstan during reentry missions from the International Space Station. Here, Meduza offers a preview of those photos.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Attempts to Restrict Insurance Coverage Are Abortion Stigma at Work
      Within a matter of weeks, anti-abortion lawmakers have made multiple attempts to ban insurance coverage of abortion and make care unaffordable and out of reach. In November, the Trump administration proposed rules to require insurers on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace to send every enrolled person a separate monthly bill for abortion coverage. If enacted, new rules would force health plans to increase overhead costs for insurers that do provide coverage for abortion care, confusing plan enrollees who may get dropped from their plans if they do not understand that now they have to send separate payments every month.

      The administration’s latest proposal in January would require those same insurers who offer abortion coverage to also offer a mirror plan that doesn’t cover abortion. (However, this rule would not apply to states that mandate abortion coverage, such as New York, California, Washington and Oregon.) Both of these rules are designed to dissuade insurers from offering abortion coverage and create confusion among consumers.

      Not satisfied with these backdoor bans, the Senate recently introduced a sweeping bill that would have expanded the harms of existing coverage bans and written them into permanent law. While this bill was defeated, altogether, these insurance coverage restrictions disproportionately hurt those struggling to get by, interfere in people’s ability to make decisions about whether and when to become a parent, and perpetuate stigma and judgment surrounding abortion.

      One in four women in the U.S. has had an abortion by 45. Think of all the women in your life — how many have felt comfortable sharing an abortion story? We don’t hesitate to talk about a knee replacement or gall bladder surgery, but abortion is still whispered about, or not talked about at all. Laws and policies like the ones proposed by this administration contribute to that stigma by isolating abortion from other types of medical and health care, and making people jump through unnecessary hoops to access care.

    • Wastewater Treatment Plants Could Contribute to a ‘Post-Antibiotic World,’ Study Warns
      Antibiotic-resistance is a growing concern, and now a new study from the University of Southern California (USC) has pinpointed another way it can spread: through wastewater treatment plants.

      The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology last week, found that if bacteria in wastewater treatment plants are exposed to just one type of antibiotic, they can actually develop resistance to several drugs.

    • From Mowing the Grass to Cutting the Flesh
      It was certainly ridiculous to celebrate menstrual cramps, which can be pretty awful. One of my lovers used to vomit monthly from the pain. But then Stewart Adams invented ibuprofen and millions of women rejoiced. (Dr. Adams’s death this January didn’t receive the media attention many of us -- whether weekend warrior athletes or women “of childbearing age” -- think it should have.)

      We had some other silly ideas about our vaginas: we thought that if you inserted carefully peeled garlic cloves in them you could cure a yeast infection. (As far as I know, it didn’t work, but if you nicked one of those cloves with the knife as you were preparing it, it sure would burn!) Plain yogurt may have worked a little better, by creating an acidic environment inhospitable to yeast, but boy was it messy! And don’t get me started on using sea sponges as tampons. Let’s just say that they act like any other wet sponge when you squeeze them. Not the moment to practice your Kegel exercises.


      In college, my friends’ therapists were giving out copies of The Power of Sexual Surrender, a pernicious little book which claimed that “the problem of sexual frigidity in women is one of the gravest problems of our times.” Its chapter on “The Normal Orgasm” assured them that real women achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone and that, “in the fully mature female, this sensitivity [of the clitoris] often diminishes, giving way to the vagina as the primary source of the greatest sexual pleasure.” (Just to be clear: this is a lie.) All a woman needed to do to achieve a “mature” orgasm, we were assured, was to recognize that “the sexual act in its purest form expresses the essential passivity associated with women and the aggressiveness of the male, the actor and the acted-upon.”

      Imagine, then, the life-changing revelation in Anne Koedt’s 1970 essay, “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.” She confirmed what some of us had figured out for ourselves: “Actually the vagina is not a highly sensitive area and is not constructed to achieve orgasm.” (Not that many women don’t enjoy penetration, but the vast majority of us need something more.) Maybe, it finally occurred to us, we weren’t immature, frigid women; maybe we were just having bad sex.

    • 59 Craft Breweries Tell EPA Dirty Water Proposal Threatens Key Ingredient 'on Which Our Livelihoods Depend'
      Thursday a group of 59 craft breweries sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opposing the agencies' "Dirty Water Rule" proposal to slash clean water protections for waterways around the country

    • The Time for Medicare-for-All Has Finally Arrived
      Last week, as the media focused on President Donald Trump’s North Korea summit in Vietnam and the congressional testimony of his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, a largely overlooked news conference took place, announcing legislation that could save millions of lives. Seattle Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, the latest attempt to pass single-payer health care. Jayapal’s bill has 106 co-sponsors, close to half of the Democrats in the House.

      Jayapal is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the House. Among the bill’s co-sponsors was Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell. She replaced her late husband, John Dingell Jr., who was the longest serving member of Congress in history, holding the seat since 1955. John Dingell, who died in February at the age of 92, was a stalwart backer of single-payer health care, introducing legislation yearly during his 60-year tenure. He was inspired by his father, John Dingell Sr., who held that same congressional seat for the 18 years before his son. Dingell Sr. first proposed single-payer health care in 1943.

      With the new Congress this year, the most diverse in history, the 75-plus-year-long effort to secure universal health care may be at a tipping point. Whether or not it passes—considered unlikely with the Senate and White House under Republican control—single-payer health care will undoubtedly be a central issue in the 2020 presidential race.

    • There Are 106 Democratic Co-Sponsors for Medicare for All. What's Up With the Other 130?
      A week after the introduction of comprehensive single-payer healthcare legislation, Congressional Democrats are split over the bill.

      Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) unveiled the Medicare for All Act Feb. 27 in an outdoor press conference. On Wednesday morning, Jayapal appeared on Democracy Now! to tell hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez where the legislation stood a week in and stressed the universal popularity of the plan.

      "This is a plan that unites Republicans, Democrats, and independents," said Jayapal. "It's certainly what the polling shows, that people are with us on this."

    • Health Care Costs and the Budget
      Budget projections show the federal budget deficit growing substantially in the next decade and beyond. A major part of this story is high US health care costs. The United States pays roughly twice as much per person for its health care with little to show in the way of better outcomes. If US health care costs were in line with those in other countries, the budget picture would be substantially improved.

      I will make five main points in this discussion. First, I show how the budget outlook would look if US health care costs were comparable to those in other wealthy countries. Second, I point out that US health care costs have actually slowed substantially over the last decade. This fact has drawn remarkably little attention. Third, I point out that we pay roughly twice as much for prescription drugs as other wealthy countries and describe routes for bringing down drug prices. Fourth, we also pay twice as much for our physicians as other wealthy countries. Fifth, our administrative costs also vastly exceed costs in other wealthy countries.

      These areas are sources of massive waste. If we could get these costs more in line with costs in other wealthy countries, universal health care coverage in the United States would be affordable and not be a major drain on the budget in the years ahead.

    • Claire's Cosmetics Test Positive for Asbestos, FDA Warns
      "Each day, cosmetic products are sold to consumers across the U.S. – some to children under the age of 18, still in the formative years of development. These products are used as part of daily beauty and cleansing routines, often times on the skin's most sensitive areas, like the face, eyelids and lips. That's why it's so important that cosmetic products are safe, properly labeled and free of contamination," outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Susan Mayne said in a statement about the test results.

      Claire's, which filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 and only emerged last October, disputed the FDA's results.

      "The recent test results the FDA have shared with us show significant errors. Specifically, the FDA test reports have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos, in direct contradiction to established EPA and USP criterion for classifying asbestos fibers. Despite our efforts to discuss these issues with the FDA, they insisted on moving forward with their release," the company said in a statement.

    • 21 Attorneys General File Suit Against Trump Attack on Abortion
      Yesterday, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) filed suit in federal court to block the Trump administration’s Title X “domestic gag rule,” which places serious limitations on abortion providers and referring doctors. This filing follows on the heels of parallel action from a coalition of 21 attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. The suit names Alex Azar, current secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and alleges, “The Final Rule would impose burdensome and unnecessary restrictions that would reduce access to care, interfere with the patient-provider relationship, and undermine Congress’s intent in enacting Title X of the Public Health Service Act nearly five decades ago.”

      Joining Oregon and New York in the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

    • A Surrogate Mother’s Cautionary Tale
      Surrogacy—the act of using a surrogate to conceive and bear a child—is on the rise around the world. Defenders of this practice say that everyone benefits from it. But a U.S. woman named Annie (a pseudonym) found out what happens when the relationship between a surrogate and the couple who hope to raise the child goes wrong.

      Surrogacy made so much sense to Annie at first. Following a series of bereavements, she and her husband, Pat, felt the need to “bring life into the world again,” she says.

      “Pat’s brother passed unexpectedly, and then my cousin, who was like a mom to me, followed by Pat’s cousin, who was found dead in a hotel room; my great uncle; then my aunt,” Annie says. “All of this happened in the span of a year.”

      She had four children from a previous marriage, but an ectopic pregnancy left her unable to conceive naturally again. Annie, in her late 30s at the time, was advised to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). She and Pat couldn’t afford that, however.

      The couple wasn’t poor, “but time was a factor for us, and we didn’t think that we would be able to come up with that amount of money in a short amount of time,” Annie says.

    • 'Part of a Disturbing Trend of Willful Ignorance,' Say Scientists, After Investigation Shows EPA, Texas Rejected Air Quality Data Post-Hurricane Harvey
      President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency and Texas state officials rejected an offer from NASA scientists in 2017 to use their state-of-the-art flying laboratory to evaluate air quality in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, new reporting by the Los Angeles Times reveals.

      "This is disturbing," said Lina Hidalgo, judge for Texas's Harris County.

      Harvey brought historic rainfall, catastrophic flooding, and triggered potentially dangerous environmental and public health impacts: Houston's many refineries and petrochemical released pollutants into the air and waters, and area residents began to complain of worrisome smells and toxic sights near the facilities, as well as symptoms including headaches. The EPA asserted that the air quality posed no threat.

      NASA, it turned out, was in a good position to gather data on air quality in the area with its DC-8. The jet, whose ability to ability to gather data dwarfs that of the EPA's air pollution plane or the hand-held devices used by Texas state officials, was already set up for testing because of a scheduled six-hour test flight to Lamont, Oklahoma on Sept. 14.

      The response to NASA's offer? Thanks but no thanks.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Elliott Abrams’ Bloody Lies
      Elliott Abrams, President Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, first became notorious in 1982 after he was named assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Reagan administration. As a junior point man for the Reagan administration’s wars in Central America, Abrams was an aggressive defender of pro-U.S. forces that committed human rights atrocities and fierce critics of those who reported accurately on their war crimes.

      With Abrams set to testify this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his early days as a U.S. policymaker can serve as a guide to what we can expect from the Trump administration’s policy of “regime change” in Venezuela.

      In an exchange that made national news at a House Foreign Affairs Committee last month, Rep. Ilhan Omar confronted Abrams about his conviction for lying to Congress and false statements he made about the infamous El Mozote massacre.

    • End the Wars and Clean the Ground, Free Food and Housing All Around
      So, what should we do? What else should be banned By a Green New Deal that’s Great and Grand? Planned obsolescence, an adjunct of profit, Will fall off like a scab Once exploitation and rent has been banned, Along with private property — Don’t worry, you’ll have privacy, Security of tenure, see, Is part of a healthy democracy. And nobody covets your personalty.

    • ACLU Comment on EO Revoking Requirement to Release Casualty Numbers From Lethal Strikes Abroad
      President Trump today issued an executive order revoking a 2016 executive order provision requiring the government to release annual statistics on drone and other lethal strikes overseas. The 2016 order required the government to disclose the number of strikes as well as the number of combatants and non-combatants killed in counterterrorism operations “away from areas of active hostilities.”

      Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, issued the following statement in response:

      "President Trump has already weakened rules that sought to limit civilian deaths caused by this country’s illegal and immoral lethal force program, in which it kills suspects in places where we are not at war. This order now shrouds those killings in even greater secrecy.
    • 'Shameful': Trump Ends Rule Requiring US to Disclose Number of Civilians Killed by Drone Strikes
      Trump used an executive order to scrap the three-year-old rule, which instructed the Director of National Intelligence to produce an annual report on all civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes outside of official war zones.

      As Common Dreams reported at the time, the White House ignored last May's deadline for disclosing civilian deaths from drone strikes and suggested it could rescind the transparency requirement.

      Now that the rule has been canceled, critics feared that the Trump administration will be able to continue expanding the use of drone strikes overseas with even less oversight.

      "This is a shameful decision that will shroud this administration's actions in even more secrecy with little accountability for its victims," Daphne Eviatar, director of security with human rights at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. "The public deserves to know how many civilians are killed by U.S. actions. This is an unconscionable decision and in complete disregard of fundamental human rights."

    • A Modest Proposal: Don’t Start a Nuclear War
      In a matter of minutes, as easily as sending a tweet, a sitting U.S. president could decide to launch a nuclear attack, without anyone else’s approval or authorization. In a matter of minutes, millions of lives would be lost, and millions of futures halted permanently.

      At my organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, we believe that we must prevent what we can’t cure. And there’s no cure for a nuclear war.

      No nation on earth, including the United States, would have an adequate emergency response in the event of a nuclear exchange. Most Americans don’t want us to ever engage in a nuclear war, and the vast majority of us certainly don’t want the United States to be the ones to start a nuclear war.

      The United States, like every other nation, has a vested interest in avoiding a nuclear conflict.

    • Vladimir Putin says terrorism-related crimes in Russia have declined 110-fold in the past decade. Published statistics say he’s wrong.
      The president didn’t clarify what “crimes related to terrorism” he has in mind. Last year, however, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev referred to nine terrorism-related crimes, so we can assume Putin was given similar data.

      Publicly available statistics don’t support Putin’s “997” figure, but FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov and Russia’s National Counter-Terrorism Committee previously cited similar data for 2010, though they identified 779 terrorism-related crimes, not 997. There’s reason to believe that President Putin may have simply misread the number provided to him.

    • A Russian activist explains why he risked arrest to yell ‘Burn in Hell!’ at a Stalin memorial
      On Tuesday, hundreds of elderly Russians lined up outside the Kremlin’s walls to lay flowers at the foot of a monument to Joseph Stalin, honoring the dictator on the 66th anniversary of his death. This year’s ritual was disrupted, however, by two “Decommunization Project” activists, Evgeny Suchkov and Olga Savchenko, who threw their carnations at the Stalin memorial, resulting in their immediate detention by police. (Suchkov also yelled, “Burn in hell, executioner of the people and murderer of women and children!”) Officers charged the two with the misdemeanor offense of violating Russia’s public assembly laws, and a court promptly fined them 500 rubles (about $8). Evgeny Suchkov told Meduza why he decided to crash the Communists’ memorial event.

    • ‘It’s as if Korea as a Country Just Doesn’t Exist to Them’
      We’re told the summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un has ended with no agreement. That may be received as good news by, say, the former CIA chief of staff that MSNBC brought on to warn viewers that Trump’s “bromance” would lead him to “cave” on nuclear weapons. And to the think tank expert whose op-ed in the LA Times explained that the long sought-after recognition of the end of the Korean War might sound “innocuous,” but is actually dangerous, because it might lead to a real peace treaty on the peninsula, and “if South and North Korea were to enter into a formal of state of peace, what would be the rationale for keeping 28,000 US troops in South Korea?”

      You can be forgiven for being unsure exactly what’s going on here, but we would hope that a baseline idea would be that arguments against peace should get serious scrutiny.

      Joining us now to talk about the Hanoi Summit and Korea peace talks is journalist Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Tim Shorrock.

    • Trump: The Art of the No Deal
      Last week Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed Master of the Deal, walked away from his second summit with the North Korean leader empty handed. There was no agreement on denuclearization and ending sanctions. For all the pre-meeting hype, there was no deal.

      What’s the big deal?

      Trump the Promoter has promoted business-speak and a business mentality into the public sphere. While we normally use the word “deal” in a business sense, President Trump has brought business talk/attitudes into diplomatic discourse. Traditional terms such as compromise or consensus have fallen prey to financial terms such as “deal,” with all the wheeling and dealing that it entails. Instead of talking about the common good, public commons or communal values, Trump has reduced diplomacy to a language of a used-car salesman. “It’s a deal. Let’s shake on that,” has replaced consultations, formal negotiations, signings and ratifications.

      Instead of negotiation, we are presented with personal confrontations. Mano a mano, hand-to-hand, the leaders are presented as involved in a form of verbal confrontation. And the reporting of the face-to-face meetings between Trump and Kim Jong-un show this decline. “Trump-Kim summit no victory…” CNBC summarized an analyst’s comments.

    • Nuclear Brinkmanship is Back: Why We need a New Peace Movement
      MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is truly mad. At the height of the Cold War some military analysts and planners maintained that parity in weapons that would destroy civilization prevented either side from resort to those weapons. Parity, however, is a slippery concept, especially in an environment where science and engineering are continually evolving. Each side may have moments when it believes or imagines that it has a decisive edge. Trusting in MAD is especially foolish when the participants still refuse to pledge no first use of atomic or thermonuclear weapons.

      MAD poses other dilemmas as well. How do you convince current or potential adversaries that in the event of nuclear attack you will respond in kind? The best and only sure way to show you are serious about and would use nuclear weapons is actually to launch a nuclear attack. But short of that apocalyptic act one can demonstrate proficiency and willingness to act by playing “war games.”

    • Loathsome Repubs Clutch Hilarious Mock Pearls To Taunt Gun Violence Victims. Ha Good One!
      At a New Hampshire State House public hearing for a proposed "red flag" law that would keep guns away from those posing a risk to themselves or others, mothers and relatives of those killed by guns tearfully avowed they "will carry this grief for the rest of our lives" as male GOP lawmakers sported long fake pearls to deride their concerns. For good measure, at least one particularly classy legislator also wore a large rifle pin on his lapel. Shannon Watts, who started the Moms Demand Action gun-control group after Sandy Hook, tweeted images of these asshats as she attended Tuesday's hearing on House Bill 687; it mirrors a law passed in nine other states that's proven effective in reducing suicides. Of the 13 person hearing committee, Watts noted, "10 of the lawmakers are men; half of them are wearing pearls to mock (constituents) in tears as they testify about gun suicides and domestic gun violence in their families." Happy Women's History Month!

    • Setting the Stage for an Encounter at the Colombia-Venezuela Border
      On February 23, The U.S. and Colombian governments together tried to push humanitarian supplies from the Colombian border city Cúcuta into Venezuela. The humanitarian aid was a Trojan horse that, in theory, would confront Venezuelan security forces with a dilemma. These would supposedly step aside or desert. A take-down of Venezuela’s socialist government would follow. But the soldiers, police, and people’s militia remained loyal to the emancipating legacy of President Hugo Chávez. They blocked the trucks and the façade shattered.

      Fire consumed a truck heading for the border. The rubble contained aid material but also whistles, gas masks, steel cables, spikes, and wires. Anti-government rioters in Venezuelan streets would go without.

      Colombia is a U.S. proxy warrior. It’s a partnership prepared over the course of decades, one that is dangerous for the neighborhood and central to U.S. pretensions in the region. An understanding of why the alliance is strong and how it persists may shed light on the context of the Cúcuta incident and on what’s to come.

      The flow of money is one aspect. According to a report, “The United States is Colombia’s largest trading partner” and “U.S. exports to Colombia in 2017 [were] valued at USD 13.3 billion.” U.S. direct investment of $2.2 billion exceeded that of all other countries in 2017. The U.S. ultra-rich have soul mates in Colombia. Millionaires there numbered 21,900 in 2007, 35,900 in 2012. One percent of Colombians own 40.65 percent of the wealth there. Colombia’s income inequality is second in the world only to that of the United States.

      Two big items cementing the alliance are: ideological solidarity manifesting as anti-communism and high marks earned by Colombia in Washington for reliability in advancing common goals. Its ruling-class is well-known for stopping at nothing to stay in power.

      President Alfonso López Pumarejo governmentdid advance liberal reforms in the 1930s. Otherwise, big landowners have controlled Colombian politics with an assist recently from business moguls. The post World War II roll call featured a proto-fascist, President Laureano Gómez; a military dictator, Gustavo Rojas; an assortment of reactionary Conservative and Liberal Party presidents; and the extremist Alvaro Uribe. His protégée Iván Duqueis president now.

    • Germany extends ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia
      Germany announced Wednesday it would extend a temporary ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the end of the month. The ban, which Germany instituted following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, applies to countries involved in the Yemen war, and has led to both domestic and international tension, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government facing pressure from the German arms industry and some EU neighbors angered over the export freeze. The ban was originally set to last until March 9. "We decided this [extension] with a view to developments in Yemen," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said following a meeting of Merkel's cabinet. "We believe that the Yemen war must end as soon as possible." "Not only will there not be any permits issued until the end of this month, but products with permits already granted will also not be delivered," Maas added. The minister said that the German government would evaluate the arms export situation with respect to developments in Yemen over the course of the month.

    • Donald Trump’s Nuclear Doctrine Threatens Human Life on Earth
      President Donald Trump has made some very significant policy decisions since entering office that have undermined nuclear non-proliferation on a global level. The two most notable examples include Trump’s withdrawal from a key bilateral nuclear weapons treaty with Russia and his decision to leave the Iranian nuclear deal.

      Trump announced this January that he would initiate a six-month withdrawal process that would see the United States quitting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, claiming a number of violations by that country.

      The United States has alleged that Russia has been violating the terms of the INF agreement for several years with the expansion and deployment of 2,000 km-range nuclear-capable ground-launched missiles, also referred to as SSC-8 by NATO.

      These claims have been repeatedly rejected by Moscow.

      In response to Trump’s announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back by saying that the Kremlin would exit the Cold War-era treaty, which restricts both countries from deploying missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

      The situation is compounded by the fact that the New START agreement, a separate bilateral treaty, which limits the stockpiles and launch platforms that both countries can deploy, is due to expire in 2021, with neither country is likely to renegotiate.

    • Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative
      I still do not know what happened in the Skripal saga, which perhaps might more respectfully be termed the Sturgess saga. I cannot believe the Russian account of Borishov and Petrov, because if those were their real identities, those identities would have been firmly established and displayed by now. But that does not mean they attempted to kill the Skripals, and there are many key elements to the official British account which are also simply incredible.


      After the poisoning of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, the Police cordoned off Charlie Rowley’s home and began a search for “Novichok”, in an attitude of extreme urgency because it was believed this poison was out amidst the public. They were specifically searching for a small phial of liquid. Yet it took 11 days of the search before they allegedly discovered the “novichok” in a perfume bottle sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter – and only after they had discovered the clue of the perfume bottle package in the bin the day before, after ten days of search.

      The bottle was out of its packaging and “novichok”, of which the tiniest amount is deadly, had been squirted out of its nozzle at least twice, by both Rowley and Sturgess, and possibly more often. The exterior of the bottle/nozzle was therefore contaminated. Yet the house, unlike the Skripals’ roof space, has not had to be destroyed.

      I do not believe it took the Police eleven days to find the very thing they were looking for, in plain sight as exactly the small bottle of liquid sought, on a kitchen bench. What else was happening?

    • Trump’s Nuclear Doctrine Increases the Likelihood of Human Extinction
      President Donald Trump has made some very significant policy decisions since entering office that have undermined nuclear non-proliferation on a global level. The two most notable examples include Trump’s withdrawal from a key bilateral nuclear weapons treaty with Russia and his decision to leave the Iranian nuclear deal.

      Trump announced this January that he would initiate a six-month withdrawal process that would see the United States quitting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, claiming a number of violations by that country.

      The United States has alleged that Russia has been violating the terms of the INF agreement for several years with the expansion and deployment of 2,000 km-range nuclear-capable ground-launched missiles, also referred to as SSC-8 by NATO.

      These claims have been repeatedly rejected by Moscow.

      In response to Trump’s announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back by saying that the Kremlin would exit the Cold War-era treaty, which restricts both countries from deploying missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

      The situation is compounded by the fact that the New START agreement, a separate bilateral treaty, which limits the stockpiles and launch platforms that both countries can deploy, is due to expire in 2021, with neither country is likely to renegotiate.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • California Legislators Want To Make It More Difficult For Records Requesters To Get Documents From The Government
      The California legislature handed the public a win by making police misconduct records obtainable through records requests. The transparency very few law enforcement agencies are welcoming is still being litigated, but going forward it seems clear cops will no longer be able to hide their misconduct behind a wall of government-enabled opacity.

      I guess California legislators believe some sort of transparency equilibrium must be maintained. They've introduced a bill that will make it more difficult for requesters to obtain documents. (via Dave Maass) The bill amends the state's public records law to create another hoop for requesters to jump through before they can get a hold of documents the law says are rightfully theirs.

    • The WikiLeaks documents that should be written on New Labour’s gravestone
      Time and again, WikiLeaks shows us what our elected officials do when they think we’re not watching. From the invasion of Iraq and Trident to Saudi Arabia and the Chagos Islands, WikiLeaks has published documents that should leave British politicians not only red-faced but facing court.

      A new dossier by the Defend WikiLeaks campaign now highlights the WikiLeaks cables on the ‘New Labour’ project that should be written on its gravestone.


      A 2009 cable also reveals that the government of former PM Gordon Brown “put measures in place to protect [US] interests” during the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq. The full nature of that ‘protection’ remains unknown. But remarkably, no US officials were ever called to give evidence in public for the inquiry.

      A separate US cable also shows how the US and UK governments “rigged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop it being able to hold [Tony] Blair and [George W.] Bush accountable for the crime of aggression over Iraq”. After 12 years of stalling discussions, the US, UK, France, Russia, and China voted in 2010 to keep “the power to determine aggression within the Security Council where they have veto power”.

      In other words, seven years after waging a war of aggression on Iraq, the UK and the US voted to choose when to be exempt from international law concerning wars of aggression.

    • WikiLeaks cables reveal US concern at Conservative ties with antisemitic parties
      On 6 March, campaign group Defend WikiLeaks shared a selection of largely unreported WikiLeaks cables, offering a rare insight into the Conservatives under David Cameron.

      Notably, the cables show concern in Washington over ties between the Conservative Party and antisemitic parties in Europe.

    • With Ecuador’s Cooperation Bought by IMF Loans, Washington Waxes Optimistic on Assange Extradition
      Chelsea Manning’s fight against her subpoena in the U.S. Department of Justice’s grand-jury case targeting WikiLeaks founder and former publisher Julian Assange this past week has revealed several uncomfortable truths, not only about that investigation but also about the fate of Assange, whose asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy hangs precariously in the balance.

      While reporting on the probe has largely focused on the nature of the still-sealed DOJ case, most reports have largely missed the fact that the marked increase in activity relating to the probe is directly related to the fact that Ecuador has, by all indications, agreed to rescind Assange’s asylum so that he may be extradited to the United States. As a consequence, the U.S. is moving forward with its case against Assange and WikiLeaks — which began nearly a decade ago in 2010 — now that it has received assurances that Assange’s extradition is a matter of when, not if.

      Just days into 2019, the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who had originally granted Assange asylum in 2012, shared via Twitter a document showing that Ecuador’s current government, led by Lenín Moreno, was “auditing” Assange’s asylum as well as Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship, which he had been granted in late 2017.

    • Chelsea Manning prepares for reimprisonment for refusing to testify in WikiLeaks probe
      WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning said Thursday that she anticipates being jailed as a result of refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia. Manning, a 31-year-old former Army intelligence analyst, said that she declined to answer questions from federal prosecutors this week about her disclosures to WikiLeaks, a website published by Australian-born activist Julian Assange. A judge will decide Friday whether to find her in contempt. “Yesterday, I appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony. All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013,” Manning said in a statement. Manning responded to each question with the same statement, she said: “I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment and other statutory rights.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Senate Showdown Over Green New Deal
      Senate Democrats sparred with Republicans on the floor Wednesday over the Green New Deal, interrogating GOP lawmakers bashing the proposal over their plans to combat climate change.

      "Maybe a lot of members think they can get away without having to answer the question [about what to do about climate change]," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told collected lawmakers. "They won't." Majority Leader McConnell said earlier this week that he plans to bring a vote on the Green New Deal over the next few weeks, and some leading Democrats told Politico that they plan to vote "present" on the politically tricky legislation while taking Republicans to task on their climate denial. "This is the first time Democrats have decided to go on offense on climate change," Schumer told the New York Times in an interview earlier this week, but added that "it's going to take us a little while to come up with a consensus that works."

    • Re-Inhabiting Planet Earth
      “I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the Earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.”

      These words of Manhattan Project physicist Emilio Segre, quoted by Richard Rhodes in his book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, refer to the Trinity blast on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, N.M., the first atomic explosion in history and, so it appears, a turning point for all life on this planet.

      The atmosphere didn’t catch fire at 5:30 that morning, but Segre’s words remain relevant, sort of like radioactive fallout. They encapsulate what may be history’s ultimate moment of human arrogance: the belief in a sense of separateness from and superiority to nature so thorough that we have, with our monstrous intelligence, the ability and therefore the right to play Bad God and make the whole planet go poof.

      Turns out the Trinity test set into motion something even more profound than the nuclear era. The bomb didn’t just “defeat” Japan and define the Cold War, with its suicidal nuclear arms race. It is also, at least symbolically, marks the beginning of what has come to be known as the Anthropocene: an era of profound climate and “Earth system” destabilization caused by human activity and therefore, like it or not, establishing humans as co-equal participants in activity of the natural world.

    • Spain’s Socialists Have Big Green Plans for the Country
      Sanchez proposes spending $53 billion on the plans, which will save nearly $80 billion in the cost of importing petroleum and other hydrocarbons.


      In 2018, sun-powered electricity in Spain nearly doubled, because of a drop in the price of solar panels. That is, the goals discussed above may be far too conservative, and progress toward 100% green energy will likely come faster than the Spanish government now envisages, driven as much by consumers’ desire to save money and improved efficiency and lower prices, i.e. by market mechanisms, even if the government becomes less ambitious.

      Meanwhile, the Belearic Islands and 26 other European Union islands are planning to be net carbon zero by 2050, and to begin closing coal fired elecricity plants. After 2035, new car sales must be of electric vehicles. Tourism destinations such as Ibiza will benefit from having green energy, not only in reducing damaging air pollution, but also because holiday makers are starting to shop for green destinations.

    • For offshore wind turbines size matters
      Offshore wind power is set to become one of the world’s largest electricity producers in the next decade as costs fall and turbines grow in size.

      Up till now turbines standing on the seabed near to the coast in Europe have been seen as the most promising technology for offshore wind farms. But the success of floating machines that can be deployed in deeper water has meant many more coastal communities can benefit. Japan and the US are among the countries with the greatest potential.

      The speed with which the industry has grown in the last decade has defied all expectations. Large turbines used to have a two to three megawatt output, but now the standard size is 7.5 megawatts and turbines capable of generating up to 10 megawatts are in the pipeline.

      As a result the output of one offshore turbine is thirty times greater than with the first ones deployed in 1991 − and the cost has fallen to half that of new nuclear power.

      This, coupled with experience showing that the wind blows more steadily out to sea and produces far more consistent power than turbines on land, has led many more countries to see offshore wind as a major potential source of renewable energy. The turbines have shown themselves to be robust even in extreme storm conditions.

    • Putin’s spokesman called a question about this stolen gas pipeline ‘slander.’ Two months later, the police are investigating.
      The website Fontanka publishes an investigative report about Gazprom’s construction of a 100-kilometer-long (62-mile-long) gas pipeline in Priozersk, outside St. Petersburg. According to financial records, the project’s contractor, “Omega,” completed the work back in 2014 and received 1.7 billion rubles ($25.8 million, according to the current exchange rate). Journalists later discovered, however, that only the first of four sections was ever finished: just 40 kilometers (25 miles) of pipeline. In September 2017, Omega declared bankruptcy.

    • Bolstering Call for Urgent Global Action, New Study Shows Microplastic Pollution 'Absolutely Everywhere'
      "It's no use looking back in 20 years time and saying: 'If only we'd realized just how bad it was,'" lead researcher Christian Dunn of Bangor University in Wales told the Guardian. "We need to be monitoring our waters now and we need to think, as a country and a world, how we can be reducing our reliance on plastic."

      Dunn worked with a team of scientists and postgraduate students as well as the environmental group Friends of the Earth to test 10 rivers and lakes, including the Thames River in London and two sites in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, for microplastics.

      Microplastics are tiny particles that have broken away from large plastics such as synthetic clothing or discarded food containers. Much of the concern over microplastic contamination has come from studying ocean pollution, but researchers also have found particles in sea turtles' bellies, many marine mammals, and even human stools.

    • Trump Admin Announces Plan to Strip Gray Wolves of Endangered Species Act Protections
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will attempt to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the lower 48 states, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced Wednesday.

      Bernhardt, who took over from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in January, has been a key force behind efforts by the Trump administration's Department of Interior(DOI) to weaken the landmark conservation act.

      "For over a hundred years, wolves have been needlessly persecuted. This is just one more example of the Trump Administration's attacks on the Endangered Species Act and the vulnerable wildlife it protects," Bonnie Rice of Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign said in a statement. "Wolves have barely started to recover in some areas, and still occupy only five percent of their historic range. Now is not the time to remove vital protections."

    • It’s Not Just Our Planet That Needs a Green New Deal—Our People Do Too
      Should the richest country on earth invest to keep the planet we all share inhabitable? We believe the answer is yes — and fast. Unfortunately, not all lawmakers seem to agree.

      Last month, our group, Youth Vs. Apocalypse, asked California Senator Dianne Feinstein to support the Green New Deal. She declined. The video of the encounter went viral.

      Viral videos come and go. But this cause can’t become yesterday’s leftovers, because this issue will determine everyone’s tomorrow. We know that this moment is pivotal for the survival of the human race.

      To put it simply, if we don’t act now, we’ll leave the next generation a dead and uninhabitable planet. Science says human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change — we are the reason the Earth is dying — and we have barely a decade left to stop it.

      Since we created this problem, we must find the solution. The Green New Deal is the first step.

      The Green New Deal, a resolution proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, addresses the related crises of climate change, inequality, and declining life expectancy in the United States. It aims not only to address our climate crisis, but to include communities, like many of ours, that have historically been left out of the conversation.

    • A Surprising Effect of Light Pollution: It Disrupts Aquatic Insects
      Most people I talk to about light pollution almost instantly relate to my research. They’re relieved to finally run into someone who understands just how aggravating it can be to have a bright white light shining into your bedroom in the middle of the night. However, very few people, in my experience, have thought about how those bright lights might also affect the insects, amphibians and fish living in urban and suburban streams.

      You may think of insects as primarily airborne creatures, but insects such as mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies spend the majority of their lives as larvae in streams, eventually emerging as terrestrial adults who may only live for a few days or weeks. The main way these larval aquatic insects move through their habitat is by “drifting” — detaching themselves from the stream substrate and floating with the current before swimming back down to a new patch of substrate.

      Here’s where light comes into play. Drifting puts aquatic insects at risk of being eaten by visually oriented predators like trout, which will consume any objects they can see floating in the water. In order to decrease this risk, insects are more likely to drift at night, even avoiding drifting on nights with a full moon.

    • Factcheck: What Greenland ice cores say about past and present climate change
      A misleading graph purporting to show that past changes in Greenland’s temperatures dwarf modern climate change has been circling the internet since at least 2010.

      Based on an early Greenland ice core record produced back in 1997, versions of the graph have, variously, mislabeled the x-axis, excluded the modern observational temperature record and conflated a single location in Greenland with the whole world.

      More recently, researchers have drilled numerous additional ice cores throughout Greenland and produced an updated estimate past Greenland temperatures.

    • Green New Deal Too Expensive? New GAO Report Details Hundreds of Billions in Climate-Related Damage
      While many lawmakers and pundits continue to complain that the cost of an ambitious Green New Deal would be "too expensive," a new nonpartisan government agency report on Wednesday details the billions upon billions of dollars the U.S. is spending each year as the climate crisis continues to intensify.

      The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its bienniel "High Risk" report Wednesday and presented its findings to the House and Senate. The study details waste, mismanagement, abuse, and fraud in government agencies and programs, and found that federal inaction regarding climate change is costing U.S. taxpayers tens of billions of dollars annually.

      According to the GAO, taxpayer funds spent on disaster relief could be saved if more effort and spending went into mitigating the climate crisis that is intensifying the frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters.

    • The Climate Denier Enablers
      Are the leaders of the Democratic Party paying lip service about climate change and creating conditions for a climate denier President to ignore the crisis? – with Jacqueline Luqman, Eugene Puryear, Norman Solomon and host Paul Jay

    • 350 Action on ‘Green New Deal’ Senate Floor Debate
      Today, Senator Mitch McConnell called for a floor debate on the Green New Deal resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. The debate was the first Senate floor debate of climate change in years. 350 Action Executive Director May Boeve gave the following statement in response:

      “Four years after a snowball was brought to the Capitol building to ‘counter’ the existence of climate change, and yet here we are watching laughable arguments once again. Let’s be clear that pitting climate denial political theater against scientific facts is not a debate. Republicans have shown once again that they’re not interested in a real discussion about the Green New Deal.

    • Cloned American Chestnut: a Trojan Horse for the End of Nature?
      A group of scientists led by Dr. William Powell are attempting to get permission from Federal regulators to introduce unproven genetically modified trees into the wild. This will be an unprecedented release of GMOs with the ability to reproduce. This is a radical notion and the American Chestnut tree is being used a Trojan Horse in an attempt to engineer forests, and to wrest control from the power of evolution, god or whatever holy other has brought forth the natural world.

      The American Chestnut Foundation, Powell and others hope to use genetic engineering to bring back to prominence their beloved forest icon, the American Chestnut, after its severe decline due to blight and over-logging. Such genetic manipulation comes with many scientific and environmental questions, concerns and dangers.

      By forcing foreign genetic material into the genome of the wild American Chestnut tree, Dr. Powell hopes to make it blight-resistant. This goes beyond hybridization. While the consequences of introducing genetically modified organisms into the environment are both disconcerting and unpredictable, what is being eliminated is often overlooked.

      Tinkering with life like this edits the results of billions of years of evolution, or as some would say creation. It is sometimes described as the colonization of the genome, or the commodification of life. It is also the ending of something. It is in a sense an ending of nature, wildness and providence.

    • Fish and Wildlife Service Moves to Delist Wolves
      “This proposal by Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to remove wolves from the list of endangered species is another egregious example of the Trump administration’s relentless assault on wildlife protections. The return of the wolf to the northern Rockies and Great Lakes is one of America’s greatest conservation successes, but wolves are still absent from much of their historic range where there is suitable habitat. The work of recovering this iconic species is not done and we will vigorously oppose this action.”

    • U.S. Plans to Lift Protections for Gray Wolves
      U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s run into conflicts with farmers and ranchers after rebounding in some regions, an official told The Associated Press.

      Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal during a Wednesday speech at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, a weeklong conservation forum for researchers, government officials and others, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.

    • Issuing 'Death Sentence' to Gray Wolves, Trump Admin Moves to Gut Federal Protections
      Conservation groups were up in arms Wednesday after the Trump administration moved to strip federal protections from gray wolves.

      "This disgusting proposal would be a death sentence for gray wolves across the country," said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Trump administration is dead set on appeasing special interests that want to kill wolves."

    • Flirting With Disaster: the Return of Offshore Drilling
      It’s been decades since a fisherman out of Montauk on Long Island told me about seeing a ship in the Atlantic Ocean east of Long Island similar to those he had seen searching for oil in the Gulf of Mexico when he was a shrimper there. I telephoned oil company after company and each gave a firm denial about having any interest in looking for petroleum off Long Island.

      That was until a PR man from Gulf called back and said, yes, his company was looking for oil and gas off Long Island—and was involved in a consortium of 32 oil companies (many of which earlier issued denials).

      It was my first experience in oil industry honesty—an oxymoron.

      Then, after breaking the story as an investigative reporter for the daily Long Island Press about the oil industry seeking to drill in the offshore Atlantic, there were years of staying on the story. I traveled the Atlantic Coast including in 1971 getting onto the first off-shore drilling rig set up in the Atlantic, off Nova Scotia. The riskiness of offshore drilling was obvious on that rig. There were spherical capsules to eject workers in emergencies. And a rescue boat went round-and-round 24-hours-a-day. The man from Shell Canada said: “We treat every foot of hole like a potential disaster.”

  • Finance

    • Tencent-Backed Sea Raises $1.35 Billion in Share Sale

    • Big Capital, the Working Class, and US Imperialism: a Brief Look at Recent History
      Today, the two looming “existential threats” are the possibility of nuclear war, and unprecedented human-caused climate change, yet neither of these seems to unduly concern our plutocrats. Capitalism thrives on war, and we forget this historical fact at our peril. Nor do they seem worried about the drastic consequences of global warming, which has been denied, ignored, or downplayed in the corporate media. In fact, it may appear that the big business oligarchs who run the US and dictate policy to a large part of the rest of the world fear very little, perhaps least of all the world’s working classes. These people suffer most from capitalism: they die in large numbers in imperialist wars and are chronically victimized by unemployment and economic crises. They are (and will continue to be) the main victims of capitalist-caused climate change.

      The world’s workers have the greatest incentive, and also a long history, of fighting back against oppression. The potential (and, historically, the actual) organized power of workers is what rulers have feared and fear today; in spite of the enormous apparent difficulties in bringing this power to bear, it represents the only possibility of countering big capital. Organized workers cut into profits at home and abroad and at times have represented a revolutionary threat to corporate power. They can disrupt ruling class expansionary plans, up to and including imperialist wars. Thus, big capital fights wars on several fronts but always with the aim of keeping the world’s working classes in a state of atomization essential to the continued functioning of capitalism.

      Workers’ labor creates the wealth and power that is then used against them. To be competitive, capitalists replace workers with machinery (today it is computers and robotics) and cut wages. These practices consistently reduce the rate of profit and undermine purchasing power (demand) by depriving workers of jobs and adequate wages. Declining profits spell economic crises and sharper international capitalist rivalries, including competitive wars aimed at preserving or expanding empires. Weaker capitalists go bankrupt; their businesses are absorbed by the stronger, and ownership is concentrated into fewer hands (the 1%, or even a fraction of this) while the world’s workers suffer most from these processes. Monopolistic industries collude to stop price-cutting; but they cannot escape cost cutting measures that target labor and lead to economic slumps. From these fewer but more powerful capitalist big businesses have emerged to dominate economies and governments, currently headed up by the United States whose duopoly party system ensures corporate rule.

    • After Raising Hourly Wages to $15, Amazon-Owned Whole Foods Reportedly Slashed Workers' Hours
      Workers who remained unnamed due to fears of retaliation said internal emails show the cuts to employees' hours have come at the direction of regional management.

      An employee in Illinois, who provided schedules from November 1—when the wage increase took effect—through the end of January, said that part-time workers' at their location saw weekly hours reduced from an average of 30 to 21 while full-time workers saw an average drop from 37.5 to 34.5 hours per week.

      "At my store all full-time team members are 36 to 38 hours per week now," said a worker in Oregon. "So what workers do if they want a full 40 hours is take a little bit of their paid time off each week to fill their hours to 40. Doing the same thing myself."

      Meanwhile, in Maryland, an employee said regional management has cut full-time workers' hours from 40 to 36 per week. "This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained and we rely on working full shifts," the worker said.
    • The Morality Debate and the Spirit of Capitalism
      There is a common position in public debates in many contemporary societies – be it in Uganda, Kenya, Germany, the UK or the US – that we live in an age of moral decline and moral crisis. Typically, this is a more or less direct commentary on the global system that shapes all of these societies: capitalism. Well-known public commentators and analysts in these countries, such as Will Hutton in the case of Britain, will declare that current capitalism is morally bankrupt. Hutton writes: “’Modern capitalism’ has arrived at a moral dead end, interested largely in feathering the nests of its leaders while imposing enormous costs on the rest of society and accepting no reciprocal obligations.”

      Others refer to capitalism as just plain immoral and evil; or assert that figures such as fraudulent bankers or hard core, ever-profit-maximising speculators, business owners and managers (who lay off thousands of workers, or close entire factories to move to countries with cheaper labour) have lost their moral compass. This is an argument that one comes across regularly when the latest scandals emerge around systemic, high-level, harm-producing fraud and corruption or when heartless profit-making schemes are exposed, with those paying the price for these schemes being the most vulnerable people, including patients, pensioners, children, poor communities or an unsuspecting public.

      Often, the terms “greed” or “selfishness” are dropped somewhere in these analyses as well, which implies that the money-minded actors concerned are immoral greedsters. Other words one regularly finds in such texts are “shocking”, “disgusting”, “devil”, “soul-less”, “cold-hearted”, “inhumane”, “indifferent”, and the like, signalling a sort of (expressed) moral unease and outrage about the critiqued actors and practices. In society usually certain economic activities, certain ways of earning a living, of making money by some groups, get categorised as immoral by some other group. And when a society experiences the rise or becoming more publicly visible of certain – say, new, more innovative, blatant, or radical – forms of money-oriented activities or ways of thinking, you will soon find one commentator pulling the analytical card that has “immoral”, or “moral decline” written on it. Representatives of the state (and the political system more broadly), the church, or unions from time to time run this line in one form or another. Of course, when your analysis asserts that morals are at rock bottom, or have been crowded out, then the diagnosis is to inject “more morality”.
    • Some Big Economic Questions of the Day–and My Replies
      Dr. Rasmus: The nominally higher US GDP growth in 2017-18 has little to do with the Trump tax cuts. The Trump tax cuts passed in early 2018 amounted to more than $4.5 trillion over the decade, targeting to wealthy households, businesses, investors and corporations, which have been ‘front-loaded’ in 2018. Offsetting this are $1.5 trillion in tax hikes for wage earners, that begins to hit this year and accelerates after 2022. Assumptions about 3% GDP growth for another decade, with no recession, produces a further offsetting of $1.5 trillion. The net result supposedly is the $1.5 trillion reported by the press. But the $4.5 trillion cuts for business and investors have not gone into real investment and generated the Trump 2017-18 GDP growth rates.

      Real investment in structures and equipment declined steadily over 2018 as the Trump tax cuts took effect: measured in percent terms compared to the preceding quarter, residential construction was negative every quarter in 2018. Commercial construction, with a lag, turned negative in the second half of 2018. And equipment spending fell from 8.5% in the first quarter to 3.4% by October 2018.

      So if the Trump tax cuts did not go into real investment, creating real employment and real GDP where did it go? It went into stock buybacks, dividend payouts, and M&A activity. Several US banks’ research departments estimate buybacks plus dividends for just the Fortune 500 largest companies in the US will reach a record $1.3 trillion in 2018. Add the largest 2000 or 5000 companies and its close to $2 trillion. Hundreds of billions more for M&A. This diversion of the Trump tax cuts to financial markets is the main determinant driving stock markets (even after corrections) and other financial asset markets.
    • Record U.S. Trade Deficit in 2018 Reflects Failure of Trump’s Trade Policies
      The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the U.S. goods trade deficit reached a record of $891.3 billion in 2018, an increase of $83.8 billion (10.4 percent). The broader goods and services deficit reached $621.0 billion in 2018, an increase of $68.8 billion (12.5 percent). The rapid growth of U.S. trade deficits reflect the failure of Trump administration trade policies, as well as the negative impacts of tax cuts and spending increases, which have sharply increased the federal budget deficit, and tightening of U.S. monetary policy, resulting in upward pressure on interest rates and the real value of the dollar.

      The IMF predicts that the U.S. current account deficit—the broadest measure of U.S. trade in goods, services, and income—will nearly double between 2016 and 2022. Unless these trends are offset by a rapid decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, rapidly rising trade deficits could be devastating for U.S. manufacturing, likely giving rise to massive job loss on the scale experienced in the 2000–2007 period, when 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost.

      The U.S. goods trade deficit with China reached a new record of $419.2 billion in 2018, up from $375.6 billion in 2017, an increase of $43.6 billion (11.6 percent). United States trade with China is dominated by the deficit in manufactured products. Although the United States has imposed tariffs of 10 to 25 percent on $250 billion in imports from China (about half of total U.S. imports from that country), China has played its ‘ace-in-the-hole’ by allowing it’s currency to fall by roughly 10 percent against the dollar. As a result, the U.S. trade deficit with China increased faster (11.6 percent) than the U.S. deficit with the world as a whole (10.4 percent). While the United States and China are poised to negotiate a deal to end their trade dispute, the proposed deal amounts “much ado about nothing much,” as Paul Krugman puts it. It will do little to reduce the massive imbalance in U.S.–China trade flows.

    • Why It Takes Pressure and Rabble-Rousing From Workers to Retire With Economic Security
      Standing out among the baldpates and gray hairs crowding into a congressional hearing room Thursday morning with “Protect our Pensions” stickers will be 26-year-old Ben Trusnik.

      The son, grandson and great-grandson of labor union members, Ben will travel to Washington, D.C., from his home in Bedford, Ohio, to speak for the men and women he works with at Etched Metals Co. He will join other union activists in speaking for workers who are afraid that after laboring 40 or 50 years, they won’t be able to retire because the multiemployer pension plan they depended on is nearly insolvent.

      He’ll be there for the guy who retired from Etched Metals a little over two years ago whose wife has been ill for a long time. When visiting his former coworkers at the plant, this man talks about the bills piling up from medical treatments, doctors and medications. Insurance doesn’t cover it all. “He is pretty worried,” Trusnik says, about losing his pension and with it, the ability to pay.

      Actuaries project that 130 multiemployer pensions—that is, plans in which several companies participate—will run out of money over the next 20 years. Even though that number is less than 10 percent of all multiemployer pension plans, their impending insolvency threatens the entire multiemployer pension warranty program of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • DNC Bars 'Propaganda Outfit' Fox From Hosting Primary Debates
      Democrats announced Wednesday that the Fox News network will not be invited to host any Democratic debates in the 2020 election, citing investigative journalist Jane Mayer's in-depth New Yorker article about the channel.

      Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said it was necessary to exclude Fox and its TV personalities from participating in the debates due to President Donald Trump's "inappropriate relationship" with the network and its function as the White House's unofficial propaganda outlet, as described in Mayer's reporting.

      The article, Perez added, led him "to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates."

      Media critic Jay Rosen credited Mayer for leading the DNC to its decision with her extensive accounting of Fox's approach to promoting Trump's policies and even advising him on governing the country.
    • NYT’s ‘Desire for Control’ Over Political Perceptions
      While the New York Times has been sandbagging Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.–Vermont) for years (Rolling Stone, 3/15/16), last weekend’s headline: “Bernie Sanders Is Making Changes for 2020, but His Desire for Control Remains” (3/1/19) is a particularly overt example.

      Unless one reads past the headline, which most Americans don’t, one is left wondering about what exactly Sanders desires to “control.” Is it the country? The media? When one actually digs into the Times’ article, written by Sydney Ember and Jonathan Martin, one quickly discovers that what Sanders desires to control is his own campaign, and that his oppressed victims were his highly paid media consultants, who quit because Sanders was “not willing to empower them.”

      Left unreported by the Times were statements by the consultants themselves (CNBC, 2/26/19) claiming that they were leaving on a “very positive note” over “differences in a creative vision,” and that they would be happy to assist his campaign again in the future. In the Times version, instead, we’re given anonymous sources described as “Democrats directly familiar with the episode” who give the impression the consultants were “enraged” over their “humiliation.”

      It is difficult to see what the problem is here. Are campaigns controlled by media consultants necessarily better than those controlled by the candidates themselves? Why should bending to “the wishes of his current advisers” be considered a good thing? The Times doesn’t explain, perhaps hoping readers will just take away the hint that Sanders’ “controlling” nature might itself be deemed disqualifying.
    • Trump Mar-a-Lago Buddy Wrote Policy Pitch. The President Sent It to VA Chief.
      In late 2017, on one of President Donald Trump’s retreats to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, he caught up with an old friend: Albert Hazzouri.

      When Hazzouri is not at Mar-a-Lago, he’s a cosmetic dentist in Scranton, Pennsylvania. At a campaign rally there in 2016, Trump gave him a shoutout: “Stand up, Albert. Where the hell are you, Albert? Stand up, Albert. He’s a good golfer, but I’m actually a better golfer than him. Right?”
    • Can Bernie Sanders make reparations? His personal reboot on racial justice may not be enough
      Bernie Sanders’ presidential reboot features some notable changes from his 2016 run.

      This time around, Sanders has elevated a new, more diverse senior campaign staff and has incorporated more of his personal narrative into his policy-driven stump speech. After holding his first official campaign rally of this cycle in front of a diverse crowd of Brooklyn supporters, alongside at least three featured African-American speakers, Sanders traveled Sunday to Selma, Alabama, to take part in commemorations for the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the 1965 demonstration on the Edmund Pettus Bridge where civil rights activists were beaten by Alabama state troopers.

      He then went to the University of Chicago, where he noted that as a student activist he took part in civil rights protests. But on one particular issue of racial justice, Bernie Sanders’ personalized reboot is still lacking.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Russia will soon require digital journalists to delete ‘fake news’ ‘instantly.’ Here's what that actually means.
      On March 6, lawmakers passed the second reading of a bill that will make it illegal to post “fake news” on the Internet. The final vote tally was 327 deputies in favor, 42 deputies opposed. A day later, the State Duma will pass the third and final reading of the legislation, sending it to the Federation Council, which will then pass it along to Vladimir Putin, who’s expected to sign it into law.

      The bill will impose fines on offenders across the Internet — formally registered digital mass media outlets and ordinary websites alike — but special procedures written into the legislation target only online news organizations. The new restrictions will not apply to newspapers, television networks, radio stations, or online news aggregators. Individuals who spread “fake news” will also face fines: up to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for low-grade “fakes,” up to 300,000 rubles ($4,550) if the information disrupts vital facilities, and up to 400,000 rubles ($6,070) when someone dies as a result of the disseminated unverified information.
    • VP Of 'Students For Free Speech' Sues Critic For (Among Other Things) Calling Him A 'Free Speech Asshole'
      What is it with these Canadian "free speech defenders" suing their critics for their free speech? We've already covered the ridiculous lawsuits by Jordan Peterson and Gavin McInnes against some of their critics, and now we can add a lawsuit by Michele Di Franco, whose Twitter profile notes that he is the "VP Finance" for the "uOttawa Students for Free Speech" club.

      You would think that, as such, Di Franco would recognize that others' free speech might sometimes reflect negatively on him, and be able to take it. But, nope. In January, Michael Bueckert wrote an article on Medium discussing how Doug Ford's government did not appear to consult many actual students in forming a plan to defund many student organizations at universities. Bueckert's article notes that it appears the only students who were consulted were the University of Ottawa Free Speech club, based on a roundtable it held that Doug Ford attended. Bueckert had some significant concerns about this, noting that (1) a club like that is not representatives of students and (2) Di Franco appeared to regularly associate with various individuals and groups whose focus was often on supporting the right to spew bigotry on campus. Bueckert tweeted out his article a bunch, often referring to the "alt-right" and in one case talking about "free speech assholes who are freely giving these white supremacists a paid platform."
    • I'm Jewish, and I Find the Hypocrisy of Republican Islamophobes Hounding Ilhan Omar Breathtaking
      Representative Ilhan Omar is facing censure in the House, brought in part by her own party leaders. She is also facing shockingly Islamophobic attacks calling her a terrorist, simply because she is a Muslim. And all the while, other congressional leaders are tweeting out unabashedly anti-Semitic messages with abandon.

      The hypocrisy is breathtaking enough at its own right, but it is also an indicator of the fight between an emerging progressive coalition that seems different than Congressional generations of old, and which increasingly integrates Palestinian rights into its agenda, based on universal rights and the need for equality and freedom for all people.

      Representative Ilhan Omar is also part of a class of newly elected Congresspeople who don’t look much like Congresspeople of generations past: dynamic women of color from communities (Black and Muslim in Ilhan Omar’s case,) who face some of the fiercest racism and xenophobia in this country.
    • Stop Weaponizing “Anti-Semitism” and “Racism”
      What’s in a word? Plenty, if those words are “racism” or “anti-Semitism.” Just ask Virginia Governor Ralph Northam or freshman Congresswoman Ilham Omar. Last week both found themselves engulfed in political firestorms. All because of those two barbed words.

      Governor Northam faced charges of racism when someone discovered a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page That an 80’s yearbook photo could push a governor’s political career to the brink raises questions about how the word “racism” is being defined and how it is being weaponized in political debates.

      Northam’s admitted blackface stunt three decades ago was clearly a racist act. But is the Governor a “racist” today, when as far as we know, he has never in his professional life expressed racist views? It’s for Virginia voters to decide his fitness for public service.

      Congresswoman Omar learned the hard way that the mere mention of money gifts to Members of Congress (the so-called “Benjamins”) facilitated by the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) would bring down upon her angry charges of anti-Semitism. She said nothing against Jews. She simply repeated a known fact: that money fuels pro-Israel lobbying on Capitol Hill. She later apologized for offending anyone who inferred from her remarks a derogatory reference to historical stereotypes.
    • This Jew Tells Speaker Pelosi: “You May Well Prove Ilhan Omar Correct”
      Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly still considering a symbolic “show vote” in Congress on an anti-Semitism and “hate” resolution – which would offer all the authenticity and honesty of a Soviet show trial. If Pelosi proceeds, it will prove Rep. Ilhan Omar’s point about the inordinate influence wielded over Congress by the “Israel-right or-wrong”/AIPAC lobby and its power to stifle criticism of Israel.

    • Bacevich: Questioning U.S.-Israel Ties Has Long Been Impermissible in Congress, But That’s Changing
      House Democrats will vote today on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The resolution is seen as a direct rebuke of recent comments by Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar questioning the U.S.’s relationship with Israel—even though the draft resolution does not explicitly name the freshman congressmember. The vote was indefinitely delayed Wednesday after a revolt from progressive Democrats, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reportedly announced Thursday in a closed-door meeting that the vote would move forward. We speak with Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran, author and professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Can Facebook Reinvent Itself?
      Mark Zuckerberg announced on Wednesday that Facebook would be shifting its focus from publicly shared content to “privacy-focused communications.” Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as new numbers from Edison Research indicate that users have been steadily ditching the behemoth platform. According to Edison, Facebook has 15 million fewer users today than it did in 2017, with most of those losses occurring in the coveted 12- to 34-year-old group. Have years of scandal finally caught up with the company? Or have younger users simply gravitated toward other platforms? Either way, Zuckerberg is now floating a new vision for the company — one that may seem curious to those who have kept track of Facebook’s very public missteps.

      “We’re building a foundation for social communication aligned with the direction people increasingly care about: messaging each other privately,” Zuckerberg said in an interview on Wednesday. The Facebook creator also wrote in a blog post that he believes “a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms.” Refocusing Facebook on private communications may prove to be a hard sell, given the company’s history of data breaches and surveillance. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to users discovering Facebook had access to more of their personal data than they had previously realized, public breakups with Facebook have often been rooted in the company’s handling of private information.

      In February, MSNBC reported that Facebook’s security team mines the company’s network for posts or comments that may be construed as threatening Facebook’s offices or employees. Upon identifying a user that Facebook deems threatening, Facebook’s security team may monitor the user’s posts and direct messages, or even use the app to track the user’s location. People the company has identified as threatening may be placed on what employees call a “BOLO list.” (BOLO is a law enforcement term that stands for “Be on the lookout.”) When someone new is added to the list, security team members are sent the person’s name, photo and “general location” with a brief explanation of why they were added to the list. Some former employees have also been added to the BOLO list, sometimes without explanation.

    • Purism’s CEO Todd Weaver Testifies at State Senate
      My name is Todd Weaver, and I think you’ll find both Gabriel and I are quite unusual witnesses from the tech sector here today. This is because we are here as the CEOs of growing technology companies that protect privacy rather than exploit it. I am calling for much stronger consumer privacy protections here in California and around the world, not weaker ones.

      I believe the default approach in California should be the right to opt in, rather than requiring all of us to have to inconveniently opt out, of the exploitation of our most personal data across all software, each service and every site we use. As Mr. Mactaggart, whom I’d like to take a moment to thank for his tireless years of effort on AB 375, appropriately stated, a do-not-track browser extension backed by law is helpful for protection on websites, but misses on the widely popular applications and services; this is one of many reasons we need to protect personal privacy by default.

      I also strongly support holding companies, like mine, accountable in court if we violate a person’s privacy rights – rights which are guaranteed in the state’s Constitution, but that I believe our laws do not yet fully respect when it comes to the Internet.

      I am here to tell you it’s time for California’s extraordinary tech industry to stop harvesting and “sharing” our most personal private data without our meaningful consent and knowledge. You all have the power to make this happen, and I believe the time is long overdue.

      Now you have heard some business and tech communities suggesting California’s new privacy law–if not substantially amended (which of course means weakened) before it is allowed to go into effect–is going to cause extraordinary business hardship and confusion. These are of course the same arguments that were made by many of these same companies regarding Europe’s GDPR – but since the GDPR went into effect, these companies have continued just fine, and in most cases have grown profits. That is real evidence that California’s new privacy law is not going to destroy Internet commerce as we know it.

      I am here to tell you that AB 375 (or stronger) protections – just like those in the GDPR – are not going to be hard to implement. The key is whether we, companies, are willing to simply begin to honor our customer’s privacy rights by designing our services to be privacy-protecting by default, rather than privacy-exploiting by default.

    • The NSA Appears To Have Shut Down Its Bulk Collection Of Phone Records
      Murry is referring to the Section 215 bulk data collection. Exposed by the Snowden leaks, Section 215 was modified by the USA Freedom Act, which went into effect June 2015. The biggest modification was where the records were stored. The NSA could no longer collect all phone records from providers and search through the data at its leisure. Instead, it had to provide telcos with lists of targeted numbers. The data remained in the hands of service providers, with the NSA only having access to suspicion-supported phone records.

      The alterations to the Section 215 program resulted in the NSA purging a bunch of records that didn't fit the new parameters. The NSA finally let go of a few of its haystacks, conveniently destroying records integral to multiple lawsuits against the agency. The USA Freedom Act modifications -- combined with the NSA's long history of abusing its collection authorities -- seem to have made it impossible for the NSA to continue utilizing its phone records collection program.

      The bulk records collection is now in the hands of telcos, resulting in a slimmed-down dataset the NSA didn't seem particularly enthused to have. Apparently the program is as useless as critics have said it is. The NSA has gone at least six months without asking for data via this authority. This program is due for renewal at the end of this year, but the comments made to Lawfare suggest the NSA may be content to let it expire.

    • Facebook CEO Vows to Double Down on Privacy
      Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will start to emphasize new privacy-shielding messaging services, a shift apparently intended to blunt privacy criticisms of the company.

      In effect, the Facebook co-founder and CEO promised to transform the service from a company known for devouring the personal information shared by its users to one that gives people more ways to communicate in truly private fashion, with their intimate thoughts and pictures shielded by encryption in ways that Facebook itself can’t read.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • London councils plan to slash benefit payments with an "anti-fraud" system known to have a 20% failure rate

      BAE developed the London Counter Fraud Hub, which uses machine learning systems to detect benefit fraud; after trials in the boroughs of Camden, Ealing, Croydon and Islington, the system has been approved for regular use, despite an admitted 20% failure rate.

    • After Locking Migrant Children in Cages, DHS Chief Tells Congress, 'They're Not Cages'
      At a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday, Nielsen took questions from Democratic lawmakers enraged over the administration's policies of forcibly separating families to deter future asylum-seekers and locking up migrant children in facilities described as cages by reporters, lawmakers, and immigrant rights advocates.

      Since last summer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has maintained that the U.S. government does not detain migrants in "inhumane fenced cages," despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. Faced with intense lines of questioning from Democrats on Wednesday, Nielsen stuck to DHS's party line.

      Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee's chairman, repeatedly asked Nielsen whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an arm of DHS, was "still putting children in cages."

      "Sir, we don't use cages for children," Nielsen said. "To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage."

    • (Un)Willingness to be Puzzled
      It has been established for some time that individuals with strong political beliefs tend to display greater confidence in them than individuals who have less strong beliefs. Despite both types of individuals holding specific, concretised views, there is a clear positive correlation between belief strength and belief confidence. Yet, until recently it was unclear whether this dynamic is due to an overconfidence bias or a failure of metacognition; meaning, does the correlation exist because individuals adopt a self-portrayal of unwavering confidence (a notion closely related to ‘virtue-signalling’), or does it exist because individuals, for whatever reason, lack an insight into the veracity of their beliefs and refuse to engage in a process of verification.

      A recent study published in Current Biology by Max Rollwage, Raymond J. Doland and Stephen M. Fleming at University College London explored this issue. They demonstrated via a low-level percetual task (abstracted away from any specific social or cultural issues) that individuals with radical political beliefs – both left- and right-wing – showed reduced insight into the correctness of their choices and less sensitivity to post-decision evidence. Hence, they displayed a generic resistance to revising their own mistakes, and were less willing to be corrected in the face of counter-evidence. The author’s use of a low-level perceptual task (estimating the number of dots on two images and estimating which one had more) helped them to control for effects of existing knowledge or motivational factors. Quite apart from broader socio-cultural considerations, of the kind invoked by postmodernist scholars and many on the woke Twitter left, the authors point to “a generic resistance to recognizing and revising incorrect beliefs as a potential driver of radicalization”.

      It may be the case that individuals who violate Noam Chomsky’s central maxim (that one should always adopt a “willingness to be puzzled”) do so as a direct causal consequence of them exhibiting this metacognitive failure. It may also be the case that, for other individuals, the connection is less causal but more exploitative: That is, others may already be primed (by independent cognitive factors) to hold fast to their beliefs in the face of counter-evidence, and they merely buttress this process via their metacognitive failures. Following a core insight from the research of neurobiologist Karl Friston, brains of all types (and belonging to all different species) like to minimise surprise and maintain current representational states as much as possible, so as to reduce cognitive/neurophysiological ‘effort’. Metacognitive failure is therefore an efficient tool of Friston’s ‘free energy principle’ closely tied to surprise minimisation, which refers to how biological systems maintain their existing states.

    • Senator and Ex-Fighter Pilot Says Air Force Officer Raped Her
      Sen. Martha McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, said Wednesday that she was raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.

      The Arizona Republican, a 26-year military veteran, made the disclosure at a Senate hearing on the armed services’ efforts to prevent sexual assaults and improve the response when they occur.

      McSally said she did not report being sexually assaulted because she did not trust the system, and she said she was ashamed and confused. McSally did not name the officer who she says raped her.

    • Kirstjen Nielsen Continues to Insist That There Is No Family Separation Policy
      During her congressional testimony, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen dodged questions about her department’s vicious border policies. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified on Wednesday before the House Committee on Homeland Security, just days after the House passed a resolution to overturn President Trump’s emergency declaration on the border wall.

      Nielsen has helped Trump push lies and fabrications about the supposed security crisis at the border, when in fact the only crisis was a humanitarian one created by the administration when it decided to pursue a policy of family separation.

      Nielsen played a critical role in the manufactured family separation crisis, where the government separated thousands of children from their parents. The brutal policy shocked many Americans who watched in disbelief as the government callously and recklessly separated families, and officials under Nielsen’s purview continue to do so, as Customs and Border Protection agents still separate hundreds of children from their families at the border.

      This morning, Nielsen refused to directly answer questions from Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) about whether she was aware of the devastating health impacts on children of the Trump administration’s family separation policy before she implemented it.

      In February, Commander Jonathan White of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps told Congress that he had, in fact, warned Trump administration officials that implementing the family separation policy would result in “significant and lifelong” harm to children. That’s not all: An inspector general report in September found that not only did DHS fail to property track separated parents and children, but officials also falsely claimed that it had a “central database” that would provide information to parents.

    • Kentucky Secretary of State Staff Searched Voting Records for Investigators and Rivals, Records Show
      Kentucky officials publicly released records Wednesday that show employees in the secretary of state’s office used the voter registration system to look up political rivals, state investigators and a range of political operatives.

      It is not clear in many instances why the office of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was looking up people and their personal information — political affiliation, every home address ever on file, some Social Security numbers — but it has led critics to conclude her office abused its access to the system to gain information about her political opponents and those involved in multiple investigations of her conduct while in office.

      After ProPublica and the Lexington Herald-Leader reported on the use of voter rolls this year, Grimes, a Democrat, had maintained that her office had done no inappropriate searches, and she called for the State Board of Elections to release records of who had looked up what, if anything. She asked that not only her staff’s search logs be made public but also the searches of every county official with similar access.

      “These searches will reflect that my staff have always acted appropriately pursuant to my role as Kentucky’s secretary of state and chief elections official,” she said in a statement released by her office.

      After the release of the records, a spokesperson maintained the same. Lillie Ruschell said all searches were performed at the request of the media or the public, or to perform background checks on job applicants. She attached a series of documents she contended proved that the searches were valid, though many of them were irrelevant to the claims.

      The disclosures come as an independent counsel is preparing a report on a variety of allegations made against Grimes, including claims her office has inappropriately handed sensitive voter roll information. The investigator, appointed by the state’s attorney general, is also looking into complaints of inappropriate contracts and compliance with a federal consent decree governing Kentucky’s efforts to keep accurate records of registered voters.

      The Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the Personnel Cabinet are conducting their own investigations, and they were given copies of the search logs in August. Both are investigating, among a range of issues, whether Grimes’ office inappropriately searched current and former employees as well as job applicants to determine their political affiliation.

    • Senators Demand Investigation Into Sexual Abuse at Immigrant Children’s Shelters
      Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on Wednesday for a federal investigation into what they termed “the alleged widespread and long-term pattern of sexual abuse” in the facilities holding immigrant children.

      In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office, the senators said they were particularly concerned that allegations of sexual assault aren’t being properly investigated.

      The issue received new attention last week when the House Judiciary Committee released HHS records detailing 4,556 allegations of sexual abuse by children in federally funded immigration facilities from October 2014 to July 2018.

      Last summer, ProPublica reported that police nationwide had received hundreds of calls reporting possible sex crimes at shelters that serve immigrant children. An Arizona shelter worker was sentenced to 19 years in prison after being convicted of molesting seven boys over nearly a year.
    • Homeland Security Chief Insists Border Crisis Exists
      Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted Wednesday the crisis at the southern border is not manufactured, as she faced questions from Democrats for the first time since they took control of the House.

      “We face a crisis — a real, serious and sustained crisis at our borders,” she said at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing. “Make no mistake: This chain of human misery is getting worse.”
    • Self-Driving Cars Likely To Hit Dark-skinned Pedestrians More Often: Study
      We are slowly entering into the era of self-driving cars. Many companies like Tesla, Google, and Uber are achieving milestones to bring us closer to the day when we’ll sit back and relax while smart systems will automatically drive our cars. However, the risk factor is still involved, and the recent accidents by self-driving cars are indicative of the fact that we’re yet very far away from that day.

      While tackling through obstructions and making instant decisions remain the major issues, researchers have found an issue with self-driving cars — poor detection of pedestrians having dark skin.

    • As Second Judge Rejects Census Citizenship Question, Trump's Backup Plan to Count Non-Citizens Exposed
      In the wake of the second legal defeat of President Donald Trump's plan to count all non-citizens in the 2020 census, new reporting reveals the Census Bureau has been secretly working with Homeland Security officials to develop a new method of sharing immigration status data in order to identify individuals and target communities nationwide.

      As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the Census Bureau has been working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for weeks to obtain information about the legal status of millions of immigrants.

    • Mueller Investigation Will Set a Precedent — Make It a Good One
      It’s not yet clear when Special Counsel Robert Mueller will submit his report on the 21-month investigation on Trump’s dealings with Russia to Attorney General William Barr, but progressives are already gearing up for a fight to make the report public. While this battle is important, progressive demands shouldn’t stop there: We must also pay attention to which political institutions are empowered in the wake of the investigation, and focus on how to disrupt wider corrupt systems of power.

      Though many view him as a savior, Mueller and his team of top prosecutors are not the apparatus we need if we want to change the systems of money and power that brought us Trump. Furthermore, the current global trend of anti-corruption politics show that such prosecutions can be dangerous for democracy — Brazil being a clear example of this. Fortunately, our own history can serve as a progressive model for avoiding this dynamic while strengthening democracy.

      The investigation of Trump, thus far, has mostly been in the hands of unelected institutions within the executive branch. As the Mueller investigation ends, Congress needs to act by taking control and turning whatever Mueller finds into a wide-ranging investigation on the model of the post-Watergate Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities — led by Sen. Frank Church and commonly referred to as the Church Committee. The Church Committee exposed a corrupt system of illegal government activity and in response, created policy “to place intelligence activities within the constitutional scheme for controlling government power.” It’s time to do the same thing for corporate, billionaire and oligarchic power — foreign and domestic.

    • 1.7 Million Students Attend Schools With Police But No Counselors, New Data Show
      As policymakers call for more school police in response to safety concerns, a new analysis of federal data shows that many students don't have access to other kinds of staff necessary for safety and support—staff like school nurses, social workers, and psychologists.

      As a result of safety discussions that focus on shootings, rather than the broader range of safety concerns and student needs, "schools are under-resourced and students are overcriminalized," says the report, released Monday by the ACLU. The analysis also found that disproportionately high arrest rates for students of color and students with disabilities are continuing, while there was a 17 percent growth in school-based referrals to law enforcement from 2013-14 to 2015-16.

      "The consequences for these funding decisions fall on the most vulnerable students," the report says."Teachers are often not equipped to deal with the special needs posed by children with disabilities. Furthermore, historically marginalized students, such as students of color, may attend schools with fewer resources and supports. When there are no other behavioral resources at hand, some teachers request help from law enforcement. This results in an increased criminalization of our youth: we found that schools with police reported 3.5 times as many arrests as schools without police."

    • 'Outrageous Violation of First Amendment': Leaked Docs Reveal Trump Tracked Journalists and Rights Advocates at Border
      That's according to reporting from NBC7 San Diego Wednesday evening that showed how the President Donald Trump administration is targeting opponents to its deportation and immigration policies.

      The reporting is based on documents provided to the local NBC affiliate by a "Homeland Security source on the condition of anonymity." Dated Jan. 9, the documents--entitled "San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019, Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators and Media"--offer details of a program called "Operation Secure Line."

    • Teachers Urge Divestment From Private Prisons
      It’s been just over a year since West Virginia teachers began their historic strike, kicking off a new era of education organizing. And educators across the country have spent the last several months building on the public support for protesting teachers and highlighting how dire their working conditions have become without adequate funding.

      Striking teachers have shown that they’re concerned about far more than pay and benefits. The #RedForEd movement has brought issues of social justice to the bargaining table, placing their labor fight in the broader struggle for equity in their communities.

      Teachers and their unions are expanding the fight for more just communities beyond contract negotiations. A recent two-part report from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) exposes how public pensions are intertwined with some of the most harmful institutions out there — immigration detention centers and private prisons.

      AFT released the first report, which identified managers that invested in immigration detention centers in August, shortly after the Trump administration adopted its family separation policy across the border. The second part, released last month, examined the companies and asset managers that profit off private prisons and mass incarceration. In both reports, the union urges trustees to divest from companies that fuel both industries — whether that be companies like General Dynamics, CoreCivic and GEO Group, which directly own and operate detention centers and private prisons, or the hedge funds and private equity firms that find other ways to profit off incarceration.

      Both reports make the human rights case for divesting from prison profiteers. Private prisons and immigrant detention centers both primarily affect communities of color. And both have long been accused of human rights violations. Why should pension funds make their way to industries solely designed to lock humans up?

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Democrats Introduce 'Bold and Vital' Bill to Fully Restore Net Neutrality
      House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would fully restore net neutrality protections in a bid to rescue the open internet from corporate throttling, discrimination, and censorship.

      "The Save the Internet Act is one of the few pieces of congressional legislation that actually does what it says in the title," Evan Greer, deputy director of the advocacy group Fight for the Future, said in a statement. "The internet is going to come down like a political hammer on any lawmaker who fails to co-sponsor it."

    • New Bill Would Enshrine The FCC's Net Neutrality Rules Into Standalone Federal Law
      The problem for the Democrats, of course, is the immense success the telecom lobby has had at falsely framing net neutrality as a partisan issue. As a result, the bill may likely pass the House, but could very easily stall in the Senate. Even if it passes both houses, it would need to avoid a veto from Donald Trump, who has routinely opposed net neutrality despite pretty clearly not having the slightest idea what it actually is.

      Survey after survey has shown that a bipartisan majority of Americans supported the rules and opposed the repeal. But ISP lobbyists work hard to encourage and inflame a partisan divide that shouldn't exist on this subject (the quest for a healthier, competitive internet free of monopoly abuse). This results in a stupid partisan split in Congress with Democrats generally in favor of the idea, and Republicans staunchly opposed --usually under the (false) idea that net neutrality is draconian government over-reach.

      In reality, net neutrality violations are just a symptom of monopoly power and the limited competition in broadband, subjects both parties have done a piss-poor job of addressing thanks to lobbying. In the absence of real competition, net neutrality rules are at least some basic safeguards to prevent giants like AT&T and Comcast from using their broadband monopolies to unfairly saddle and disadvantage competitors (despite industry claims this is a theoretical concern, it's something that's already happening).

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • BlackBerry Continues Its Shameful Descent Into Patent Trolling By Suing Twitter
      However, now that its business of selling actual products has bottomed out, it's gone back to its earlier focus of suing totally random companies for doing fairly obvious things, and claiming that they violate Blackberry's patents. Last year, we covered its silly lawsuit against Facebook that only got them hit with an equally silly countersuit from Facebook.

      And now BlackBerry has sued Twitter as well (incredibly, TechCrunch -- and nearly all other publications writing about this -- did not actually post the filing, but you can find it here). The lawsuit is completely silly, and should be embarrassing and shameful for Blackberry and its high priced lawyers (who know better). It claims that it invented "mobile messaging" and that Twitter, as a "latecomer" to the market, has "diverted" people away from Blackberry.

    • Patent case: Anheuser Busch Inbev B.V. v. Heineken, Netherlands
      Access to seized goods and data should be denied in preliminary proceedings if the seized material contains trade secrets and there is a serious chance that the patent will be held invalid.

    • Copyrights

      • Major Labels Split On Support For Article 13; As Music Publishers Whine That They Can't Make Money From Parodies
        Let's be clear: there are all sorts of problems with this. First off, it only applies in states that already protect parody and such, so parodies and memes and the like will be blocked in countries that don't have those exemptions already under the law. That's a pretty big deal.

        Second, this paragraph is nonsense. The law requires that platforms don't allow any copyright-covered material be uploaded (which is why everyone will need to use filters). How the hell does a filter determine if it's for quotation, criticism, or review, or a caricature, parody or pastiche? The draft bill is entirely silent. All it says is "don't let that stuff be blocked." It's the ultimate in "nerd harder." Basically block everything, except the stuff that looks identical to the other stuff, but if you get anything wrong we'll fine you out of business. Anyone who understands the first thing about platform liability recognizes that the only way to stay on the right side of this law is to block things -- even if they fall under these exceptions.

        This clause serves literally no purpose other than for those who support the law to point to in an attempt to blunt criticism of the impact of Article 13. Yet none of them can explain how this part of the law would work in practice, beyond some "nerd harder" mumbling about how the tech companies will have to "figure it out."
      • Interview with Bernd Porr

        Glyn Moody interviewed Dr Bernd Porr (University of Glasgow) on the link between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Article 13 upload filters


        The closed loop stuff was what Google’s DeepMind did with Atari video games. The network looked at the video image of this very old Atari video game, and then took an action to win the game. If the network lost, it was punished. It then ran the game 5 billion times, and the network learned to solve it. Basically it was all happening in this black box, and it was becoming better and better. But it is still very error-prone, and obviously takes a long time to train. So there is no magic behind this, I would say.

        GM: We know that Article 13 will inevitably lead to upload filters. The volume of digital material that will need to be filtered is beyond human capabilities, which means that upload filters must be automated. Speaking as an engineer, how would you go about using AI to achieve what Article 13 demands – the recognition and blocking of unauthorised uploads?

        BP: In terms of technology, I would buy computing time somewhere in the cloud, and run the AI algorithm there. Deep learning [AI] is basically able to detect images, and [some claim] the error rate is just now around 2%. But I just had a look at more realistic articles which say the error rate is 10%.

        In order to train this AI system, you need to have massive amounts of computing power. If you run this service for three years, say, Amazon would charge about €£100,000 for that. You have to have more or less all the images of the world in your database. I as engineer would not know how to do that, because I would need to scavenge the Web, and then train the network on this.

        Images are being created all the time, so that’s why the cost of this would easily go into the millions. For me as an engineer, I think there’s just no way of doing it, from a cost perspective, and also time. The training of the [AI] networks takes a very long time – it takes millions and millions of iterations to get to a very low error rate. Every time new films or images are generated, the training has to be updated.

        The computing cost of this would be absolutely massive, and I don’t think it’s possible for anybody except Google, who already have a system [Content ID]. I think for anybody who is wanting to comply with [Article 13] they basically have to go to Google and license it. Google will have a total monopoly regarding this.
      • Swiss Supreme Court Refuses To Order ISPs To Block 'Pirate' Sites
        Site-blocking is now officially a thing in many corners of the world, with rightsholders using the court system to restrict access to sites they complain are "pirate" sites. Between that practice and legislation being introduced by many countries in the full throes of regulatory capture, in which moneyed interests convince politicians to protect their own antiquated modes of business over the interests of the every day citizen, the censoring of the internet and the opening of wide avenues of potential abuse are in full swing.

        But this isn't the case everywhere. In Switzerland, for instance, some specifics in how that country operates have led its courts to do things differently. For one, Switzerland is not a member state of the EU, and so it is not bound by the same rules as most other European nations. In addition to that, Swiss copyright law is such that personal downloading or streaming of content, even if unauthorized, is not illegal. Both of those specifics came to a head when film company Praesens-Film asked the courts to order Swisscom, an ISP, to block what it said are pirate sites. The court refused. Praesens-Film decided to appeal the decision until it eventually reached the Swiss Supreme Court. That court, too, has now refused to order the blocking of pirate sites.

      • Rightsholders Can’t Sue Without a Copyright Certificate, Supreme Court Rules

        The US Supreme Court has ruled that creators can't sue someone for copyright infringement before they've obtained a copyright registration certificate. In a unanimous decision, Justice Ginsburg clarifies that applying for a copyright registration is not sufficient. Major copyright holders are not happy with the decision, but for some others it may offer hope.

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